15 July 2007

Glasgow: What's (not) to Love?

My last entry outlined some of the things I love about this city, but like any major metropolitan city, there's plenty not to like too. Something I read in today's Sunday Times (Scotland) reminded me that there's a flip side to this city as well. The following list ranges from the petty to the downright tragic:

1) It would be negligent not to mention that Glaswegians smoke and drink too much. Scotland tops most lists in these two addictions, and as a result are among Europe's leaders in health related illnesses.

2) There is still a fairly heavy undercurrent of sectarianism in this city, and it can usually be identified by which local football side you support - Rangers (protestant) or Celtic (catholic). I was advised early in my stay here not to support either side... for my own health. The separation along protestant and roman catholic lines isn't as strong as it used to be, but it still very much exists, and it defines a large part of what is bad about this city.

3) I'm annoyed at all the trash and dog poo on the walkways and streets. Glasgow really is a beautiful city, and it's clear that civic hygiene is not much of a priority to its inhabitants.

4) While we're not exposed to this side of its underbelly on a day-to-day basis, Glasgow is an extremely violent city. The article I read today branded Scotland as western Europe's "murder hotspot," and two-thirds of those murders happen in Strathclyde (Glasgow's county). The ratio of stabbing incidents in Glasgow compared to those in London is 19:1, and if you're stabbed in Glasgow you're more likely to die from your wound than in any other city in Europe. There is no scientific explanation for this, but theories state that it's likely due to the force and aggression behind the assaults that make it so serious.

5) The separation between the haves and have-nots seems to be increasing here. While there is no shortage of good, quality housing in the city, there is a shortage of good, affordable housing, and this leads to many people still living in poor, cold, damp conditions.

6) There is a very dark presence among the youth in this city. I've never seen so many death-rockers, or goth-kids gathered so numerously in one location. On any given day (especially weekends) it's not uncommon to see hordes of teenage kids gathered together in city center donning black clothing from head to foot, adorned with skulls, pentagrams, and black makeup. There is no question that the desired statement they're trying to make is, "I am evil and I'm consumed with death."

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