Updated: Dec 29, 2022
I have a confession: I always thought "ACAB" meant "All Cats Are Beautiful." I once saw it written on a woman's tote bag in Greece while riding the metro into Athens from Piraeus.
I'd seen the acronym, ACAB spray painted on everything from derelict buildings, street signs, lamp posts, sidewalks, fences, doors, and shutters throughout our travels. My initial thought was it might be a signature of sorts or an abbreviation of a gang name.
Do my guilelessness and virility know no bounds?
When my eyes beheld that woman's cloth grocery tote bag hauling her fresh fruits and vegetables home from the market on the Greek metro, I was delighted to read the breakdown of the acronym written out in all its glory above the depicted cat's head. My felinophile heart was positively giddy!
Why wouldn't 'ACAB' stand for "All Cats are Beautiful!" I felt I had inadvertently cracked a secret formerly impenetrable code by happenstance.
Cats are beautiful.
So much so, as the self-proclaimed "High Priestess of Cats,"
I birthed an Instagram page in homage to divine feline adulation and mystical exaltation.
(Did you for a second doubt my sincerity?)
Feline beauty really ought to be acknowledged more publicly.
I had decided: These ACAB folks were my people. My tribe. My clan. I was sure of it.
I scampered, skipped, zipped, zoomed and sauntered my way through a number of countries and major cities, gleefully taking pictures of every ACAB tag I glimpsed along the way.
Bursting at the seams with mirth and euphoric insight, I pointed to each ACAB sighting with an innocent--if knuckleheaded--grin when James and I would undertake our evening strolls about town.
He seemed happy I'd found yet another sweet and charming thing to amuse myself with.
𝕴𝖌𝖓𝖔𝖗𝖆𝖓𝖈𝖊 𝖎𝖘 𝖇𝖑𝖎𝖘𝖘!
My reticular activating system kicked into overdrive. I entered into a state of hyperawareness, with a finely tuned mental filter and focus radar for all things ACAB.
Then I noticed something strange:
They read "ACAB," but the emphasis was all together different--
"All Cyclists Are Beautiful"
Admittedly, the cyclist bit threw me for a loop.
Between cats and bicycles, there's simply no comparison.
They're both great, but I think we can all agree on the clear victor of this rivalry.
ᓚᘏᗢ ᓚᘏᗢ ᓚᘏᗢ ᓚᘏᗢ ᓚᘏᗢ ᓚᘏᗢ
Cast your vote below.
I floated in this blissfully unaware state of consciousness for weeks before my veil of ignorance was lifted and the scales fell from my eyes.
My mirth was thrown into question by my friend, Sonia, from Galicia, whom I met while petting a little white cat named Lana in the village of Muo in the municipality of Kotor, Montenegro.
Above are candids of the little love-starved beggar Sonia and I bonded over--Lana Cat.
Sonia informed me a woman in Madrid was in the news, facing a hefty fine of up to €600.00 for daring to don a bag with the acronym, A.C.A.B., "ALL CATS ARE BEAUTIFUL," written upon it. The lettering was, apparently, associated with a dissident catchphrase directed toward the police: "ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS."
Upon further research and after many deep-dives, I came to learn the phrase "All Coppers Are Bastards" first appeared in '20s England, and evolved into its present-day form -the acronym, ACAB- through workers on strike in the '40s.
The acronym ACAB continues to roll through protest movements, from graffiti to signs to tote bags and T-shirts. Sometimes, it even appears in a numeric alternate form, "1312," with each number representing the place of the acronym's letters in the alphabet.
(A = 1 , C = 3, A = 1, B = 2)
It's a term with a dynamic and controversial history of the power dynamics at play in the realms and facets of protest, place, the state and its citizens.
I think Colin Groundwater of GQ put it best, when he said the following:
"Some activists have proposed revising the acronym to the marginally less offensive 'All Cops Are Bad.' But the best defense of ACAB might come from anarchists, who have been preaching ACAB for decades. As one group put it, it’s not that all cops are bastards, but rather that all cops are 'bounded'—not bad people themselves, but institutionally trapped in a system that is inherently oppressive."
As for me? I will maintain, "All Cats Are Beautiful" until my dying day.