Monday, March 1, 2010

Looting versus scrounging

Reuters is reporting that looting is becoming prevalent in Conception in Chile.  This city was devastated by the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that occurred over the weekend.

Reading about this, Haiti, and Katrina got me to thinking about the taking of things that don't belong to you during emergencies.

Here's my philosophy:

Taking essentials such as food, water, diapers, and medicine from abandoned stores when there is no legal way to get it is scrounging.  But if you back up a truck to the store and you and your buddies fill it up so you can profit from the ill-gotten supplies is looting.

Negotiating with a shop owner to basically get an IOU for the supplies that you want to get from him when money just isn't there is scrounging.  Threatening shop owners with a mob and just taking everything in the stores is looting.

Picking through rubble to find some clothing for you and your family after you got out of the house at 3 AM is scrounging.  Smashing a shop window to grab some designer clothing and a TV is looting.

Asking your neighbor who was lucky enough to not take significant damage from a disaster to take your family in in exchange for labor and what supplies you have is scrounging.  Running your neighbors off or killing them so you can take over their property is looting.

Scroungers can be forgiven so long as they are only taking what they need.  Looters should be used to decorate light poles.

Let's face it, both scrounging and looting are bad choices.  People who basically have to steal to get the necessities of life have no other choice.  Taking what's not yours when society in general is in a state of chaos tends to get one shot.

The lessons I take from all of these incidents is that I can only rely on those who I know I can trust, and I have to be able to provide for my family myself.  For me, that means having a means to house and feed them in the event we can no longer get food and shelter in the normal ways, knowing enough about first aid and health care to take care of minor injuries and illnesses and how to prevent what I can't treat, and to protect them from anyone who might seek to take those things away from us.  Counting on scrounging and charity to provide for your family should be the last resort, not the only choice.
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