Years ago, when I first moved to Miami, there was an incident at the Metrozoo in which a tiger killed a zookeeper who had entered its enclosure in order to drop off more food (“Purina tiger chow”?). The enclosure encompassed two separate “tiger areas” and apparently the zookeeper thought the tiger was in the other part of the enclosure and that the gate connecting the two areas had been sealed. He thought it was safe. Unfortunately for him he was wrong, and the tiger attacked, killed and mostly ate him.
This was a media sensation for about a week, and I remember listening to a radio interview with Metrozoo’s head zookeeper, who was asked if the tiger would be “put down.” I loved the zookeeper’s indignant response: “Hell no the tiger isn’t gonna be ‘put down’! The tiger was just being a tiger! He was doing what tigers do!”
I remember thinking that this was exactly right. We pay our money and go to the zoo to see large, dangerous animals close up. When somebody screws up and that large, dangerous animal kills someone . . . well, that’s why we pay our money to look at them. Because we know that they can.
That was probably one of the reasons I liked Gladstone’s Cracked.com article as much as I did. For those of you too lazy to click over and read the thing, Gladstone uses tigers as stand-ins for this “cold unfeeling beast we call capitalism” and asks:
If you visited the zoo and your whole family were mauled to death by several ferocious tigers, would you march to Indonesia, protesting the insatiable blood-lust of tigers? Would you seek to have tigers removed from the zoo even though they’re the biggest attraction, selling the most tickets and keeping everyone in business? Or would you just, y’know, be furious because the Zoo forgot to lock the cages? I thought we all knew tigers were dangerous and we agreed we’d keep them around anyway because we had competent zookeepers and big steel bars.
I was explaining this concept to a buddy of mine this morning, when he interrupted me and suggested something new.
TMan: Yeah, I get what you’re saying. The government is the zookeeper who forgot to lock the cages.
TMan: But don’t you think that is letting the American people off a little easy?
Swellsman: How do you mean?
TMan: Well, I mean, c’mon . . . . we’ve made such a big deal out of loving the “free market” and “private enterprise.” Don’t you think we’re kind of to blame when these corporations reach out and maul someone to death?
Swellsman: I don’t follow you.
TMan: Remember that Australian tourist woman who jumped, like, three fences and a ditch to have her picture taken with a friggin’ polar bear? And then the polar bear ate her?
What d’you suppose she was thinking when she did that? Oh, you’re a cute liddle cuddly-wuddly multinational conglomerate. Yes you are! Yes you are!
How’d that work out?
Not good, right?
Swellsman: Not good, no.
Tman: Well, there you are. Sometimes we do these things to