It may have occurred to you while reading these pages that I have followed a somewhat tortuous path to get to this point, that really the question of how the host model affects relations between nation states is more urgent, and should have been addressed from the beginning. Well, as it happens, my belief is that this prelude has been necessary in order to correctly account for an undoubtedly disturbing feature of the model found in the vicinity of Europe. This feature is so disturbing, in fact, that it threatens to undermine the credibility of the model, transforming a theory which has been up to this point sublime, into one verging on ridiculous. If you haven't already guessed what I'm referring to then it will no doubt horrify you to learn that the outline of Italy is no accident of nature, but a deliberate representation of the planet's consciousness and executive authority. According to this view, not only is the planet aware of our presence here on Earth, but it evidently has the ability to know our every intimate detail.
I expect that some of you have been struggling to accommodate some of the science I have included in my discussion up to this point, but I hope that you will now appreciate how necessary this sort of rhetorical framework has been. Without the certainty which results from a rigorous observation of the principles and logic of science this particular contention would be very difficult to accept. It is difficult enough to accept in such a formal context without opening the door to all manner of doubt and disputation, so I hope that you will bear with me when I occasionally venture into the somewhat forbidding cloisters of this most esteemed academic institution.
Of course, you may prefer to believe that the shape of Italy represents a bizarre coincidence, an example of a quirk of nature which you can safely ignore, as has generally been the case among observers for as long as the outline of Italy has been known to them. After all, the coast of Italy is at least several million years old, which means that the so called planetary host would have to possess a remarkable foresight, to see us as we are now from a time when the human species had barely even started.
Yet, in spite of how vehemently you may wish to adhere to this view, you nevertheless have to admit that, as coincidences go, this one is a real lulu. To depict the punitive sentiments of judicial authority so graphically, and at a point in the representational scheme where they can have the most effect, well, the irony is unforgettable at least and will probably now haunt you every time you think of it anyway. Perhaps this irony will weigh so heavily on your mind that you'll eventually be forced to change it. Indeed, if you can accept the validity of the host model at all then I hope that you will be able to accept the significance of every intricate detail. It's not as if such a delicate example of coastal 'drawing' is entirely without precedent. The British Isles represent an even more intricately drawn coastal outline than that drawn around Italy, and on a topographical scale which is virtually identical. It may be a particularly severe representation of the fundamentally judicious nature of a being who intends to scrutinise our behaviour, but I believe that the tension between Sicily and the Italian peninsula is unmistakable.
As for the planet's apparently prodigious foresight, I have already discussed how an observer's sense of time is relative to the scale of his existence. Thus, while several million years may seem like a long time from our point of view, it is not necessarily such a long time from the point of view of a being with dimensions like those of the planet. So, much as you would like to believe that humans represent the very pinnacle of being here on Earth, it is more realistic to suggest that we are like microorganisms to the planetary host, which is to say relatively simple and overwhelmingly short lived. As the modern science of medicine has repeatedly shown us, it doesn't take much foresight to outsmart a microorganism. All it takes is the invention of a means of studying the relevant microscopic details, which is evidently no less achievable by a planet whose motive is the acquisition of knowledge just as ours is.
But, if you still harbour doubts about the significance of the shape of Italy, then consider adopting this view on purely aesthetic grounds. For a start, in more compelling terms than have ever been possible before, it sort of proves the existence of God among us. Now, I have qualified this momentous suggestion with 'sort of' for a couple of reasons, the first of which is because Planet Earth can hardly be the Lord of all the Universe as God is usually understood to be. While it may be some time before astronomers are able to detect planets orbiting even the nearest of the many stars in our galaxy, there are potentially large numbers of them out there among whom Planet Earth is but one very modest member. Even if there were something special about our planet, something especially representative of all the other planets for example, Planet Earth may seem godlike to them, but like God only from our point of view. While it may seem like God to us it will seem conspicuously subordinate from the point of view of stars and galaxies, so that when a being appears to be like God to another it is only so from that particular observer's point of view. Thus, in terms of the regression of abstractions, at any point in the representational chain a being may struggle with the power beyond itself and call it God, but perhaps without realising that it is itself God from another point of view. It is thus a misconception to think that God could ever be something absolute in a universe of spatial infinities, a universe in which a being's omnipotence is as relative as the scale of her existence.
