Everyone has a tale of theft. Either someone has taken something from you or you have stolen from someone else. We rarely feel comfortable admitting the latter but my oh my, don’t we all like to target the other when we have felt robbed.
I’ve never been a train or bank burglar but as a kid I enjoyed the exploits of bandits like Butch Cassidy, the James Brothers, and Bonnie & Clyde. I was so emotionally kidnapped by tales of that Prince of Thieves, Robin Hood, that I visited Sherwood Forest in England when I was an adult. I could never excuse violent acts but I think there are times when theft can be forgiven, if not justified. Looting is a form of theft that can take place after a natural disaster. Studies in the wake of break-ins after Hurricane Katrina suggested that desperate people were seeking food, medicine or shelter. These were acts of survival not of anarchy. I believe that rioting can be a response to societal theft: When one person or group abdicates their part of the social contract (providing government oversight, a living wage, adequate health care, access to education), then that agreement is henceforth non-binding.
As a child I was tempted many times to lift something in the manner of the Artful Dodger. Once I spied a set of magnets in a clear cellophane pack on a display rack at a local five and dime store. I had learned that year in grade three that a magnet has a mysterious ability to attract. In an impulsive moment I pocketed the package. I couldn’t believe I made it street side without sirens or flashing lights. I rushed home and hid my shoplifted booty in the very back of one of my dresser drawers. There it remained for months, unopened. As an adult who should know better, I took a stapler from a teachers’ workroom at the school I worked at, ostensibly to organize some student marking while at home. I soon rationalized that it was mine. While not a moral dilemma equivalent to that fictional loaf of bread stolen by Jean Valjean in the novel Les Misérables, it’s a source of personal regret notwithstanding.
We could use some modern ‘rob from the rich/give to the poor’ stories. I keep struggling with the whole concept of ownership. Our life is so short, so why not share. An equitable tax system would help. Wages based on the common wealth of a nation would benefit everyone. The societal balance sheet is tilted in favour of the wealthy. I feel profit is a form of theft. Intellectual property is a scam. I wonder how Banksy feels about copyright laws. Passive income from tax sheltered corporate shares is also theft. We’re being robbed!
I was once mugged while delivering pizzas but I kept my dignity. Never let anyone steal your sense of who you are, your time, your identity, your future or your opportunities. Keep your true and precious self inviolate.