The Hon'ble Mayor Meow: Political lessons from a cat
When people tell me that politics isn’t their thing, I’m amazed.
Why the hell not? I mean it affects every aspect of our lives, and to an equal degree at that. So I say we must make politics our thing.
Now news of how Libya is rejoicing in celebrating Ramadan post-Gaddafi or news about the curiosity surrounding what the Chinese investment in Africa could mean for challenging the American hegemony might very well not be everyone’s cup of tea, I acknowledge. But I want to argue that (international) politics is more than just the Middle East violence or the power play between states.
Oh, it’s so much more and so much more fascinating than that.
I was gripped by this same sense of fascination when news of a Mayor who has been able to hold his seat for as long as 15 years hit the prints.
Contrary to Gaddafi, this Mayor isn’t an authoritarian and in fact was a write-in candidate at the inception of his political career, i.e., since his days as an infant.
Moreover, when this Mayor goes around town helping people or strengthening his people-to-people relations by being one of the tourist attractions in town (yes, you read it correctly), nobody suspects he’s doing it for any ulterior motives.
I know it all sounds too good to be true. And just when you might be thinking, “God, why is this writer rambling on about a fairytale version of politics?” let me introduce you to Mayor Stubbs.
Mayor to a place called Talkeetna located in Alaska, and home to a community of about 900 human beings, Stubbs rules with his feline grace – both literally and figuratively.
Illustration: Sworup Nhasiju
This is because Stubbs is a cat. I think I underwent a similar sense of awe, as you must now be going through when I first heard this. Following the awe, my second reaction was “Hmm…interesting, at least this gives us ideas.”
“As the story goes, 15 years ago, several of the town residents didn’t like the candidates who were running for mayor of Talkeetna. So as a joke, they encouraged enough people to elect Stubbs the cat as a write-in candidate. He won,” writes Katie Maassen of KSDK, an NBC-affiliated television station.
It’s amusing how if humans can be reduced to animals, animals can rise to be humans.
Fulfilling his role as a symbolic head of Talkeetna, Mayor Stubbs has been able to attract a lot of tourists: around 30 to 40 tourists come in a day to visit him. It helps that Talkeetna is a “historical district” and that Mayor Stubbs’ role is more to provide spiritual guidance and amusement to his people than to involve himself in any of the other “dirty business” that people so often attribute to politics.
Mayor Stubbs always makes his presence felt and gives direction to his people. For instance, Todd Basilone, a local restaurateur at Talkeetna, reported to CNN’s Holly Yan, “When my building burnt down in 2002, he was the last to come out of it. He’s always in the restaurant. Stubbs wanders into every place in town.”
A political head who devotes himself to ensuring his people are safe and morally supported, I think Mayor Stubbs may have a lot to teach here. I mean, at the end of the day, aren’t we all looking for representatives who will help us, if not in any other way, then at least spiritually by letting us know that they are there for us?
Sure, he can’t sign fancy contracts, or give long speeches filled with false promises, but Mayor Stubbs surely can reassure his constituents when they most need to be. Also, Stubbs’ role as a Mayor at least remains innocent and genuine. And that’s all it takes to be a heart-winning political figure.
But sometimes, it seems that swearing off any of the duplicity that putatively swirls around politics may be a much harder job than growing an additional pair of legs for our politicians – not just in Nepal, mind you, but the world over.
Food for thought, I like to think.
The writer is a student of Political Science at Thammasat University who enjoys exploring life and all that it has to offer.