From the series: Old, Embarrassing Shit that Lies Dormant on Writer’s Cafe That’s Gonna Get Lost if I Don’t Transplant it Somewhere. So here’s its new home.
There are cat lovers and there are cat haters. Some people own a dozen cats and love each one dearly. Another person will stomp kittens to death or throw a sack of them in the river.
The cat lovers are appalled by the cat haters. They accuse the cat haters of being cruel, sadistic and psychopathic. In response, the cat haters give passionate explanations to justify their behavior. They claim that cats are not loyal. How they make no contribution to the rest of the world. How they are lazy and selfish. How the feral cat problem is far worse than the feral dog problem. They point out how dogs are loyal. How dogs have and can assist mankind as hunters and herders whereas cats do nothing. They argue that cat lovers are soft and weak. The cat haters, by default, become the dog lovers and dog defenders.
The cat lovers react by defending themselves and the cat. The cats kill rodents, which helps reduce disease. They point out that dogs attack and kill people every year whereas there are no cat inflicted deaths. They defend themselves against accusations of being too soft-hearted, weak and illogical by pointing out the sadism of the dog lovers/cat haters. So, the dog lovers counter with, “we love dogs…..so we aren’t sadists. Our violence against cats is a violence of necessity and practicality.” And the arguments and rhetoric and slander goes on and on and on…………
Over time, the tensions between the sides heightens to the point of violence between the people, not just against their chosen animals. They grow to hate not only each other but, now, the cat lovers’ hatred of the dog lovers turns to hatred of those they defend. The cat lovers who once loved animals in general, as a matter of conscience, must now hate dogs because they’re on the side of the enemy.
A man with no stake in the debate comes out of his cave one day to suggest that maybe dogs and cats are fairly equal in the good and bad they produce. Perhaps there isn’t much reason to vilify one or the other. Each has their positives and their faults and, after all, it seems to be the people who are causing most of the problems in all this. He points out that, yes, perhaps dogs attacking and killing people is a problem. Yet, the dog lovers can’t concede that this could be a problem, therefore, will never do anything to alleviate it. In fact, they will vehemently resist any scrutiny of it, simply as a matter of principle. They can’t give an inch against already being vilified by the cowardly cat lovers. To concede anything suggests the cat lovers are at least partly correct, which cannot happen in this game of polarities and moral absolutes. Similarly, the cat lovers can’t concede that the problem of feral cats might be greater than that of feral dogs. There’s no backpedaling from having painted the cats as divine, versus the dogs as devils. To do so would look weak or to admit you were wrong or a liar. Concession in any fashion would be a loss within the political battle over cats and dogs in which no ground can be given. So, logic and reason as solutions are mostly gone. “Solutions” now belong to who possesses more political power, regardless of being right as the illogic and rhetoric of both sides settles in as a sort of religion for each.
The man from the cave is castigated by both sides. He’s suggesting that anybody on either side is foolish. That their adherence to ideology has mostly blinded them to reason and respect. That their identities are too defined by the purposefully constructed morality that makes them so vehemently opposed to the other side. That maybe they are taking comfort and pleasure in being acknowledged and supported within their team, while no longer questioning what they’re fighting for or against. Regardless of the truth, the battle itself has become a matter of self-definition and identify to them now. Facts, logic, reason and civility no longer matter. This is the understanding of things that he explains to both sides.
Obviously, both dog and cat lovers oppose this interpretation. In fact, the dog lover was quick to point out that he can recognize that having a few cats around might be good for the cat food businessman and the cat lover was even willing to acknowledge that having a few dogs around is good for the dog collar businessman. So see, we’re not ideologues. We’re rational, free-thinking people. The man from the cave is the real fool in all this. He’s too morally weak to take a position. So, they chase him back to his cave with their cats and dogs where he’s happy to stay, leaving all the nonsense to everybody else. Still, he occasionally pokes his head out to notice that, while dog attacks and feral cats are no less a problem than they were last year, all the while the appointed leaders of each group, who continue to instigate and agitate from their comfortable homes in the hills, also continue to make more and more money. After all, their representation is necessary but isn’t free.
After returning to the cave, the man, rather than listen to everybody else’s opinions about them, got himself a dog and a cat. Little to his surprise, they lived very peacefully together in the cave. The man came to appreciate the company of his dog and cat far more than that of the fools in the village.