Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Covet Not Thy Neighbours' Goods

Who would believe that people could be so petty, so grievously greedy, so utterly without ethical standards that they would behave in such underhanded ways to advance their self-interests? Hands up, everyone. We're all believers! How's that for coincidence? Seems we've heard enough stories, read sufficiently about mean-minded people and even, on occasion, experienced misfortune ourselves at the hands of unprincipled people out to benefit themselves, to engage as believers.

One incident after another appearing in the news, or relayed by personal conversation, leads us on occasion to despair about the general situation where people behave with no regard whatever for their responsibility to others. For morally contumacious behaviour, how about this latest story out of Oregon. The popular on-line website, Craigslist, is used by many people, who want to act on the community level to alert others about acquisition opportunities.

Items that are no longer needed, ready to be taken away by anyone who might find use for them. And that's entirely reasonable; a way to recycle material goods that still have intrinsic value, and may be desirable for others to own and to use. Of course there are other ways to hand off items no longer useful, places like the Salvation Army whose thrift shops sell these things for small profit to those who see value in them.

But Craigslist fills a vacuum in communities where people want to advertise on line, to give others an opportunity to acquire things. Like all well-meant ventures, this too can be misused by people whose warped sense of humour, or just downright nasty connivance to do ill to others, take advantage of the site, visited by many in any community.

Imagine, if you will, harbouring a grudge against someone, of so severe a nature that you really do intend great harm to them. And you do this by posting a classified advertisement on Craigslist, alerting interested would-be acquirers that the contents of a specific home have been seized for non-payment, or that a home has been abandoned and the goods contained in it are there to be collected by anyone interested.

A stampede of interested people ensues, swiftly cleaning out the identified home. The homeowner, unaware of what has been occurring, either away on vacation, or simply away for the day at work, returns to his or her home to find it emptied of all their belongings. Which is just what happened to a man in Jacksonville. He was away at work when a concerned neighbour, seeing all the activity outside his home, telephoned to alert him that something appeared to be amiss.

He hurried home to discover his property crowded with vehicles and people busily loading his belongings onto their trucks, in their cars, and speeding away with their triumphant acquisitions. Others - roughly 30 other foragers - were busy in his almost emptied home, prepared to haul away items of interest to them. He asked them to cease and desist, said everything belonged to him, and no one was interested in listening.

Those who would stop to talk with him said it was their right to take these things into their possession, they were invited to do so by the advertisement posted on Craigslist. Some even held up the printed copy of the Craigslist advertisement before they sped off. His home was liberated of everything in it; appliances, electronics, gardening equipment, including the swing on his front porch.

Police were called, but too late to halt the ransacking. They let it be known that anyone found with this man's belongings would be charged with theft. Some people did shamefacedly return what they had taken, leaving items piled on the man's driveway. Police are in the process of attempting to identify the malicious individual who posted the false advertisement.

One supposes the devastation of losing your worldly goods to this kind of nasty misadventure would be matched by the very real pain of the thought that someone you know finds you so detestable for whatever reason that they would ransack their mind for a cute little trick of this kind. Mere spite? Revenge for some imagined slight? An estranged former intimate?

Evidently it's happened before, in Tacoma, Washington, where the phony advertisement read "Moving out ... House being demolished. Come and take whatever you want, nothing is off limits." That human ingenuity could stoop so low, become so utterly morally degraded as to engineer a miserable event like this on anyone bespeaks the casual evil people can visit on one another.

In the second case that occurred in Tacoma, the woman was identified, apprehended, charged with second-degree burglary and criminal impersonation. Here's hoping she warms a jail cell for a little while, allowing her ample opportunity to re-think her brilliant scheme.

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