Do Cities Have Souls?

Victoria BC

Harbour walk, Victoria BC, Canada

What is the “population pyramid” of your city, or the cities where you have lived? And what do those demographics say about the ‘soul’ of the city?

Colloquially speaking, Victoria (BC, Canada) where I live is sometimes referred to as a place for the “Newlywed and Nearly Dead.”

If cities have souls, is this how I would describe Victoria’s? It depends where I look. Cities divide along lines of age and wealth, neighbourhoods of haves and have nots. Lines that are often shifting.

When I lived in Vancouver, I jokingly called myself an eastside girl and secretly judged a man by whether or not he would meet me at the rough-around-the-edges Ivanhoe Pub for a drink. I still feel slightly skittish in the more upscale Shaughnessy or West Vancouver or anywhere west of Main street for that matter.

Where I live now is not like that. Because Victoria has no “eastside,” not in the same symbolic way. Sure, there’s tough blocks along Pandora, across the harbour in Esquimalt, or the area around Mayfair mall once called the “slums of Saanich” (where I grew up) but Victoria is, by and large, a city of outward prosperity. Pretty little houses down just about every street you look. Manicured lawns, well-behaved dogs. (I don’t exclude myself in this well-scrubbed-ness that is Victoria: I own two plastic pink flamingos and display them in my garden.) Tidy apartment buildings.

Are urban problems easier to ignore when it’s so simple to turn one’s head? Does the beauty of Victoria affect our way of looking at things – especially ugly things – affect how we think about the environment or each other?

I wonder if beauty makes us better people or worse. Does it make us kinder to each other? Or does one begin, surrounded by beauty, to take it for granted?

 [image: courtesy Peregrine981 on Wikimedia Commons]

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