The Metropolis, the Human Psyche, and Discontent

This video is part of a series in the Seattle area that questions the premises of the idea of the “Metropolis” and its very real impacts upon our lives.

Built upon our modern mythos of Progress is the question of dependency and the means of survival in mass society. With each facet of urban survival (electricity, gas, rent, food, etc.), the citizen is required to further embed themselves within the metropolis, to work for it, in order to pay for it. It is only once those demands are met that the majority of citizens are granted the means to survival.

This is a life sentence of sorts- it is the sacrifice of people’s entire lives being led for them, their energies channeled, and their days accounted for. With each move toward this dependency, we lose our capacity to experience any other world. The world that was once wild, the anti-metropolis; a world that is increasingly the non-reality for many of us.

Without the experience of any other world, we lose out on a central motivating driving force for change- not often do people fight against what they see as the only reality possible. But because this urban world fails to satisfy us, because technological-industrial society fails to give organic bodies a life of substance (we respond to open air, the free exchange of food, shelter, skills, myths and rites that move us and mystify our lives), we become increasingly desperate within its context. As this desperation becomes a collective psychological complex, our thoughts and mental capacities turn inward, resorting to the last wild thing that might reconcile us against the mechanical environment of civilization- our selves, our minds.

And so the project of isolation continues. What was once fueled by nuclear family units is now amplified through personal cell phone usage and social networking. Digitally our lives still mimic a social existence, but effectively, physically we find ourselves more separate than ever before- the chasm between our bodies and the bodies of others growing every day, the space being filled by static, by technological apparatuses, by concrete.

When the inward dwellings of our discontent reach maximum capacity- when our psyches simply cannot contain or reconcile the loss of a living environment, our desperation materializes accordingly: suicide, random public or inter-familial violence, social upheaval, and infrastructural sabotage becomes examples of the urban human’s inability to continue as is.

What we’re learning is that the context of the city cannot be redeemed for us. Citizens consider the metropolis to be an ongoing experiment, where Progress itself may finally reach the critical point of generating fulfilling lives and objectively thriving conditions for those affected, but what we have learned is that even the grandest of technological innovations and democratic political reforms fail to even scratch the surface of our animal needs and desires.

And with that, the conception and promise of the “green city” is empty and predictably unfulfilling. All futures within the metropolis are the same, as “like creates like”, we will surely experience an ever-intensifying series of the same tendencies. Such is the nature of linear structures – they go and go and go until they max out and ultimately end entirely.

Alternately, revolt and disruption create and time-space where the ‘other’ is given a chance to exist as primary. During these moments we are allowed to taste what that other is. A relief, however temporary, from the metropolis can be powerful in the hearts of lonely citizens, who may not wish to be citizens after all. And if this relief can be sustained, as it sometimes is, and if it thrives beyond the city’s capacity to regain itself, then and only then can a reversal of normality develop.

What happens next, when we find ourselves in a desert, a wild world so neglected, is unclear. Yet at least we’ll have tried, and even more so, if our species is as adaptable as they say, then perhaps our challenges can be met with a human ingenuity that accepts cyclical reality and rejects hierarchical organization and ecological domination.

One thought on “The Metropolis, the Human Psyche, and Discontent

  1. Thank you for your current article, it’s very useful, will surely try to research what you have got indicated… there is only one point I want to discuss in more detail, I wrote an email to your address about it.

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