If Mayors Ruled the World


hallenges of our time —climate change, terrorism, poverty, and trafficking of drugs, guns, and people — the nations of the world seem paralysed. The problems are too big, entrenched, and divisive for the nation state. Is the nation state, once democracy’s best hope, today dysfunctional and obsolete?

The answer, according Benjamin R. Barber, author of the book If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities, is yes.

Barber asserts that cities, and the mayors that run them, offer the best new forces of good governance: “Why cities? Cities already occupy the commanding heights of the global economy. They are home to more than half of the world’s population, a proportion which will continue to grow. They are the primary incubator of the cultural, social, and political innovations which shape our planet. And most importantly, they are unburdened with the issues of borders and sovereignty which hobble the capacity of nation-states to work with one another.” 

In his TedTalk in Edinburg, Scotland, he outlines is argumentation for this new approach.

“Democracy is in trouble. No question about that. And it comes in part from a deep dilemma in which it is embedded.  It is increasingly irrelevant to the kind of decisions we face, that have to do with global pandemics (a cross-border problem), with HIV (a transnational problem with markets in immigration, something that goes beyond national borders), with terrorism, with war. All now cross-border problems all now. In fact we live in a 21st century world of interdependence and interdependent approval, interdependent problems.

And when we look for solutions in politics and democracy we are faced with political institutions designed four hundred years ago. Autonomous, sovereign nation-states with jurisdictions and territories separate from one another each claiming to be able to solve the problem of its own people. 21st Century transnational world of problems and challenges seventeenth century world of political institutions.

In that dilemma lies the central problem of democracy. And like many others I’ve been thinking about what can one do about this. This asymmetry between 21st century challenges and archaic and increasingly dysfunctional political institutions like nation-states.”


Barber, B. (2013) If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities. New Haven, US: Yale University Press.

The City Colour

About a city, it’s essence and the intrinsic colour.


Ypres is the symbol of the ultimate resilience and dynamics of a city ecosystem. It refounded itself, from the ashes, recreated, rebalanced and resurrected from the immense losses on the dark battlefields of the Big War. If there is a city which can be given a distinctive colour, then it is Ypres in West-Flanders, Belgium. The city has the name City of Peace.

The poppy (Papaver spp.), in abundance growing among the graves of war victims near the city, has become the symbol for the remembrance for those who lost their lives. The remembrance poppy, the artificial flower and first created by Madame Guérin, is often worn on clothing leading up to Remembrance Day/Armistice Day on the 11th of November, the day in 1918 when the war was ended.

The poem In Flanders Fields, by Canadian and Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, brings us all back to the day it was written, the 3rd of May 2015:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

– John McGrae

The most abundant flower – among other species of papavers – near the graves of the soldiers is the Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoeas L.). When florists speak about the poppy they often mark it with the colour scarlet.

Within CINETONE® we link the poppy colour Pantone® Poppy Red 17-1664 TPG to that of the city.

McCrae, J. (1918) In Flanders Fields and Other Poems. Salt Lake City: Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.

Image: Kruf, J.P. (2019) City, Ypres, Poppy Red / Ecosystem [fine art print]. Breda: Civitas Naturalis.

View on Delft: ecosystem ‘city’

How a painter catch the essence of the city.


This painting of the city of Delft, made around 1660, is from the master hand of Johannes Vermeer. More than inspiring. A place to live. Around 360 years back in time. With View of Delft Vermeer created an iconic image of the city: the city as an entity, the city as an ecosystem.

The overarching cloudy sky gives the city the insight and dimension that it is part of a larger world, maybe that of nature. It puts Delft in perspective. It humbles. At the same time, the citizens in the foreground remind you as watcher that the painting is also about everyday life. It sketches the city itself as comprehensive and offering a higher dimension to its inhabitants. That of a place where you may belong, where you can live, love, meet and work.

View on Delft is a holistic image in which Vermeer shows us the multiple layers of the ecosystem ‘city’: citizen, group, street, neighbourhood and city. In ecological terms he shows organism, group, niche, habitat and system at the same time. And that under the clouds of a much larger dimension, the sky, the world. A masterpiece.


Vermeer, Johannes (1660-1661) View on Delft [oil on canvas]. The Hague: Mauritshuis.

The Tone of Liverpool

About a time travel and catching the tone of a city.


The painter John Atkinson Grimshaw is best known for his moody urban landscapes. This impressionistic painting of Liverpool in 1875 is an inspiration in how tones, spheres, moods, perspectives and contexts can be found and fixed.

This scene is impressionistic and direct at the same time. It is easy to imagine you actually are there, transcended with your personal time-machine 147 years backwards to one of the most developed cities of Europe, Liverpool. Talking of ‘finding to tone’, this painting is an accurate example. No words are needed to describe what the tone of the city was.


Grimshaw, J.A. (1875) Liverpool Docks From Wapping Wharf. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.