My psychogeography column in Eye Weekly this week explores the strange civic fiction that maintains Toronto has an insecurity complex. I admit my position is somewhat biased as I’m surrounded by people who truly like and love this city — from the people I work with, the ones I socialize with, and the people who contribute to this blog with comments — but as I write in the piece, I think it’s simply a lazy default position to fall back on, and something perpetuated by various media reports looking for a story. As we saw during 175th birthday, when given the chance to express their civic feelings publicly, Torontonians go gaga over their city.
On March 6th we celebrated Toronto’s 175th birthday. I say we because anybody that lives in Toronto gets to celebrate, as there are no rules on who gets to be a Torontonian. People show up and like the Mel Lastman-era bumper sticker says: â€œYou Belong Here.â€ A city like Toronto is yours for an hour, or a lifetime, unlike some small towns where if your great-grandparents didn’t live there, you’re still considered â€œnew.â€
One hundred and seventy-five years is not that old when compared to some cities, but it’s old enough to cause us to wonder where this city’s infamous inferiority complex comes from. It’s widely held that Torontonians don’t like their own city, or are at least a little ashamed of it. It’s a curious condition considering the equally powerful and widely held belief that the rest of Canada hates this city and its self-possessed inhabitants. Don’t they know Torontonians supposedly feel the same way about their city? More curious is how this condition has lasted so long considering Toronto keeps adding new people who presumably don’t have any of this strange baggage. Read the rest over at Eye Weekly.
By coincidence when writing this I saw an interesting response to our 175th birthday video on this Montreal blog that stated: WARNING: Watching this video may provoke uncontrollable fits of anger. Watch at your own risk. While the video is certainly open to criticism and debate, I don’t understand (and neither did many of the comments on the Montreal blog) why Torontonians talking about what they like about their city would induce “fits of anger” in Montrealers. In Toronto I can’t think of the last time I heard somebody utter an ill-word about Montreal (other than those that are hockey-related). People here, generally, truly like Montreal and, dare I say, are proud of being in the same country as that city. I end the column thinking about Charles Pachter’s mural “Hockey Knights in Canada” found in the College Subway Station, complete with Habs players. Nobody minds that it’s there, and it’s a Toronto landmark. I wonder how a similarly bold representation of Toronto would be received in other Canadian cities. I’d welcome examples if you have any.
The disdain directed towards this city from all parts of Canada is rarely reflected back. In fact, I feel more attached to the rest of Canada now, living in Toronto, than I did when I lived in a provincial Ontario city because my social and and professional circle is filled with people from every part of this country and they’re constantly talking about those places. The “idea of Canada” is alive and well and on the streets of Toronto everyday. That “Hockey Knights” exists, and that Torontonians don’t speak ill of the rest of Canada, is testament to a city that is very confident in itself.
Photos by Craig James White.