Feline foreign policy

posted in: International affairs | 2

Socrates, who according to Plato argued around 400BCE that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” might have expected those of us lucky enough to have escaped the restrictions of a subsistence economy (that is, a billion or two people) to enjoy their wealth by spending more time contemplating and philosophising. Karl Marx wrote very little about what a communist society would look like, other than “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” (which is pretty much how the British National Health Service works). But he did talk, in The German Ideology (1846) of how the absence of the grinding specialisation of capitalism would allow people ” to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic”. This suggests a rich and varied life, including learned conversation. And Keynes, who very much enjoyed the good life and earnestly hoped that economic success would allow many others to also, wrote in Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren (1936) of a time “when these needs are satisfied in the sense that we prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes.” He had in mind stimulating conversation, the contemplation of beauty, art, theatre and other Bloomsbury activities (Keynes founded the Arts Theatre in Cambridge).

All would therefore be a little disappointed to learn that in early 21st century civilisation, the period of greatest human economic and technological achievement, we celebrate our success by sending funny pictures of cats over the internet. My contribution to this activity is to draw your attention to this article, which has the pedigree of being published in the distinguished US journal Foreign Policy. It’s called “14 Hairless Cats that Look like Vladimir Putin“.


2 Responses

  1. Anthony Smith

    Another quote: ” Culture is stuff you don’t have to do” ie light the fire, clean the cave, skin the mammoth ….oh and then get the nice coloured stones out and decorate, dude.

  2. Samir

    Simon – When we read, or re-read, some of the science fiction of the 1950s and 60s, we’d have to be pretty cold-hearted or insensitive not to be moved by the sheer optimism then about the human future: the assumption among a number of thoughtful writers/thinkers that in the 21st Century we’d be well on our way to eliminating stuff like poverty, ignorance, wars of religion and resource (heck, religion itself!), many kinds of disease.

    They seemed within reach. Logical next-steps for a species that had just crossed major scientific-technological thresholds.

    Today, it can be a struggle to maintain the belief that we’re even addressing the right issues. And a sad-absurd question follows: What the hell is going on round here? Here being, well, Earth.

    Since you mention Marx (an early naive techno-utopian?), did anyone in the West imagine or suspect that, a mere 30 years after communism’s end, this is where we’d be: http://j.mp/165Ban6 (Henry Blodget)? I know what you mean when you say this is “the period of greatest human economic and technological achievement”. But I suspect the majority of our fellow Homo sapiens don’t feel that way.

    PS: Sorry for the tangential departure. It was triggered by the thought of the “virality” of your 14 Hairless Cats and some socialmedia plutocrat chuckling to himself: Well, then let *them* have this Facebook diversion.

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