Robert Phillips | ACT Author Insights - category / Writing

Feline Tactics

 29 Jul 2017    published by: Robert Phillips

Cats may be smarter than people. (Well, mine has outsmarted me many times). They have many tactics to ensure they get what they want. Feline theology tells them that the great Mama Puss placed humans on Earth to be their servants. The world is their oyster: the mice and birds are intended as tasty snacks.

Two major preoccupations of cats are food and comfort.

To get food, my cat uses several tactics, on a graduated basis:

  • The plaintive mew. ‘Please feed me. I’m a poor starving pussy cat that hasn’t been fed for at least half-an-hour’.
  • The stare. Puss doesn’t say anything. He just stares at me as if to say, ‘you know what I want.’
  • The persistent meow. ‘Feed me! Feed me’. I call puss my randomly-programmed mobile alarm clock: at any time of the day or night, he’s likely to wake me from my slumbers to stagger off to the kitchen and throw something in his bowl.
  • Jumping up on one’s chest and demanding ‘FEED ME!’
  • Being naughty. Getting my attention by jumping up on the table and attacking the Kleenex box or my papers.

Note that cats have built-in price detectors. They can tell when you’ve bought a less expensive brand of cat food, and will turn up their noses accordingly.

As far as comfort goes, humans are under the illusion that they own the furniture that they buy, like sofas and beds. In fact, they are merely keeping them warm until the pet arrives. We go out to work so they can live in comfort.

A favourite feline tactic is to wait until their human has been sitting on the sofa for a while, warming it up nicely. The cat then meows for food. The human gets up and goes to the kitchen, but the cat doesn’t follow them. When the human gets back, the cat has curled up in their nice warm place on the sofa.

As for bed, the favourite feline tactic is to curl up on one corner of the bed, as if to say, ‘I’m only going to take up a little bit of the bed, so you won’t even notice I’m here.’ But as the night goes on and they warm up, they spread out, always across the bed and never along it. They eventually block off at least half of it, usually in the middle, so one is forced to sleep in a narrow strip on the edge.

Another favourite feline tactic of course, is to be cute and cuddly. They can’t help being cute, and their cuddliness is more out of self-interest. They like curling up on a nice, warm human. They also like being patted and scratched behind the ears. Human enjoy patting and stroking them, because of the tactile sensations. So it’s a win:win situation.

There’s nothing quite like the sound of a contented cat purring. It’s probably a smug purr. The great Mama Puss designed humans to appreciate contented cats.

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Elites And Financial Crises

 15 Jul 2017    published by: Robert Phillips

A common complaint against the elites of our society (whoever they may be), is that during the Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath, they lacked sympathy and understanding for the plight of the masses, paving the way for the anti-establishment populism of recent years.

Yet, by and large, I don’t think the elites do lack sympathy and understanding: the truth is much worse than that.

In the wake of the last major financial crisis (the Great Depression of the 1930s), governments adopted the economic policies of John Maynard Keynes. Amongst other things, he argued that in times of economic difficulty, governments should not attempt to balance their budgets against declining revenues. Rather, they should spend money, particularly on infrastructure, to stimulate the economy and relieve suffering.

This philosophy generally prevailed in western economies for the next forty years. The setting up of global and regional trade and financial organisations and the growth of multinational corporations paved the way for globalisation. It was an era of prosperity, but there was a danger of stagnation setting in.

From about the 1980s onwards, philosophies changed. Economic managers adopted what was basically a revamped version of Adam Smith’s 18th century laissez-faire economics, which meant putting minimal restrictions on business operations and trade.

Competition, and the supply and demand mechanisms of the free market should ensure the optimum development of the economy, with prosperity for all – the so-called ‘trickle down’ effect. Workers displaced from less efficient industries should be picked up by the more efficient ones, as process known as ‘the Invisible Hand’.

Over the next twenty years, many western and developing nations did prosper, and the free-trade, laissez-faire system seemed to be working well. But it led, among other things, to a hyper-extension of credit. The house of cards was getting bigger and flimsier, and in 2008, it started falling down.

Around the world, governments were forced to spend trillions propping up the financial sector, because if that fell, so would the rest of the economy.

Yet the economic elites of today still seem to subscribe to the laissez-faire philosophy. They can’t understand why the people can’t see that in the long run, this is the best way to manage the economy. The reason people can’t see what might be good for them in the long run is that they are suffering now. And, as Keynes said ‘in the long run, we are all dead.’

We now have the paradox in many Western countries that their economies are doing well, yet people are working longer hours for wages that have scarcely improved in a decade. The ‘trickle down’ effect isn’t working, partly because one thing Adam Smith failed to see was the role of automation in displacing many workers from industries such as mining and manufacturing.

Clearly, our elites need to re-think their economic philosophies. Keynes may not be the answer to all our economic problems, but one hopes that his ghost haunts the elites in their dreams.

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