URBAN PREACHING TO NEWBORNS. A one-year anniversary letter for the future.

Today we are celebrating our first birthday since the CAPITAL R web gazette began, and it will be several years before your parents or yourself will read this "letter for the future" together. But that's ok, if the Internet is dead by now, we have a back-up copy of this blog!
During this one year we have reached more than 9000 people and being visited more than 17 000 times. To be honest - we have absolutely no idea what this means to a page this size and this speciality. We only know that it feels like we have started to create some impact. Would it last? You tell us.

But we hope you are happy, and keep the world around you the same. Because, when we are writing this letter to the future, there's lots of hope and enthusiasm, but not much of pure happiness in the city. A lot is not right. Riga is still lead by confusion and sly people caring about nothing else but their private interests and mutual businesses. Such basic needs like fixing bad roads, organizing and modernizing public transport or building culture spaces in Riga have become a master plan for a circle of hired companies to benefit rather than a master plan to improve living conditions of the whole society (therefore, improving the status and life of the companies too). The body still stands, but the soul of the city is close to ruins.

Riga is full with "I made it" people, who's life ethos is based on actually only milking the city. Or working here and living around Riga, thus bringing unnecessary traffic jams in (But it's hard to blame them, when the city of 2019 still has no park'n'ride, but we hope you have it finally). Riga is also full with those "I made it" people ridiculously bragging about 5G Internet (that you, most likely, already use daily by now) or protecting the interests of "Memory Water" and their pseudo-science scams we hope your parents have already forgotten the same as the company.
Only after the crisis was far behind, did people start showing their power in boycotting pretentious nuisance caused by the system and businesses with no respect and responsibility towards the people. 
People banned Maxima supermarkets because of their disinterest in helping the victims when one of their malls collapsed in Riga, killing 54 in. People banned the "graveyard tram", or a shady tram line connecting the centre with a rising new age suburb and facing many unsolved issues with development. The once small "City for the people" urban activist community grew into something big, selflessly uniting a network of smaller initiatives doing anything it takes for the sake of a sustainable city - from blocking tree cutters, planting unsanctioned bike lanes, taking care of street plants when it was the city's responsibility, and helping forming suburban political alliances that made community-initiated municipal project funding possible just now. Finally, even the small vegan community (that, we hope, has grown into mainstream) got together to ban wild animals from any circus.

But it's all peanuts comparing to why the masses haven't yet boycotted the pro-Kremlin "Saskaņa/GKR" party union that took Riga on a ride to disaster. Even their most dedicated supporters, the middle class, hard workers, low earners, or pensioners mostly born in a non-Latvian speaking family, still believe that the union will cure them, but are more than ever left in the soup. We hope you have learned to ban the party's fake socialist agenda successfully, my child. And we hope you have also banned the opposite, the Latvian nationalists, trying to oppress basic human rights and developing biased barriers for those non-Latvian speaking LATVIAN families to integrate and feel welcomed. So they don't vote for the pro-Kremlins any more, and we all form a nation based in mutual love for the land and in mutual contempt for shady mugs.
We have realized nationalism of any kind, shape and language is the seed of all peril and we hope - you have stopped it.
Unhappy locals aren't the best picture to foreigners too. The number of tourists is growing, which is always nice, if only you don't promote Old Town only. But Old Town hasn't made locals quite happy as well - how can Disneyland make one happy, if you ordered a natural reserve? When you are reading this, maybe the younger generation of urbanists, architects or tour developers work hard turning Old Town into this urban museum reserve after all. Preserving what it stood for and not trying to contemporize it. We don't mind, really, it might even give an extra push to other areas to prove themselves and the city centre and suburbs to become more popular to live and visit, thus scattering people evenly around Riga and away from defined and overrated magnets.

Do you ever wonder - if Riga is built on sand more than 800 years ago, why are we still so dry? We are a country that belongs to trees, then why do we suffocate in the city? We are forest and water people, it's time to be fluid again and let the fierce wind of ignorance float over without breaking us. It's time to get back to being water, my friend. And it's time to get back to the city.

We believe that bad roads, absent cycling lines, lack of suburban policies, inconsiderate urban "innovations", overpriced apartments, shoulder rubbing, corruption, fragmented society and lack of functional, sustainable services in the city as they make a normal picture of today's unhappy Riga in 2019 - are the past in your era. We also believe that, by the time you read this, Riga has become what we only start to talk about - a quiet city. You see bikes, mopeds and electric scooters storming the streets more than ever, and everyone agrees riding is better than driving.
Today we are only waiting for the first blood to smear all over the statistics before anything changes toward safer and well developed infrastructure, but Riga deserves to be more mobile, less air polluting and, yes, more quiet. So the voices of people become louder.
For sure, cars are still fine in your times, and they are necessary. But can you imagine, how did we feel being on the edge every time before crossing the road, not being sure if the urban space belongs to human scale or is occupied by the inert body of someone's combustion vehicle? Do people even j-walk when you read this? Because they do in our times. But not because of bad habits. If the green light for cars is minutes, but for pedestrians and bikes - seconds - why wouldn't they?

When answering a pessimistic question related to doubt about active and enterprising people leaving Latvia in an interview recently, the young and progressive economist and anthropologist Andris Šuvajevs (you maybe know him as a very prominent man by now) said:
There is one constant calamity about us - disbelief in our strength, the sense of fatality, feeling that nothing can be changed anyway. That's why I am looking at young people with hope. The ones growing up in a free, independent state. Not tied to the Soviet past, nor to the "extreme centre" ideological clichés. At the same time it's a generation seeing injustice and travesty everywhere, and it's only a matter of time before the generation will dare to enter politics. So there you finally have the future of Latvia."1
We very much believe in you, the independently-born generations. If we screwed things up by constantly blaming each other and living short-sighted lives, you have had a real chance to make things right by now. Boys, be more sensitive, girls, be more strong, and both learn the world deeper, preserve it better, fight for the common good, and protect according to common sense. The today's rising popularity of zero waste stores and lifestyle in Riga, enormous demand for cycling, renaissance of suburban life and local pride, growth of animal-wellfare-conscious society and the rising of street culture and art - it's still hard work for us, but it's everyday life for you! We see there's a real spark of youth in people again! The spark that cannot be bought cheaply, and knows - the personal good comes from a strong common good. The spark that fights for recycling, never ever drinks coffee from single-use plastic and needs no new smartphone every other year. The spark creating art that doesn't only mimic or ironize, but confronts the unfair reality. The spark in people loving whoever they want to love, if only the love is returned.

We love our city today at its best or worst, but it does not love us back yet. We hope that, by the time you are reading this - it will.



1 “Rīgas elitei” ir vienalga, kas notiek ar pārējo Latviju, laukos un mazpilsētās dzīvojošajiem. Saruna ar Andri Šuvajevu

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