As fair Grimalkin, who, though the youngest of the Feline Family, degenerates not in Ferosity from the elder Branches of her House, and, though inferior in Strength, is equal in Fierceness to the noble Tyger himself…
~ Henry Fielding, Tom Jones
My daughter loves all cats, but three especially: our own irascible grimalkin, age eighteen, whom she dotes on and defends from all insult; the ghostly white long-hair that pads out from the greenbelt at night; the shy little black that hides under bushes and for whose welfare she often weeps. My father used to preach that we should only love dogs and should despise cats. But without intending it he taught a secret doctrine too: his favorite animal was the tiger.
Consumer aggression is an American tradition. The ghost of H.L. Mencken was in sardonic ecstasies this past weekend over video clips of Black Friday berserkers punching, pepper-spraying and shooting their way through crowds of competing shoppers to win deep discounts on unnecessary purchases. Everyone loves a good slugfest.
Watching it all from my father’s recliner, I recalled that Homeric scene in Tom Jones when Molly Seagrim, taunted by the crowd in the churchyard, took up a thigh bone from an open grave, “fell in among the flying ranks, and dealing her blows with great liberality on either side, overthrew the carcasse of many a mighty heroe and heroine.” Rather than a thigh bone, today’s Molly Seagrim swings an iPhone or a Blue Ray player.
Of course, it’s equally traditional to be shocked – simply shocked – by such behavior. Like court-appointed advocates for the defense, journalists and economists speculated in the aftermath that The American Consumer had been suffering from “austerity fatigue” and was possessed by the demon of “pent up demand.” This kind of insanity, they mean to say, is just what we need.