Monday, 17 April 2017

Thou Shalt Not Steal. (Particularly on 'Good Friday'!)

(Prompted by the theft and non-return of my wallet on Good Friday!)

'Theft' never fails to leave a psychological scar that is hard to describe and is nothing to do with the physical objects (including the paper notes) taken. More to do with being a target, being vulnerable and the treachery one human can evidence to another. 

Of course in the scheme of nasty things that can and do happen, this hardly scores, but the practical indifference of responsible premises management and police rubs salt into the wound. The thought that these individuals have your personal details doesn't help either. 

Personal items taken without consent, whatever they are, up to and including life, seem to me, to break a fundamental and universal law of trust. In the removal, the person who 'takes' (who we rightly describe as "criminal") is potentially damaged, as well as the victim. 

We hear that Prince Harry is belatedly coming to terms with the loss of his mother, perhaps the most severe of all thefts - though why he should get such head-line attention is any body's guess. We recognise that he is only one of hundreds of thousands similarly affected. Perhaps in drawing attention to one, it will make us more conscious of the others?

That in fact the world is full of thieves and loss, particularly in geographical areas of deprivation and conflict, is a sad reality. Every time we so-called "Christians" drop a bomb, we partake of the same.

Perhaps one of the most egregious examples of theft on the international stage is the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli State and its consequent appropriation and destruction of Palestinian property that continues to this day. The paradox is only too apparent.

Of course it is only a recent example of the human propensity to claim ownership or the exclusive rights over land, even when owned or occupied by others. It has been the history of occupation, invasion and empire since time immorial, where might has been right. Mr Trump is only the latest demagogue to ignore the logical implausability of his destestation of "illegal immigrants", when the whole nation is founded on the principle. It has led some to conclude that, "ALL property is theft." (1)

On a personal level, the only positive that we can draw from loss of any kind that we might experience, is that it might promote an increased empathy for others in similar or worse circumstance; a commitment to do what ever we can to help them; and a resolve not to act in similar manner. 

And of course there's the small matter of 'forgiveness' - perhaps the hardest to apply. Not for no reason, does it appear in the 'Lord's Prayer', that we repeat by rote but seldom think about: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us." 

It is the over-riding message of the cross particularly at Easter-tide: "Forgive them Lord for they know not what they do." If anything sums up the humanising effect of the true Christian message, it is that! 

The commandments, "Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; and thou shalt not commit false witness" perfected in, "Love thy neighbour as thyself", reinforce and complete a philosophy for life and society that we jettison at our peril.


1.  Attributed to French anarchist Pierre Joseph Proudhon in his 1840 book What is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government. Later taken up (and incorrectly attributed to) Karl Marx. It may be contrasted with John Locke's well established claim that every person has an inherent right to life, liberty and enjoyment of property, later expanded by the American Declaration of Independence (drawing heavily on Locke) to"unalienable rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". We shall not dwell on hypocrital exceptions and contradictions that are embedded in the practical application of the claim.

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