Are We All Thieves?
“I am not getting my money I kept in my shirt pocket.” My uncle told us in a whisper. We were totally baffled as how could that happen in a secured family environment like ours. It only pointed to our failure to provide him the necessary security 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. During such allegations the needle of suspicion is generally directed towards the menial staff members. Such possibility was, however, 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 cinema ticket 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
The incident has remained etched on my memory since then and I have seen huge number of such stealing 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 a 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 treasure 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 tennis ball. But it can be dismissed as mere child precocity done out of puerile behaviour. But when we hear an aged person making off with a 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
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.
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”?