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GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – A lesson from my cat.

By   /  January 14, 2019  /  11 Comments

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“If you wait by the river bank long enough you will see the body of your enemy float by”

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A few years ago we had a cat called Buster. We also had an old black Labrador dog called Tarka who not only tolerated the kitten’s arrival, but came to positively enjoy Buster’s company.

Especially the massages.

You know that thing cat’s sometimes do to a cushion or a rug where they kneed it with their paws while purring? Well, Buster would climb on Tarka’s back while she was sprawled out in he sun and start working her paw magic .Pretty soon the Lab would be drooling at the sheer pleasure of it.

But then Tarka died and after about 6 months or so I went to the SPCA and brought home a puppy that looked very much like the Bugger dog in that old Toyota commercial.

I called him Pete.

Well,Pete came in through front door that day , took one look at Buster and instantly knew that his sole reason for living was to chase the cat.

Buster fled.

Had she stood up to Pete things might have been different. But, she didn’t and no amount of attempted negotiation on our part could change how these two animals thought about each other.

Eventually the cat decided on a strategy.

There was a tree in our backyard. She could climb it. The dog couldn’t. From the tree she could jump onto the roof and sit on a low corner of it where I could feed and pat her.

And that’s where Buster lived for nearly 3 years.

Meanwhile Pete grew into a very big dog who needed a lot of exercise.I was working really hard on a TV series and having to travel away from home a lot and so I reluctantly found a really kind home for Pete with one of my friends and we said our goodbyes.

Within a couple of hours of coming home without Pete, Buster came down off the roof and re-possessed the house.

As she purred and rubbed herself up against the furniture, the door frames and my legs I found myself remembering that wise saying attributed to the ancient Chinese General Sun Tsu who died more than 400 years before Jesus …

“If you wait by the river bank long enough you will see the body of your enemy float by”

We live in an age where we expect things to happen quickly – especailly social change- and I sometimes get very impatient with the reluctance our government is showing in moving towards a fairer society.

But then I remember Buster sitting on that roof and to take the long view.

I can’t tell you when the bodies of neoliberalism and inequality will float by the riverbank of our society, but I know it will happen one day and I’m not going to give up until it does.


Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.

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  1. let me be frank says:


  2. BM says:

    That story makes you look like a bit of an arsehole Bryan.

    You should have trained your dog so it didn’t chase the cat, but you obviously didn’t care that much

    Poor old Buster driven from his home.

    • Shona says:

      Dogs and cats do not naturally like each other. They are essentially opposites. Cats are self centered and haughty and sparing with their affections unless you have a long term trust with them. Dogs are beguiling loyal and subservient and protective by nature.Dogs naturally see cats as interlopers. End of story.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Just have to wonder who this new commander is kicking your ass.

    • Hmmm, a snide way to address the point Bryan has made, BM. That is, you’ve not addressed what he was telling us.

      • Sam Sam says:

        The Sun Tzu quite in the blog flys over most people’s head. Sun Tzu never lost a battle. He wasn’t just a theorist, he probably actually waited by the river because he’s teachings and strategies was all that. And he actually fought too. 5stars.

        • His legacy in history says a lot of his achievements and teachings…

          I’m guessing that in his day, bodies-floating-down-the-river wasn’t just a metaphor?

          • Sam Sam says:

            Here’s the funny thing. Neoliberalism focuses on fog of war. “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”
            — Carl von Clausewitz

            For Sun Tzu, his maxim know yourself and know the enemy, win a hundred battles. That’s kinda what the Information dominance/superiority ie lies and deception of the battlespace and information, means.

            Both Sun Tzu and Clausewitz focus on finding the ‘moral’ reason for war. Clausewitz focuses on politics by other means, Sun Tzu focuses on the “righteousness” of war is due to the anti war tract we get from the Warring States period in what we know as China today, but translates to Why We Fight.

            John Key didn’t do a great job with his reason for going to war, but its still better than Helen Clarks “forgetting how to war.” In forgetting how to war there is no, kill them over there so they don’t kill us over here and wait by the river. Since NZDF is now civilian controlled, maybe we should do better by electing better politicians.

  3. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    A good point Bryan, even though it looks like you that caused Buster’s long wait on the riverbank…

    Having finally reached the pension. I have every intention of living as long as I possibly can. This is 1) to make sure I leech as much income as I possibly can from this fuckwitted neo-lib economy and 2) live to see the fall of capitalism (or at least the current neo-liberal iteration of it).

