Looting vs Scavenging
When is it OK to Loot?
For many of us, just about any recent examples of disasters, protests, sports riots or uprisings in various forms illustrate a certain amount of looting. During Hurricane Katrina, looters floated garbage cans filled with clothing and jewelry down the streets. Even before Hurricane Sandy made landfall, people were tweeting their plans to loot the stores. There are usually people in the media or experts who want to explain away this type of behavior and remove any responsibility from the people perpetuating these crimes and associate guilt to societal breakdown. They insist that these people should be held blameless for their actions because of the disaster and the horrible effects it must be having on their lives. I think that in the overwhelming majority of cases that is crap and people who are looting by and large are simply criminals that should be punished. For me, looting is wrong and I can easily make the distinction between looting and scavenging. It comes down to a few basic questions for me.
What are you taking? – The looters in both Katrina and Sandy that I mentioned above weren’t taking items to keep them alive; they were plundering stores to enrich themselves. A flat screen TV is not something you need and could never be reasonably excused as necessary for your life. Jewelry? Clothing could on some very small-scale be construed as needed for survival in the right circumstances, but not if you already have a house full of clothing.
Why are you taking it? – The looter takes what they can get, not what they need. You may argue that these people were poor and they needed those TV’s, that clothing and that jewelry to make their lives better. Maybe they were going to sell those goods for money (not sure to whom) or that they needed those goods as reparations for some injustice 200 years ago. Even more absurd, you could say they needed the clothing to be able to get a better job. Right…
Who are you taking it from? – If you are taking almost anything from an electronics store, jewelry, liquor, or clothing, you are looting. This is what we routinely see on the news and these aren’t people who are scratching to survive, they are just stealing because there are no police around or worse, the police aren’t doing anything to stop them. Bottom line is these people are thieves and in a true grid down emergency, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t pay for those TV’s with their lives.
In those three examples above, there is no right way to steal. You don’t need anything you are stealing and your life is not in peril if the supplies you are taking aren’t acquired. You are simply looting because you can.