GRE Issue Essay 145

“One can best understand the most important characteristics of a society by studying its major cities.”

As the good old clich goes, “when you are in Rome, do as the Romans do,” it is understood that Romans can be expected to behave in a manner that is represented by the city of Rome. In other words, the city of Rome reflects the characteristics of the Roman society. Is this true in the present world also? This clich may be questionable in the modern world because Rome would now constitute of people from various societies who have chosen to settle there due to various reasons like their choice of career. Therefore, it is now very difficult to understand the most important characteristics of any one society by studying its major cities. On the contrary, these characteristics could be better understood by studying the villages and small towns of the society where the traits and characteristics of that society would still be preserved.

In the past, the major cities of any civilization or society were the economic, cultural and political centers of that particular society. These cities reflected the true characteristics of the society that they were a part of. However, due to rapid developments across the globe, now most of the major cities of the world are almost the same. This is because there has been an intermingling of various societies with people traveling far and wide in search of careers and better homes. Any major city of the world would now consist of people who may have varied origins.

Can a study of Paris help in understanding the true characteristics of the French society? The answer to this question would probably be a “No”. This is because by virtue of being the fashion hub of the world, Paris now the home of designers, fashion models, garment manufacturers who have their roots in some other country. Therefore, a study of Paris cannot be relied upon for giving accurate information about the French society. Moreover, over the years, there would have been inter-race marriages leading to a new generation that does not carry the traits of the societies of either of its parents. In fact, the case is similar in most of the major cities across the world leading to a generation that is not related to any one society in particular. On the contrary, small towns and villages situated in the countryside of France will give you an idea of the characteristics of the French society as these townships would be consisting of French people who have been able to retain their traditions through the generations.

Extensive excavations in Pakistan had led to the discovery of the civilizations of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. These excavations revealed the remains of the towns that were a part of the Indus valley civilization. A study of these towns has shed light on the characteristics of the society that existed in those times. The people of the society were restricted to living in these cities due to lack of suitable means of transport for long distance traveling. They were probably born and brought up in the same city and this made them follow the norms of the society religiously. Therefore, a study of the major cities in the past would have given an exact indication of the characteristics of the societies that existed in those times. However, the same may not be true in the present context.

In sum, it is definitely true that a study of the major cities of any society helps in understanding the characteristics of the society. However, this may not necessarily be true in the modern world where the characteristics of a society are probably limited to its rural areas.