Sunday, Jul 03, 2022
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What If I Were To Tell You

Unlike weight-lifting and power-lifting, it is a pity that shop-lifting doesn't feature as a skill that one could wear with pride in public.

Representative image of shoplifting
Representative image of shoplifting Shutterstock

Although I don’t remember the first time I did it, but it must have been an exhilarating and empowering experience. Else I wouldn't have pursued the creative act that set me apart from my flock at the college and thereafter. 

I will not confide the number of years I have been into it, but I have never been caught in the act. And I am not embarrassed to admit that I have been an amateur shoplifter because there are innumerable others who do so but lack courage to admit it. Shoplifting has fascinated people of every nation, race, gender and class ever since the first such incident came to light in London in 1591. I am sure it would have pre-existed.
 
Despite its long-established illegality, the fact that there are innumerable others who are as good at it is curiously reassuring. Like copying that all teachers are aware of, shoplifting is every shopkeeper's lived experience. In many ways, both are incorrigible human traits requiring a loose, casual energy, a sort of oneness with the environment like walking or kite flying. 

No justification is being offered, but the urge is so instinctive that once you do it, you feel obliged to carry on. Unlike weight-lifting and power-lifting, it is a pity that shop-lifting doesn't feature as a skill that one could wear with pride in public.    
 
There are any number of people who shoplift. I say this not to excuse myself but just so you can visualise that a legion of young, energetic, and intelligent people are into the act. This should not come as a surprise to find Britney Spears, Megan Fox, and Lindsay Lohan topping the list of celebrity shoplifters. Being a woman has its advantages, but why would the rich and famous need to go around? Because shoplifting is not the worst crime in the world, and in a hushed voice most admit to “feeling guilty for not stealing, as though they were wasting money”. No wonder, many do consider the whole world to be one giant heist.  
 
Now, don't take this to heart. Viewing it through a moral compass would reflect an incomplete picture because it is not the act per se but the idea that needs to be understood. Does everyone not feel secretly fraudulent in life? Discreetly, everyone does! It gives a feeling of being an adult, to secure freedom to do as one deems fit. 

I doubt if not being a shoplifter makes one an upstanding citizen, a sweet person. My sense is that by labouring obsessively over the creative pursuit of shoplifting one hurtles through systems and hierarchies as if these were irrelevant. Indeed, many are, and the reason to have no qualms about slipping curios and books into the bag. 
 
As you begin to disbelievingly wonder if what I told you is true, let me share with you the other side of shoplifting that recently came to light, which is shocking to say the least. 

Whilst every shoplifter evades being caught, many elderly women in Japan instead resort to petty shoplifting to get arrested. There is a disturbing reason to it, and a reflection on how society treats its elders. Living alone prior to going to prison, these elderly women describe jail as a way of creating for themselves a “community that they can't get at home”. For them, jail is a sanctuary that provides not only company but also support and care. Can't believe that shoplifting can help in fighting loneliness?

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