Friday, December 11, 2009

The Spectacle Buries The Lead

So here in the land of no internet I have had to resort to such old fashioned methods as newspaper reading and talking head watching to get the news.

In the local paper the there were 2 stories recently.

Story 1: (not local) a man lies in an emergency room waiting room for 90 minutes. During that time 3 homeless people steal his watch. The man dies.

Story 2: (local) A police car pulls up to a a car wash late one night to find 3 kids (a 15 year old boy, a 13 year old boy, and a 12 year old girl) trying to rip off a vending machine. The police officer chases them, and tries to TASER the 15 year old and the girl runs to where her mom is parked.

The mom is single.

The family is black.

They are poor and the mom is unemployed.

The entire family is arrested and charged with grand larceny, including the mother. Yes, they are charging a 12 year old with grand larceny.

What is the purpose of these stories? It is to reinforce the idea that stealing is bad. Common sense right- stealing bad, not stealing good.

Common sense for who though?

For the 3 homeless people who stole the watch, common sense is finding a way to eat that night. A dying man's watch might provide it.

For the family? I can think of several reasons those kids might have been out trying to steal from a vending machine, one not terribly noble but common one. I was a kid once, what kid hasn't tried to rip off a vending machine or tried to shoplift a lipstick. Kids are kids because they don't have the fully functional brains of adults.

The other reason is tragic.They are poor. Their mother isn't working. They are hungry, or the lights have been shut off, or the rent is due, and the easy money from a vending machine seems like temporary relief.

But the spectacle says "Stealing is bad".

What is stealing? Stealing is about property rights, ownership, control of resources. If you steal a little, common sense says you are bad, not deserving of human rights. You are a scared black teenager who deserves to be tasered for committing a horrible crime on an inanimate object.

Nature disagrees. Nature tells us to survive. However you can, you must survive.

We ignore the human issues. We ignore that a man lay dying in an emergency room for 90 minutes while havering a heart attack and being ignored by the doctors and nurses. We ignore that because his property rights are more important than his life. Should we ask him? Would you trade that watch sir, in exchange for life?

We ignore the poor hungry family, the violence of an officer of the state against a child committing a crime so small that most of us did something similar. A crime that hurt not a single living being. We ignore that those kids whose lives were awful before the vending machine incident have now lost each other, and their mother, and their freedom.

This is common sense. Stealing is bad. Well stealing small things like a watch, change from a vending machine, a couple hundred bucks from a convenience store is bad. Steal big, extort a couple hundred billion from the federal government or a pension plan, or electricity customers and you get bonuses. Property rights before human rights. Property rights for only those who own enough property.

This is the spectacle. This is not real.

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