Civic Pride

I’ve been thinking about these tweets from neuroscientist and urbanist Robin Mazumder:

The very concept of pride is interesting and contradictory. On the one hand, it’s a sin–one must not be prideful, cometh-ing before the fall and all that–but on the other hand, it’s aspirational–you should take pride in your work, yourself, etc.

This is pretty much what’s at work when we’re talking about civic pride.

So we get the negative sense–people are being prideful about their city, and it breeds stubbornness and defensive. It’s about elevating your city above others, people and cities, alike. This haughty attitude prevents you from being able to accept any suggestions, let alone criticisms.

It is the conceit of civic pride.  In Ottawa, we see this a lot, much of it coming from the mayor’s office.

But a pride that is rooted in joy and in love and in affection can be empowering. A parent can be proud of their child without conceit. It is appreciation for them and for what they have accomplished. It is not about putting them on a pedestal, imagining them perfect or making them untouchable. It is about acknowledging them and appreciating them.

It really is this second sense of civic pride that we need to foster. We should love our city and want the best for it, just as we would our children.

We should eschew the civic pride of conceit, for it is not rooted in valuing our city. It does not want what is best for our city. It is rooted in ego. It’s not about a love for one’s city, but about a love for one’s self, and the city serves no purpose but as aggrandizement of one’s identity.

Be proud of our accomplishments, but be humble. Realize we can always improve, and then demonstrate enough love for your city to actually make it happen.

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