Tuesday, May 06, 2003

There's a really disturbing discussion going on in a comments thread over at Alas, a Blog. Amp started it out with a post on shoplifting, in which he talked about having shoplifted fake firewood from a chain store during a particularly rough winter in Boston, admitted that he felt no guilt about it, and wondered out loud about the moral issues involved in shoplifting. As you read down the comments, though, there's an interesting shift in tone. At first, it's mostly folks critical of shoplifting, but understanding that sometimes necessity is the mother of moral flexibility. Gradually, though, there's a shift.

[disclaimer: all of the quotes below are out of context and without attribution. If they were bloggers, I'd put links, but they're just commenting in a blog, so I'm just linking to that post, and you'll have to follow the comments link to find out who said what. I considered putting names to the quotes, but that wouldn't really be fair since I'm pulling out the stupidest, most extreme things they said. My goal here is to highlight bad ideas, not hold up to ridicule the morons who mouthed them. *wink*]
I would never shoplift (or condone shoplifting) from an individual, or a small, independent store. From a corporation -- fuck yeah. The bigger the corp., the more I'd support that shoplifting.
{snip}
Charities, etc. don't work. It takes time, energy, cutting through far too much red-tape, etc. I'm not saying people shouldn't find out what's available and apply for what they can. But, while waiting, take what you need. That's how I feel.
There are still a number of people speaking out against shoplifting, but you've got a lot more of the sort of muddle-headed leftist logic I didn't really think existed outside of Horowitz columns:
Until basic services are provided to our populace sans charge, sans red tape, petty theft for survival purposes will always be with us and will always, on some level, be entirely necessary.

Until such time as those things are available: let the faux-logs flow out the Caldor's doors.
Even the tone of those opposed to shoplifting begins to change: "Now, I'm not saying we should shed a tear for the poor retailers of the world, but we should be aware that it's not simply massive corporations who are getting screwed."

And then we have this gem:
I'm of the opinion that no one has the right to be vastly wealthy when some people in the same society go hungry or homeless. If the government isn't going to redistribute sufficient amounts of wealth from the rich to the poor, then it only makes sense for the poor to do this for themselves.
I don't even know where to start with that.

I'm not an Objectivist, by any means. Fact is, I find Objectivists extremely annoying, but I try not to say so too often in public, because they react to criticism a lot like Scientologists, but without the lawyers. And Objectivists are more fun to tease than Scientologists, though not as much fun as libertarians, who almost all have a sense of humor. What was I saying? Oh, yeah. I don't believe in rights.

Right to life? Yeah, right. Tell that to somebody lost in the jungle or drowning in the ocean. Hell, tell it to the shark that just ate that drowning guy. It's more accurate to say you have a right to death, as at least we know that's going to happen to you. Life is hard, and if you want to thrive at it, you need brains, luck, and hard work. You can still succeed if you've got two out of three, and you can get by with just one, but if you don't have any of the three, well, you're fucked. And no talk of rights is going to change that.

Me, I've done pretty well with brains and luck. But there've been a few times I wasn't so lucky and had to fall back on hard work, and as a result, I feel for those poor bastards that hard work is all they've got. Part of my luck is that I've often benefited from the kindness of strangers. And friends. And family. Because I've been given so much, it's left me feeling like I owe something to the world, so I give back a little, mostly in the form of kindness to strangers, because that's the method that feels best to me. And believe me, this is all about me.

Selfish as I am, I'm more than happy to pay my taxes to support public schools, welfare, Medicare, food stamps, and all the rest of the ropes in the social safety net. Last month I voted to increase my own homeowner's taxes to help the local school district make up for budget shortcomings from the state. Why? Because I love kids? Hell, no. I hate the little fuckers. Shoot at 'em with my BB gun when they walk past my house. But the public expression of ignorance hurts my ears, and, besides, as long as they're in school, they're not walking past my house. BBs cost money.

As far as the safety net goes, those programs promote social stability and give people a reason to hope. All of us. The gazillionaires who shape our world have often come from the lower classes, and when the next Andrew Carnegie comes along, I'd rather see his money go to libraries than militia men. Not to mention the fact that I'm an at-will employee, and could very well be broke again someday, at which point I'll be damn glad that safety net is there.

Or maybe it's just this: At any given point, there is entropy, and there is anti-entropy. Think of it however you like. There are people making messes in the world, and there are people cleaning them up. There are people taking coffee, and there are people making coffee. Now, I drink a lot of coffee, but there are also a lot of people in my office who drink even more than I do. Which means that when I take the last cup of coffee and make a new one, it's almost guaranteed that I will not get a cup of that coffee. It's a peculiarity of the system that I never drink the coffee that I make.

But I still do, because somebody has to, so I might as well be that guy. And I don't want to be the guy who take the last cup of coffee, but doesn't make a new pot. I used to think nobody wanted to be the guy who takes the last cup of coffee, but reading some of these posts, I feel like I've just met a whole bunch of people who would cheerfully take the last cup, but don't even care what drawer the filters are in.

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