Sunday, October 01, 2006

To thieve .... or merely shoplift

Last night for want of anything less unworthwhile to do I wiled away an half-hour or so listening to late night talkback radio. It isn't something I make a habit of doing - so don't shout at me, please.

The host was some ulsterman or other and he seemed to be juggling a multiplicity of topics, which particular aspect of his programme was what ultimately drove me to switch over to something worth and even improving.

In the meantime he'd done quite a good job of engaging my attention, so good a job in fact that I was actually moved to drop him a line to the address given for email comments.

What prompted me to write, or rather what infuriated me to the point of writing was the limp-wristed pinko cow with her hand wringing over the fate of those poor, under-educated, generally benighted souls who resort to what she insisted on calling 'shoplifting'; driven through poverty leading to ignorance leading to desperation culminating in one or other form of chemical dependency.

In whatever world it is this dreadful woman inhabits sending these people to prison is not an appropriate response because well, prisons are full of drugs and bad people who will teach the desperate 'shoplifter' to er, take drugs and be a bad person. And anyway these people are only 'shoplifting' because they're drug addicts so they need help, not prison.

This is the sort of circular argument indulged in by bearded sandal-wearing refugees from the real world who live in places like the LaTrobe 'university' sociology department or the more obscure corridors of Whitehall. Just the sort of bloke this cow would be shacked up with I suspect.

This woman proceeded, from her frankly perilous stand-point to argue that in this day and age we should have advanced beyond any societal requirement for retribution anyway, though at one point she seemed to argue that the particular crime of 'shoplifting' does not warrant retribution - leaving of course the reasonable expectation that even on her particular planet there are some crimes so heinous as to merit 'retribution'.

What I suspect she was referring to and had her capacious knickers in a twist about is the very concept of retributive justice; something most people rather lazily refer to as punishment. I wondered rather idly quite what a human being might have to do to earn punishment rather than rehabilitation.

At this point I should confess that the idea of rehabilitation in response to criminal behaviour has always caused the metaphorical hairs on the back of my of my neck to metaphorically stand on end. I believe the reason is my inability to discern a significant distinction between rehabilitation in the context it is herein being used and re-education as widely and freely used in such disparate cultures as, er, stalinist russia, maoist china and whatever-will-workist Viet Nam.

At some point the program broke to a news bulletin featuring the discovery of a body in a church in Scotland which police and (under their direction) the media seemed quite definitively to regard as the culmination of a search for a missing young Polish woman last seen in the company of a 'known sex offender'*. I longed to ask the hairy-legged troglodyte being given so much and so totally warranted air-time whether this offence might just lie the other side of the dividing line that separates those acts meriting re-education from those offences that merit what I chose to call punishment.

I suspect the answer is that in this case she'd cheerfully skewer the perpetrators testicles on pike (and preferably while still attached) and set the whole kebab up on Tower Bridge for the masses (of dungaree wearing harridans) to chuck rotten fruit, vegetables and eggs at.

The point I really wanted to make, and I wanted to make it as much to the BBC that was giving this woman a platform as I did to the woman herself, is that there is no such thing as shop lifting. Don't believe me? Try it. I have absolutely no idea what the average shop weighs, let alone the smallest or the largest but outside the very small coterie of side-show freak 'strong men' even the ablest bodied could not lift the smallest shop.

What this woman insisted on calling shop lifing (and which the BBC continually allowed her to get away with) is theft, robbery or stealing. These are synonyms; shoplifting is a euphemism designed to disguise or mitigate the act to which it refers.

Ownership of 'shoplifted' goods vests in the shop owners until a legally binding transaction occurs to transfer ownership. Without such a transaction removal of goods from the premises constitutes theft. It's simple.

Twenty four hours later I'm not sure who I'm most disgusted by: the cow, the presenter or the Beeb itself.


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