Alex; Twenty Five; Professionally British; San Francisco; Is still not a species of tree; Fond of elephants, vampires, gin, and you; Growing more and more left wing by the day; Blogs exclusively through a queue.
I am struck occasionally, usually while snuggling the cat, with our faith in domestication.
The cat is a small, ferocious predator, twelve pounds of…well, flab and fur, frankly, in Athena’s case, but what muscle there is is strong all out of proportion to her size. I have watched three 150+ primates try and fail to subdue a ten pound cat, and consider it not at all unusual. The cat is as flexible as a snake and as strong as an ox. She has quite dainty looking teeth and claws, but there’s nothing dainty about their ability to flay flesh from bone.
If the cat and I were in a duel to the death, I would almost certainly win. I am 15+ times larger than she is, after all, and while my teeth and claws are pathetic, I have prehensile hands capable of doing terrible things. But if I had to go in naked, as the cat does, (and assuming the cat was aware that she was going to have to kill me, and not taking a nap in the corner) I can pretty much guarantee it would be a Pyhrric victory. I’d look like I’d gone ten rounds with a wolverine. I would need stitches. A lot of stitches. Possibly a glass eye. And antibiotics by the truckload. It’d be a mess, and there would even be a chance of an upset if the cat managed to go face-hugger on me.
And yet, despite the knowledge of the shocking amount of damage my small predator could inflict, it never occurs to me to worry. I pick the cat up and she tucks her head under my chin and purrs, canine teeth centimeters from my jugular, and despite the fact that I am carrying a ruthless carnivore in a position where she could, with great ease, remove me from the gene pool, I am thoroughly content with the world. Even knowing full well that cats are not even a truly domesticated animal, that Athena’s kin might best be described as “consistently tamed,” my greatest concern is that my black tank top is now coated in white cat hairs.
We have such faith in the process of domestication, despite the sheer unnaturalness of what’s happening. Small predators do not curl up on the chests of large primates and purr in the wild. And yet, every now and again, generally when my small predator is purring on the chest of this particular primate, I think How strange, how strange… that we’re doing this, and even stranger, that we both take it completely for granted, and find nothing unusual in such a completely unlikely alliance.
I marvel at this regularly! (one of my pet names for Anna-kitty is “tiny predator”) Though I’m just as surprised as Anna’s faith in me; despite my size and strength and that I have trod on her tail in the stairs on more than one occasion, she still fearlessly cuddles up to me.
why are people so caught up in romanticizing the past? romanticize the future. there will be robots and slightly more equality
That’s what they thought 50 years ago too.
THERE ARE ROBOTS AND SLIGHTLY MORE EQUALITY
I once attended a symposium on journalistic ethics where the keynote speaker, a well-known journalist, talked about journalists’ special role in society as guardians of democracy. Because of this, he said, journalists are sometimes allowed to do certain things that other citizens are not, such as intrude into people’s private lives. This is much like doctors who are allowed to cut into people or soldiers who are allowed to kill, he explained.
Then he offered another analogy: it’s like police who “have the right to beat people.” I sat in the audience, momentarily stunned. I nudged a friend next to me. Had he actually said that police have a right to beat people? Yes, she said, I had heard it right.
I looked around at an almost completely white and generally middle-class audience in the auditorium of the private college where the symposium was being held. No one seemed too upset by what he had said.
The speaker went on to say a lot of other reactionary things. Later, during the question period, I went to the microphone, intending to focus on another stupid point he had made.
"But before I get to my question," I said, "I want to say that it seems to me that anyone who can say that police have a right to beat people is presumptively excluded from discussion about ethics of any kind."
The audience squirmed, unsure of how to react. The speaker winced but never responded to my challenge.
Later, during the reception, I talked to a colleague who was unclear what point I was trying to make. Surely, the speaker just misspoke, he said; what the speaker meant to say was that in certain situations, police have a legal right to use force, sometimes even deadly force.
Yes, I understood that, I replied. But my point was that he used the phrase, "the right to beat people.” The language reflects his relationship to power. No one who comes from a class of people subject to being beaten by police would ever think of using such a phrase. Only people who don’t have to worry about being beaten would make the “mistake.” Beyond that, I argued, it’s not implausible that the speaker and lots of other folks like him are glad they live in a world in which police sometimes beat people; it keeps the “dangerous classes” in line.
"Try to imagine if he were black, even a black person with a professional career and a middle-class life," I said. "Think of how different interactions with police are for black people. Do you think he would have said that?"
My colleague shrugged and said I was overreacting to an admittedly careless, but harmless, choice of words on the speaker’s part. The colleague turned, never really understanding what I thought was a simple point, and headed off to talk to someone less contentious.
I was left standing there, full of anger, wanting to scream, and feeling incredibly alone.
I looked around and realized that all around me were people just like me - white, middle-class, educated academics or professional journalists. And I hated them. I don’t just mean that I was frustrated with them. At that moment, I hated them. Not just the speaker, but all of the nice middle-class white folks in the room who were too polite to say anything, to hold the speaker accountable. I even hated the three or four white people who had come up to me after the talk and thanked me for speaking up. I bit my tongue and didn’t ask them the obvious question: Why didn’t you speak up too, instead of leaving my comments to hang in the air, to wither and die without support?