One way to parse life is via unicellular systems (such as bacteria) and multicellular systems (such as animals). Animal cellular system consist of many cells working together providing specialization of function for the good of the whole. In one sense (from the cellular vantage point), they are all equal. They all provide specific, important functions. Often, they are part of sub-systems, which in turn, may be part of other larger, organized systems within the organism. For example, heart muscles have several layers of simpler systems that allow them to operate the way they do. They, themselves, are a part of a functioning organ that is also essential to the animal that requires circulation of blood.
This model will be called the cooperative, telescoping systems model. When it properly functions, it is a positive sign of life.
Another model works against the cooperative, telescoping systems model; it is built upon selfish behavior to the aggrandizement of an alternate, foreign system. In this event, cells take more than they are due and they aggregate disproportionately according to a non-cooperative strategy. These are the cancer cells. They disrupt cooperative systems. They seek more and more to the ultimate destruction of the host and their own existence. Their potentiality exists within normal, functioning cells, but when they turn on, they disrupt everything. They bring down the cooperative, telescoping systems model within the organism which brings about total destruction of the organism.
The interaction between cancer and the telescoping systems model can also be applied to other nested systems—such as human society. Sometimes it is the case that a society might be structured so that it is stable and exhibits some features of fairness—such as differentiation of social functions that are valued by all as equally important for the existence of the whole. It is rare that this goes very far as so many humans view social relations as a competitive, zero-sum game. However, things become cancerous when some element within the society starts becoming selfish relative to the good of the whole. Such behavior can lead to sickness of the social structure before possibly killing it (the society). Entities such as big business, power-hungry politicians, and egoistic social figures can be stand-ins for social cancer. Like biological cancer, they must be removed and remedial actions taken so that the cancer doesn’t grow back.
This is applicable to many societies in many historical times. I ask you to think: what are the cancers that affect the United States today. What should we do about it?