Some of the greatest, most pointless debates known to man have taken place within a group of semi-drunk heathens. Almost always the subject is as banal as the afterlife, the meaning of life, the meaning of apple or the end of the world. It’s much easier to attribute blame and lay it at someone’s doorstep after several beers and a few whiskeys, usually because alcohol lowers the barriers which we surround ourselves with. From time to time drunken debates can go wrong, they can become too personal and heated, thankfully we can then blame alcohol rather than ourselves.
The first mistake people often make, is to misunderstand the point of such discussions. The purpose of such deliberations is not to try to bully and harangue the other person into agreeing with you. There is no winner or loser. The reason to enter such debates is to exchange ideas. From the process alone you can often learn something as long as you are receptive to others opinions. In times long past philosophers would use debates as a public forum to test their own ideas, and when necessary to refine them. And it’s for this reason alone that I love these verbal jousting matches.
Recently I was dragged into a discussion about Warsaw. I said in passing that ‘Warsaw as a city, has no personality.’ Rightfully so I was challenged by friends and my better half to spell out exactly what I meant. In hindsight I can say that I failed. For whatever reason I was unable to clearly explain exactly what I meant. It didn’t, nor does it anger me. It only frustrates me. And it is that frustration which keeps the topic floating in the back of my mind.
The question itself is two-fold. The first regards whether a city can actually have a personality. In my mind’s eye I see a man surrounded by people at a party. As he tells stories and leads the conversation like a conductor before an orchestra you can see something radiating off of him. He is like the Queen Bee. He is magnetic. That thing which ensures people return to converse with him is his personality. On Monday when these people go to work they are going to tell anecdotes to their colleagues about their meeting with this man. These people have been affected, some stronger than others. Perhaps even inspired. These people at the party have been changed. Even if it is a temporary change. The thing which has done this is personality.
A city with personality inspires awe. People write books, make films and sing songs in its name. The people there are proud to be there. People are drawn to it, after one visit they want to live there. The believe in its power to improve their lives. It changes them. People tell stories about the wonderful things they experienced there. There is even more pressure if you are a capital city. That charismatic person at the party becomes a famous celebrity. They cannot just be typical or normal. You expect personality from this person and your disappointment is infinitely higher if they fail.
What did I learn? That a sense of pride can be found in the most unlikely of places. That I only enjoy leaving and never arriving. And that Warsaw is the only European capital built with its back to the river. Is it shy? I don’t know. Maybe that’s why I am not mesmerised by its charm. Or maybe, just maybe it’s because I am a Mass Debater.