Consuming the city

Every person has basic needs for life, as the American psychologist Abraham Mazlow said in 1943. He arranged these needs in a hierarchical order, according to importance. Among these needs is the need for a sense of belonging, which can be expressed in different ways, depending on the nature and type of this affiliation. For example, one of the simplest types of affiliation is belonging to a group of people who share the same place with all its data at the same time or in successive periods, which in turn shape this group and give it certain characteristics that distinguish it from other groups that inhabit different other places. This results in what is called the general culture of society.

Alexandria, photo by the author

One can not talk about a city without studying the society who lived, still, and will continue to live in it. And we can not talk about the culture of group of people without studying where they came from and what has shape them, it is a closed circle. Every city has positives and negatives, we all want to keep the city we live and belong a better place. In order to do that we need to identify the positives and negatives. The expression of this identification normally comes in two manners, either criticism of the negatives or approbation off the positives. In both cases if we do not build our arguments on real, accurate and deep studies, we end up in extremity. An extreme criticism that leads to hostility or extreme approbation that leads to fantasy. If we try to apply this concept on cities, we will have merely two camps, one is hostile towards something happening, meanwhile the other is nostalgic for something had happened before. With an eye towards being balanced and not to be driven to any of those camps, we need to acquire better understanding of our present without forgetting our past, so we can prepare for a better future. The linkage between those three pillars (past, present, and future) is what we call heritage.

Heritage is the natural results of interactions between people in the three tenses. It comes in several forms but here I am only concerns with the human heritage. It also called cultural heritage, which means an expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions and values. Cultural Heritage is often expressed as either intangible or tangible cultural heritage (ICOMOS, 2002). Heritage is not stagnant, it is in a constant process of evolving and change. Which means each group lives together on the same place produce their own heritage. Then they pass away leaving behind their inheritance or heritage. And then come their descendants who use the heritage of their ancestors and add to it their own new heritage, and again they go and leave behind what they had, and so on.

If we understand those facts we will realize that we can not keep consuming what we have inherited from our ancestors without adding our own input. One day we will pass away and our kids will only remember the inheritance of our grandparents. I believe this is happening now somehow. It happens because we choose to focus on how we used to be not how/who we are. Because we keep fantasizing one-sided past instead of trying to understand how it happened and how it shaped us. It happen simply because we choose not to produce and we prefer to consume and copy.