The other reason why I suggest that the shape of Italy only sort of proves the existence of God is because the Church only ever portrays this Being in terms which are very poetic. While the Church has embraced the Bible with an affection which is consistent with its belief that it is the literal word of God, it is a very subjective text which contrasts sharply with the objective nature of Planet Earth. Notwithstanding its evidentiary nature the Earth was once the subject of religious devotion among human communities, but has long been usurped by a more transcendental formulation. For the modern Church the Earth is merely an inanimate lump of rock given to us for our pleasure and subject to unlimited exploitation, so as far as the identity of God is concerned I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing. On the one hand the Earth is a physical being constrained by physical limitations, a being who is vulnerable and necessarily prone to error. But contrary to the physical nature of Planet Earth the Church embodies an ideal in the form of a relatively fictional being who supposedly transcends the limitations of physical existence, and who is not only incapable of error but is also ultimately invulnerable.
In spite of whether Planet Earth conforms with your image of what God should be, you can be quite certain on the basis of the shape of Italy that the planet intends to be Almighty God to us. This is not to say, of course, that the planet possesses supernatural powers beyond those which conform with the principles of physics, in all of human experience there has been no evidence of this. But it does suggest that the planet intends to judge our behaviour, indeed the most gratifying thing about the shape of Italy is the promise it represents that misdeeds will certainly not go unpunished. For those of you who have suffered a transgression at the hands of another which for whatever reason has escaped prosecution in the courts of society, it may comfort you to know that sooner or later justice will be done. Retribution is so certain, in fact, that you may end up feeling sympathy for the offender.
But before you get carried away with the simple beauty of this idea let me draw your attention to a fairly subtle issue complicating a full appreciation of it. You may be thinking that because of Sicily's long association with organised crime there must be a cosmic dimension to the struggle between good and evil which structures so much of behaviour in society. The trouble is, however, that good and evil don't actually exist objectively like physical things such as people, planets or galaxies. On the contrary, good and evil are cultural values which exist only subjectively like beauty in the eye of a beholder. Thus, while you may like to propose that some person or thing is good or evil as the case may be, you are not raising a factual matter but rather one of opinion. Of course, your opinions may be highly valued by those with whom you discuss such matters, but this is not to say that they will necessarily be held by each and every member of society. In a plural society such as ours you have to allow for a great deal of diversity.
It is therefore not surprising to suggest that what seems like a good thing from the point of view of one observer may seem like the worst sort of evil from the point of view of another. While a well spun web seems like a good thing from a spider's point of view it is not so good for the hapless fly. Or, while the drive to the sale yards is likely to be of benefit to the farmer it means several days of inconsolable grief for the cows left behind in the paddock. What is good for the Israelis is generally bad for the Palestinians, and while industry provides benefits to most of humanity it is undeniably detrimental to the environment and inevitably to the planet as a whole.
While you may like to believe in the fundamental goodness of humanity, it is unrealistic to expect that our opinion in this regard will be the subject of agreement among all the countless beings who ever lived on this world. It is only fair to expect that for some of these creatures we represent a particularly insidious evil. We ruthlessly exploit farm animals, some of whom spend their entire lives cooped up in pens not much bigger than their bodies, for no other purpose than so that we can eat them. If some alien oppressor arrived on our shores and started treating us this way, you can be quite certain that before too long we would think of them as evil. Furthermore, with the deterioration of natural habitats due to industry and population we are responsible for the most serious episode of mass extinction on this planet since the extinction of the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago. We have ravaged this world, and if our reproductive behaviour is anything to go by, then it is evidently our intention to develop technologies which will allow us to go out among the stars and do the same to any suitable planet we can get our greedy hands on. It doesn't take much imagination to realize how much of a threat we pose to most living things on this planet, and in spite of how innocent you may believe yourself to be, each and every one of us can be brought to account for an equal share in the burden of this outstanding responsibility.
