While the prospect of change may seem a little overwhelming at first especially in view of the monumental inertia of group behaviour, you may be surprised by what you can achieve by taking the initiative. Humans tend to be fairly easily led, and are only too happy to follow the example of a suitably practical leader. Indeed, for change to occur at all it is necessary for individuals to model the alternatives to group norms, and so a dialogue unfolds between individuals who represent the alternatives, and those who represent the group in which the change is to be applied. If all this sounds distressingly like politics then you may be forgiven for feeling that it is already too familiar, but don't be surprised by its relevance to this discussion. It is a tribute to the generality of political theory that its themes are as relevant to the discussion of ecology in general, as they are to human economic systems in particular. Themes such as the scarcity of resources, competition, domination and conflict, help to account for the sort of behaviour observed in both of these academic disciplines.
But of the various comparisons between political systems and those ordering the natural environment, it is a comparison between relations within the parliament and the topographical configuration of Europe that is perhaps most intriguing. In the case of the lower house of parliament, for example, ministers of the government act on behalf of their constituents, they are actors in the field of public policy, and members of the lower house are their audience. While this may seem like a trivial observation it is worth noting that there is an important spatial distinction between actors and their audience. They occupy different locations in space consistent with the reciprocity of their relationship. There are the ministers who occupy the most central seats in the parliament, and there is their audience who have necessarily been displaced from the centre, and who therefore occupy the periphery. While you may have doubts about the importance of this distinction, it is nevertheless significant because of its resemblance to the relationship which exists between the British Isles and the rest of Europe. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not my intention to discuss the relationship between Britain and the European Union in any way, shape or form. But what I do mean to suggest is that there is an underlying relationship implicit in this part of the host model, and that the British Isles are at the centre of it while the rest of Europe constitutes the periphery. The United Kingdom is thus the leader of the 'house', while Europe consists of an assembly of representatives.
Of course, you may not agree with this because you believe that the true centre of Europe is further to the east, in the vicinity of Germany for example, in which case the roles would be reversed and the British Isles would occupy the periphery. There is, after all, that magnificent arc between Denmark and Italy which has long been thought of as the axis around which Europe must rotate. And then there is the strait between Denmark and the Scandinavian peninsula, which is so suggestive of the synaptic cleft found between neurons that it must surely indicate proximity to the centre of the planet's 'brain'. The British Isles are thus not an internal organ but the outward face of the planet, a topographical figure which if only we could read it would unerringly depict the planet's mood and state of mind.
While we may disagree as to which part of Europe should be thought of as its centre, the truth is that the evidence is open to interpretation. I have mentioned how the British Isles could represent the face of the planet, but this is just one of a number of possible interpretations. I can think of two other interpretations of the topographical evidence, both of which put the British Isles at the centre of this part of the representational scheme.
In the first of these I propose that because of the correspondence between human physiology and global topography I can associate the topography of Europe with certain structures within the brain. Furthermore, because I may compare the midbrain with the apex of a pyramid I am able to suppose that the planetary brain will regress to a similar point of infinity. While this sort of thinking may prove to be a delicate matter for some individuals, I believe that it is useful because it allows us to adopt such an interesting point of view. It allows that the planet's brain converges to a point of infinity in the vicinity of Scotland, in which case continental Europe corresponds with the location of the lower cranial nerves, and Greenland with the higher brain functions of the two cerebral hemispheres.
If you happen to live in Scotland then you may object to this suggestion because you find it somewhat daunting to be living in the vicinity of such a planetary convergence. While I can only imagine what it must look like for some of you, I have seen all sorts of perceptual horrors in my time, and in my experience observing space converge on a point of infinity is perhaps the most disturbing. But, if you can withstand such flashes of abject horror then you may find it rewarding to observe our particular place in time and space from this fascinating point of view. There is, for example, the curious sense in which all time and space begin and end in a convergence of very similar proportions.
