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The story of how I got robbed

I know for a fact that there is good in every human being on this planet. I’ve dedicated an entire post to human nature in the past, where I’ve argued that humans are intrinsically good. And it’s not just humans, but all organisms in the universe. And this is because the fundamental programming that drives all life in the universe (consciousness) is designed to be in support of life.

And yet we live in a world now where we see humans exhibiting extreme and antisocial behavior. To me the reasons for this aren’t a mystery anymore; I’ve shown in a previous post where this kind of behavior comes from, namely from the environment that we live in. Our societies are structured in such a way where the right to life of every individual is constantly being attacked in one way or another.  Put any organism in such a hostile environment, and you will get extreme behavior.

I find that people can still be skeptical about this, especially when they hear this for the first time. And if I want to be honest, I can only admit that many years ago, perhaps even I might have been skeptical, though I would be open to the idea. One of the reasons why I know the above is true is because I also know it from experience; it’s not just theory for me. And I’ll share one of my experiences with you below. It was a long time ago so I’ll try to share it with you as best I can remember.

About 17 years ago — I was around 19 years old then — I used to help out at a local computer training center as a student assistant. For me it was an opportunity to have access to a computer so I could learn software engineering. At that time computers were still relatively expensive and I couldn’t afford to buy my own. So I helped out for free in return for access to the hardware.

One Sunday morning I went to open the facility for the students so they could come in and practice. I got there earlier than the usual opening hours to have some alone time behind one of the computers. While I was sitting behind a computer in the training room concentrating on what I was doing, I suddenly heard a noise coming from the reception area, which was next to the training room. The rooms were divided by large glass panels, so I could see into the reception area from where I was sitting, and I saw a guy going through one of the cabinets searching for something.

At first I was confused. I wasn’t sure who he was and thought that he could be one of the employees from headquarters who came by to pick something up. I also thought that he might be just a thief, or perhaps a student. He looked like he might have been my age.

He turned around, saw me looking at him and he walked into the training room towards me. Without getting up from my chair, I calmly asked him who he was and what he was doing here. I tried to be careful not to take any kind of drastic action before I knew what was going on exactly. If I had immediately treated him as a thief, while perhaps he was a student or an employee, that would have put me in a difficult situation later, having to explain to management why I was treating students or employees as thieves.

He didn’t answer and instead came behind me and started frisking me and asking me where my gun is. At that point it was clear to me that I was dealing with a thief. Back then I used to walk around with a small Swiss Army knife, and he felt it on my side and took it out. Then he held it to my side and started asking me where the money is.

Given the situation, I knew the best option was to stay calm and cooperate. By nature I have a calm demeanor and a soft voice, so this was very easy to do. I replied telling him I’d take him to the money, and proceeded to slowly get up. We walked out of the training room to the reception area. There I went through the cabinets and drawers to see if I could find any money. Meanwhile he stood nearby watching me as I was busy searching. I knew there would probably be no money, because it was Sunday, and as usual the money had been taken back to headquarters the Friday before that at the end of the week.

After a while I looked up at him and told him there was no money. Then he wanted to know if I had any money on me. So I realized I had to give him my wallet at this point. I reluctantly took my wallet out of my pocket and handed it over to him. He took it and started looking inside.

While he was doing that I calmly asked him if he could please take just the money and hand me back my wallet with my ID card and other important documents. More important to me at that moment, apart from the money, was not losing those documents because it would cost me a lot of time afterwards to report them stolen and then having to get new ones.

He didn’t answer but I sensed that he was probably willing to do that. I kept talking to him in a calm voice and asked him if he could please leave some of the money for me, because it was all I had to live on for the whole month. It was the beginning of the month, and I had just received my monthly allowance. I know it wasn’t smart to walk with all of it in my wallet — and usually I didn’t — but on that day I had it all with me. I explained to him that I was just a student (which I really was at the time) and that if he took it all it would put me in a very difficult situation (I wouldn’t have any money to pay for books, gas and other expenses).

I noticed that he started to hesitate a little. Rather than just taking all the money out of my wallet, he flicked through the bills to see how much he would take. At this point a female student walked into the building and sat down on one of the sofas close to us. She looked at us, a little confused, not knowing what was going on. This was not your typical robbery situation, and the fact that I was just calmly standing there as if nothing special was going on didn’t help her make up her mind either.

I could have taken advantage of the situation, tried grabbing back my wallet and overpower the thief, or at least scare him into running away. But I didn’t. He could also have turned around and run away with my wallet. But he didn’t. Instead he stood there for a few seconds in hesitation, and then he handed me back my wallet with all of my money still inside it.

I didn’t expect that and was a little surprised. I took back my wallet, while I continued to pretend like nothing special was going on, and I started walking towards the exit and calmly asked him to come along with me.

When we stood outside at the entrance of the building, I thanked him for giving me back my wallet and I started asking him all kinds of questions, like why he was doing this, where he was from, what kind of problems he was dealing with etc. I couldn’t get a lot of answers from him, and he mostly just quietly stood there in front of me, staring at the ground. He looked like he felt ashamed of his actions and couldn’t even look me in the eyes. After asking him to never do such a thing again and to try to take his life in a more positive direction, I took some money out of my wallet — an amount that I felt I could live without for a month — and gave it to him. He smiled lightly, nodded and then walked away.

This experience is one of the important data points that I have, showing that all of us want to be good. The desire to be compassionate human beings is built into the very foundations of our consciousness. In the above situation, staying calm and explaining to the thief how his actions would impact and hurt me, and asking him to reconsider, was enough to trigger his empathy and compassion, get him to hesitate and in the end even give me back my wallet. I’m not suggesting that this would work in every situation; very often thieves behave in more extreme ways and you have little choice but to react differently to protect yourself. In my case, the good inside the thief was clearly not yet suppressed very deeply as the case might be with other, more dangerous and hardened criminals.

Like I often mention, criminals aren’t born; they are created by the hostile system that we live in. Even the guy who tried to rob me was once just an innocent and cute little baby boy. If you would have met him then, and seen him innocently smiling at you, chances are that you’d probably want to go over and play with him. As he grew up however, the circumstances in his life transformed him into the person that he has become. The hostile society that we live in, which is fundamentally based on inequality, leaves a lot of people little choice but to start behaving in extreme ways in order to survive. Some of them go out to openly rob people, while others become psychopaths that end up in places such as the financial industry or politics, from where they rob people on an even grander scale while actually being praised for it.

And it’s easy to put the blame on these people, but if we’re intelligent and honest about it, we can come to no other conclusion than to admit that the antisocial system that we live in is the main culprit. Like the very brilliant Wilhelm Reich said:

All discussions on the question of whether man is good or evil, a social or antisocial being, are philosophic game-playing. Whether man is a social being or a mass of protoplasm reacting in a peculiar and irrational way depends on whether his basic biological needs are in harmony or at variance with the institutions he has created for himself.

It’s sad that most people still can’t develop the intellectual awareness to understand what Reich describes in the above quote. It’s also sad that a lot of people who do manage to understand this, lack the courage to openly speak about it and to actively work towards possible solutions.


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