Oh, The Catmanity

Arthur Wingsmith Oh, the catmanity …

Not many people know this about cats, but they actually rule the planet. I’m not talking about your big cats, either: lions, leopards, pumas, that sort of thing. I mean the kind of cats some of you may be living with right now: domestic cats. Purveyors of a weaponized cuteness so deadly, you don’t even know that they have you well trained. Don’t believe me? Check out your preferred social media feed.

Did you check it? There were lot’s of cats in it, right? Cats doing impossibly adorable things, cats pretending to say stuff with an accent, cats advising other cats about a brand of cat food that they won’t eat when you buy it for them.

“Sure,” you say, “but that’s because people really like them; not because they rule the planet. We post pictures and videos of cats because they do the funniest things in inoffensive ways. See? There’s a cat sitting inside a coffee mug, tell me that’s not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.”

Well, those are reasonable objections. But, what if I told you that all of those things are just cat propaganda, deployed to manufacture consent and keep us under the heel of the cat hegemony? What if I said, these things are part of a sophisticated and eons long project of social engineering?

I can tell – by the look I imagine you have on your face – that  you are still not convinced. Let me expand on this theme a little.

Whether we realize it or not, we have all at some time been subjected to social engineering projects – probably, we are being subjected to one right now. Not projects like those perpetrated by our Felis catus overlords, but the run-of-the-mill human sort. These aren’t necessarily sinister in nature, and so for the sake of the argument I shall choose one around a ‘public health intervention’. One I’m sure you’ll agree is for the legitimate benefit of all: stopping people smoking. (Okay, so there’s not much benefit to the tobacco industry, but by now we don’t really care what those evil bastards think. Pharmaceutical companies, however, are making out like bandits.)

Smoking, in the times of yore, used to be ‘cool’. Humphrey Bogart’s ‘devil may care’ swagger always seemed that much more ‘swaggery’ when he did it with a cigarette. Film noir might have been much less noir if so much of it hadn’t involved seedy, smoke filled bars. Not smoking was a weirdness so weird, it carried the symbolic load of being a little naive; of not really having moved out of your parent’s house – of being ‘square’.

It’s not our ancestors’ fault, the heath effects of smoking were still little understood … probably. Which is why old time radio (not old at the time, just by today’s standards) could have shows sponsored by cigarette brands, with tag lines like “the brand your doctor recommends.”

I’m not so old that I remember this historical era first hand, but I am old enough to remember when smoking still wasn’t a very big deal. (I was a child, I’m not that old. Stop trying to guess my age, it’s freaking me out.) Those, who were so inclined, could send children off to the shop to buy cigarettes with no problem at all. Tobacco companies even sponsored athletes and sporting events. (As to this latter, by our modern standards this is roughly equivalent to a brewery sponsoring alcoholics anonymous.) But by then, the adverse health effects were starting to become well known.

At first, this was couched in terms of a personal health issue. Concerned parties would advertise the health effects in a friendly ‘we care’ sort of way, using soft language. language full of “may,” “might,” “could,” followed by a relevant illness caused. Later, as research produced clearer correlations, the language became “can” and “will” within a relevant percentage of smokers. But it was still a personal issue at this point, and the advertising was not yet ‘propaganda’ in the social engineering sense.

As a consequence, it produced relatively small results. Smoking was so deeply entrenched, and for so long, it was cultural at this point. Individuals with long family traditions of smoking would laugh in good humored defiance: “it’s my body,” “can’t live forever,” “you gotta die of something,” “my grandfather lived to be one-hundred, and he started smoking at three.” The problem persisted, and remained a legitimate concern.

Then the campaign of social engineering proper began. Two key things happened here. First, smoking began to be discussed less as habit, and more as addiction: weakness, a failure of character. Second, it was recast as a public health issue. Smokers were no longer just endangering their own health, but the health of all those they came into contact with. This was not just being inconsiderate, this was being amoral, almost a sociopath.

Connected to this change in discourse was an increase in the price of tobacco products, and the production of advertising with maximum shock value. Yes, propaganda in the political sense. Pictures of deformed teeth, brain clots, and dead babies in ashtrays found their way onto ‘cancer stick’ packaging.

Coupled with this, was legislating smokers steadily out of public spaces if they wanted to light up. Thus, a separation was produced; one where the non-smoking majority could enjoy their beer in uninterrupted warmth, where as smokers would have to literally huddle out in the cold. What’s more, it made smokers more visible to this ‘moral majority’, as they would have to leave and return right in front of the righteous. This is a movement unusual in a bar, unless it is to the bathroom and back. Such is the instrument that helps produce and reinforce stigma.

