The Day of the Cat Tweets

By Puck Wildschut


Imagine that about 90% of the world’s human population loses their
eyesight due to a meteorite shower, and that the other 10% has to deal with the
following ethical dilemma: Do we help the vast, visually disabled majority to
survive for a short time, or do we put ourselves first and try to rebuild the
world only with those who can still see? This is the hard choice Bill and
Josella face in John Wyndham’s classic sci-fi novel The Day of the Triffids (1951), soon after catastrophe has hit the
earth. Although Josella doesn’t need that
much convincing to take the apparently a-moral road to survival, she feels that
it isn’t the proper thing to do and tells Bill so: Josella “dug her fingers
into the earth, and let the soil trickle out of her hand. ‘I suppose you’re
right,’ she said. ‘But you’re right when you say I don’t like it.’” And in
comes Bill: “‘Our likes and dislikes as decisive factors have now pretty well disappeared,’
I suggested.” (Penguin Edition, 2000: p.85)

Now imagine that in 2015 the entire western world is in shock over a
terrorist attack in Paris, where 130 people get shot in cold blood, and the
effects of which are clearly felt in people’s daily lives: bands cancel their
shows in Europe out of fear for new attacks, the city of Brussels is nearly
inactive for four days, and people are advised to be ‘extra alert’ when in
crowded places. Of course, you don’t need to imagine that, since sadly this is
no plot out of a suspense novel, but precisely what occurred in the last few

With these impactful events still fresh in our minds, all of us who
live in the west, who consider ourselves to be ‘free’ individuals in a part of
the world in which free speech is deemed king, have been prompted to reflect on
our own ‘survival’. We may not be facing the aftermath of planetary apocalypse,
like Bill and Josella in Wyndham’s novel, but we are faced with issues
concerning the survival of our selfhood, of keeping our own identities intact following
an attempt to destruct our ideological habitat. And, in contrast to Bill’s
suggestion when facing his ethical dilemma, our likes and dislikes have
actually become the decisive factors
in our reaction to the current state of affairs.

Who hasn’t liked or shared the facebook post on police dog Diesel who
was killed during a raid on an apartment of a suspected terrorist? Who didn’t
like one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of posts asking users to ‘like this
post if you stand behind France’? There was a lot I myself personally ‘liked’
and shared following the Paris attacks, and it gave me a sense of hope that so
many other people came to a virtual stand condoning the senseless violence.
However, with the possibility to like comes that to dislike: a great number of
people use the attacks as a convenient stepping stone for spreading hate, fear,
and more violence. Since facebook has yet to implement a ‘dislike’ button (will
they ever?), harsh words are spoken in its stead and offer another,
inconclusively a-moral way to our metaphorical survival after a high impact
event in the western world.

The question remains then how to negotiate the outspoken and often
polarized discourse within that highly populated social media universe. Engage
in its discussions? Ignore those parts of it that you don’t like? Well, for now
I’ll let the Belgians have the final word …ehhm… meow in this matter.


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