Kurt, Cat and Cancel Culture

Back to my favourite illustration. Once upon a time, a neighbouring village enacted a law against killings of pets which at the time had become rampant. The new law provided that if any animal is killed, all villagers would be led to an oath taking rite before a village shrine.

A week later, a pussycat was killed and dropped on the pathway. Acting on the new decree, an emergency meeting was summoned at the village square where a week of grace was given to every man to consult with his household and where the culprit fails to turn over, the oath would proceed as decreed.

As none claimed responsibility of the act at the expiration of the ultimatum, the villagers gathered again as agreed before the shrine for the swearing rite. Using the village register, the first man was called to step forward. Placing his hands on the dead cat’s grave as instructed, he swore “If any member of my family or I had a hand in the death of this cat, let the fate of the cat befall me or my family.”

When the second person was called out, he objected arguing that the whole inquiry failed to resolve a simple question. As the crowd went dead in silence, he queried: “Ajiwaru búsù me eka iya õ dù õcha?” meaning “have we asked the pussycat if his hands are clean?”

Recently, West Ham star, Kurt Zuoma, was filmed by his own brother drop-kicking his pet cats. Despite the 27-year old Kurt sincerely apologising for his actions and assuring the animal lovers that “the two cats are perfectly fine and healthy”, everyone has been fuming. Even when the cats have forgotten the injury and moved on, sanctions have been raining on the head of the player.

First, he was fined two weeks’ salary, an amount equivalent to more than $300,000 by his club, West Ham. Hours later, leading sportswear manufacturer Adidas announced that they were ending their deal with him a contracted athlete. An animal welfare charity RSPCA took custody of his two cats while launching an investigation. His club has been under pressure too. Vitality said on 9th February 2022 that it was terminating its sponsorship as the club’s official wellness partner until more actions are taken against the players.

Yes, every cruelty towards animal should be condemned. I do not love pets, but I am not hostile to them. As a child I ran away from scenes of animal slaughter. Between 2012 and 2013, I tried to love pets but our love did not last. I had inherited police dogs to beef up security in our house. Everything was fine until they betrayed me and cooperated with armed robbers who invaded my apartment in April 2013. Through the first floor windows, I could see my dogs that would occasionally pounced on me enjoying a neck massage from one of the robbers as others advanced their tactics to break into my apartment. As a punishment, I sold them off the next day.

Are the call-outs against Kurt proportionate and justifiable? I disagree. Cancel or call-out culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is given a media trial and thrust out of social or professional circles for actions considered as offensive to woke ideologies. The victims who are often judged out of context are said to have been ‘cancelled’ while threats are issued to their friends, associates or partners to boycott deals with the cancelled or be cancelled too.

Well applied, cancel culture could be a tool to correct erring persons and institutions. Unfortunately, the call-out is hardly applied where it is needed but on minor issues either to defend a serial killer shot by a police or a lady who got kicked out of her husband’s house for cheating. Emotional adjectives like “horrible” “cruel” “shocking” “despicable” are employed by proponents to make mountains out of moles. Cancel culture wastes punches outside the ring rather than delivering them where they matter.

In a world where some people’s humanity is still in doubt, where politicians in Africa steal and kill their people while being in the good book of Western governments, people want us to descend to cry for cats. As Michail Antonio, a teammate of Kurt Zouma rightly asked the hypocrites: “Do you think what he’s done is worse than racism? …I don’t agree with what he’s done, at all. But there’s people that have been convicted and caught for racism and have played football afterwards. They got punished, an eight-game punishment or something like that… but people are now calling for people to be sacked and to lose their livelihood.”

Why is man presumed guilty when animals are involved? Why do animals get fairer hearing than man? Have we asked Kurt’s cats if they are innocent?

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© Felix Uche Akam: The Dragnet- 13.02.2022.