    We all have our small part to play…

  4. countryboy says:

    Re @ BM. (Allow me.) Fuck off. Show some class and some respect.

    Your metaphor aside @ BB.
    Cats are strange little buggers. My mum had 18 of them. They’d crawl all over her and around her dinner plate in her little hut as she struggled to eat while suffering from cancer. Personally, I loath cats and God only knows why their presence isn’t regulated like that of dogs.
    A couple of years ago and just after I moved into my new house I found bits of birds about the place. Some of whom were native species.
    I did trap the cats eventually. They were two large, young and fit tabby cats and the perfect predators. I then took them to the vet because they’re very difficult to strangle and they don’t sit still long enough to be able to run them down with a car. Joke.
    Chill out @ BM. You can park your self righteous bile up against your undoubted hypocrisy.
    There’s also a great little parasite humans can get from cats called myco plasma which directs those infected to get ever more cats.
    Here’s a good TED talk which touches on that subject.
    Ed Yong .
    Cats can easily get their noses out of joint and I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if, in fact, the cat baited your new dog so as to play the victim. Seriously.
    When my mum died, and I mean going through the actual process as she lay in her bed in my house, I watched as she passed away. I saw the last beat of her heart in her neck. And as she died, she had her favourite cat sleeping in the crook of her arm. The cat’s human-given name was ‘Betsy’ but after mum died, I renamed her Cat So Kitty. ( We went to a registry office. There was a ceremony afterwards. ) She seemed a very kittenie kind of cat for her older age. She was so a kitty of a cat. As my mum passed away, Cat So Kitty lifted her head from her sleeping position and followed an invisible line to the ceiling. I know! WTF? Right? I gave my mums sister the Cat So Kitty but I got the bugger back again after she, my aunt, died relatively unexpectedly at 90 while waiting at the Dr’s in Invercargill, ironically because of a cat bite. Not Cat So Kitty’s though , I hasten to add. The bite was from a stray cat that used to come through my aunts cat door. My aunt would have kicked it up the arse while shouting “ Fuck off ya’ bloody mongrel! “ My aunt died sitting in a chair in the waiting room surrounded by kids and people and the consequential hub bub and clamour which was equally ironic because she chose to live on her own for the greater part of her life.
    Then I got to have Cat So Kitty. Yay. Whoop. Joy. Cat So Kitty was, I must confess as a cat loather, quite the lovely little beastie. We, that is she, my dog and me, all got along swimmingly. Eventually.
    Then, one day she simply decided to move out. She’d swing by now and then, tail up, rolling about on the lawn and tellingly smelling like an old woman’s perfume. You know the kind? “ Is that fly spray or… ? “. Cat So Kitty also put on about 9 kg then disappeared altogether. Such a shame, really. Very sad…Very, very sad. I have a tear. I do.
    Back on-topic.
    ” I can’t tell you when the bodies of neoliberalism and inequality will float by the riverbank of our society, but I know it will happen one day and I’m not going to give up until it does.”
    Absolutely fucking tremendous to hear @ BB. Me neither.

  5. I can’t tell you when the bodies of neoliberalism and inequality will float by the riverbank of our society, but I know it will happen one day and I’m not going to give up until it does.

    Bryan, I have a belief that we won’t have long to wait…

    The neo-liberal “revolution” came barrelling down upon us suddenly, dramatically, noisily. In the “Dirty Decades” of the 80s and 90s, it seemed There Was No Alternative…

    That was TINA.

    But it turned out that TINA was feckless.

    Now we are courting LISA… Lets Implement Saner Alternatives.

    LISA is more sensible and looks for more compassionate solutions. Those solutions will be implemented quietly, slowly, with subtlety, so as not to spook the propertied middle classes…

    As I wrote in a previous blogpost, the counter-revolution to neo-liberalism won’t be televised (to mis-quote well known jazz singer/poet, Gilbert Scott-Heron) – it will be more like a note slipped under the door.

    Neo-liberalism was a shiny new fad in the 80s (after the dourness of the Muldoon Era), but I think we’ve grown tired of that particular raucous toy; have grown up a bit; and realise that there is more to society than making money and the Cult of the Individual.

    John Key was the “last gasp” of that failed era and his lack of legacy speaks volumes. His vacuous smile represented the emptiness of neo-liberalism and eventually people saw through it.

    Maybe that’s why he resigned so suddenly. He knew what was coming.

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