thoughts on Civic Ego

Civic ego (n.): “A city’s (or a city’s inhabitants’) sense of self-esteem or self-importance.”

[editor’s note: It’s great to be writing again.]

The notion of civic ego is something that seems like it hasn’t been explored a lot.  Great cities – and even nascent great cities – have it.  The great cities are very clear when they say that they are the great cities.  Consider this sentence: “Oh, well of course New York City is the cultural capital of the US.”  There are thousands of arts organizations in NYC, including the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, the Julliard School of Music, and far too many others to mention.

So I thought of a phrase that takes this all into account: civic ego.  The definition isn’t any more than the sum of its constituent words: civic meaning of cities and ego meaning a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.  Combined, I posit that the definition of civic ego is this: “A city’s (or a city’s inhabitants’) sense of self-esteem or self-importance.”  (Of course, this implies that cities are living, breathing entities.  I think that we would all agree with that.)

This is something that we don’t have a lot of here in Phoenix.  We’re a nascent city and a city that’s generally on the correct track.  Something that we lack here in Phoenix is civic ego.  We’re definitely deferential to the cultural and physical amenities that we have here.  Instead of saying, “We’re a great city and we deserve these great amenities,” we say, “How lucky we are to have this in Phoenix.”

While it’s sometimes good to adopt the more deferential tone, if Phoenix is to be a great city, then we need to adopt the mindset that we are a great city.  This isn’t blind boosterism: this is changing our thinking from “being lucky” to “of course this should be in Phoenix.”  We can have nice things, too.  So let’s be unabashedly proud of what’s here.

More thoughts on this later. For now, your thoughts are always appreciated! How can we improve Phoenix’s civic ego?

3 thoughts on “thoughts on Civic Ego”

  1. Integrate which elements set Phoenix apart. Phoenix has a few truly world-class one-of-a-kind institutions that we can and should trumpet. The Heard Museum, for instance. The Musical Instrument Museum. Taliesin West.

    Phoenicians (certainly on my part) could appreciate these institutions more, and celebrate them more, but I think we should find ways to capitalize on their presence in our city. How can we leverage Taliesin West’s integration with the desert, for instance, to get people to appreciate fine desert architecture more?

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