While our perceptual vulnerabilities may be all very interesting, this spatial convergence may not be the only basis for an objection to this interpretation. It may not have occurred to you, but because of Greenland's location halfway between the two continents this particular view of the region associates your brain with the sort of stuff which comes out of your buttocks. Now, let me just say that, in spite of this consideration, I quite like the circular unity of this comparison. It speaks of the fundamentally introspective nature of existence while savouring the irony that so far as soil is concerned decay is the essence of fertility. In any case it follows that both Greenland and continental Europe are peripheral to the British Isles, just as the cerebral cortex and cranial nerves are peripheral to the midbrain.
The other interpretation of the topography of this region proposes that the British Isles alone represent the head of the planet, albeit a head which is very small compared with its body. The brains of the planet are thus contained within the confines of the British Isles themselves, so those of you who recoil from that tacky inference regarding the dual nature of Greenland may prefer to espouse this line of reasoning. It's not the first time in the course of evolution that a creature has had a very small head compared to the rest of its body, the Jurassic dinosaur Brachiosaurus with its very long neck and short legs is a perfect example of this.
There is however a problem associating the planet's mouth with the topography of the British Isles, presumably the Mediterranean Sea represents this organ, and so the view that the British Isles represent the head is subject to contention. Alternatively supporting this view you could argue that the British Isles represent familial relations which suggest that our two cerebral hemispheres are characterised by this kind of relationship. Either way I believe that the former interpretation of the topography of Western Europe is superior. Familial relations such as these exactly represent the sort of sentiments which spring from the very heart of a being's brain, where its most cherished earthly motivation emerges from a wellspring of reproductive abstractions.
While the United Kingdom may claim to be the geopolitical centre of Europe it is by no means a universal centre, or even the most interesting centre in terms of the experience of the planet as a whole. The British Isles are, in fact, just one pole in a representational field of two, the other pole being at the centre of Canada's Hudson Bay some 90 degrees to the west. Hudson Bay is itself by no means the most intriguing centre of the planet either. For an air breathing vertebrate whose body represents the polar field extending from the centre of its brain to its rectum, the most profound centre for this creature is roughly half way between these two points, a point which coincides with the top of the diaphragm. Thus in terms of the host model the meridian of longitude which bisects the field extending from the British Isles east to Hudson Bay is 135 degrees east of Greenwich, a meridian which passes through the south of Japan, and Australia. A meridian of longitude is, of course, not strictly a centre either but a great circle whose origin coincides with the gravitational centre of the Earth. But in a sense a great circle is a centre. From the point of view of the vast emptiness beyond the planets, for example, the Earth will seem like a tiny point of light. Thus a circle will seem like a point to you if you happen to be much bigger than it, just as a point will seem voluminous if you happen to be sufficiently small.
Notwithstanding the need for this complication it follows that the Asia-Pacific region is the true centre of life on this planet, while everything else is ultimately peripheral. It is, however, worth noting that as central as this region may be for us it is no more absolutely central than the British Isles were. For a start the Asia-Pacific region is peripheral to the centre of the Earth, which is in turn peripheral to the Sun, and so on throughout the universe as relatively peripheral bodies get ever larger and larger. The truth is that there is no absolutely central point in the universe, or perhaps it is closer to the truth to suggest that every point is absolutely central since space proceeds equally from any point in every direction infinitely. I'm inclined to suggest that long ago when the universe was much younger it occupied a volume of space so small that it may have seemed to be a central point, but a point which is nevertheless only relatively so. From the point of view of entities who were sufficiently smaller than the universe at this time it would have seemed as big as it has ever been because space would have been just as fundamentally continuous.
To pursue this thinking for a moment, I will add incidentally that the situation is far from certain. Indeed, there seems to be some confusion in the cosmological literature regarding the early universe with some suggesting that it began not at a particular point in space but rather throughout space at a point in time. Presumably these guys object to the inference following Hubble's discovery of a universal expansion factor, that galaxies with distances greater than 13 billion light years from here must have recession velocities greater than the speed of light. For myself I prefer the view that the universe began as a very dense singularity with a temperature in excess of some 10 billion Kelvin, and I believe that the regression of abstractions supports this view. I could therefore argue that according to the regression of abstractions material existence has a deeper significance than merely being the physical vessel of our lives. According to this view our bodies consist of an abstract representation of the universe, a kind of road map of past experiences, the memory of which records our emergence from the very genesis of time itself. It is therefore by no means trivial to suggest that the fusion between egg and sperm represents not only the beginning of each of us as individuals, but in a sense it also depicts the beginning of that universe which we share as a group. It is no wonder that reproduction is so cherished among human sentiments when it can be seen to have such cosmic significance as this.
