The Psychic Bartender: Opportunity Knocks

July 14, 2011

"k1f" Kirby Farrell

Old pal Kay comes into the bar for the usual vegetarian stew and a glass of refreshing philosophy with a head on it.  It’s slow in the bar, so of course we chew on the news — which this week happens to feature the usual headlines about predators.

A mother is acquitted of murdering her daughter.  Passions run high about the acquittal.  Everybody loathes a child-murderer. The State of Texas put to death a dad, Cameron Todd Willingham, for allegedly incinerating his daughters in a fire at home one morning.  A psychologist told the court that a skull on the defendant’s macabre rock & roll posters indicated vicious cult associations.  Neighbors waxed vitriolic about his death’s head tattoo.  That is, the usual symbol that soldiers and some working class guys use to kiss off the Grim Reaper struck some decent Texans as sound reason for a judicial killing.

And ironical too.  Because a national arson investigation found the local Texas arson report a tissue of unscientific suppositions and prejudices.


Texas Governor Perry has preserved the peace of mind of those voting to execute the perhaps grieving father by smothering a review of the scientific report.  Well, he’s dead now anyway.  Why stir up trouble?


So here we are discussing these fierce passions.  You recall California’s maddening Three Strikes law, which has locked up mostly nonviolent criminals at a cost that’s helped devastate education and social services.  Well, Three Strikes passed in a fit of hysteria aroused by the atrocious murders of young people, a coed and 12 year old Polly Klaas.

And then there’s the truly amazing coterie of Catholic priests who have been found guilty of preying on young lambs.  Turns out these weren’t freakish aberrations but a subculture within the Church.  Rome’s investigation blames the predation on the excesses of the 1960s–really.

At the bar yours truly says, “So you wonder what kids stand for that makes them such targets for aggression?”  This followed by speculation about youth symbolizing more vitality, more freedom, more future, blah blah blah.  Think here of Nabokov’s Lolita.  As in cannibalism, the predators are trying to fill themselves up with qualities missing in their own lives.

Says Kay: “But look at the natural world.  Predators always prefer to prey on the young because they’re defenseless and less able to flee.  They’re easy.”


Opportunity knocks.

If you think of it this way, we are opportunistic killers rather than demonic.  The adult animals want to minimize risk in the chase.  If they have enough caloric or psychic food around, they may skip predation altogether.

We’re creatures of systems.  Evolutionary and cultural systems.

This is why it makes sense for the neighbors to get enraged about child-murder – but also why that fury is so dangerous.  The young and weak need protection, so society mounts a massive threat display to scare off opportunistic big bad wolves.

But here’s a sly implication as the bartender refills your mug: what about the class war roiling the American political scene?  We’re treated to daily shows of foot-stomping determination to enforce “austerity” on a childishly spendthrift nation.  The austericrats want to police government spending not by cutting the corporate military budget – in fact they’re increasing it – but by cutting health and other care for the weak, the poor.  Oh, and the young.  Last I heard, more than a third of kids in the U.S. grow up in poverty. When was the last time you heard a pitchman for “family values” urge more spending on poor kids?

Well, look at it this way: the rich have always disapproved of wasting money and care on the poor.  After all, as our primate cousins show us, that would be like the alpha animals raising up competitors who might hassle them.  But there’s another way to look at it.

Opportunity knocks.

In an economic “crisis,” at a time when corporations monopolize public voices, who’ll hear the squawks if gentrified predators take another bite out of the young and poor?

Sensible predators aren’t demons or sadists: they’re opportunists after easy pickings.

That could mean the bared fangs will back off if somebody growls at them.


Come on, practice that growl while the bartender pours.



  1. Hate to sound like a prating pedagogue, but this infestation, pestiferous plague of corporate greed, fewer and fewer people controlling most of the weath in our culture, is explained in Becker’s chapter (chapter 6) on money in “Escape from Evil.”

    Becker, seizing on penetrating insights made by Norman O. Brown, says that “the secularization of the economy means we can no longer be redeemed by work, since the creation of a surplus is no longer addressed as a gift to the gods.”

    Since we can no longer redeem guilt, we repress it and become “more uncontrollably driven by it.” We hear disgusting strories of CEOs owning five or six homes, all worth millions of dollars. How much is enough for these kinds of people? We can’t count that high!

    Says Becker, “Another way of putting this is to say that man has changed from the giving animal, the one who passes things on, to the wholly taking and keeping one.” I’ve got mine; to hell with you, buddy!

    The CEO counting his millions, never satisfied with what he has, driven to accumulate more, “contrives the illusion he is in complete control of his destiny. This man “in his one-dimensional economics is driven by the lie of his life.” He is actually pathetic, desperately trying to hide the truth that he is no more than those he sneers at: a pitifully mortal animal.

    Becker flatly states that “economic equality is beyond the endurance of modern democratic man: the house, the car, the bank balance are his immortality symbols.” Modern man, particularly those with power, “cannot endure economic equality because [they] have no faith in self-transcendent, otherworldly immortality symbols; visible physical worth is the only thing” that can give “eternal life.” We worship at the corrupt and appallingly petty shrine of Things.

    Simply put money gives one power, gives it now. The incredibly overpaid CEO thinks he is special, better than his worker. His wealth proves it to him, and apparently it proves it to many members of congress, who toady to the rich and powerful, eager to trail along after them like parasites and pick up the crumbs left behind, and ignore the needs of the majority of the people in the country. The lobbyist is important, not so the poverty-stricken child hidden away among the hordes of teeming poor.

    So the CEO, with the complicity of law makers, pays less and less in taxes while the minions of the rich and powerful inveigh against those, the poor and, more frequently now, members of the middle class, who “want something for nothing.”

    It’s almost as if some politicians are saying, “Let’s make damn sure we don’t distribute free milk to students too poor to purchase it, and, at the same time, let’s see to it that the greedy CEO gets a million or two more next year.”

    You couldn’t slide a thin piece of paper between the careless and irresponsible rich in this country and many of those sitting in those “hallowed” halls in Washington.

  2. Our predator my back off by our Grrrrrhowwl only to have our victim be snatched back up by another opportunists patiently waiting in the wings. Hell who knows it may be us. Yes we are creatures of systems, closed systems, either we deal with them or they deal with us. Dispiriting, as the veils begin to drop from our eyes, we are talking about self-esteem after all. It all comes down to how and where you get your esteem? And to keep ones foot in reality we must try receiving it from with-out. This project is a system, just feeding it’s Self……. esteem. Like the person who thinks his good deeds will be rewarded in heaven, there is a dishonesty at its core, using ones acts as means not an end. Can Man only stand alone in Madness?

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