Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts About Petty Annoyances,Crime and Terrorism

A close family member had their car stolen last night. Most cars cost a few thousand to replace. It is a major headache to file an insurance claim and to get a new vehicle. In a lot of places, car theft is a big yawn. It's just not taken seriously. The impact on people's lives merits that it be considered a high priority felony.

I would like to market a new product called Blo Jak. Unlike the similarly named product that emits a signal to police, Blo Jak would give an ear shattering warning blast over hidden speakers in the car. If that fails to drive the car thieves from the car, Blo Jak would then detonate a concussion grenade which would leave the vehicle intact but cause a blain concussion and other internal injuries to the thief or thieves. Unfortunately, our legal system does not permit such creative defense of personal property.

A friend of mine worked in a factory where the workers stored their lunches in a refrigerator. My friend used to have a seven ounce bottle of beer for lunch, which was fine with the boss. Unfortunately, there was an elusive beer thief. Several times, my friend lost his beer. One day, he opened the bottle and replaced the beer with a brew that he had filtered through his kidneys beforehand. There was no beer thefts after that.

One of my children was in Manhattan on a street corner where the Israelites were preaching. The Israelites are a group of Black supremacists who say that they are the real Jews and that Jews are really children of Satan. It is very common for them to shout verbal abuse at Orthodox Jews and at racially mixed couples. Arguing with them is counterproductive, because it draws in an audience. My son went up to one of them and asked for directions to Herald Square. The guy was shocked. He started screaming at my son about being a white devil. My son repeated his question. The audience looked at the guy like he was nuts. An African American onlooker scolded the guy for being paranoid and for being prejudiced. The Israelite preacher was locked into confrontation mood. When my son asked him a neutral, non confrontational question, he couldn't handle it.

I made an interesting discovery about the Witnesses. Some people complain that they can't get rid of them. That is because they didn't use the Magdeburger Joe method. The method works as follows.

1) Position yourself firmly in the doorway. Do NOT let the missionaries in. This puts you at a logistical advantage.

2)Greet them warmly. Tell them that you are glad that they came, though your time is limited.

3) Seize the offensive ground. You are now the preacher. I launch into a talk about the Seven Noahide Laws. I am friendly yet clearly take the position that they are in need of enlightenment.

4) I use the same line they use on Jews. "At least you worship one G-d. But you are missing a lot of information."

5) They are expecting someone who is immersed in worldly thoughts, someone who will listen. It doesn't even matter so much what you say. They are used to doing all the talking.

6) Panhandlers and true believers always give each other plenty of space. They both work a territory. They are both trying to convert the world or get as much money as they can from it. If you come across as a true believer in soul harvesting mode, they will back off.

I have used this method and invariably within ten minutes they say, "It's been real nice talking with you. But we have to go." By the time they get around to saying this I am pumped up, preaching the Noahide truth. I see in their faces the same desire to get away that I had when I opened the door to them. It's amazing how little salesmanship and persuasion has to do with logic and how much it has to do with body language and speech patterns.

One time, someone tried to sell me a "genuine"Rolex watch for twenty dollars. I told him "I can't afford a real watch. Show me a fake Rolex and I 'll buy it.

Some people are bothered by pan handlers, particularly if they lie. I disagree. When I go for a job, I might experience a dozen rejections. Once I get hired, that is the end of rejection. Pan handlers experience rejection dozens of times each day. This is far more emotionally draining than regular work. If they are lying, it is far more emotionally strenuous.

There is a mitzvah to give charity. It is said that if the recipient is faking, that you don't get the mitzvah. I am concerned about something else. Sometimes I am in an angry, begrudging mood. Sometimes a pan handler annoys me and I realise there is a negativity in me that needs to be tamed. Even if I have not fulfilled any mitzvah, if I use a chance encounter to subdue negative emotions, I have turned it into something positive.

I am more than a little concerned about President Obama sending a signal about criminal behavior by closing the Guantanamo detention facility. Already they have let go some guys who it turns out were Al Qaeda big shots.

According to the New York Post there is already a resurgence of petty crime that is affecting business. The Post reports as follows.

"Overstretched cops are struggling to combat petty crime, according to police sources - resulting in an easing of enforcement that's taking Manhattan down fast, angry New Yorkers told The Post.

"People tell me they're scared to come here," said Greg Agnew, owner of the East Bay Diner on First Avenue at 29th Street. "Guys are hanging out in the street, doing things they're not supposed to be doing, loitering. They cause fights. They urinate on the floor, There's drug use."

Over four days this month, Post reporters watched as large gangs of men loitered around-the-clock outside the 30th Street Men's Shelter on the grounds of Bellevue Hospital.

"We're scared to go outside," said Annie Samuel, 55, a hospital nurse. "When we go home, we always travel in groups."

Anyone who has had a substitute teacher knows the psychology of how the substitute is tested. First the class whispers. Then they talk. Next comes getting out of one's seat. By the end of class it is a free for all and the teacher can't even be heard.

Street crime works the same way. It starts with little offenses against decorum such as graffiti tags and drinking in public. When it is observed that there is no reaction then more blatant violations of law occur. Smoking weed on the street is followed up with selling it. Aggressive panhandling ("Just a dollar? You cheap !@#$ing Jew!) leads to actual robbery. I hope I am wrong but Barack Obama's early measures in office remind me a lot more of some of my more ill fated substitute teachers than a decisive leader. I do not believe that a bad economy makes a resurgence of crime inevitable. What is far more problematic is bad policing, whether it is local or global.

Poverty has a lot more to do with how you live than what you have. The statistics are going to paint a sobering picture for some time. Whether or not our poverty is social as well as economic is not decided on Wall Street or in Washington. Our true well being is largely up to us. The peaceful years in which crime rates plummeted showed us the immeasurable value of peaceful streets and of the rebirth of trust between strangers. We must not settle for a resurgence of crime, whether it is street thugs or terrorists. We must settle for nothing less than the high standards of peace in the streets to which we have become accustomed. If our leaders are dozing off, it is better for us to awaken them than for our enemies to do so.

1 comment:

Captain USpace said...

This was great. A friend of mine used to say to panhandlers: Do you have change for a 5?

Before they can ask me I often just say: No thanks!

As though they had something to sell to me.