Yet for all its significance as a representation of the very origin of time and space the developing embryo is conceived in a location which far from coincides with the centre of its maternal host. Even though it may represent the centre it has been displaced from this position because of all such representations there is one more characteristic than this. Given that the archetypal central point would have to be the original Big Bang itself then the heart which beats at the centre of the vertebrate circulatory system is perhaps the most accurate representation of this. While the comparison may seem fanciful to you it nevertheless remains the case that in order to pump blood to the most distant capillaries in the body the heart practically implodes at a rate of a little more than once every second. Since the heart is located close to the centre of the body, and in view of our discussion of the regression of abstractions, these implosions are in a sense reminiscent of the fiery genesis of the universe. The heart is thus a remnant of the big bang according to which blood will radiate and return in time with the constant flood of circulation.
But, consistent with the apparent evacuation of the centre, it is worth noting that the heart is itself displaced from this location by a few centimetres, the true centre of the torso being about half way between the aorta and the vena cava at a point perpendicular to where these vessels pass through the top of the diaphragm. My point is that on the basis of this discussion it is reasonable to expect that the planet's 'heart' might be similarly displaced from the centre, namely that meridian of longitude 135 degrees east of Greenwich as mentioned earlier. For this reason I believe that the Indian subcontinent represents the heart of Planet Earth, that pulsing wellspring of global experience according to which the ebbing tides of life have their beginning and their end. It is therefore hardly surprising to observe that Indian culture has a very distinctive character, it is easily the most complex society on this planet, and has long been influential throughout the entire Asian region. Furthermore, the impact between the Indian subcontinent and the southern shores of Eurasia provides a curious indication of the fundamentally violent nature of the heart. Many years ago the Indian subcontinent was attached to the southern edge of Africa, and has since migrated into its present position resulting in a dramatic continental collision, and the subsequent uplifting of the Himalayan mountain range.
Yet, as fanciful as this may seem to you, I believe that if you can accept the validity of the host model then you will ultimately agree with an association between the different topographical regions and their respective internal organs. If, for example, I were to associate the Middle East with the behaviour of the throat then I'm sure you will agree that the association is as intriguing as it is axiomatically formal. It is therefore by no means contentious to compare various features of this region with features of its counterpart in the case of air breathing vertebrates. Thus, in terms of human experience, the throat is involved in the performance of several physiological functions such as respiration, and the transfer of nutrients through the oesophagus. But perhaps most interesting in this context is its involvement in the production of speech.
Speech is, of course, the means by which a creature may externalise its thinking, which is interesting in this case because of the region's long association with representing what its people believe to be the voice of God. From about the 16th century BC Jewish writers have interpreted this belief on behalf of their people, while Christians believe that the New Testament contains the literal word of God, and in a similar sense the Koran is believed to be the word of God for Moslems. But, without wishing to appear flippant regarding what is undoubtedly a delicate regional suggestion, the only other thing I have to say at this point is that by the same token the people of this region seem to be in a position to speak for the rest of humanity. Now, the sense in which this is true may be no more than metaphorical, it's not as if the Middle East represents the constitution of this planet as clearly as is the case with respect to Europe. But I do believe that both the people and events of this region provide a fairly unequivocal indication of the overall mood prevailing within human society at any particular point in time. The region undoubtedly constitutes a vital strategic nexus in the conduct of human affairs, and this has likely been the case for a very long time indeed.
While the voice may facilitate the realisation of a being's intentions it can also betray feelings of a sexual nature which may partially explain why there is so much antipathy among Arab nations for the domination of America in modern global society. That America represents the sexuality of society today is an assertion about which there can be no doubt. Apart from the rather obvious inference which follows the location of America within the host model itself, evidence of the validity of this assertion can be found in the progressively casual attitude Americans have regarding the public exhibition of nudity. You could, of course, argue that this attitude is by no means unique to American culture; that Europeans also have a fairly relaxed attitude in this regard, but it is worth noting that America is essentially a European culture. The relationship is rather like that which exists between the gonads and certain centres within the brain where the regulation of these organs is performed. Yet it is nevertheless within the gonads that the crucial gametes are produced, thus it is America rather than Europe that is in a better position to characterise the sexual identity of this planet.
If you doubt that this is so then consider that extraordinary string of islands which stretch from Cuba in the north to Grenada at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles. Have a look at a map if you're not already familiar with this part of the world because between the Greater and Lesser Antilles the impression one gets of a fully motile sperm cell engaged in the act of fertilization is quite remarkable. Add to this the imminent penetration of Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico and the ensemble is complete. There can be no doubt that this region depicts the ultimate goal of reproductive behaviour, and so it follows that as a participant in the region American society will tend to foster an interest in developing a progressive sexual identity.
So, imagine how infuriating it must be for a culture which is in possession of a fairly conservative attitude to sex to have a country which is bent on its liberation dominate the world in which it must increasingly take part. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that we should all convert to Islam, or to the standards of American society, or to any other code for that matter. I think the whole point of modelling international relations on biological ones is that it allows us all to be functionally different, and that consequently we all have important and differing roles to play in maintaining the vitality of the integral global organism. There's no point in expecting people to share identical values, or to behave in ways which are perfectly uniform because organisms depend on being able to perform functions which are highly specialised. Thus an understanding of the need for the structural differentiation of roles in society, and a tolerance of diversity, is more useful than obsessing over a universal standard according to which we should all feel obliged to conform.
Yet, in spite of this sort of thinking, let me say that a little conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. In the parliaments of democracies who otherwise champion the cause of peace in modern society there is the Government, and then there is the Opposition. While 'hate' might be too strong a word to describe their feelings for each other, they are nevertheless antagonists in the prosecution of a very bitter rivalry. This rivalry is, of course, no accident. It is the practical consequence of centuries of representational experimentation throughout which parliamentary actions have arisen from the competition between different policy alternatives.
But on a deeper level the rivalry between political parties can be seen to represent not only the conflict between nations throughout the course of history, but also in a sense the competition between ecological alternatives in nature. While this may have been a controversial view in the past it is now a fairly natural conclusion to draw from an observation of the regression of representative summaries. If all of material existence is implicated in the traffic of information then there isn't a creature in time and space who can resist having some kind of iconic significance in this context. For many years I have found it amusing to think that during the Pliocene, before humans began to dominate the environment, the community of animals populating the grasslands was led by creatures other than those primates who were our ancestors. In terms of the representational significance of members you could argue that the political conservatives of the Pliocene era were led by elephants who stood for stability, universal representation and the maintenance of the natural order. And, necessarily contradicting them, the radicals were led by big cats who presumably intended to overthrow the authority of the elephants, and impose their own view of who should be allowed to dominate the grassy savannah. In spite of whatever controversy may surround this view my point is that it is only by means of the ultimate test of conflict that champions are made, and by which the truth about the nature of existence is established.
It is therefore possible that the conflict between political conservatives and radicals is not limited to the case of such relations in Western society, but is truly a universal phenomenon. In terms of the sort of political spectrum which Westerners are familiar with, Arab nations have a distinctly conservative outlook, while the Americans are by comparison relatively radical. But, to put it in even more general terms, Arab culture is so old that for many centuries its institutions have resisted the urge to change and adapt to the ever evolving global situation. So, compared to a culture of such notable antiquity America is a very young society with a particularly vibrant character, and a determination to transform the political and economic institutions of the entire planet. The conflict between the Arabs and the West is evidently not only one between views which hail from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but it is also a conflict which has a fairly serious generational dimension. Given both the age of Arab culture and the geopolitically sensitive location of its home territory I would suggest that these factors make them the senior members of Planet Earth, and thus it makes America a member who is comparatively junior.
