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Semiformalishmaybe

A Justice System for Cats

People are different than cats. (yes, there are some parts of the furry movement where people insist that they really were born with the soul of a cat or are otherwise really a cat. If you meet such people, I suggest you make up some nonsense about a cat that they might hypothetically incorporate into their cat-ness, watch them mimic it, and then try to hide your smirk as you have confirmed that they just really like cats and really like the idea of being one ... anyhow, back from that digression, ...). Cats have a very different style of interaction than most people do (at least those to whom I am accustomed), and people who get along well with them generally have to take this into account. In the human world I live in, we have a notion of proper behaviour where people don't generally touch each other unless they're in a romantic relationship, one/both are under emotional distress, or as an expression of rare joy. When people start to fight, it is generally very serious and brings into play notions of justice, grudges, reputation, and the like, and usually ends up with observers judging one or both parties to have seriously erred - one person might end up in jail, ejected permanently from an area, shunned, etc. Cats are different, in that they play-fight, don't take each others bodies or stuff very seriously, and they forgive grudges quickly. Why? What would a system of justice look like for cats? Of course, looking outside my notion of proper customs makes me wonder to what degree this standard of treatment is widespread - are there cultures where people might causually fight without it being such a big deal (given no lasting damage, or perhaps even forgiving it)? To what extent is our notion of property, privacy and involacy of the body widespread? These things seem very normal and intuitive to me, but one quickly learns not to trust that as a sign that they're even slightly universal to the species.

What would a justice system for cats look like? What would a justice system for a theoretical (which very well may be real, very well may even be more common than my notion of what the cultural norms are!) people who do not consider casual fighting to be a big deal? What if we even imagined that culture to allow mild coercion or to have less of a "default of no" for things? My first intuition is that it would be significantly more difficult to have cultural and legal formalisations of such systems and that they would not work as well.. but maybe our system is in fact more difficult and meshes worse with human nature. As creepy as people in the "free hugs" movement tend to be, their existence says something about human nature, as does the need for at least occasional voyeuristic violence worked out (like a therapy session or like smoking a cigarette) while watching a boxing match, monster trucks, etc. Perhaps, despite the mishaps caused by things that in the present order are considered violations (from the person you don't really know well resting their arms on you to someone starting to wrestle with you until you say no), we would be more fulfilled in some other order.

Some part of me just noticed and feels obliged to note that this is relevant to Freud's 「Civilisation and its Discontents」, a book I'm sure I've mentioned too often over the years. It's not that I'm doubting his conclusion that repressions are necessary for society so much as I'm not sure that our set of them is the best for us. Of course, just like with polyamory, free love, and similar, this is dreaming of an alternative and possibly better (not really sure about that, this is more chewing on an idea than stating a conclusion) society in which I would be unable to take part - I might, in theory, be able to loosen up some of the notions, norms, and instincts I have here, but not nearly enough to take part in this imagined society. If I found myself put in it, and came to the conclusion that it really was better, I'd be in the unusual position of thinking "I'm not good enough for this society", stuck between liking how it seemed to be working better and how it were utterly unsuited for me as a person with my baggage and upbringing.

Temporarily returning to my initial assumption that humans are in fact reasonbaly tightly constrained around notions of consent and propriety, I wonder if people might be nurturable into something different. Perhaps propriety is a sense that comes biologically with age, and the perpetually juvenile nature of dogs and cats bars them from that experience - people "horse around" in youth as well.. Dogs don't seem to fight as viciously - perhaps that's because they're more pack-oriented? Do dogs typically need/want less personal space than cats? Lack of any personal contact at all for long periods of time for dogs, cats, maybe humans doesn't seem to be healthy.

Comments

"are there cultures where people might causually fight without it being such a big deal (given no lasting damage, or perhaps even forgiving it)?" I was going to ask if you'd count "childhood" as a culture. You kinda refer to this later, but kids don't just horse around; they fight, then later forgive or reconcile.

There are cultures and situations in which people touch each other all the time. Note that in some (e.g. some Islamic societies), the free touching is strictly same-sex. Another example would be sports: football players, for instance, hug often, back-slap, and even butt-slapping is acceptable.

P.S. what's wrong with free hugs?