Since humankind began building and living in cities, we have claimed as our own the term civilized. The word describes the next stage of humanity, following from savage to barbaric to civic. It follows from family to clan to tribe and implies something beyond the stacking of bricks, the building of close housing and monumental edifices to community uses.
But all those earlier social stages of development were added to, not replaced by civilization. Most of us, whether we live in cities or not, remain socially tribal and clannish. In the cities are still those of not-quite-civic mindsets: There are savages among us, there are barbaric practices and behaviors still cherished as traditions, as connections to our roots. The idea of civilization is all about people of varied roots, diverse beliefs and traditions, living side by side in peace.
This makes tolerance a high virtue, patience and compassion, and maturity of emotional reaction absolute necessities. Education, health, and social support against poverties of many kinds are essentials.
In fact, being civilized doesn’t mean giving up traditions and mind-sets of family, clan, and tribe. It means integrating them with those virues, necessities, and essentials. In fact, celebration of diversity is one of those things that make civilization flower. Diversity and celebration of cultures is the root of all art.
While we added civilization to our repertoire of humanity, we still have a long way to go before we can really claim that the human race, whether living in cities or not, have earned the designation: Civilized.