I am not suggesting that this is any way ‘wrong’, I am only trying to highlight how smoking went from ‘cool’ to ‘evil’ in less than a generation. Think about it. How many of you that have never smoked feel something like disgust when you see someone puffing away? How many of you that do, or have, smoked ever felt something like shame as you took a drag under the gaze of non-smokers? No? Nobody? Well, if you had, I would point out that it didn’t used to be that way, but that is how it’s supposed to be now, by design.

And that is the point of social engineering: to change the way people – collectively – think about certain things, and to also modify their behaviour in ways amenable to the project’s over all aims. Crucially, they should not even realize that this has happened; it should seem like an act of free will. Some examples of this are supposed to be benevolent – as with the one I have just provided. Others, may be more unexpectedly sinister (1930s Europe, I’m looking in your general historical direction). All, however, should produce transformations in behavior, as well as new hierarchies of value. This, then, brings us back to cats.

I cannot claim that I have any idea what the overall aims of the engineering project are. Alas, the the substance of the cat endgame remains opaque. I know that it is a project of some antiquity, because the ancient Egyptians held cats in great esteem. They even treated the feline dead in the same manner as their pharaohs. Possibly this is because cats, not aliens, built the pyramids; although no-one can say for sure.

That the project has met with success is evidenced in the ways that many of us will readily do a cat’s bidding; and this without even knowing it wasn’t our idea. Things like shake the crumbly bits of cat-biscuits back into the center of the bowl for them. Alternatively, it might be giving them attention – especially when we have an important report to write for work and “really don’t have the time right now Sniggle Boots; oh, but you are soooooo cute.”

If we look closely at human history, we can see evidence that there is such a project, and humans have long suspected its existence. This is not direct evidence, but the sort of evidence astronomers look for when trying to locate a black hole, or an exoplanet. That is, its existence can be inferred from its effect, and the effect of the cat agenda is seen in the fear and suspicion some of our number have of them. You think it is an accident that cats have long been associated with dark magic? Perhaps you think that the bad luck people ascribe to a black one crossing our path is just superstitious whimsy? (Remember, the cat is black because black is the color of death.) No. They are warnings, past down to us from our ancestors through folklore.

Of course, cats have manged to successfully develop defenses against their agenda being uncovered. One of these is something like a biochemical defense. People who are allergic to cats are that way because they are individuals with the skill to uncover the conspiracy, and thus must be kept at a safe distance.

Another defense can be considered technological. This involved driving the development of the technology required for the creation of computing and the internet. This was necessary, because it facilitated the distribution of disarmingly cute propaganda in a mass medium. It also had the added benefit of providing cats with a good place to take a nap. (This is possibly why humans developed bipedal locomotion. Anything that walks or stands on two legs has to sit down eventually, which creates a very nice ‘lap’.)

I have only managed to uncover a few of the means by which cats have produced and maintained their hegemony, but I believe I have uncovered the ‘lynch pin’ tactic. It is so simple, that it seems obvious once you realize what’s going on: cats have convinced us that they are solitary animals.

I discovered this, quite by accident, a few years ago while on holiday in Rio de Janeiro. I was taking an afternoon stroll along Flamengo beach, enjoying the sea air and a view of an old fortification I could see in the distance (this is probably one of those described by Captain James Cook when he was there in the Eighteenth Century). At a certain point, the sandy beach gave way to a long rocky embankment, composed of moderately large boulders. And, on every boulder was at least one cat, sometimes many. It was cats as far as I could see. A mega-clowder of cats.

Two things struck me about this: 1) these cats look like they are enjoying each others’ company, how weird. 2) This looks suspiciously like a political rally, perhaps there is a Presidential election coming?

Maybe you think, “so what Arthur? Turns out cats are social, big deal.” But that’s not the issue, the issue is that they have convinced us that they are not, and I know why.

Long have we thought that people with too many cats are strange. Not just strange, perhaps not all there in the sanity department. ‘Owning’ too many cats has a psychopathology attached to it; much in the same way that smoking became structurally equivalent to being a sociopath. How many is too many? The number is three, at that point, you are officially ‘one-cat-over-crazy’. The more cats you have over this number, the crazier you are.

What do most people do when they suspect someone is dangerously unbalanced? They avoid them. Yes, those people are effectively legislated out of public space. This isolates them, and makes it easier for the cats to keep them under control.

Naturally, it is not in their best interest to thoroughly sever the social connections of their human minions, as then they couldn’t do things in the world that cats need done. In general, you can tell how valuable you are to cat-kind by how many cats you have. The least ‘cats-over-crazy’ you are, the more useful you are to them in the world at large. The greater the number, the more likely it is that they have different plans for you. Plans that don’t require you to talk to other human beings.

So, there you have it. cats rule the planet. But no need to panic, or run around screaming “oh, the catmanity” in the streets. I think that cats probably have our best interests at heart. How do I know this? Simple, I could only write about this at all, because the six cats I live with wanted me to.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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