Yet, as young as American society is compared to some of the older cultural institutions occupying the Eurasian continent, Australia is a nation whose cultural identity is even younger. In fact it would seem from Australia's location in the host model that it is destined to be forever young, a perpetual reminder of the hope inspired by the birth of successive generations. While Australia is renowned for its sporting prowess and its liberal political institutions perhaps the most intriguing reflection of Australian culture is the rather obviously childlike innocence which it brings to all of its endeavours. While Australians may naturally tend towards a certain naivety it is curious to note how the character of a people may reflect the role which they evidently play in terms of the functionality implicit in the host model. You could look anywhere in the world and recognise the sense in which a people's behaviour and attitudes have been moulded by their environment, especially the global context in which their geographic environment fits.
It is thus in no sense insulting, for example, to describe American culture in terms of adjectives such as sexy, brazen, and flagrantly precocious because this is inherently their nature. It is also not likely to offend the Arab community by describing them in terms of adjectives such as punctiliously scriptural, because they're actually proud of this quality. Yet, in spite of the suitability of such descriptions, this sort of talk is potentially inflammatory so let me confine myself to remarks of a fairly general nature. In fact, before I draw this chapter to a close there are only two other topographical features I wish to comment on in this context, and they are in the vicinities of Japan, and Africa.
In the case of Japan and its regional vicinity the organ I associate with this topographical feature is the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland is a fairly small component of the endocrine system which sits on top of the kidneys and secretes a variety of hormones the most interesting of which is adrenaline. While the kidneys are located midway between the top and bottom of the abdominal cavity, a location which corresponds with the mid Pacific Ocean, the adrenal gland is found at the superior end of this organ. So I believe it is not unreasonable to associate this gland with the western shores of the Pacific Ocean and Japan with the physiological behaviour of its secretions. While most of these hormones are involved in the regulation of the body's metabolism, adrenaline actually prepares the body for whatever action might be required in the event of an emergency. The secretion of this hormone results in an increase in heart rate, and a rise in blood pressure which prepare the body to either stand and fight an adversary, or to take flight and fight another day. This is interesting because it provides a theoretical basis on which to interpret the influence of Japan and the Korean peninsula on the arousal of the planet as an integral global organism. It is possible that these cultures have a more profound effect on the mood of humanity than they have previously been given credit for.
As for the continent of Africa, and the island of Madagascar, it is curious to note the coincidence between the utility which some creatures derive from their forelimbs, and the employment of African slaves throughout much of human history. One only has to look at the case of birds to realise that the forelimbs have a very special meaning for some species. We mustn't think that because of our manual dexterity we are the only members of the animal kingdom to exploit the potential of our forelimbs. I can think of a lot of other creatures who do things with their front legs, and if our dependence on African labour is anything to go by then we are evidently already involved in the planet's intention to do likewise. It is therefore likely that Africa represents yet another example of how the character of a people may reflect the role which they play in the global organism. But, if this is the case then of grave concern is the abject poverty which so many African people endure. If the African people faithfully represent this part of the global organism, as seems likely, then it would appear that the planet's forelimbs are taking considerable damage. While the plight of the African people may in fact be normal from the planet's point of view, from our point of view it is a travesty of monumental proportions, a moral eyesore whose relief should become a major global priority.
Yet, in spite of how desperate the situation is becoming in this part of the world, it is not likely to develop into an international conflict. I mentioned earlier how a little conflict is not necessarily a bad thing, but a big conflict is another matter entirely. With the ever increasing competition for scarce resources in the world of today conflict on this scale would appear to be very likely. We would do well to remember that the world has been transformed since the middle of the twentieth century. With the invention of weapons of mass destruction we should have a pretty good idea of where we are going wrong on this planet, although you will probably want to deny what some believe to be the motive for the invention of these weapons. Certainly the shape of Italy suggests that the planet expects us to err on a scale which has global ramifications, and so I come to a subject which is both crucial and timely in this context, namely the unseemly multiplication of human numbers. I believe that there is only one ecological context in which we may interpret the dramatic significance of the shape of Italy, and that is with regard to how careless we have been with our reproductive behaviour which seems to be relentless.