Fixing what ails London the easy part

My fellow columnist, Lincoln McCardle, and I agreed that over the next two weeks, we’d go head-to-head on how to fix London. Because he’s smart, Linc crowdsourced ideas about what’s wrong with London, and because I’m cunning I peeked at the replies.

Some people shared things that are wrong in London, but aren’t necessarily wrong with London. I’m skipping them for now because maybe Lincoln can fix systemic societal problems in 600 words, but I can’t.

And then there was this idea that London isn’t creative — that we don’t do great things here. I wrestled with that for a long time. Part of me fervently disagreed, saying there are people doing inspiring, ambitious things here all the time. But part of me was thinking about how much we could stand to go big a lot more and stick close to the comfortable mediocrity of home a lot less.

I couldn’t reconcile those things into a single column until I realized that both are true. I imagine they are everywhere. Some people are competent and exceptional, and some people are aiming for average. That’s a reality in London, not a problem with London.

The fact that we think that’s a problem with London, I concluded, is the actual problem with London. We talk so much about how to fix London that the worst things wrong with it now are our insidious inferiority complex and our local myth about how terribly we’re perceived.

I can fix those.

First of all, let’s define London.

London is not a corporation. It’s not a group of non-profit organizations. It’s a place. A place full of people. Those people are what will make it a medical innovation community, a startup capital, a music city, an arts mecca, or a game development hub — things I’ve heard Londoners say they want the city to become.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of those people who are part of London. Do you suck? Are you inferior to your peers in other cities? Do you lack creativity and ambition? If so, I’m sorry for bringing it up. If not, then we can already reasonably conclude that London, this group of 350,000 diverse people, does not universally suck.

When someone says it does, you say, “No, it doesn’t. We’re London, and we don’t suck.”

So, that’s fixed.

Secondly, let’s look at how terribly London is perceived by outsiders. I’ve only lived in London for a few years, and spent most of the rest of my life about 80 km away. I couldn’t write a column about how my friends and I perceived London. We didn’t.
Nobody is thinking terrible things about London. They aren’t thinking about London at all. And while I know that doesn’t sound like great news, it’s not bad news either.

Look at it as having spent the past 189 years in a closed beta. We made some mistakes and we probably moved more slowly than we’d have liked, but nobody was paying attention to us. I think pretty soon we’ll be ready for our public launch. Getting people to look at the London we want them to see is a problem to tackle in my next column, perhaps, but know that we are not nearly as far from becoming what we want to be as we sometimes think.

There. I fixed what’s wrong with London.

May Lincoln have mercy on my soul.

Originally published in our London.