Theft and Rationalization


Mad Max, Waterworld, Resident Evil, Knowing, or The Book of Eli... welcome to post-Civilization.

I try to keep my mind in the present rather than thinking about ways to upend life as I know it.  But it's not hard to fall into Hollywood thinking.

Whether it's a watching the collapse of law in New Orleans after Katrina or just remembering a severe gasoline shortage we had in Atlanta a couple years ago, it's fairly easy for the mind to appreciate how precariously we live in expectation that our basic needs and services will always be readily available.

Connecting the dots isn't hard, especially when I trim the number to three.  If there's no gas, there's no food delivered to the local grocery story.  If there's no food in the grocery store, there's certainly not any in the back yards of suburban homes as a backup.  Hello, hunger. How much of a food supply do we maintain in our pantries?  How desperate must things become before suburban neighbor considers turning against neighbor?  It's the same line of thinking that scared so many with Y2K, bless them.

This weekend I read an article that 80% of those in the metro Atlanta area who fall under the poverty level live in the suburbs.  If asked, I would have pointed a finger at the city of Atlanta for where I suspected the greater number resided.  That's one of eight people in the area living below the poverty  level.  That's pretty amazing.  And surprising.  And disturbing.

Recent estimates speculate that over 15% of our population is out of work, when considering both those who are counted while receiving unemployment benefits and those who fall outside the metrics who have exhausted them.  At what point do the civilized consider criminal options in order to meet their basic needs?  Fun With Dick and Jane without the fun...

My thoughts necessarily returned to this subject as we had a camera stolen from our car when my wife was visiting a business vendor, leaving it unlocked and unattended for about 5 minutes... in a residential neighborhood.  The camera was a Christmas gift to ourselves, and it wasn't a dust bunny.  We had already used it a lot and were very satisfied.   There's no one to pass the loss on to or to make it all better.  We're out the money.

There's a judgmental rage that broods as the incident recurs in my thoughts.  They're probably common within the victim mentality frame of mind.

Boy, if I could get my fingers around his neck!  

Is there no respect for others' property? 

Do people even care that someone else worked to earn what was taken?

Did no one ever explain right from wrong to the creep who took it? 

I'm reminded of a friend who once counseled someone who "supplemented his income." This person worked at a car wash, and, in his mind, anything found in the car in an unobvious place was fair game to be taken, places like in door pockets or underneath the seats or between the cushions.  The rationale was that, basically, the owner had lost them as evidenced by their current location, and if he found them while vacuuming the car, then he was entitled to take them.

The two cases probably don't relate.  But the latter does take my mind off a (deserved) righteous indignation, and it makes me wonder about the person who took the camera.  I could view the thief as an alcoholic or a drug abuser.  That doesn't lead to any happy thoughts and is a dead end.  To move on, I, instead, prefer to think that maybe he's unemployed, with dependents, in a house facing foreclosure, and no food in the fridge.  So, I hope whatever money he gets from the camera improves his life, even if only for a day or a little longer.  I can get another camera, and I'm grateful that I'm able to do so.

Excuse me while I keep repeating that last bit...


  1. I can see your point; I just can't agree with it. The thief did not find the camera in some hidden place where your wife may have "lost" it. No. It was in plain sight. But he did have take the step of breaking into the car. Sure, the door may have been left unlocked, but entering with out permission is breaking in. Quick and simple, he is a predator. Perhaps everyone was lucky they did not encounter him when he was doing the crime.

    I realize it does not help you with your last paragraph, but someone truly in need, with dependents, etc., would not lower themselves to being a predator.

  2. The point was more that I don't know the thief's motivation, but will always remember how one rationalized it and thought it worth sharing.

    The bigger thought is not the one person who makes a decision to commit a crime, but more to reflect on the possibility of mass scale anarchy as the result of unemployment. When do the civilized become uncivil?