Consistent with this sort of thinking you could argue that from the point of view of the many victims of human domination on this planet, the difference between a member of the Sicilian Mafia and a relatively honest man is so marginal as to be virtually insignificant. Even an honest man is guilty of being an accessory to all the morally doubtful things we do in the course of domination. But if you doubt the validity of such an inflammatory remark then consider how much we care about telling the difference between good and evil members of a species once it has been identified as a menace to humanity. In the case of the various pathogens which invade our bodies, for example, as far as the sufferer of disease is concerned there's no good in any one of them at all. Since such sentiments follow as a matter of reflex it is prudent to expect that the victims of human ascendancy have exactly this attitude to us. For creatures such as these all humans are tyrants of a sort not seen on Planet Earth since the demise of that legendary menace Tyrannosaurus Rex.
You will no doubt have gathered from this discussion that good and evil are categories which are as relative as those other factors I have been discussing, which is to say that in no sense do they ever have an absolute or universal value. Perhaps the most surprising demonstration of this can be found by comparing contradictory interpretations of the significance of the shape of Italy. For example, contrary to representing the legitimate rule of law, it could be seen by some observers to represent symbolism of an unmistakably Fascist nature, profoundly legitimising the commitment of some to achieving the goal of universal domination. As much as you would like to believe in the existence of an unadulterated goodness, it seems that even the very emblem of power here on Earth is not as innocent as some might wish it to be. Of course it all depends on your interpretation of what is essentially a matter of degree, but whichever way you look at it, for better or for worse it would seem that European culture is set to dominate the conduct of global discourse.
A similar demonstration of the relativity of good and evil can be found by comparing contradictory interpretations of the significance of Sicily. While many Sicilians have a reputation for being pretty shady characters it may surprise you to see these individuals cast in a role which is entirely different. Given that all of us are evil doers of a sort worthy of punitive restitution, then against this background those Sicilians are seen to suffer the wrath of God on our behalf. They take the blame for our misdeeds, and in this respect they are positively Christlike. The fact that some Sicilians are exemplary sinners is exactly the point; they represent our iniquities in the drama of life, and as such set the standard for humanity. So, in spite of whatever prejudice you may harbour towards these individuals, I hope that you can appreciate the nobility of what is essentially a service to us all. It can't be easy bearing the brunt of the duality in our lives, but it is, according to the evidence, a service which must be performed.
Clearly, the determination of what is good and evil depends so much on an observer's particular predilection that, in the context of discussion having any kind of objectivity, emotive categories such as these are virtually meaningless. Who's to say what is universally good or bad for all beings at all times? Is it God? Is it the planet perhaps? Or perhaps it could be our human representatives. I doubt that any of these are so inclined since each has a particularly one sided view of the matter. So, in our discussion of the host model, it is actually correct to suggest that what is going on between Italy and Sicily is not a struggle between good and evil as such, but rather an example of the conflict inherent in the very existence of power. Because of the fundamental symmetry involved in the manifestation of physical entities there will always be an opposition to whatever form a being may aspire, ready to challenge it to justify the basis on which it continues to exist. To characterise this opposition in terms of moral values is to over simplify the matter, which may well be justified in the context of juvenile instruction, but surely adults are able to appreciate the inaccuracy of this. It may look like good and evil to you but this is because you tend to look at the situation from only one point of view. Good and evil are categories which have no more depth than to represent a being's hopes and fears. The reason why they assume such monumental proportions in society has to do with the commonality of experience among members, and the sheer numbers of those conforming to subsequent group norms.
It is thus a more accurate reflection of the facts to suggest that the relationship between Italy and Sicily consists of a representation of power, but as interesting as this proposition may be the reverse case is perhaps even more so. In this case they can be seen to demonstrate the power of representation. We have already seen how these figures could represent an interest in global domination, but it may not have occurred to you how closely they relate to the sort of political representation we are familiar with in society. Just as some Sicilians represent our iniquities in the trial before God, so too do Europeans represent the rest of us as they lead humanity to the goal of achieving an inclusive global society. It is no wonder that Europe is home to individuals who come from every corner of the globe since Europe is at the head of global society, and individuals such as these are the representatives of a worldwide constituency. They may not have been elected to their positions in society but this doesn't make them any less representative. And then, as naturalised citizens of their chosen homeland, they participate in a democratic process whose history runs parallel with the development of European culture itself. For more than two thousand years Europe has fostered the development of democratic institutions and today it shares the benefit of this experience with receptive communities wherever they may be.
