I got to babysit a shoplifter. Apparently, he was a bad-ass and had done prison time (he'd recently turned 18) though he repeatedly asked if he could call his mother, and was quite concerned about whether or not he would be put under arrest.
The thing is, he was already under arrest. This was difficult for him to understand, though it was explained to him several times.
There were a lot of things he found difficult to understand.
For example, he didn't think he was a thief. When our loss prevention guy pointed out that he'd stolen stuff, and that, by definition, makes him a thief, he tried to wheedle around it saying that he's not only a thief. I didn't want to ruffle his little baby feathers, but it did sort of beg the question as far as what else he might be. Fashion model? I think not.
When asked why he stole, he replied that he wanted to go fishing. Okay, then.
When asked if he had money to pay for stuff, he said he had a dollar. (He took about twenty dollars worth of stuff.) He said he intended to pay for one of the items. It was worth more than a dollar. Hmm. He wanted to know if he could just pay for the stuff and leave. No, he couldn't, but out of curiosity, how would he pay for it? He would ask his friend for money. Did his friend have money, he was asked? He hung his head and mumbled no, his friend didn't have money either.
I realized then that I was in the presence of a mastermind criminal.
When asked what he did prison time for, he said that someone's uncle was on the property being scary and that he'd threatened him with a gun to get him to leave. When asked what kind of gun, he paused for a very long time, and finally came up with an airsoft gun. I guess it's possible that this may have actually happened. He was seventeen at the time and said he did three months. And he wasn't afraid of jail, he said, just prison.
He did look like a very, very sad kitty when the officer arrived and put him in cuffs.
So there you have it. A typical criminal, who now has an arrest and citation on his record, should he ever seek employment beyond fishing, which seems unlikely but hey, he may want some sort of job someday. Eventually. Maybe.
I felt a little bad for him, but you know, it's all about choices. Children take things that don't belong to them because they aren't socialized, and when they can't have what they want right now they kick and scream and put up a fuss or sneak it later. Adults recognize things like ownership, community, responsibility ... and these things are awesome, wonderful things. To a thief they're things that get in the way of immediate gratification, and are stupid. But an adult sees that:
With ownership, I can keep and take care of things. With no agreement of ownership, anyone can take anything and there's no point in taking care of stuff, having nice things, or even assurance of some safety within the home. In fact, the concept of home is fragile and one of the things that thieves destroy is a sense of personal space and haven. Thieves are, of course, outraged and upset when people break into their homes and take their stuff ....
Community: awesome. People looking out for each other, watching each others' backs, helping uphold rules that make things like homes and ownership work. Having a community is core to being able to have celebrations, conducting business, and finding help with jobs that are too big or complicated to do by ourselves. Thief boy doesn't get that his mode of providing for himself relies on the existence of a community. Without it, he wouldn't have a store to steal from. He can disdain law-abiding citizens all he wants, but without them he would be taking his life into his own hands to go onto private property in a non-community, isolated area where the resident is accustomed to protecting his own property by him or herself and takes care of their own business.
Responsibility. It sounds like a drag until you realize it has two sides: the stuff you need to do, and the fact that you can do it – you are able to respond. Responsibility sounds initially like slavery, but it is in fact freedom. Responsible people have options, capability, and by accepting the requirements of society, grow to become more and more able through practice of taking responsibility. By being a responsible mother, I become a better parent. By being a responsible animal owner, I can't help but become a better livestock owner and cat lover. When you take action to fulfill your to-do list, through action and practice you become better at things like your job, and fishing, and keeping house, and managing money. If you practice. If you work at it. If you learn and grow and change and adapt. These aren't easy things to do, btw. It's easier just to grab and demand and whine and spend most of your time sleeping both literally and figuratively, like a child. Thankfully, most children instinctively learn and adapt and change. But some get stuck at one stage or another and feel that they have all the resources and knowledge required to get by. I find it odd that so many of them get stuck at a stage when they have almost no resources or knowledge that can help them provide for themselves.
Thieves tend to consider themselves smarter than us idiots who pay for stuff that's so easy to take. I doubt he ever thought through the idea that if everyone stole, there would be no place to steal from because there would be no point in having things like stores and possessions and ... anyway.
So I gazed in wonder upon the genius before me, and thanked the stars that I am a fool.
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