Changing cities and the meaning of beauty

Dr Daniele D’Alvia, Module Convener in Comparative Law, delves into his thoughts on how cities and communities are changing and with this explores the concept of beauty.

Dr Daniele D’Alvia

In 2019, I agreed with Professor Anne Wagner, Professor of Legal Semiotics at Lille University, to write about the relative and absolute meanings of beauty in relation to cities. I wrote about the beauty of cities, mentioning the sentence of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russian novelist, “Beauty shall save the world”. A sentence that today becomes – as I affirmed in 2019 – ‘a necessity and a new way to see the world’ especially in the face of political transformation, environmental changes or catastrophes.

As a Birkbeck Ronnie Warrington scholar and a passionate reader of Oscar Wilde, I shall write on the meanings of beauty. Beauty cannot be seen as an absolute, fixed concept. Indeed, I firmly believe that beauty must be interpreted as relative and susceptible to change to become the expression of a new transformation that can turn the actual signs of imperfection and political change into a new beautiful meaning. The ‘imperfect’ past or present can, indeed, vanish in front of crowded streets of protesters that today march side by side with people of different religions, races, and sexual orientations. This because the new future shall start to become the new present of an evolved and transformed vision of cities as well as of communities.

In this light, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement this year as well as the political demonstrations and protests in Minsk, Belarus, represent the necessity of seeing the world differently. As I have affirmed in 2019 ‘beauty becomes a necessity’. That same necessity to re-invent the world in front of the violence and dictatorship has given new meanings and interpretations to cities.

Minsk has shown the world that people are now asking to become more aligned with democratic concepts of equality and freedom. The flower-bearing women protesting in Minsk in August in response to the police violence inflicted on Belarusians represents the new meaning of beauty of the silenced innocents. Additionally, the removal of statues that symbolised colonial power becomes the symptom of a transformation of cities towards new ideals of inclusion, diversity, and tolerance. Indeed, it seems that nowadays the concept of beauty must be relative and open to change, rather than absolute and fixed, because it is inside the same ‘relativity’ that we can identify the meaning of change and revolution.

It is with discussions and the debating of our own views and opinions that we can change the world. Everything that is perceived as absolute and fixed can only absolutely destroy. The relativity of ideas, the doctrine that knowledge, truth and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, is the key to progress and equality. Indeed, I firmly believe that each real revolution starts within ourselves and we need to open ourselves to thinking beyond our own self-interests and boundaries.

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