Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coiled steel

posted by Brit

I made the mistake of watching the news last night. One damn thing after another, isn't it?

A lot of rubbish is spoken and written about evil. Here's some more. Some people think that evil can only be exhibited by humans. Those people haven't looked closely enough at cats. The other week, as I strolled innocuously back from the papershop, a neighbour's cat fixed me with what can only be described as a steady look of hate. Bravely, I tried to stare him out. No chance. He slowly rotated his head as I passed, holding my gaze, and his eyes contained nothing but malevolence - clear and unmistakeable. I returned home quite shaken and in dire need of a cup of tea.

Other people think that evil doesn't really exist at all. This is no more meaningful than suggesting that, say, generosity or laziness don't exist. The best line Ted Hughes ever wrote was Terrifying are the attent sleek thrushes on the lawn/ More coiled steel than living*. He was trying to describe animal instinct or mindless purpose or something, but as a description of evil it'll do until a better one comes along.


*A line that has inspired other, possibly greater poets...

18 comments:

  1. I'm with you on cats, Brit. They sneer as they poo in my flower beds. As for Hughes, I think he must have been suffering from post-weed paranoia. Terrifying thrushes? They have all the coiled-spring malevolence of Zebedee.

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  2. Brit, I fear that your only course of action is to move house. Once a malevolent moggie pins its beady optics on you, doom awaits. Under no circumstances mention the animal to the chosen estate agent, it may knock a few grand off the asking price.
    Sophie the best deterrent is a nine millimeter Glock, personally I use a twelve bore but it makes such an awfull mess of the gladioli.

    Harringay's collection of useless local government employees bear an uncanny resemblance to their opposite numbers in Baltimore city hall

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  3. Puts me in mind of something George Steiner wrote in 'My Unwritten Books', on the question of his religious beliefs, if any: he said that his principle theological apprehension is of the existence of evil and the absence of God - this not the same as saying God doesn't exist, just that He isn't here. There's a fine but profound distinction between saying God doesn't exist and saying He is absent, even if that absence is eternal; it's the difference between the vapid blather of militant atheists and the works of Beckett.

    Certainly, evil is easier to recognise, harder to deny, than goodness, perhaps because goodness is simply how things should be, and so doesn't jump out at one in the same way.

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  4. Moggie parnoia Brit. Malevolence imagined...your imagination promoted by the accepted fact that, like many predators, even domesticated ones, they do not need to blink as often as we do, and even when the urge comes upon them, they often drop one eyelid, and later on the other. They 'seem' to be looking through you but, as their daylight sight is quite poor compared to humans, they are usually just 'gazing', and probably daydreaming about the next meal you are going to scoop into the bowl. Eddie Izzard suffered the same feelings, wonderfully described in a stage show a few years back - the phrase I remember, when he was voicing the cat, having just entered the room and spotted him "was there something?". Just the sort of thing one can imagine a cat thinking.

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  5. I used to throw potatoes at them from an upstairs window when I live in a house in London with a wall just behind it that the local moggie gang used as a venue for choir practice at 3 a.m. Turned out to be highly effective. So I'd suggest going equipped with plenty of spuds. Cheap and legal too, though it might spoil the cut of your suit.

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  6. Cats are great, they keep your food clean by keeping the vermin at bay, and not just rats and mice, a lot of birds carry a good deal of nastiness.

    EVIL, the east Asians dont really understand what we mean by evil.
    They tend to see things as not good or bad but stupid and clever, or enlightened.

    For example a murderer would be described as stupid or idiotic, then they will probably execute them.

    I think evil is real enough, I would say its "stupidity with malicious intent". The thing about evil is that it seems to always have a plan, unlike say a mentally ill person using a sword.

    Take the holocaust, the national socialists believed that they had a moral purpose in their actions to exterminate the jews, but its pretty stupid to think you can wipe out a whole supposed race.

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  7. Water pistols, cats and dogs fear water pistols. Not sure if Nazis do, but it's worth a go.

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  8. Thrushes and cats are not terrifying in the way that, say, lions or angry grizzlies are terrifying, they're terrifying in the way that 'ruthlessness' is terrifying. Alien, incomprehensible, nauseating.

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  9. You mean Brit, that Cats are clever and they seem to have a plan?

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  10. Not a plan, passer by, but a purpose. And not clever, but efficient.

    Did you catch this, by the way?

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  11. I suppose that sort of implacability would seem terrifying if you were a sparrow or a worm. But it's not alien and it's not incomprehensible. It's how you behave when your life depends on it and you are not contrained by any sort of moral obligation to your fellow creatures.

    On a completely different note, I am slightly concerned by the word verification required for this blog. My first post this morning asked me to enter 'encest' and now it's asking for 'patti'. What does it all mean?

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  12. Impressive, Thank you very much for giving it a go.

    So good ive copied it to evernote for future reference, great for keeping articles, notes, quotes, stats ect. it might inspire you when you get your block.

    http://evernote.com/

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  13. It's not that cats are evil, it's just that they are very good at spotting stupidity. Then once they spot it they keep their eyes on it to make sure none of it gets on them.

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  14. Your comment on the cat may be exactly the reason the creatures have been persecuted for centuries. Not to mention relegated to the evil status of witches' familiars. Mahlerman is right about the lack of blinking -- a cat can win a stare fight with you anytime (unless it's sleepy).

    I have known many a feline, including the noble one we just buried, and they just don't care enough to be malevolent -- except maybe to other cats they're fighting with over territory or females. I prefer dogs, but cats make excellent companions too.

    Now that I think of it, did Bryan write this post under your name, Brit? He's a major catphobe!

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  15. All right-thinking men are, Susan.

    I have no idea where people get this idea that cats are pets.

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  16. So now it's gay to like cats?

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  17. It's as camp as a row of tents.

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  18. This post has turned into a bit of a catastrophe.

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