We should also talk about the future of cities, in the electoral political battle that is unfolding from Rome to Milan, from Bologna to Turin. Instead we are witnessing the usual asphyxiated tug-of-war of lobbies and currents constituted in political parties, of primaries reduced to the “ridiculous and masochistic” (copyright of Arturo Parisi, one of the founders of the Olive Tree) search for names women to be deployed as a side dish, or, at most, to the new autocrats like the mayor of Milan Beppe Sala, who start early by deploying improvised side lists in order not to negotiate armchairs with the various Letta and Conte.
In concrete terms, there is much talk in the rest of the advanced Western world about how we will have to live in cities tomorrow. From Paris, where the reconfirmation of the champion of pedestrianization and soft mobility Anna hidalgo it took place with an increase in votes for the greens, the new model of “ville du quart d’heure”, a fifteen-minute city, is gaining ground. The idea of a political direction that models cities from scratch to reduce the need for inhabitants to move was launched at the University of Sorbonne by the Colombian-born professor Carlos Moreno. It closely resembles the historical scheme of the Anglo-Saxon world of urban aggregates composed of “neighborhood units”, and in the more organized Northern Europe it has already been declined even in blocks of “five-minute cities”.
From the superblocks of Barcelona, Sydney and Portland to almost all Dutch cities, the model of the reconversion of metropolises into neighborhood units has been working perfectly for years now: it does not translate into a sort of return to the small ancient world, but, thanks to new technologies and strong cultural investments , is declined in “Cosmopolitan localism”, as the Italian master of sustainable social design Ezio Manzini calls it. And if there are those who claim that the pandemic was the occasion of an unexpected gigantic experiment of new social control, certainly smart-working and the rules of lockdown they have somehow forced millions of citizens to live more proximity and neighborhood, as we have seen especially well in the first round of restrictions.
The invention of a new way of living cities is a rather complex operation, but the first password is the reconversion of the mobility. In Berlin, for example, while the whole of Germany is heading towards the electoral victory of the moderate and realist Greens, signatures are already being collected for a referendum that forces the administration to reach the goal of an even ‘car-free’ metropolis by 2030. With the great ideological blocs over and the outcome of the thirty years of single dominant thought of the capitalism globalized financial, the conversion to the more sustainable urban model based on the so-called “proximity” is emerging as something more than a revisitation of mobility, with car traffic discouraged and widespread cycle-pedestrianization.
Among other things, the “ville du quart d’heure” model could be pursued by Italian cities with significant positive socio-economic repercussions, let’s just think of the effects of a new policy of incentives for crafts and small businesses. But it is also a suggestion capable of re-establishing the left, in a key where, moreover, the echo of Proudhon’s libertarian mutualism resounds, and politics itself, because it requires a certain impermeability to the great interests and a strong propensity to mediation, to the relationship with social realities and people, in short, to everything to which our current ruling class is generally very allergic.
Above all, such ambitious tasks can only correspond to personalities of depth, if not really specimens, given that, when we talk about pushing citizens to better “inhabit proximity” in the life of post-industrial metropolises, we do not only mean something purely practical, but also, in some way, to invite all of us to the rediscovery of a concrete and more human “Come next”. This is what the word ‘neighbor’ itself suggests (from the Greek ‘plesion’ to the Latin ‘proximo’ that Christianity has extensively interpreted even in “each man, humanity in general”, as already evidenced in 1200 by the Bolognese grammarian Guido Faba) , which in Anglo-Saxon culture has been translated as ‘nearby’, thus bringing back to the theme of neighborhood.