Cit-y-cen-tri-sm An egotistical belief that one’s city is the most important in the country and anyone else’s is inferior by comparison.”
No, you will not find this in a dictionary, as it is a term I conjured up myself. Nevertheless, I have a dream. I have a dream that one day, men and woman, everywhere will be uttering this phrase. Why? Because “city-centrism” is practised by millions on a regular basis, something I was acutely reminded of during the Olympics.
After witnessing Usain Bolt defy the laws of physics during the 200m men’s final, I along with the rest of the world, were left glued to the screen as he celebrated his gold medal in style. Of course, we were treated to all the usual Bolt victory traits, which included playing up to the cameras and audaciously interacting with the spectators.
However, it is was what he said during an interview that stood out the most for me. After being prompted by silver medalist Yohan Blake, he courteously thanked Birmingham, the city that hosted the Jamaican team whilst they trained in England for the Olympics. Being a resident of this city, I may have gone slightly overboard in my support of this mention along with other fellow, Birmingham dwellers.
Nevertheless, I was slightly taken aback by the swift way in which those from London patronised our victory over Twitter. With mocking jeers, a few tweets suggested that Birmingham would never be as good as London and all of those getting excited should calm down.
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you “city-centrism”.
It just was not possible for these hardcore Londoners to sit back and let us have this small triumph. No, they had to steal our glory by reminding us that they were in the city where the Olympics were being hosted. As if we didn’t know already.
After this ordeal, my ever analytical mind found itself trying to understand the cause of this behaviour. After dismissing the obvious reasons such as the fact that these people were suffering from “Olympicitus” (an over measured sense of pride that comes from realising thousands are tuning in to watch an event taking place in your city), I realised this issue was more deep rooted.
It comes from a belief, imbedded into many Londoners, that because they come from the capital, they have the right to say and do as they please. This in turn means that often, poor, defenceless dwellers of other cities get victimised by these geographical bullies.
You may think I am going overboard however, I can assure you that I myself have been a victim of this prejudice. Over the past few years, I have acquired many friends from London, thanks to university. Many of these friends, once they realised Birmingham is not like the capital, have complained endlessly about the city. As London is bigger in comparison and therefore, has more things to offer, I am willing to let them off for this tirade.
Nevertheless, what I can not ignore is the sense of ignorance many display about anything and anywhere that does not come under the official title of London. Not only do they enjoy making a big deal about those who does not speak like someone from the capital, which by the way, eventually gets tiring and I don’t even have the strongest of Birmingham accents, but they also seem to have very little knowledge about any other area in England.
It is as if they have been living in their own little, industrial coloured bubble of London for most of their lives. Sadly, this bubble never bursts, even when they step out of the city.
I have, on several occasions, confronted my friends about this behaviour. I am always greeted with the same response; an uncommitted shrug followed by the words, “Well, I’m from London.” This attitude encapsulates what “city-centrism” is all about; an apologetic stance deriving from the illusion that the city they are from equates to a freedom to act in this way.
It doesn’t stop in England either. “City-centrism” is something that happens all around the world. Whilst I was in Russia, I noticed that the residents of Moscow carried themselves with a bit more importance as opposed to people living in rural areas of the country. Furthermore, if you look at those from Lagos, I am certain that they too will have certain air of confidence.
In a way, I don’t blame these people. When you know you live in one of the world’s busiest cities, why wouldn’t you feel smug? As understandable as their arrogance may be however, it is still no fun for all those who cannot partake in this small victory.