There is, of course, no shortage of interest in developments of this kind. It's not as if political representation is a uniquely European phenomenon. In prehistoric times, for example, human groups were typically lead by a 'big man', and I can tell you from personal experience that even the cows have a leader whose duty is to guide the herd to ever greener pastures. What differs in the case of Europe, however, is the sheer scale of representation involved. If the shape of the British Isles is anything to go by then it is evidently the role of Europe to represent the planet in its entirety. While the planet in its totality comprises the experience of countless different points of view, according to the regression of abstractions our physical being actually embodies a summary of this experience. We are therefore in no position to claim that we can't relate to the experience of all the other creatures whose space we share. So, it is by no means trivial to suggest that Europeans might consider providing at least some kind of political representation, not only for all humanity, but ultimately for every living thing on this planet. Indeed, the scale of representation at stake here is so phenomenal that its sheer magnitude challenges Europeans to fulfil what seems to be their cosmic destiny. Of course, representation on this scale may prove to be difficult to implement in practice, there is a serious communication problem at least, but I do think it should be part of our intention. We would be less than human if we didn't feel compassion for those creatures who suffer as a result of our industrialisation of the landscape. Representing their interests in our hearts and minds is the least we can do to absolve our very guilty conscience.
This may, however, seem a little farfetched to some of you. We are, after all, never likely to see animals listed on the electoral rolls of nation states. But the representation of their interests in society may only seem farfetched to you because you tend to look at the problem from the point of view of what you believe society can reasonably be expected to achieve. You tend to underestimate what a suitably motivated individual is capable of because the achievement of a goal such as this requires a fairly serious deviation from conformity to some fundamental group norms. You've got to treat animals as equals for a start, or at least relate to them on their own terms, and then credit them with having some intelligence, all of which require a feat of humility which most people find difficult to perform.
Unfortunately for the animals individuals prepared to represent their interests in society rarely make it to positions of much influence because the community depends so much on being able to exploit animals for their nutritional value, or for the various other useful products they yield. Yet, in spite of how grim the future may seem for both animals and natural habitats, their plight is not entirely without hope because it is usually an individual who represents the group at the very apex of social institutions. If you happen to be one of these elevated types then you may not agree with this because in your case you don't actually give a damn about animals. Nevertheless, I'm sure you will agree in principle that as you get closer to the top of a social institution the more general is the sense in which you represent it. Fewer are the numbers of those representing the group at the top of society, and larger are the numbers of those who they represent. When the institution happens to be the planet as a whole those very few individuals who occupy the lofty seat of power must bear the burden of a grave responsibility indeed. Not only must they represent the interests of all humanity, but ultimately it is incumbent on them to assume responsibility for the well-being of the planetary host itself.
Surely, it goes without saying that without the health and well-being of the planetary host there would be no life as we know it. Yet, we continue to subject this planet to one environmental disaster after another, as if we were owners of a property who could deal with it as they pleased. Indeed, ownership exactly reflects our attitude to this planet, and together we presume to posses virtually every square inch of it. But, don't kid yourself; you can't be in possession of a being with dimensions like those of the planet. If a pathogenic microbe happened to invade your body then you wouldn't credit it with your body's ownership just because of its determination to dominate your microbial ecology. I don't think so, and yet this is the true nature of our relationship with the planet. We are like pathogens to the planetary host who is now undoubtedly ill because of us.
It stands to reason that just as the body is able to defend itself from pathogenic infection, so too is the planet able to defend itself from us if we insist on living lives which have such serious environmental consequences. It could throw the wild weather at us as has been increasingly evident in recent years, although it is unclear whether this is the natural foil to our ecological delinquency or a physical symptom of it. Perhaps the planet could conspire with other members of the Solar System and throw a meteor at us. Or perhaps it could assume a more subtle approach and visit us with natural disasters such as the curiously timed Boxing Day Tsunami which claimed more than 200,000 human lives.
It is worth remembering that the purpose of the immune system is to distinguish between self and not-self or, to put it in more dramatic terms, to distinguish between friend and enemy. While you can hardly avoid taking sides in the planet's battle to maintain organic vitality, you may think you can get away with vandalism on a grand cosmic scale but, trust me, you don't want to make an enemy out of this planet. On the contrary, as a matter of some urgency you've got to change your attitude to this fragile world, and the best place to start is by changing your exploitive abuse of animals.