21 March 2010

Animals Don't Run Financial Institutions. People Do. Now I Understand.

From my worn but quite serviceable Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:

predation n  
1: the act of preying or plundering: DEPREDATION  
2: a mode of life in which food is primarily obtained by the killing and consuming of animals

predator n
1: one that preys, destroys or devours
2: an animal that lives by predation

predatory adj
1 a: of, relating to, or practicing plunder, pillage or rapine b: showing a disposition to injure or exploit others for one's own gain
2: living by predation: PREDACEOUS: also: adapted to predation

I was moved to meditate on those words after hearing a news report on the radio referring to the "predatory lending practices" of the credit card industry, ones that this latest spate of legislation in the US is supposed to mitigate or prevent. It led me to thinking of the differences between animals and people, tigers and businessmen, sharks and criminals. As with many behavioral issues I ponder, it seems to point very sharply to motive and intent.

Predation 1: Greed and lust.
Predation 2: Necessity and hunger.

Predator 1: Conscious effort arising from Predation 1.
Predator 2: Instinctual effort arising from Predation 2.

Predatory 1a, b: Humans acting out Predator 1.
Predatory 2: Animals following the mandate of Predator 2.

Hearing the practices of the credit card industry, and by extension commercial banking and associated entities, labeled as "predatory" seemed both fitting and insulting to people and animals, respectively. It's almost as if people cannot bear the implications of their own exploitative behavior. "Predatory" in this context is said with a faint tinge of unease and distaste. It is this association with the violence of animals that is implied to be ruinous and savage, as if animals acted as much out of licit malice as humans pretend they do not.

If there was only a way to disassociate Definition 1 from Definition 2. Watching a tiger bring down a deer fills me with awe and respect. It is understandable; the tiger, like me, needs to fill his belly and one deer will do. Tigers do not act out of greed. Tigers may take advantage of the weak and slow, this is true. But tigers do not say to the deer "This is a great deal for you, friend!" while administering the killing bite.

Watching money bring down human beings fills me with disgust and fear. It is incomprehensible to me...but then, I have a conscience and a sense of propriety. Money does not. Greed and lust may make human beings predators, but it does not make them animals. If animals understood pride as people do, I imagine animals would be offended by the comparison, and would demand that we stop the slander.


  1. I agree, animal slander should be banned. We should attach a caveat to the new health care proposal!

    As with anything I think greed in moderation is just fine. Greed coupled with unethical behavior, not so much.

    Really great post! Namaste!

  2. well said,Gumbo.

    perhaps "exploitative lending practices" would
    be more appropriate.

    but, doesn't trippingly
    roll off the tongue does it?

    predatory still gives'em that sense of "power" they so do crave. don't wanna discourage them from making their investors lotsa money, dont'cha know?

    good post,



  3. Greed so often goes two ways, doesn't it?

  4. There is an old saying (several really) that explains the problem:

    "You cannot cheat an honest man."

    While that is not entirely true, it does say something about the victims involved in any transaction between people. If the potential victim does not think he is taking advantage of a break, a "special deal", or putting something over on the business he is dealing with, he is likely to be more cautious. All any salesman (and a financial adviser is a salesman) does is take advantage of a greedy customer.

    That customer is not the "deer" that the "tiger" seeks, he is a less clever predator.

    Remember, the best advice is always:

    Caveat emptor

  5. Since you put it that way, I'm offended FOR the animals.

    Very thought provoking.

  6. Yeah, but money has such great pictures of dead old men on it.

  7. I agree! I sometimes think we'd be better off if animals ran things. Especially my lazy cats! :)

  8. Brilliant post Irish.
    'Dam you all to hell you dam dirt apes!'

  9. I watch my dogs and they teach me a lot about love. However, I would like to see those CEO's sniff each others' butts. Maybe that's what they do anyway.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...