They say that opportunity will only knock once, and that if you miss it you have to hunt that sum#*@( down if you want to make anything of your life. Honestly, when you think about it, most people in your life will tell you to keep your eyes open for opportunity, and to not let it slip by. Grabbing onto opportunity is seen as the key to success in almost every aspect of life. So, why is someone who goes for every opportunity seen as a bad thing in criminal society? Let's take a look.
It's About Restraint and Respect
First, let's get something clear. I'm not saying going for opportunity is bad in the criminal world. I am saying that being an opportunist is something that is frowned upon. The reasons for this are simple. Organized crime is about two things primarily, trust and respect. An opportunist, by the very nature of their actions, ends up doing things that are very much counter to this world's ideals, and that can be a very dangerous proposition for the opportunist and the people around them.
Why? Well, are you going to trust the guy that'll stab you in the back for a bigger cut? I didn't think so. Not to say that all opportunists are back stabbers, but there are multiple ways to cause waves in the underworld, and most of them are very dangerous.
A Rose By Any Other Name...
Another name for an opportunist, and one that might get the full meaning of what the problem is, is 'Predator'. Opportunists prey upon anything they can to get ahead. They are always looking for the upper hand, the quick scheme, and all of that fun stuff. If you think about it, who better to rob than another criminal? After all, it's not like they can call it in to the police, right? If you don't leave any overt sign, it is unlikely that forensic science is going to be a case against you, and so - providing you can find somewhere to sell the goods - you're pretty much scott free. Right?
Not to keep going back to it, but for anyone who has seen the Wire, Omar is a great example of a predator (at least in the first two seasons, which is all I've seen). He goes around and preys on the weak links in the various drug selling circles. He sells some of it himself in his own area, but in general is just taking the other drug dealers' money and living off of it. It's not surprising that most of the underworld has no love for him, being as his business is preying on their business. The cops also have little love for Omar - at least until he starts helping them - he is, after all, still a criminal.
Sadly, Opportunists are harder to explain - aside from stating they are constantly looking for opportunities to better their own cause - and easier to show examples. Luckily, almost every crime movie has an opportunist somewhere in it, and they are the ones causing all the problems. Is there a take over attempt going on in the mafia? That is an opportunist. Someone skimming money from the drug deals? Another opportunist. Stealing guns to sell them to other gangs? Yep, another opportunist.
It is this dangerous ambition, to always want more, that makes Opportunists so dangerous for other criminals. They lack the restraint necessary to be good partners, and seldom want to play the long con. The long con being the safer, but smaller paying, game of course.
In almost every crime story, the reason everything falls apart is because someone can't keep their hands in their pocket when they need to. This applies from low level crimes all the way to the tippy top of white collar crime. One of the largest insider trading schemes in the world came to light because an opportunist over extended, and then flipped on his partners in exchange for a better sentence. The police use opportunists to catch drug dealers all the time, grabbing someone with a 'better deal' and then turning their fear and lack of will to stand tall for their peers to get evidence higher up on the ladder. yes, this can be a broader use of opportunism, but the concept still applies.
Opportunism can play heavily into any game you run with a crime element. We'll talk about that part of it on Thursday.