Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cat And Dog

As I wander around Streonaeshalch on my quest for knowledge, fun and food, I wander into various neighbourhoods. Apart from the inevitable and often painful challenges from other cats who resent my presence (although I mean no harm), I find my perambulations most revealing. I overhear conversations between working men in the fields, building sites, workshops and the alehouses (the fires are very warm and welcoming this time of year) and the women doing the housework, the breadmaking and the weaving. Inevitably I hear a lot of conversation about the Witangemot leaders, their tribal factions and the latest policy issue. What I find so revealing is the sense of animosity that exists between the supporters of the various factions. Many of those around the town who support the Redistributionists expend a great deal of energy and bile criticising the ruling alliance of Trees and Liberationists - and imputing to them the worst of motives. Conversely, the Trees' supporters are equally disparaging and venomous about the Reds, whom they regard as a self-serving clique of losers, whose sole wish to share their misery with the rest of mankind. Liberationist supporters seem to fall into two camps: those whose philosophy leans towards the Reds, and those whose loyalties are more allied to the Trees. There are some interesting exchanges of views between them..!

This sense of animosity is very intense. On various occasions I've witnessed fights breaking out between Reds and Trees - usually as a result of a little too much mead and ale. But what dismays me is the incessant name-calling and the tendency these people have to hide behind tribal loyalties. Why don't they talk to each other instead of childish posturing? Nobody actually thinks about their cherished ideas. It's almost as if they all get someone else to do their thinking for them..

Today I think I came to realise why this posturing and animosity is such a part of human culture here in Northumbria. It happened when I wandered off my usual circuit and ventured into into the woods. While sitting on an oak tree branch looking for a hunting opportunity, I saw two horsemen approaching. They were evidently wealthy men; their clothes were more colourful than average, and they wore golden rings and scabbards inlaid with garnets and gold ornamentation. They were evidently taking a break from hunting wild boar, and they were slowly riding, deep in conversation. Only three words from one of them reached my ears before I disappeared into the undergrowth: "..divide and rule." Then the penny dropped, and I understood.

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