Cores of Contention

For a long time, I have been fond of the United States Census Bureau and its unceasing efforts to place cities and counties and various other population areas in a larger context that shows what areas are part of the pull exerted by other areas. A core area as small as 10,000 or so can serve as a magnet that draws people from within a county (or its equivalent) and its neighboring areas due to its economic strength, and this is sufficient to make an area a micropolitan area. Once this area has more than about 50,000 people or so, it can be considered a metropolitan area, and if the core area is particularly strong in its attractive pull, it can lead to a combined statistical area that shows several sub-cores with a close relationship with each other, sometimes extending over truly massive areas.

I have considerably mixed feelings about cores, which is not particularly unusual given my mixed feelings for a great many aspects of life. Personally speaking, I have tended to feel most comfortable in peripheral areas that are far from the maddening crowds, far from the profitless struggle over prestige and position, areas where people can get down to doing important things without having to worry about who gets credit for what and without a great deal of attention. Even so, the periphery is itself, or ought to be, enriched by its core. When the core is troubled, the periphery becomes a truly unhappy area of serious conflict, as selfish and corrupt elites enjoy the fine life while the people on the periphery are left to deal with aggressive and hostile outsiders. This experience can lead to a great deal of both internal and external violence as out-of-touch core populations find themselves both protected and resented by peripheral populations who are neglected in the halls of power but essential to the survival of a collapsing regime.

Whether one thinks of the Roman Empire or the United States or any other number of historical empires, this reality holds true. Some people may prefer to be in the core and enjoy the hustle and bustle of centers of bureaucracy and government where power is concentrated. Some people may have a strong aversion to being around such concentrations of power–or even to their existence–and may prefer more isolated and quiet areas where they can live in greater freedom. But cores work best when their tendency to centralize power is tempered by the realities and freedom-loving temperaments of the periphery, and the periphery is itself helped by having a core that understands and empathizes with peripheral populations and has their best interests at heart. This requires that the core and periphery not become too different from and too inimical to each other, because both are necessary in the functioning of any sort of institution.

If we use the metaphor of a cell, for example, to examine this phenomenon, we can view the core as the nucleus, with its control over the executive functions of the cell as a whole. The nucleus is itself small in area relative to the rest of the cell, but having a strong and healthy nucleus allows all of the processes of the cell to work for the well-being of every part of the cell. An institution cannot thrive if it is badly governed, since the only conditions under which thriving is possible is to rid oneself of such bad government and to get better government, whether over the whole or by separating and finding success on a smaller scale, if it is not possible to rid the whole of its evil rulers. And even if such a separation comes in an institution, there still must be some core that provides order and direction and some new periphery. In this metaphor, the periphery serves as the cell wall and the various gates and openings into the cell–and it should be obvious that a cell cannot thrive unless it is able to take in what is wholesome and necessary for nutrition and survival and to keep out all that wishes to harm or destroy the cell. Small wonder that many of our health problems in the body–as with institutions–involve corrupt leaders taking charge and hijacking the cell to their own selfish purposes of reproducing other corrupt beings like themselves and then trying to spread and reproduce theat corruption until the body as a whole is overwhelmed.

Dealing with diseases of the body politic is similar to dealing with diseases of the physical body, whether one conceives it on the small level of individual cells or one conceives of it in larger terms. The best case scenario is prevention, but if one finds oneself dealing with a preexisting condition that threatens one with death and destruction, one may have to take drastic efforts. The goal becomes first survival, then preservation of as much enjoyment and capacity as one can, easier the earlier one identifies and is able to respond to a problem. With cancer as well as societal decadence, it is far easier to deal with an isolated tumor than it is to deal with metastatic cancer that has made a successful long march through the organs or the institutions of society. It is lamentable that core and periphery should be so hostile to each other when the efforts of both are necessary to the well-being of life and all that makes life worth living. Yet not all that should be in peace and harmony is, one of the aspects of life that makes troubled times like our own so common and so serious.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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