Coffee Break: Why the woman is yelling at the cat

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 28, 2019 - November 03, 2019.
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In the past few months,  the “Woman Yelling at a Cat” meme has taken over the Internet. If you have been scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, you would not have missed this amazing piece of art.

Well, unless your Facebook friends are really boring and the people you follow on Twitter are just a bunch of parrots.

Now, for those of you who are less social media savvy, let me give you a primer on what you have been missing.

A meme is an image — typically humorous in nature — copied and spread virally by Internet users, often with slight variations.

“Woman Yelling at a Cat” is a double-image reaction meme that became an instant classic this year. In the left panel, an emotional blond woman is in tears, yelling and pointing at someone just out of the frame. In the other panel, a confused white cat is sitting in front of a plate of vegetables.

Extreme anger and utter confusion. You could use this meme whenever you want to highlight a seemingly needless emotional outburst — even your own.

Nowadays, there are way too many topics that you would not want to discuss openly with any random person. You may not even want to discuss them privately with your friends.

These days, you are deemed wrong if you are politically incorrect. If you have an opinion that goes against popular sentiment, you might become a social outcast.

If you disagree with some folks on a certain topic, they might overreact like the blond woman did in the meme.

And all you can do is sit there awkwardly — like the white cat — and wait for their anger to subside.

While everyone has a right to believe and practise what they want, some tend to force their ideals and ideologies onto others. Take the Hong Kong protests. Relations between Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese have become tense in recent months,but many Malaysians have also become embroiled in social media feuds over this issue as well because of a difference in opinions.

What I have been seeing is that when people disagree, they start calling each other names. Not many make an effort to try and understand the other’s point of view so that they can meet halfway, come to a compromise and agree to disagree.

As Simon & Garfunkel aptly put it, “People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening.”

Today, everyone has the urge to “correct” the other person without looking at himself. Everyone wants his opinion heard but not everyone is patient enough to listen to other people’s opinions.

Often, we are so full of ourselves, looking down on others and acting as if the universe cares about our opinions.

In the old days, we would get upset if someone read our diary because it was deeply personal and we expected other people to respect our privacy.

But today, we have a view on almost everything and get offended if others are not aware of our stance on issues we  post on social media.

And when someone disagrees with you or don’t take your side, you step all over them, labelling and bullying them.

Anyone can be a keyboard warrior in the internet space. But the fact remains that peace obtained through forceful acceptance is not really peace — it is submission.

So, what is my secret to inner peace and happiness? There is a Chinese proverb that goes, “When you see a human, speak in human language. When you see the devil, speak in the devil’s language.”

Simply put, know how to be flexible and know what to say in different situations to different people.

No matter what topic is brought up in conversation, before you find out the other person’s position, do not put your foot in your mouth and force your view on others.

Well, you may label me what you want, but as long as I can avoid conflict and arguments, I’ll be fine.

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