Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul (Reuters)

With elections approaching in Turkey to determine who will govern our cities and how, it's worth taking the opportunity to think about what the word "city" means for a while.

Before I republish a long quote from an article I previously wrote on this topic, let's take a look at the current exam questions about "The City":

On Gaza City - inhabited by completely free people, perhaps some of the freest people in the world, who have shown the courage not to submit to the tyrants of the world - bombs have been dropped for 137 days. With nearly 30,000 dead, three-quarters of whom were children and women, more than 70,000 injured, and a city rendered uninhabitable, how can we imagine that a people with whom we have many ties faces genocide, and then go on with our lives as if nothing had happened?

Shouldn't everything stop during a genocide, and people, groups, communities, companies, states and leaders must put all their efforts and priorities first to stop this genocide?

Have we reached the final stop then? Is this the end of the human story in this world? Doesn't the integration of all human beings and the killing of their individuality mean the end of man?

When a person thinks about the meaning of “the city,” he thinks about himself, and in fact he reaches an advanced stage of this thinking.

Man is the only being capable of thinking for himself by nature. But his ability to think is one thing, and his use of that ability is another thing. Just as the ability to think does not necessarily mean that everything one thinks is correct or sound.

A person must think about himself, be aware of himself, know the limits of his mind, recognize the strengths and weaknesses of his personality, and pay attention to his bad emotions, just as he knows his good feelings. He monitors the moments that exude his arrogance, ingratitude, jealousy, envy, selfishness, sadism, and inner complexes, and thus he controls himself.

Are we looking for “imran” or a city that will help people achieve all this awareness?

In fact, realizing all these feelings that a person experiences within the city more clearly and intensely is a virtue of thinking about oneself. Man is not just a mind, of course, and he is also not that abstract entity whose name we often mention in philosophical texts with capital letters as “human being.” Reality is nothing like that reductionism.

Every human being is a unique and true story. He was created from a father and a mother, and was formed from blood, flesh, and bone. He has his own characteristics that distinguish him. He has his own age, gender, profession, homeland, gender, unique body, language, group, kinship relationships, and social environment.

The city is the sum of these unique people. When a group of them establishes a city, it does not resemble the cities established by others in other places. Cities are places made and organized by people who give them their colours, personalities and vitality.

On a previous occasion, we wondered about the future of the distinguished literary work: “Five Cities”, by the Turkish writer Ahmed Hamdi Tanbir, in which he painted a wonderful picture of the unique spirit that each of these five Turkish cities represents, and makes each city different from the others, like a different planet in the world. Its diversity, vitality and identity.

Today everything seems to be copied from one another throughout modern cities: concrete buildings, streets, roads, shopping malls, etc.

There is no longer any need to be curious about a city in Anatolia, if you have seen one you have seen them all. They are all similar in their scattered buildings and locations.

Have we reached the final stop then? Is this the end of the human story in this world? Doesn't the integration of all human beings and the killing of their individuality mean the end of man?

It cannot be quite so, but in this world of so-called modernity, there is an approach that ignores the life dimension of urban practices, aims to make all cities the same, and ultimately destroys city life itself.

The one who made cities this inhuman image is ultimately man himself. It was his choice to freeze something moving and vibrant. If he had chosen something else, it could have developed in a different direction.

Throughout history, all civilizations have tried to show their greatness and influence through the cities they built. But those cities were not just an expression of the greatness of the founding civilizations, but were also a place of life and activity.

Of course, there were also cities that were established solely to challenge others, or even to challenge God Almighty, but if the city was established only on these flimsy foundations, it would die with the death of the will that built it; Because cities, as Ibn Khaldun said; If there is no desert to nourish it and no reality to support it, it first weakens and then disappears.

We should not, therefore, approach cities by answering this simple and reductive question: Who will assume the authority to govern them?

Cities are bigger than that; Because it is the only place where people can show their cultural peculiarities.

I have never been a fan of the term: “manifestations of civilization,” but if we agree that what is inside us is reflected on the outside, then we should not ignore that everything we complain about in our cities today is a reflection of what is inside us.

But maybe we should start thinking about ourselves by thinking about the city.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.