The little kid steals cookies from the cookie jar. The teen shoplifts a trinket from the boutique. The young man holds up the convenience store. To take from others or to possess what is not offered freely.
The usual definition of theft or stealing generally refers to taking stuff. The act of stealing harms the well-being of others and deprives them of ownership. The person who steals also is harmed.
We can easily understand how the victim of a burglary, robbery or identity theft is harmed. But how is the thief harmed? We could maybe argue that the thief vindicates the act by justifying the act somehow. The thief loses the ability to trust himself, and in turn, others. If the thief is caught by the authorities, he loses his freedom to incarceration.
But theft means more than stealing material items from others. Frequently, other forms of theft affect society more profoundly than we have been taught to believe.
One current problem is that of pollution. Whether someone tosses out a bag of litter or a drink container from their vehicle onto the street or if a company spews poisons from smokestacks and drainpipes into the air, land and water, serious theft takes place. That is, other people are being deprived of their natural right to live in a clean, attractive environment. Sometimes the pollution is very long lived, making the land and waters unfit for human and animal habitation for many years. This is a serious theft of the public domain.
Most folks rarely associate theft with oppression. When one group or individual seeks to deny or prohibit minorities or oppressed people of rights and privilages being offered to society at large, a major theft is taking place. The theft is that of taking away happiness and well-being of others.
The oppression may be happening in some third world nation or in a superpower. A person can imagine the oppression of suffering children and adults in far off poor lands. We might even think of the workers in sweatshops in Asia.
It also happens whenever people are denied basic human rights like food, shelter, medical care, the right to marry who they love, fairness in employment practices, forming legal contracts, freedom from violence and basic human dignity. The taking away or the goal of denial of these, constitutes theft. Whatever manner the theft is explained away, a wrong is still the result.
If we stand by and do nothing while someone is being robbed or assaulted, we are guilty of aiding in the commission of a crime. But we look the other way or refuse to become involved because we’re so busy and we already feel so stressed out. Worse yet, we unknowingly align ourselves with the thieves. We affiliate with groups who wish to deprive other people of their rights. We purchase goods and services from companies that contract with oppressive regimes. We do business with those who pollute our outer and inner environment. We choose to believe those who justify the theft.
We can easily be partners in crime by just closing our eyes to injustice and finding justification in thinking that bad things will always happen to others, why make waves?
Why not make waves?
The Blue Jay of Happiness knows that true joy comes when we help others become joyful.