I mostly ride my cheap 800 dollar aluminum road bike through wealthy suburbia. So normally I don’t take many precautions about its being stolen. It’s not that rich people don’t steal. If you follow the local news closely you’ll be surprised at how many nice 5-bedroom McMansions owe their existence to Medicare fraud and insider trading. It’s just that they don’t steal cheap aluminum road bikes. That’s no real mystery.
(The only thing that confuses me about wealthy suburbia is why rich people make their kids sell lemonade in front of million dollar colonial revivals. I suppose it’s all about teaching them the virtues of capitalism. The wealthy make their kids cosplay as entrepreneurs at a very young age. Then when they become 40-year-old Wall Street dads they buy Ford F-150s and cosplay as rednecks).
In any event, in the fall, I’m going to be commuting to a university campus in a high crime area of a major city on an expensive Brompton folding bike. Realizing that there will be times when I’ll probably have to leave it outside, I started shopping for U-locks. The cheap cable lock I use out here isn’t going to cut it against professional bike thieves, who see university campuses as great places stake their claims. I finally decided on a Kryptonite Evolution. During my research, I came across a YouTube channel by a guy who calls himself “The Lock Picking Lawyer.” If you think your bike, or any one of your possessions, is safe, then think again. Any lock can be picked, cut, or twisted open in a shockingly brief period of time.
One video and a bit of Googling and I was able to open an old Master combination lock that was sitting in my drawer, and for which I had long forgotten the combination, in pretty much the same way. The point, I suppose, is fitting the level of security you’re using with the circumstances. You don’t really need a very good lock when you go to the gym. Most of what you keep in your locker is fairly worthless. It’s indoors, and anybody in proximity to your easily picked lock is in a towel, drying himself off while talking on a cell phone, or being watched by naked men drying themselves off while talking on a cell phone.
But it got me thinking. Whenever I get into an argument with someone on the Internet about gun control, he (or even sometimes she) will inevitably say something like “Since I know you don’t have a gun, I can find out where you live and steal everything you own.” Of course that would be a waste of time and bullets. It would be much easier just to wait until I’m not home and kick the door down. I’m only 5’11” and 182 pounds and there aren’t many doors on many suburban houses I couldn’t easily kick in with a little effort. In fact, I very rarely even bother to lock the door. All they really do is keep honest people honest. I suppose a home alarm system with a direct line to the police would be much more effective than a gun or a thicker door, but in reality there are probably “lock picking lawyers” who can defeat a home alarm system as easily as they can defeat a cheap padlock.
Why don’t the poor and working class simply march on the wealthy and take their stuff? Well that’s easy to answer. The rich spend an enormous amount of money on police, whose actual job isn’t to protect my life but to protect the property of the rich. Everybody major city in the United States actually has a small class army mislabeled a “police force,” mislabeled because, as anybody who had the shit beaten out of them by the NYPD during Occupy Wall Street learned the hard way, the police don’t prevent people from stealing. They actually enable the ruling class to steal. Occupy Wall Street gained mass support in the Fall of 2011 because many Americans realized that the sub-prime mortgage scandal and Obama’s subsequent bailouts were a massive transfer of wealth from main street to Wall Street, from ordinary Americans to their oligarchic masters. Occupy Wall Street died out because everybody realized, just as quickly, that it was impossible to protest in the face of heavily militarized urban riot squads hired by the banks to prevent people from calling them out as the white collar criminals they are.
Liberals are obsessed by the idea that Russians “stole” the election from Hillary Clinton, and that Jill Stein “stole” votes that rightfully belonged to the Democrats. But who are the biggest thieves in the world? It’s not the Russians or the Chinese, the Iranians, or even the Saudis or Israelis. All you really have to look at who has the biggest world police force, and that’s none other than we Americans. Every one of those 5 bedroom McMansions, every one of those Ford F-150s, every one of those lemonade stands manned by 9-year olds with trust funds was made possible by the American Empires. The problem is it can’t last forever. The American Empire is economically and environmentally unsustainable. Sooner or later, “we” are now going to be able to afford spending more money on the military than the Russians or Chinese combined. Sooner or later, we’re going to realize that we wasted trillions of dollars on aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons and ended up with nothing but our own paranoia and a dying planet.
In his classic novel Les Miserables, a Catholic Bishop named Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel gives a desperate, recently paroled convict named Jean Valjean shelter for the night. Valjean pays him back by stealing his expensive silverware. After he’s captured by the police, Valjean is brought back to the Bishop’s house with the stolen property, but Myriel doesn’t accuse him of theft. On the contrary, the old Bishops tells the police that he actually gave Valjean the silverware as a gift. After the police leave, to Valjean’s astonishment, all Myriel asks him is why he didn’t steal a pair of silver candlesticks too, which he promptly turns over to Valjean with the injunction that he use all of the stolen property to get on with his life and become an honest man.
The gendarmes retired.
Jean Valjean was like a man on the point of fainting.
The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice:—
“Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.”
Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:—
“Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”
Later we learn that there’s actually a method to Bishop Muryiel’s madness. Not caring about property was freedom. He could travel anywhere he wanted. He could take to the road and spend the day in the mountains and not have to worry about highwaymen or cut-throats since everybody knew he didn’t carry money or valuables and wasn’t worth robbing. Where other high churchmen needed to surround themselves with squads of policemen and soldiers and had begun to resemble Pontius Pilat more than Jesus, Myriel could just get on his horse any time he wanted and go anywhere he wanted. He was a genuinely free man.
Perhaps we Americans should follow his advice. Think about how much richer we’d be if we weren’t stealing from the rest of the world. Think about how much happier we’d be if we didn’t need the greatest military the world has ever seen or the most repressive surveillance/security state in history.