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Are We All Thieves?

Updated on August 8, 2014

Shop Lifting

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“I am not getting my money I kept in my shirt pocket.” My uncle told us in a whisper.We were totally baffled as to how could that happen in a secured family environment like ours. It only pointed to our failure to provide him the necessary protection when he had come to our house to enjoy on a weekend. Totally embarrassed my father began to question all of his family members to investigate the matter. Although during such allegations the needle of suspicion is generally directed towards the menial staff members such possibility was immediately ruled out as the only cook cum servant had remained absent for quite a few days at that time with prior intimation. However, we were spared further grilling as the guilty person was soon apprehended. Imagine our surprise when my friend who used to visit our house often was found to dig in a nearby plot of land surreptitiously to hide his stolen money tucked away in a small tiffin box.

My uncle was a teacher and a much unorganized bachelor. Instead of putting the blame on anybody he took upon the lapse on himself to ease out of the embarrassing situation happening in his close association. Though my friend had confessed to having lifted the money from the pocket only to buy a beautiful pen he was let off after a stern warning. The matter pointed to a general tendency among the children to grab money from any quarters to satisfy their cravings for something they do not easily get. The uncle, a very learned and practical man later recounted the whole incident in presence of my father to analyse the events leading to such an unsavoury occurrence and concluded by the famous quote “There is a little bit of larceny in everyone. What keeps people honest is the fear of being caught.”



Up to a Mischief

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The incident remained etched in my memory and I have seen huge number of such cases in my life. Borrowing books for a day or two and not to return the same in life time is a very common practice. The lenders generally feel shy to ask the borrower, a close relation or friend, to return and this gives the borrower sufficient courage not to turn up in near future to allow the lender to forget the important object for good. How I have been relieved of my precious possession of lexicons, reference books not to speak of important notes and photographs can make sad but good stories. I cannot but recollect one such loss of lifetime when my cousin brother decamped with an album containing postage stamps of almost all the countries only to sell that off to a local notorious boy to collect a cheap cinema ticket. But it can be dismissed as mere child precocity done out of puerile behaviour. But when we hear an aged person making off with his favourite cigarette packet without permission can we remain cool?

When we call an unknown object lifter a thief the same rule does not apply to our dear friends or next door neighbours doing the same mischief as if unknowingly.

Difference between Theft & Larceny

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These two words are almost synonymous and they refer to the simple taking of anything of value with intent to permanently deprive the owner. Common examples of theft and larceny may be shoplifting or taking something from a store. Larceny denotes a type of theft. It involves an example of moral turpitude when an individual takes property such as goods or money without the owner's permission for personal use. Theft entails taking property from an owner without permission or consent with intent to use or sale. For an example, a person who steals products from a shop and tries to sell them later commits theft. However, if a person steals property for personal use only commits larceny. Theft is then a generic term describing all property crimes---including larceny. Larceny includes two types: petty and grand larceny. Petty larceny consists of a misdemeanor crime where an individual takes property valued at a small amount. Nevertheless, larceny doesn't include taking other property like real estate.

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Avoidance of the law of the country like traffic or income tax rules is common in developing countries but when we hear an organization like Planka.nu has come up in Sweden to teach the interested customers how to ride metros or buses dodging fares we can’t not remain silent as this unethical practice if not checked in time might travel to other countries depriving them of the hard earned revenues. Although many countries can claim not having such declared organizations in their places but it only gives credence to the general theft proclivity among human beings. Not to speak of the individuals when we hear complaints like extra billing by reputed firms without delivery of all items or charging more than what is legitimate we cannot decide whether this a kind of theft, sharp practices or just negligence.

Before I conclude I feel enticed to cite another example of petty larceny we often do as a child. While visiting my friend’s house one day I noticed a number of chalks in his son’s drawer. When I casually enquired whether he had purchased a box full of the material he replied "Oh! Why should I when we have so many boxes of chalk in our class room”?

