The internet is awash with cat pictures. Cute, funny, angry, or cunning, they have established themselves as the internet’s unofficial mascot. And, according to psychologists, we don’t even need to feel guilty or resist the urge to feast your eyes on the fluffy creatures. Apparently, viewing online cat media makes us happier and may work as a form of digital therapy or stress relief.
For myself, I have always been more fascinated by verbal imagery. Cats, however, tend to be quite prominent in the realm of words too. Acknowledging the magic power that these domesticated tigers exert on our imagination, storytellers, philosophers, and politicians, skilled in the noble art of rhetoric, often revert to cats to convey important messages.
Who could forget the brilliant way in which Schrodinger used his cat to illustrate how some people were misinterpreting quantum theory, for instance*? Or another favourite of mine, Deng Xiaoping’s famous phrase, “No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.” Heralding the new era of socialist market economy, Deng’s famous cat led a whole nation out of poverty and starvation.
This week, in her keynote speech at the ILF Conference on Green Banking and Green Central Banking, ECB President Christine Lagarde, delighted me with another powerful cat image for my collection. In the fable “Belling the Cat”, Ms Lagarde reminded us, “a group of mice gather to discuss how to deal with a cat that is eating them one by one. They hatch a plan to put a bell on the cat so they can hear it coming and escape before being caught. When it comes to who will actually do it, however, each mouse finds a reason why they are not the right mouse for the job, and why another mouse should do it instead. The cat never does receive a bell – and the story ends poorly for the mice.”
What a masterful call for action and collaboration! Even before Lagarde went on with her comparison of our inadequate reaction to the threat of climate change, the image of squabbling, mice-like central bankers, politicians and industry leaders, and a sinister monster cat, hovering over them, had invaded my mind’s eye.
There is no more doubt, the cat is out, and we let it go. It’s not someone’s job to put a bell on it. It’s everyone’s.
I might need to scroll through a lot of cat media before going to bed tonight…
*no cat was harmed in the experiment
Image: idanns Twenty20 / NordSIP