By Thomas Page
There was a nation called Newlandia which existed in a time not unlike our own. It had majestic coasts sprinkled with fishing villages. It had glens bearding mountains and mountains cutting into the skies. The little country had no reason to be recorded in history because it kept to itself and its citizens did things civilized people do like eat as the sun set, talk about the weather, and celebrate the unwinding of time. What made Newlandia unique was its parliament which was composed solely of Newlandian cats.
To answer your first question, cats in Newlandia were not any different than your run of the mill American or Russian or Australian cat. They still meowed for wet food and tore up your quasi-expensive sofa, but Newlandia cats had legislative powers.
The cats would be placed into the chamber lined with touchscreens on all sides. Bills would come up on the screen and have “yea” or “nay” options. The cats would either choose “yea” or “nay” by interacting with the screen.
The people would write these bills. You did not have to be elected to submit one. There was this email account available where you would send it. If it was meant to be, it would have been decided by the cats. That become a popular saying there.
But why would the people do this?
When they had the Old Parliament, the MPs would often be accused of favoritism, nepotism, and other vile -isms. This was especially an issue when it came to lobbyist. Bills would be written with a particular group in mind. The people were fine with it because it mostly was in their favor, except during tax season.
A guy named K. Emerson, who most would call eccentric, called the news one day. He wanted to talk about the state of affairs in the country. The only thing going on in Newlandia that day was that it was National Cheese Day, so they let him on the broadcast.
Mr. Emerson was even stranger in person. He wore an orange mackinaw coat, a hat covered in fishing lures, and pointy dress shoes. Under the mackinac was a suit with many embroidered fish on it. He insisted on wearing the hat on air.
He talked about how bad the current parliament was. He said was it wasn’t very Aristotelian because some Newlandian voices were not equal. It wasn’t very Rawlsean because some opinions were not equal. The anchor-person asked what he wanted to do about it. Mr. Emerson reached into his bag and produced an orange tabby. He introduced her as Crepe Suzette. He went to explain that the reason for human suffering was humans themselves. Therefore, he reasoned, the best solution was to remove the human factor in laws. The laws would be decided by cats like Crepe Suzette. They went to a commercial break for whitening toothpaste.
Many Newlandians were perplexed by this interview. Surely he couldn’t be serious:a parliament of cats? They laughed and got another drink from the kitchen.
Other people, however, considered it.
Mr. Emerson then posted a video explaining how exactly this would go down. He went over the random aspects of voting and how each citizen would be able to submits bills. He then made a website with Crepe Suzette wearing a little stovepipe hat with all of this information on it. You could submit a picture of your cat wearing another presidential accessories. It was cute and it was popular.
Election season came around and the Old Parliament had received many letters about this idea. They, of course, focused on relevant issues like tax reform and healthcare. The people didn’t care about minutiae of law codes. They cared about whatever outfit Crepe Suzette was donning today and how she and the other cats would revolutionize democracy.
There were T.V. debates with serious, well-established MPs arguing with a cat that was ceremoniously plopped onto the podium by one of the Crepes, as the supporters called themselves. The MP would try to reason with the audience and the viewers at home that a cat could not fulfill the role that a person could but then the cat would meow or yawn or even leave the podium and the audience would turns its attention to the cat.
On the day of the election, there was serious doubt whether some of the candidates would be able to beat their cat opponent. Mr. Emerson had all of the cat-idates (as he called them) congregated at his house to watch the election results. The news begrudgingly included “Cat Central” as one its areas of focus. No cats won that day. It seemed that Newlandia had experienced a one-off event in its usually boring history. Maybe they would have a national holiday for it.
The next day, a cardboard barricade blocked the entrance of the parliament. Emerson, the cats, and a contingent of their supporters had sealed off the doors. The prime minister, Timothy Newman, walked up to the barricade and politely told Emerson, his cats, and his supporters to leave. He wouldn’t budge. Parliament went in by climbing over the barricade as cats scratched at their heels.
This went on for two months. MPs would climb over the barricade and the cats would claw at them. Some people started to call it a civil war. Prime Minister Newman reminded his fellow citizens that cats do not have civil wars because they don’t have sovereignty. Mr. Emerson, however, liked the term civil war and hung a banner that said “Fighting for All of Earth’s Creatures.”
Finally, Parliament decided to hold a referendum on the question about cats. Thinking it was a shoo-in, the made it an ultimatum: either the cats would lead or the people to finally put to rest this cat business .
Leading up to the day, there was fierce debate about the reliability of a cat-only parliament. Some agreed that cats cannot be swayed by lobbyist but others said cats can’t be swayed by anything. Mr. Emerson and Crepe Suzette made the rounds to talk about his “truly democratic vision.”
The day came. The people voted for the cats 50.5%. It counted. The cats were in charge. The people were out.
It was decided that parliamentary elections would be irrelevant because no one could decide between cats so all of the cats who would participate would be the parliament. This meant that any cat could be a MP without a prior election. They called this the New Parliament.
The world was quite amazed by this strange little country and its even stranger government. The people still led and judged but the cats legislated. Crepe Suzette was the first cat to enter the chamber. She and her MPs began to waltz around the room as Prime Minister Newman (if he could be called that) read the duties of office. He closed the chamber as the cats wielded total control. People were allowed to place cats in the room and put food and water in the room.
This system worked for a while. Some days water would be banned by the cats. Other days it was mandatory. All bills went on like this.
When the people questioned the legitimacy of the cats, it was met with a shrug of the shoulders. “It’s the cats’ will,” a voice would say, “if it’s meant to be, it will be decided by them.” Life went on despite the controlled chaos of the system.
One day, a bill came into the parliament. It proposed that Newlandia ought to start war with everyone (including Switzerland) “just because.” By this point, no one was watching the New Parliament and had gone on with more interesting things like pie recipes and reality shows. The bill appeared on the floor. The cats slowly went to the “yea” side of the room. The bill passed without a single “nay.” This had never happened before.
The government had to decide what to do. They could veto it but what would stop someone from submitting it again. Some people even wanted to start a world war but cooler heads prevailed and the bill was vetoed.
The next day, a filter was put on the bill service which had someone review the language of a bill which contained “war,” “battle,” or “conflict.” They also asked the people to please consider the implications of their bills. This worked for a while.
On the final day, no one could anticipate the effects of what was to come. Newlandia had automated several of its services including the stock market and the military for ease of use. It was a model for the rest of the world because it took the human error out of important things.
The first bill was submitted early in the morning. It told the stock market system to withdraw all of its assets. The cats voted “yea” and the market fell. This happened while people were commuting to work and little could be done to stop it. While they were trying to save the market, the second bill came into parliament. It proposed removing the human intervention in military affairs because of “bias.” This also passed. The third bill came soon after. It made it illegal for humans to enter into the chamber during the session.
Someone who was taking a break from the market crisis saw that bills two and three had passed. He went to get someone when the fourth one came in. It proposed that all of Newlandia’s nuclear arsenal be dropped on the ten largest cities including the capital.The cats slowly meandered around the room as the bill appeared. They began to move towards the “yea” side. The man came back in as the bill passed.
He stood there for a minute.
He couldn’t do anything.
He sighed and sounded the alarm. ‘
He could still try.
As the world around them fell apart, some say the cats were attracted to the light from outside. They crowded around the window as nine successive bursts of brilliant light rocked the building. They made that trill noise cats make as if they were hunting the iron birds above them. A roar of a jet shook Parliament as the iron bird flew overhead. They didn’t see the tenth light.