Complacency a dangerous precedent

By Tibor Machan

I recently went to San Francisco for a conference, parked in a “public parking” place on a busy corner, and my car was broken into and a bunch of stuff stolen. And I am partly to blame.

Yes, I wasn’t thinking clearly. Living as I do in a neighborhood where homes and cars may be left unlocked, I got spoiled. And all I had to do was stop to think a minute.
Once before, in the 1970s, the same thing happened to me in the same beautiful City by the Bay — then someone broke into my old Volvo and stole a nice leather coat I bought a few months before in Berlin. And when I lived in Palo Alto, Calif., for a year to work at Stanford, I experienced my first home burglary.

Although this is no evidence of any trend — other than perhaps of my mistreatment by Bay area thugs — it should have been on my mind as I locked my car and walked away from it. So the rest of my weekend was spent on damage control since my laptop computer, which was part of the loot, contained information that could be used by some hacker to get into my various accounts and maybe purchase things (although these are mostly online book shops, so I doubt they will be of great interest to someone breaking into cars).

It goes to show you that while, of course, it is the perpetrator who did the worst thing here, the victim, too, could have acted more wisely, prudently, and therefore is guilty of misconduct. That lesson isn’t often heeded. I didn’t heed it much on this occasion, but I promise to be better henceforth.

In many instances those who should know better and act accordingly miss out by not realizing there are hazards all around us, some posed by nature, some by others. The natural hazards are, of course, more easily anticipated.

California often shakes, so one can do better by preparing for a quake; Florida is hit by hurricanes often enough so one should probably make sure one’s home is sturdy; and the Midwest has its floods, the North its deep freezes and so forth.

But there are also too many other people intent on making life miserable for the rest. These folks will not be discouraged by finely fashioned welfare programs or by the sentiments of social workers or anti-globalists. No, they have gone corrupt. And they will lash out and anyone can become their victim.

Yet, the victims, too, are doing something less than exemplary by not paying attention to such people, by downplaying the reality of their existence.

I am writing this in part so as to fix the matter in my own mind, good and hard, not to continue with my own complacency. Sure, I had an alarm; sure it was broad daylight; and sure it was in the middle of a mostly civilized city on a sunny weekend day. But not only is it common sense to take extra measures in any big city, but I had personally been put on alert. Yet I chose to be out to lunch, something I detest when I let myself do it.

As I say, I promise. In the meantime, I will continue with my damage control, get things fixed, replace the losses, see if my insurance covers any of it, and become better about coping with the vile ones of the world.

Oh, yes, I also went to the police to report this, and the cooperation was fantastic — well, not really. The officers — half a dozen of them sitting there, chatting and joking and barely paying heed when I made my report — pretty much regarded this event as something that’s solely my problem, not theirs. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect they were more interested in victimless crimes — drug offenses, prostitution, whatever — than in cruising about the avenues of San Francisco, being alert so as to stand ready to secure our rights.

All the more reason to be more alert oneself.

Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at: Machan@chapman.edu