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    • ARUN KANTI profile image
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      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 2 years ago from KOLKATA

      WillStarr-I must thank Mrs. Greene, your teacher who had discovered your talent giving us the opportunity to find an excellent writer among us. I could not find a better illustration for the difference between the two words, LARCENY & THEFT. I have joined Hubpages to publish my stories and reach the international audience while learning a lot from them in turn. Thank you very much for your wonderful comments which have enriched my hub.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Excellent!

      Stealing a loaf of bread to feed a family is larceny, while stealing that same loaf to sell is theft.

      I'm a new fan of Arun Kanti

    • ARUN KANTI profile image
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      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      B. Leekley- Thank you very much for your visit and comments.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      An insightful look at theft.

    • ARUN KANTI profile image
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      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      @Mel Carriere -Thank you for your stopping by and leaving such wonderful comments which have enriched my hub.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      I guess we are all crooks to one degree or another, and the difference is only in the level of our larceny. My mother was so honest she wouldn't even pick up a dime on the sidewalk and made me leave it in case the owner came back. This philosophy has followed me all of my life, but I have been known to swipe a pen from a supply cabinet or a pill from a first aid locker, so I guess I am as guilty as anyone else. Great food for thought.

    • ARUN KANTI profile image
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      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      @teaches12345-Thank you very much for your visit and apt comments.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      It is sad we have to watch our funds when around certain people. Glad your friend confessed to the theft and hope he learned from his mistake. Yes, the fear of being caught is what keeps people honest. If only people would naturally keep ethical standards without the enforcement of law.

    • ARUN KANTI profile image
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      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      @FlourishAnyway-Thank you very much for stopping by and expounding your views on the subject.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I would hope the shame of getting caught and the values of integrity and honoring another's personal possessions would enter into the fray at some point. Parents need to step in and set good examples themselves.

    • ARUN KANTI profile image
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      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      @Suzanne Day -In fact joining Hubpages I have got the rare opportunity of learning a lot from you when you write on varied and interesting topics. Thank you very much for your visit and finding the write up useful.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      I didn't know the difference between theft and larceny, so thank you for explaining! Voted useful.

    • ARUN KANTI profile image
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      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      @DDE -Thank you very much for stopping by leaving such wise comments. I look forward to reading your interesting hubs after a well deserved short break.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I always check my cash slip and make sure every item is paid for and that I have all in my packet before leaving the store well-mentioned hub.

    • ARUN KANTI profile image
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      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      @MizBejabbers-What an excellent candid submission! I had one such experience. As a child I was coming back home one day on a cycle which had a problem. I went to a repairing shop but could not pay for the paltry charges as I had no money then. Although I had promised to pay later I never went back to the shop on the pretext of very long journey or a meagre amount involved. I did not report to my parents either, who would have compelled me to rush to the shop to pay. Now my conscience really pricks me since I could not follow the examples set by my parents. Thank you very much for your visit and such wise comments.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Food for thought, my friend. As a child I never shoplifted because my parents ingrained it into me that it was wrong. I have always tried to stand by their moral teachings. But riddle me this: We too frequently do not get home with an item or two from a particular supermarket where we shop. Sometimes we catch the item at the car and go back inside and retrieve it where the cashier failed to sack it, but once we are home we are just too tired. When we discover that they have failed to charge us for an item, should we consider it makeup for the items we didn't get or should we go back and pay for it? Again we are usually too tired to go back an make a correction.

      I guess we should ask what would Abraham Lincoln or WWJD? Voted up++

    • ARUN KANTI profile image
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      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      @MsDora -Thank you very much for your visit and such wonderful comments. Even most honest people now have to compromise with dishonesty some time. Social degradation has come to such a pass that out of fear psychosis one can not remain 100 percent honest.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Your article is very practical."What keeps people honest is the fear of being caught.” I'm sure that this is quite true; everyone faces the temptation at some time. However the values of honesty and integrity also have their pull. Thank you for this good presentation.

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