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Stray Cats, the Matrix, and Rockwell: Living life or letting it happen to you

Rian Ston
July 15, 2020


Everyone knows about the Trolley question, a moral dilemma comparing utilitarianism and deontological ethics. If you’re unaware of it; a train is going to hit 5 people tied to the tracks and you’re in front of a switch which changes which track it rides on. The alternative track has 1 person tied to it. Do you hit the switch and move the train or will you leave it? Privately we decide which to pick and why. Keep a pin in that while I talk about a couple and stray cats.

“Look at that stray cat Dave, pull over we need to help him!”

“Stacey, we don’t want a Cat”

“But he’s so lonely and it’s dangerous, and if we don’t he will die!”

“Ugh … fine”

And now they have a cat. These individual interactions happen over dozens of years hundreds of times. Every stray cat, every sheltered dog, every sob story. If you don’t save them then they will be put down and thats so mean! Life is a constant set of appeals for Dave to save the world so that Stacey may feel better. Soon, Dave has a second cat, then a third. Before you know it the carefree Dave, the lifelong friend that we all remember as carefree, a good man, someone who we remember as a great example of what we would all aspire to be. Dave, who found an awesome woman, a high quality woman (whatever that means) sitting in a house that smells like cat shit and can’t even go on vacation or they will all starve to death. Dave didn’t think any one of these concessions would kill him, but taken together, Dave is living in a personal hell, paved with good feelings and the whims of the person he cares about the most. Dave is a shell, covered in cat hair.

Now I’m sure when you’re reading this you can map it to all kinds of real life ‘crisis’: The muddling of economic migrants and refugees and legal migrants. Potential cuts to social services by government or going along with a feel good legislation. Taking care of step kids because you’re a good man who does good by her. The list goes on and on and on. As Dr. Peterson would say, adding responsibility onto the shoulders of men is how you make men feel great again.

Getting back to the trolley question: which did you choose? Did you choose to not act or to act? Did you decide to save as many lives as you could at the expense of as few? Did you decide that you will not cause a persons death just to change things you were not responsible for? Look back to the example of the stray cats. You are Dave. Did Dave’s moral choice reflect Dave’s actions or did he get pressured into it for a whiff from an ‘awesome girl?’ What good is Dave and his moral framework if he isn’t the one who commits the immoral act. Dave may have been the utilitarian and would have decided to do the most good and cause the least harm, but that wasn’t Dave’s choice to make now was it. The funny thing about the Trolley problem is that, in real life, the track usually involves the switch being beside that single person, and you’ll likely lose your finger by holding it down. No good deed goes unpunished.

That’s how the ‘nobility’ of man gets corrupted. It’s not nobility, it’s gullibility wrapped up as a virtue. I’m sure if I was Jordan Peterson I would throw out a line of the garden of eden here and splash some 5 dollar words around it so we can all feel smart and know why the reader is in a relationship of quiet desperation, but I ain’t Jordan Peterson and I don’t do in depth coping strategies, I prefer results.

Most guys analyze these situations and provide a logical answer why men should save more cats, why the cat population is in need of protection, and why saving cats makes us happier. Dave wants to believe it because he has to. Otherwise Dave has to admit people that he loves and probably love him are perfectly able to smother that spark of what makes him a man, if he lets them. And why wouldn’t he? People love to reward the people they love by being agreeable and pleasant and cooperative and good and noble and slightly miffed and a little annoyed and pissed off and utterly miserable.

It all comes back to mental point of origin, to frame, to rational self interest. You’re allowed to love those who give you value, you’re also allowed to refuse to let them put you into an early grave. It’s not because women are evil or men are evil or hypergamy is evil or any such nonsense. It’s simply because there is only one person on earth who has your interests at heart over the long term, regardless of circumstance. And that man is the one who wipes your ass every day that you stare at in the mirror while washing your hands.


Imagine how many scenarios exist where you have a desire, a want, a need or a grievance and it isn’t reflected in your girlfriend, wife or plate. Imagine a social narrative you pay lip service which reflects those same female sensibilities, and imagine how it’s completely against your own better interest. Is this a physical law of the universe to be followed? No, it’s a choice. Moral frameworks are always choices. Morality exists for a distinct population to agree to certain rule sets, make sacrifices to their own best interests in order for a maximum fulfilment for all. But, is the ‘for all’ still relevant? How many stray cats are in the world, how many good people do we trust with out best interests?

If you haven’t caught on by now, the girl isn’t just our women, they are our institutions, our authorities, anyone from whom we offer this level of trust in mutual self interest. The cat isn’t a cat, but any responsibility for others that we are tasked with protecting from a situation we had no part in creating.

