Our home, our city

Our home, our city

Are issues related to life in our cities ever going to be on the political parties’ pre-elections agendas? Do political decisions determine what life is like in our cities or not?

Imagine how different things would be if the pre-election debate shifted from the usual – and increasingly indifferent to the average citizen – topics that are raised to create a sense of polarization, to the tangible business of day-to-day life. If, in short, the political debate was not so inferior and shortsighted, but made us think more, made us ponder our views on certain things. Why is the city being left out of the discussion of the pressing problems related to the environment and the terms of economic growth?

As Kathimerini pointed out recently, the case of the two historic Athenian cinemas – the Ideal and the Astor – that are headed for closure, compels us to look at the situation in Athens in a more profound and responsible way. These two cinemas are by no means the exception in the rapid demise of the city center, which turns into a dead zone at nightfall.

So we ask the National Library of Greece, the University of Athens and the Academy of Athens, as vibrant institutions and historic monuments, how interested they are and to what degree they express this interest – if any – by using their status to intervene on the fate of downtown Athens?

So many of the institutions, organizations, ministries, banks, businesses (and these include the theaters and the few cinemas that remain) and foundations located in the heart of Athens seem to have their focus entirely on their own matters, on their own operation. This is reasonable – but only in part. We should also remember that private companies have donated significant amounts of money to restoring Syntagma Square from the ravages of the economic crisis and to the Omonia Square revamp.

What we see happening every day on a small scale in this city also seems to apply on a bigger scale: No one cares what’s happening beyond their own front door, as long as their interests are not being threatened.

What’s more, the city beyond our front door is at risk. And we don’t mean the usual trite observations about our “landmarks” and our “cultural and historical identity” being effaced.

We can probably agree that saving Athens is not something that can be accomplished by one mayor or one government alone. But the truth is that they can prevent its further demise. 

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