I’ll Take That (Bad News Week, #3)

The topic of yesterday’s post (prostitution, including children) probably deserves a lot more discussion and even more action. Thanks to those who suggested ways of doing that. Today, however, we are continuing with another type of crime that is undeniably on the increase, often accompanied by violence/assault. Many more examples, including home break-ins, could easily be added to the list below, but it will suffice to introduce the subject.

As the economy has crumbled, thieves all over the country have become increasingly bold and increasingly desperate.
The following are just a few recent examples….
*In Fresno, California the damage caused by thieves stealing copper wire from city street lights is costing the city approximately $50,000 a month. So far, about 2,500 street lights have been stripped of their wiring.
*In northern Alabama, one group of crooks has been using a forklift to pull entire ATM machines out of the ground.
*A while back, a team of ambitious thieves in Pennsylvania actually stole an entire 50 foot long bridge.
Other crimes are committed by members of the government. In Chicago, the bodies of poor people that don’t have enough money to bury themselves are being treated with absolutely no respect at all by government officials. Just check out what Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says that he found….
“Babies are buried 10, 15 to a box. They’re buried in there with animal remains. They’re buried in there with arms and legs from body parts they found during the course of the year. It is not anything that our county or society should ever sit there and say is acceptable”
Can you imagine that?
What kind of a monster would do such a thing?
Of course I could go on for ages about the sick corruption of our government officials, but that will have to be left for another day.

We’re not talking about petty theft that has always been a bit of a nuisance to many people; what is happening today is thievery on a much larger, more highly organized and technically sophisticated level. On that last note, one has only to think of identity theft and the many financially and psychologically ruined folks left in its wake. Even with due caution, it seems anyone can be defrauded in a variety of ways with just the slightest slip of security measures. The point is that it takes a great deal of time, planning and savvy to pull off the heists cited or alluded to above.

To what do we attribute the increasing mockery of what most of us learned at a very early age: “Thou shalt not steal”? Have we really, as a culture, abandoned this as a principle? I doubt it. One might even argue that of all the Ten Commandments, it is the one most forcefully adhered to by our legal system as well as by public expectations–we want to be able to keep our stuff, both as private citizens and as civic entities. Yet theft happens.

And what of the citing of the Cook County findings? Is there a connection between this and the incidents of brazen thievery? The writer apparently thought so, though it was not immediately evident as to why. Maybe it is simply that the loss of respect for other people, the devaluing we have spoken of in previous posts, cannot help but carry over into a loss of respect for the right of private property. If we don’t value the people themselves, we have no reason to honor their right to their own stuff, regardless of what it is. Maybe it’s the price of living in an impersonal world, where people deal with one another on superficial or digital levels, without personal interaction that builds a sense of commonality, a sense that our prospects rest at least partially with one another rather than at the other’s expense. A respondent to yesterday’s post cited Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, citing a passage highlighting the idea that the image of God we have mentioned frequently is not only, and probably not primarily, an individually manifested quality; it is about life in community, intended by our Trinitarian, relational God. Attempting to find our meaning or success on our own, without regard for community, may in fact lead to the sort of devaluing that makes theft–and disregard for burial remains–understandable.

Any thoughts?

2 thoughts on “I’ll Take That (Bad News Week, #3)

  1. There are many ways to respond to this posting from philosophical to pragmatic, so for this reply i’ll take a pragmatic thin slice and reiterate something i taught in a financial seminar I did at my church (I was selling nothing, they were looking for outofbox ideas). Once upon a time in America you were limited to attack by what your locality or region could generate in perpetrators, railroads and cars added a little to this but not much. Now anyone in the world, can be attacked by anyone in the world, this is a general concept to mull over, but the issue here is stealing money.
    What I suggested is that having fungible, story-of-value assets that were not bits on a computer would be a good idea. My great uncle used to keep 10 dollar gold pieces in his cellar.

    I ponder from time to time, how this developing universal one to one possibility with attendent zero privacy will shape the commandments. Thou shall not lie is on its way to getting a bit boost.

    • Perhaps, as my good OT colleague has said for years, learning the heart of the command giver supercedes the following of the specifics of the commandments–and moves us toward embodying their purpose in new situations.

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