Rome, Athens, Constantinople, London, Tokyo, Cairo, New York and Moscow. It is as if the stuff that is most worthwhile is the density of the population, those locations where people lived closely packed together rather than the substance of the people who lived everywhere in between. It would appear that all the significant events and accomplishments of a people throughout history are focused on urban centers and as a result we have convinced ourselves that it is and has always been the cities that define a society.
Our perception of urban living versus rural is often defined by the culture shapers — politicians, academics, corporations and media. Rarely are the populations who inhabit the different regions asked about the impact of those decisions on their quality of life. They accept the paradigm into which they were born or they convince themselves that the alternatives are much worse than what they face living in densely populated urban centers.
We seem to readily accept that economic advantages of living in a city far outstrip the opportunities of living in the country, that the benefits of culture — museums and symphonies, for example — are unavailable to anyone who does not live where these attractions are located. There is an almost equal enthusiasm for certain benefits of urbanity, like diversity, that manifest as many, if not more drawbacks to a good life depending on how the effects of that mix manifests itself in good times and in bad. What one gains in access to a varied selection of cuisines is offset by what one must deal with when communication between diverse groups is not possible due to language or cultural differences. While the former are often cited as beneficial, the latter is never mentioned except where it can be used to shame or ridicule anyone who objects. Under social and economic stresses those features such as clannish or tribal behaviors emerge and create fractures along a number of fault lines.