Tuesday, 20 March 2012

All necessities provided for, all anxieties tranquilised

I cannot tear myself away from the thought that my cat's captivity is a metaphor for civilisation. Yesterday evening, after a tiresome shift up at the dizzy heights of the datastream zenith, I was trying to unwind with a little light reading. My small cat was having none of it. From out of nowhere, he leaps across the cabin and locks onto my arm with his barely matured kitteeny teeth. I clench all the muscles in my arm to tighten the skin so he can't draw blood, and after a few seconds he gives up and falls back to the floor. But the vacation he took from my flesh was short lived, as he was soon reacquainted with it in a matter of seconds, thrashing around trying to find some purchase, something, any angle that would hurt me. All I could do was to cuff him round the head, but that has never worked before. So I'm sat there with a cat hanging off my arm asking him "Hey what are you doing?", in a tone reserved normally for human infants. He didn't answer.

Does this sound familiar to you? It sounds awfully familiar to me. Here we have a master and a pet, the domesticator and the domesticated. I am the authority, the provider, the rule maker, the benevolent dictator, and his only role is to obey me. To live out his life within the boundaries I set for him, is his only option from the day he was born until the day he dies. In short, I am civilisation, my cat is mankind.

But what more could he possibly want? I feed him well, a little too well sometimes. You should see him pawing the air in jubilation when I go to the cupboard to fix his dinner. I stroke him under the chin and behind the ears and he purrs in reverent ecstasy. I make his environment clean, dry and warm, pure comfort, safe from the elements. All his necessities are provided for. All his anxieties are tranquilised. But this little cat is still left wanting.

I believe he is craving something primal, something he cannot reach in the domestic utopia I provide for him. He wants the elements, and all the dangers associated with them. Real freedom and pure autonomy, will be the only true happiness he could ever know. Not the sham happiness of a finger under the chin purr. It is merely soma, a method of placation. He has his catnip, we have our cups of tea and coffee, our tobacco, our motorcars, our radios, our television, our mortgages, our holidays, our anti-depressants, and more recently, we have the internet. Tiny straw tokens of freedom, that we snuffle down as fast as we can. We will our domestication upon ourselves, it's almost a positive feedback loop now it has become so refined. But just like my little cat, are we truly happy, in the primal sense? Where we only are responsible for our actions against the elements, against the lashing sabres of the wild.

When the little cat savages my arm, I see Al Qaeda. I see the Arab Spring. I see young Chinese throwing themselves to their deaths from the roofs of the factories where they make Apple products. I see the hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers that have committed suicide in the last few decades. I see emasculated British fathers who exterminate their families for seemingly no apparent reason. I see the riots in London last summer. I see the man on the number 43 bus stabbing an innocent fellow passenger because he asked him to stop throwing chips at the head of his girlfriend. I see Bristolians trashing a Tescos because they do not want it in their community. I see militia groups in the Niger delta blowing up oil flow stations. I see Somali pirates. I see the Luddites. I see Tibet. I see the SNP. I see Occupy. I see oppression, on the whole.

And when he claws at my knees while I'm making dinner, I shush him away, just like the politicians of the world do (with a great deal more force I might add) with their handy instruments of state, the police, during some annual conference that doesn't include any of us, but actually concerns every single one of us. Hey hey, shush now, we're busy making deals for your ultimate benefit. We're going to keep you warm, cosy, in supply of everything you need. We're trying so very hard to live up to our strapline: ALL NECESSITIES PROVIDED FOR, ALL ANXIETIES TRANQUILISED. So won't you just be quiet, get back in your place, enjoy what we hand down to you...or alternatively take a smash in the face by this here protector of services, and await greater incarceration. You have a choice, now choose wisely.

This is the global narrative of civilisation. This is what the domestication of my cat is highlighting for me on a daily basis. Bless his little oppressed soul.

No comments: