Saturday, December 07, 2013

stuff is just stuff

"Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one.  And that is theft.  Every other sin is a variation of theft...  When you kill a man, you steal a life.  You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father.  When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth.  When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness...  There is no act more wretched than stealing, Amir." 

So says wisdom personified in The Kite Runner.  And as true as the sentiment is, sometimes life is more prosaic -- a cigar can be just a cigar.  And the sin of theft can simply be a theft.

There was nothing to surprise me when I returned to my house in Melaque.  My landlady had fully prepared me for what I would find -- accompanied by her crime scene photographs that would be quite at home on Criminal Minds.

My computer table was devoid of my “old” HP laptop and its accompanying 22 inch monitor.  Along with my Panasonic camera.  As I told you yesterday, the thieves are going to be a bit disappointed that they have stolen a computer with a broken keyboard and a monitor that barely works.  Along with six or seven butterfly drives containing some eclectic data -- and a blood pressure cuff that die in the tropical heat three years ago.

So, how did all of this happen?  With a lot of patience, I suspect.

My uninvited guests must have climbed the fence from the andador around the laguna.  They then cut through one of the security bars on my kitchen window (with a hack saw), bent back the bar, and climbed through an opening that would admit only a child.

I have no idea what criteria these Oliver Twists and Fagins used to complete their Christmas burglary shopping list, but their search was quite thorough.  Including rifled closets.

What was not taken is almost as interesting as what was.  Size was a factor.  Only items that would fit through the window’s alimentary canal.

But that was true only because the thieves could not figure out how to exit through the locked front door.  It appeared that they tried the same method squirrels use to open coconuts.

Having been defeated by the door -- showing the same lack of problem-solving as the solar system-traveling aliens in Signs who were baffled by a door knob -- the thieves retreated.  But they have now cased the joint.  There is always a possibility they will return for seconds.

And that leaves me where?  Obviously, bars are not an ultimate defense.  If they can be cut to install, they can be cut to allow entry.

The next obvious defense is to put anything of value in a safe place to be taken out only when needed.  Of course, the inconvenience will eventually result in everything being left out -- just because it is easier.

Or I could just do nothing.  This reaping of my goods may be a good opportunity for me to look at what I have and to once again simplify my daily living arrangements.

But you know what I will end up doing.  I see a larger monitor in my future.  Probably re-stationed to be less obvious to the eyes of passersby.

You may be wondering why I am avoiding the obvious elephant in the room -- crime in Mexico.  I have spent a lot of time writing about how most northern talk about crime in Mexico is hysterical hype.  And this incident is not going to change my mind.

One of the Mexico message boards has been running a little piece from some front organization named Asociacion Mexicana de Asistencia en el Retiro (AMAR) about how safe Mexico is for retired people.  You can get a feel for the Oliver Stone fact-manipulation with assertions like:  “The Yucatan is as safe as rural U.S. states” or “Mexico has very low violent crime rates.”  My favorite was “Mexico City is 4 times safer than Washington D.C.” -- a sentiment that probably does not carry the author’s intended impact.

All of the bold statements were based on “factual” crime statistics from Mexico and other countries.  Of course, crime statistics in Mexico are about as objective as a presidential address.  Far more aspirational, than descriptive.

But we expatriates will grab at almost any straw to convince our friends and relatives that we do not live in a country that is slightly more dangerous than Syria.  Even if the propaganda comes from a group that shamelessly advertises itself as “a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging and helping people from outside Mexico to retire in this country.  Its mission is based on freedom, trust, well-being, and security for retirees making their future home in Mexico.”  In other words, a shill for real estate agents.

What always bothers me about these groups is that they play on people’s ignorance about the difference between statistics and probability.  To claim that Boise is twice as dangerous as Melaque is not to predict that a given person has a greater probability of being a crime victim in Boise than in Melaque; it merely informs the person that they will have more neighbors who have been crime victims in Boise.

But all of that is mathematics -- and it is nowhere near as sexy as pointing out that someone else’s problem is twice as big as their own.  Schadenfreude on steroids.

Am I ready to pull up stakes and move somewhere else?  Somewhere else that is devoid of the basic human nature traits of stealing, lying, and cheating?  But isn’t that just another way of asking whether I can escape from my own human nature?

So, here I stand.  I can do no other.

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