Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rising Up

One thing that Calvino never really covered in depth in his text was the rivalry between cities. Cities are far more than the descriptions of its people and of its appearance. Cities have pride. They have contempt for other cities. These strong feelings people have for their own cities aren't ever really mentioned in the novel. Think of a Red Sox vs. Yankees games. There are dozens of fights every time one goes on and they erupt for no other reason than because they live in different locations. It is inevitable and necessary that a city's inhabitants take pride in their community but oftentimes it gets out of hand.
Augustine does deal with this matter however. He says that the earthly city is divided and that some parts "seek to be victorious over other nations, even though it is itself held captive by vices; and if, when it triumphs, it is lifted up in its pride, such triumph brings only death" (638-639). In other words, when that proud feeling of community is taken to the next level -aggressiveness towards other cities- it will inevitably lead to its destruction. There have been hundreds of empires throughout history, and none of them last. Any empire that lusts for more land, more people, more power and any empire that is willing to trample on anyone to do it will inevitably fall victim to its own vices.
This is an important item of information when studying a city. How can one truly know New York if they don't know a little about how hated the Yankees are in other cities? How can one truly know any city Calvino describes without first understanding the communal pride and possibly collective distaste its inhabitants has for other cities?
I agree with Augustine. These aggressive nations or empires or cities "will not be able to rule forever over those whom, in its triumph, it was able to subdue." I'm sure that when everybody read that part, they might have thought of our own country and its own history of stepping on a few feet just to get ahead. I think Augustine give us fair warning today that what we have achieved as a nation today might not be ours forever.