You cannot justify stealing

By Ben Moriarty

Last week, I lost my wallet.

I was in between two classes, going to the library to print out a paper. As I ventured toward that giant brick monstrosity in the middle of campus, I passed my friend. We talked briefly, causing me to be late for my class, and also making me have to hustle to the library to print it out.

I successfully printed out the paper (I hadn’t lost my wallet or UCard yet), and then went to my next class. As I sat down, I noticed something.

Why isn’t there an uncomfortable lump on my rear?

As you probably know if you keep a wallet in your back pocket, it leaves an uncomfortable lump on your tuckus until your body can stop registering it as new stimuli.

For me, those lumps are usually never registered as new stimuli, but that day, it was. I had a hole in my back right pocket, forcing me to keep my wallet in my back left pocket. So while I was uncomfortable for most of the day, if fate hadn’t spared me to be wearing crappy jeans with holes in the back, then I wouldn’t have noticed that my wallet had gone missing.

Upon realizing it was missing, what went through my mind was what would have gone through anyone else’s mind at the time. I had just turned 21 last week, and if I lost my temporary license, I wouldn’t be able to go out drinking that night. Or the next night. Or the next.

So I did what every other college kid would have done. I got up, left class
and went to retrieve my license in what would probably be a failing attempt. And, God willing, my wallet as well.

On my way there, I went through many scenarios in my head.

I wondered what would happen if I walked in, saw my wallet on the ground from afar, scurried over, but then saw someone pick it up.

If I went over and said, ‘Hey, that’s my wallet,’ and then he tried to pick a fight with me because he really wanted to have my Tufts Health Plan card, I figured I would just let the guy have it if he wanted it so much.

More than likely, though, I would just not find it. I would go, search the
ground, ask some random people, and then it would never be found. I would have to call my mom to figure out how to deal with my lost debit card because I am an incompetent fool.

Then I contemplated as to why someone would steal a wallet on the ground anyways? Not many people find it morally acceptable to steal from a store, but if you find a wallet on the ground, it suddenly becomes okay to take the money from it or just steal it entirely.

This reminded me of the just-world phenomenon, where people rationalize what they do and convince themselves that the person deserved it in some way.

You’ve probably seen this many times in your life. Like when you talk to
Republicans and they tell you that welfare should be abandoned because the people who participate in the program are lazy and abuse the system.

In my case, if someone found my wallet, they could justify it by saying I
deserved it for being clumsy, or for being irresponsible, or whatever. And while I may be all of those things, I don’t see how it is my fault that my wallet fell out of my pocket. And even if I was forgetful enough to leave it somewhere, I don’t see how that could possibly change the fact that taking something which isn’t yours is stealing.

It is, no matter what rationalization you can come up with. If something isn’t yours, and you are able to return it to its rightful owner but choose not to for whatever reason, it is stealing.

So I scoped out the library, never found my wallet, and was distraught that I lost my new over-21 license.

In a last-ditch attempt, I asked the library’s front-desk clerks if someone found a wallet.

And in fact, someone had. And it was mine. With my license, cash and racially nlightening health card all still in it.

So to everyone who is willing to return an iPod, wallet or phone instead of
taking it for themselves by using rash rationalizations like the fact I am an idiot, thank you.

And for those of you who are not willing to succumb to the just-world phenomenon, the world thanks you as well.

Ben Moriarty is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]