FeaturesAlex Farnham's Soapbox

Alex Farnham’s Soapbox

I’ve taken up a new hobby. It’s called ‘shout and scream at the idiot cat that keeps beating up my cats and even sometimes sneaking into the flat through an open window and taking a slash under the bed.’
This ongoing battle between me and my feline foe got me thinking about this month’s theme of ‘rivals’, and how easily I get wound up by this purring bastard. Honestly, I like to think of myself as a lover of all animals (not like that, grow up), but this guy is the opposite of Batman. He’s my least favourite guy in the world and I want him to go away. The other day I saw him hassling one of my cats, so I grabbed the water spray bottle and squirted him from my living room window. I hate him. It’s like he’s doing it on purpose… trying to grind me down. It’s definitely not normal to show such preoccupying animosity to an animal who probably doesn’t even know my name (it’s Alex, by the way, you stupid fluffy idiot). I think I go into ‘super-protector mode’ because I know he fights my two cats, and the rivalry between us and him is only growing stronger. I could just ignore him and just not open my window wide enough for him to sneak though, but he’s trying to invade our territory. He marches around like he owns the place, but then when I see him and we lock eyes he runs away like he’s done nothing wrong, like a little anxious Putin.
This sort of rivalry is not healthy, and I understand that actively hating a cat is not good for me, but I’m not the only one guilty of it. On a wider scale we seem to have phases of communal hatred during which we work out a black and white of who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy. We focus all our energy on posting long and rambling opinions on Facebook with a link to a half arsed article from The Guardian that we only read enough of to check it supports the point we’re trying to make in the first place.
Something that’s on the news at the time that I’m writing this is that ‘Nazi Queen salute’ thing. I’m sure the majority of people are making sense of it and realising that it was just a kid copying a grown up, and that it happened before there were the good guys and bad guys of WWII, but the way it’s being depicted in the media is like the plot of a bloody Marvel movie. Like there’s this secret royal Nazi organisation resurfacing after all these years. Next they’ll be looking for buried treasure with Nicholas Cage, using a £2 coin as a map and revealing the secret agenda of the illuminati by dabbing a teabag on the Conservative flipping Manifesto or something.
There was a festival in West Sussex recently, quite near where I live, and some of the residents were complaining that it was going to be noisy, which I guess is fair enough, because that’s where they live. Anyway, the Daily Mail sensationalised matters as per their duty as a Tabloid, and came up with a headline along the lines of ‘Residents Furious with Snoop Dogg in West Sussex Festival!’ Poor Snoop can’t have seen that coming, he loves the UK apparently – and I hear he even has a bit of a soft spot for horticulture. You’d think West Sussex would welcome him! The way it was depicted though, again, was this ‘versus mode’ story. There has to be two opposing sides, each defending their corner – a victim and a suspect. As we all know, conflict drives the story forward, so you can’t blame the tabloids for doing this… ‘if it bleeds it leads’.
Healthy rivalry exists, of course – in sports, games, work, relationships. My girlfriend and I challenge each other on a daily basis, and compete with each other even if it’s as simple as guessing how much the total cost of our weekly shop will be (romantic, huh?), and I think we need competition in our lives to make us strive to be better.
Why though, do we self-sabotage by tapping into the darker side of rivalry? Why do we post one-sided articles on Facebook and argue with anyone who doesn’t share the altruistic point of view of a white, middle-class man living in the first world? Why do I spray water from my window at an invading cat instead of closing the window and moving on? Maybe it’s because conflict really does drive our stories forward and the deeper the conflict, the faster we go. As a species we’re renowned for wanting to go faster, and life can get pretty boring sometimes, so why not put your foot to the floor and risk making a few enemies along the way?

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