What am I telling a guy to do here? I’m asking rhetorically, I don’t care. If I have to preach or tell you why modern moral imperatives are not in your interest than you wouldn’t believe me anyways. You can continue reading for the entertainment value alone. For the rest of you, consider how easy it is to be Dave. Talk is cheap, keep talking after the thousandth concession. I’ve got too many friends in these miserable lives. They have perfect families, kids they love dearly, jobs which are stable, rewarding and fulfilling. They have everything everyone told them they would want, on paper. In reality they are miserable in lives of quiet desperation.

You want to save as many people as possible, that’s your duty as a man. We know this because the people who want you to do all the work said so. Knights of England and France told you that in their chivalry n stuff. The Queen told you when you signed up, as did the teacher when you’re told what good students do. Your mom said the same because she hated your crappy father. Never mind the knights code was among people who wanted to kill each other agreeing to never kill while taking a dump. Now, it’s about protection of whamen and whatever noble causes they tell you exist. I’ll give a more recent example of the past weaponed for the present at the expense of men.


Norman Rockwell was an artist who worked for the Saturday Evening Post as an illustrator. He was known creating a style known as Americana: an idealized American aspiration that showed middle class men enjoying leisure time as a respite against the horrors of the second world war. Women were submissive, pleasant, stylish. They were good mothers and good wives, like Donna Reed. Children were behaved, good natured and full of potential. Everywhere you look men had an identity they had. It was made up. I guess the Boomer's were too lazy to do it themselves. Why tell guys what to aspire to? Well, to sell them the set pieces that came with the aspiration of course. The wife, the kids, the barbecuer and the cigarettes, a bunch of set piece archetypes to fulfil that fantasy.

By the way, did you know that Marlboro Cigarettes taste 30% better than brand X? Men are men and women are women. It’s amazing if you work hard and play by the rules that you’ll have the perfect life. Since we are on the subject you haven’t lived until you’ve driven the new Ford, it gets 6 miles to the gallon you know and financing is cheap! The point is this life never existed, though people wanted it to, and were willing to buy enough cigarettes to get a small taste of it, if only for a few minutes.

Back from the future to the world of today, aspirating to the aspirational model of the age we never saw. Many guys look at those advertisements as a lifestyle aspirational model. It no longer sells them cigarettes but it still works as an ad. Everyone knows cigarettes are bad and that any less than 36 miles to the gallon is the equivalent of dumping oil into the marshlands, but the set piece children and sidekick wife are pretty enticing, no? I wonder what the chivalrous Knights of England were trying to sell, maybe they were recruitment stories for better serfs?

The Matrix came out in 1997, and in one scene Neo finally goes back after getting unplugged, pointing a a cafe he used to eat at, the food was good. He at least knew that his past was a manipulation, we aren’t so lucky. He had the luxury of knowing which was the matrix and which was not, we live in a world where we don’t know whether the good old days were like Mad Men, or Marlboro. Was Donna Reed how women used to be or I Love Lucy?

We are nostalgic for a world we never knew, and assume it through our own matrix. No fancy plugs in our heads, only our dissatisfaction with what we have now. Is it any wonder why men are so willing to let others show them where the stray cats are and how many you have to rescue? A blogger, thelastpsychiatrist, made a good point about this:

Rule #1 of stupid people trying to make sense of the world: the culture you know nothing about has all the answers.

To summarize.

I argue it’s not your job to save a world you didn’t create by putting yourself on the track. That we have our own ethics, our own morals and they aren’t worth a damn if we let other people use us as the tools to realize theirs. Not everyone who manipulates you into a life of quiet desperation hates you, in fact most of them think of you rather fondly and neither care nor have awareness of the suffering they will offer. Finally, we are easily manipulated into a life script that serves other peoples purposes by appealing to our sense of goodness and virtue. Sell you the cigarettes that kill you one day, and the nobility that comes with marrying a single mom the next.

No one actually knows what life was like, but we can live in our own imagined ideals which happen to align with having everyone tell us that we (read: you) need to rescue one more cat, because then we (read: they) will finally be happy. Of course they aren’t either, the first 4 cats was proof of that, but you let children lead, don’t be surprised if you end up like Lord of the Flies and you reprising the role of Piggy.

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Post Information
Title Stray Cats, the Matrix, and Rockwell: Living life or letting it happen to you
Author Rian Ston
Date July 15, 2020 8:08 PM UTC (2 years ago)
Blog Rian Stone
Archive Link https://theredarchive.com/blog/Rian-Stone/stray-cats-the-matrix-and-rockwell-living-life-or.29887
Original Link https://www.rianstone.com/blog/2020/7/15/stray-cats-the-matrix-and-rockwell-living-life-or-letting-it-happen-to-you
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