The Dilemma of Modern Cities



At the beginning, there was only darkness. Human civilization began in the shadow light of the cave and candle which accompany their dark night in the universe. In those nights, enlightenment came through writing with deep reflection concerning life itself.

Night time is a gift. Cold air followed by small light. Night time is the time of enlightenment. There is small paradox here. Enlightenment came from place which has no light. The deep understanding concerning the mystery of life came from the cold and dark nights of ancient world.

However, in the bright light of modern cities, the dark times of mind is afloat. Why is this happening? Every thinker and so called public intellectuals trap in merely shallow popularity. Almost every people in modern cities trap in the impure motivation of action which never critically evaluated.

This is the irony paradox of modern cities and thinker. In the middle of bright light, the mind loses its ability to create enlightenment. Electricity changes how people live their life, and their way to interpret reality. Somehow, technology and electricity produce shallow minded civilization.

The Mentality

The shallowness of mind do not come from the absent of education, but from the over expose of useless education. The superficiality of thinking born not from the absent of technology, but from the over illustration of useless technology. When the world is getting complex, the human mind is getting simpler in its frivolity. This frivolity born out of the absent of critical thinking.

Technology offers a wide variation and large quantity of information. But that entire privilege blinded people, so they cannot see the truth behind it. Modern cities offer a whole variation of expensive houses which eventually destroy the solidarity of the community, and divides people. Big cities eventually occupied by small minded people.

Modern cities create highway and large road for its cars and motorcycles. But those ‘divine’ road used by people with evil will, with uncontrolled greed, and full of evil view concerning life of others. The highway road is a shortcut, just like what every corrupt bureaucrats need to get away with corruption.

Modern cities full of schools with various luxurious facilities. However, the citizens do not get smarter. What really increases is arrogance in the form of academic degree feudalism. It is almost you can smell the stink of arrogance in the luxurious schools which exist in the modern cities.

Modern cities are the home of the world largest and oldest religion. However, the behaviors of modern cities citizens are far much uncivilized compared to much humbler villagers. Religion does not become the source of enlightenment, but for rationalizations of violence and destructive act in the name of god. In modern cities, religion becomes a mask that veil the monstrous face of modernity.

Modern cities offer big sidewalk for pedestrians and hundreds of transportation means for its citizens. However, all of that just make us more distant from each other. While physical space is getting closer, our spiritual spaces between citizens just grow much further apart.

Modern cities full of monuments to remember and give meaning to the past. However, the citizens ignore them, and therefore have really short memories concerning their past and historical identity. The modern cities are the symbol of the forgetfulness of civilization concerning its past. As a consequence, many political policies have only short term and ahistorical considerations, and therefore will never be effective.

Modern cities are economical sphere. Markets are everywhere. However, the poverty and economical inequalities are extreme. In other words, the increase number of markets and other economic means in society does not guarantee the economical prosperity. On the contrary, it creates a wide division between the rich and the poor.


Paradox is the spirit of modern cities. Modern cities have the unique characteristics of human civilization, namely the eternal dialectics itself. The effort of achieve certain purpose failed, and the results is precisely the opposite of that. Modern cities are cities in dilemma.

The dilemma is not just the city, but also in the soul of its citizens, namely human itself. Human is a dilemmatic being. The efforts to create heaven on earth fail. The result is the opposite, namely the creation of hell on earth. The efforts to create stability turn to totalitarianism policies and way of thinking. As if life itself is a dilemma.

What we have to take care is the full awareness of this paradox and dilemma. Hegel called it dialectics. Giddens called it critical consciousness to ask questions concerning social practices. I called it the courage the accept fragility and imperfectness of human life. ***

Pictures taken from google pictures

Writer is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy Widya Mandala Catholic University, Surabaya

Diterbitkan oleh

Reza A.A Wattimena

Peneliti di bidang Filsafat Politik, Filsafat Ilmu dan Kebijaksanaan Timur. Alumni Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Driyarkara Jakarta, Doktor Filsafat dari Hochschule für Philosophie München, Philosophische Fakultät SJ München, Jerman. Beberapa karyanya: Menjadi Pemimpin Sejati (2012), Filsafat Anti Korupsi (2012), Tentang Manusia (2016), Filsafat dan Sains (2008), Zen dan Jalan Pembebasan (2017-2018), Melampaui Negara Hukum Klasik (2007), Demokrasi: Dasar dan Tantangannya (2016), Bahagia, Kenapa Tidak? (2015), Cosmopolitanism in International Relations (2018), Protopia Philosophia (2019), Memahami Hubungan Internasional Kontemporer (20019), Mendidik Manusia (2020), Untuk Semua yang Beragama (2020), Terjatuh Lalu Terbang (2020), Urban Zen (2021), Revolusi Pendidikan (2022) dan berbagai karya lainnya.

4 tanggapan untuk “The Dilemma of Modern Cities”

  1. Our articulation of welfare leads our pursue toward modernity as a situation where physical ease and availability is growing continuously. That means we create more material means for indulgence to express what happiness and welfare look like.

    Thus, cities envisioning themselves as a bunch of facilities where desires are fulfilled, difficulties are seemingly disappear, and smile are just everywhere. This vision let only a small space for critical thinking and existential dialectics. The paradox operating here is less future oriented, but more as ‘here and now’ oriented.

    I think this is a mental framework we need to scrutinize thoroughly.


  2. Yes. Those kind mental framewrok is already become the spirit of the age (Zeitgeist). In my opinion, the true happiness must have a bit of difficulties, and the true smile must contain a bit of sadness in it. Maybe we experience it, but somehow we don’t know what it is. This kind of awareness is becoming endangered these days.


  3. I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to
    see a great blog like this one today.


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