The place where lots of people live (together), more or less peacefully.
Goody, now I get to don my rabbi's hat. (I am no less contradictory than anyone else here... Judaïsm taught me how to think. The rabbis have always been the world's greatest thinkers. And Jewish rabbis' thought is on a parr with Greek philosophy, although in an entirely different direction. (And by the way.... Herbert was steeped in monotheistic religious tradition. His books are like... textbooks in monotheism. I hope that he knew this, as he was a really smart cookie, smarter than us street rats, I think.)
So, on to the cities.
And back to Genesis (where it all started for us, by the way).
The first mention of cities in the Bible is right after... the first murder. Cain kills Abel, God says to Cain : because you have spilled your brother's blood into the earth, the earth will no longer.... COOPERATE with your efforts to cultivate it, so... In other words, we could say, Cain was just no longer cut out for farming, and he was going to have to find ANOTHER form of subsistance. (By the way, simplistic thinking likes to intimate that God... PUNISHED Cain for the first murder, but this is not true. God didn't NEED to punish Cain for the first murder because.... he knew that Cain would do the job just fine for him. We could say that Cain's restless wandering/nomadism on the earth is an attempt to flee what we moderns call his.. conscience. Abel is gone. Nothing will bring him back again. I think that Thai will appreciate that the temptation to turn what IS into what SHOULD BE is sometimes overwhelming. Because we are just itching for God to punish Cain, we attribute our own desire to God. Not good. )
So. It is in THIS context that the descendants of Cain start to huddle together in places called... cities. The first cities were inhabited by descendants of Cain.
So. I will interpret that the Genesis author thought that men who inhabited cities were estranged from agriculture, and the earth to a certain extent. (Careful, I too am not saying that this is good or bad, I am observing.) And it seems obvious to me that at least the way that our cities are currently organized, this estrangement is quite evident. (We could diminish it by creating... tracts of land FOR farms right in the center of our cities, by the way... This would be a good idea, I think.) The Genesis author also posited that people living in cities felt a certain... rootlessness, too.
Lots of people now living in liberalland would just LOVE to pretend that since they don't believe in God... the Bible has no importance whatsoever to them in their daily lives.
This attitude, in my book, is extremely.... STUPID. It is a little bit like being in a car, driving along in it, and when being questioned, saying "Car, what car ? I'm moving, aren't I ?"
We are STILL products of our ancestor's beliefs, so, in my book we are better off learning about these beliefs in order to be able to more or less "choose" in an informed manner.
When he was fourteen years old, Adolf Hitler's poor father left home (a small town or village) with a bundle on his back and headed for Vienna in hopes of finding work. Vienna then was an extremely cosmopolitan BIG CITY, and the young man after several hardships managed to get a job with the government bureaucracy as a customs official, and headed back to his home (border) town, proud of having made something of himself. When he got "home", nobody remembered him. Trauma. Major trauma.
When Adolf set off for Vienna about 40 years later, the city had changed a lot, and the worst of industrialized evils had created the massive unemployment which is looming before us even now. On the streets in Vienna, the young Adolf saw what the young Debra saw on the Champs Elysées thirty years ago : throngs of anonymous faces of every color, people of every shape and size, speaking every language imaginable. Where Debra was fascinated and impressed with cosmopolitanism at 25, Adolf was overwhelmed with estrangement at 14 (admit it, he was a little young to be all on his own...). (And it was not a piece of cake, this rootlessness for Debra at 25 either...) And Adolf could NOT manage to make something of himself like his Daddy had. Because of what/who HE was. But also because of what Vienna had become. And... this rootlessness is a major factor in what happened after...