Ilya Shambat

Ilya Shambat
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
November 21
Adda Enterprises
Born in Russia, family moved to America when I was 12. Got a degree from University of Virginia at 18. Worked for Oracle, translated four books of classical Russian poety, was part of San Francisco and Washington, DC poetry and music scene. Good friends with San Francisco's own Persephone's Bees and acquainted with Patch Adams. Currently married with children, residing in Australia and working on a clean energy technology implementation.


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MARCH 13, 2012 6:20AM

A Predatory Subspecies

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After having dealt with a number of the type, I've come to the conclusion that there is a predatory subspecies in humanity that needs people to pick on and that would do everything in its power to ensure that their prey remains with them or within their striking reach.

Typically this predatory subspecies has lots of stated reasons for its behavior. The main one is portraying their food as evil or dangerous, thus deserving of being preyed upon. Not only do the members of this subspecies drill this concept into the heads of their food in order to keep it; they drill it as well into the heads of other people, denying their food a way out.

Many members of this subspecies find their ways into positions of power and authority, where they can keep preying on people in the name of law, religion, family or the country. Overtly the worst wind up as prison guards and make a career out of sadism. But we also see similar predatory behavior in any number of judges, teachers, policemen, priests, imams, mental health professionals and social workers, as well of course as any number of people who become parents.

This predatory subspecies is driven by two considerations: Being able to prey upon people, and being able to get away with it. Their strategy toward the latter is to prey on people in ways that other people see as legitimate. While some of these qualities are found in any number of people who become criminals, the criminals are amateurs at this trade; whereas prison guards, teachers and judges are pros. A professional will beat an amateur in most cases; and the more effective predatory types find ways to do it legally and with the sanction of society or community behind them.

The professional predators therefore rarely get called on their behavior; and the people who do call them on it are typically subjected to danger. Which means that most of these people not only get away with it but get to claim that they are doing it for the sake of everybody else. Confronting a professional predator is therefore more demanding than is confronting a criminal; and the worst of the type don't wind up behind bars but rather running society.

There has been research in recent years into the sociopathic personality disorder; but I decline to state that these people are sociopaths. I've known one person who had that diagnosis, and she did not do things of this sort. Whereas, with say police corruption, we see it done by whole departments and then not done by them any longer when credible efforts are taken to correct the problem; and it would be unlikely that, in those situations, the entire police departments consist of sociopaths who then stop being sociopaths when they are put to scrutiny for their misdeeds.

The most effective predators therefore become authority figures and learn how to prey on people with others' approval. The school bully becomes the policeman, the politician, the judge, the defender of the community, the military personnel. The immature form of predatory behavior becomes the mature form of predatory behavior. And this predatory behavior becomes a vast influence in society to turn it into the worst thing that it can be.

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Why characterize this as a subspecies, as if there some major genetic difference involved rather than merely human behavior prompted by specific circumstances? The Stanford experiment
( ) demonstrated that ordinary random individuals behaved so badly that the experiment had to be cancelled.
Agree with Jan: that predator lurks in all of us. (So does a self-sacrificing hero...and a coward and all the spectrum of human behavior, admirable and otherwise.) It's something I used to brood about - if I'd been a 'regular' gentile in Germany during WWII and its prequel, how would I have behaved? (I seldom wondered how it would have been to be a Jew, cuz that was just too awful to contemplate...)
This made me think of the scene in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" where Lisbeth Salander gets her revenge on her predatory rapist "guardian". I was thinking this was why that scene brought such pleasure, the pure simple justice against someone who is used to getting away with it and who so obviously deserved it. And yet my own pleasure in that brutal revenge is also a kind of predatory sadism as well, which I was able to celebrate and experience as near pure joy in that moment because all feelings of sympathy for the target had been dissolved; he had sacrificed his rights to civilized treatment.

I guess any job involving a uniform is perfect for the predatory sociopath or sadist who wants to cause others pain, who needs that as a release for their own inner hurt. And yet I've seen police officers in San Francisco respond to cases of domestic violence or people on the streets getting aggravated and on the verge of violence; some of these guys are very well trained in conflict resolution. In a few cases it felt like watching psychologists at work rather than uniformed thugs.

I guess maybe we are all on some kind of edge between benign and malign to some degree. Our couple hundred thousand years as hunter gatherer tribal societies is where our psychologies were forged, an environment where we had to balance between in-group cooperation and peace and out-group hostility and violence as a matter of survival, and so these capabilities lurk inside us today, under the tentative restraint of more recently evolved "civilized" cultural standards.