There's a news channel in Japan that has a cat on set. While experts and politicians come to discuss big issues like war and nuclear power, the cat bounces around and pries for attention.
At some point, the network execs must have decided that the "cat video lover" demographic is worth targeting. If there's enough demand to fill half the internet, wouldn't the group be big enough to boost ratings?
Still, it's hard to imagine how the network got that idea. Can you imagine Japanese businessmen with their stern faces and tight suits, discussing ways to increase revenue? Between suggesting new segments and cancelling existing ones, one man suddenly falls silent. With the most serious expression he looks up and says, "Neko." The others looks at him bewildered, because he had just said "cat".
Mind you, as per local customs the meeting could have happened during a Sake-fuelled dinner meeting, which in hindsight explains a lot about Japan. It still doesn't explain why the idea was acted upon: the follow-up must have happened during the sober hours.
Weirdness aside, wouldn't the channel's guests feel that having a cat in a newsroom trifles serious conversations? There are plenty of big topics to debate: climate change, Fukushima, North Korea... What if there was some world-altering tragedy? Can you imagine turning on CNN or Fox News, catching the footage of the plane going into the second tower, and oh look there's a Siamese chasing an imaginary laser.
How can you reconcile something so serious with something so mind-numbingly trivial?
Yet I imagine that day after day, discussion after discussion about all kinds of doom humanity will face, the one constant would be the cat. The happy cat is either playing or sleeping, ignorant of all that's happening outside his little box.
Maybe there is some depth here. Maybe the cat symbolizes something. Maybe that something this: that no matter what happens out there, life goes on, by definition, for those of us that are still alive. We have to have some way of keeping ourselves happy and healthy enough to tackle life.
Or maybe it's about perspective. Assuming whatever disaster that struck a particular day did not kill you, what would be more important to you than to make your life bearable, and maybe a little happy? Whatever might make you smile -- say, your cat -- it would be the biggest thing in your life, much bigger than whatever is happening on the news.
I don't know if the message and symbolism is intentional. It may or may not be a comforting message. Then again, if it's not a controversial one, then all TV networks would have cats.
I'll end with a Kundera quote from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting:
But are tanks really more important than pears? As time passed, Karel realized that the answer was not so obvious as he had once thought, and he began sympathizing secretly with Mother’s perspective–a big pear in the foreground and somewhere off in the distance a tank, tiny as a ladybug, ready at any moment to take wing and disappear from sight. So Mother was right after all: tanks are mortal, pears eternal.
--Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Honestly I just added the reference section to be able to add imgur to the reference section.