I vs. Society


Illustration by Börkur Sigurbjörnsson

“Do you care to explain how this box of Ferrero Rocher got into your pocket?” the security guard hurled at me as I sat motionless with my hands in my lap on an uncomfortable stool in the corner of his office, his voice partially muffled by the resistance the sound-waves struggled to overcome when traveling through the thick fabric of his high-end face-mask, no-doubt reducing the dramatic impact he had intended his speech to have on me, not unlike the effect of a gunshot silenced by a feathery pillow, as we so often see in the movies. “Do you realize that shoplifting is not merely a crime against this very fine retail establishment? No it’s not. It’s a crime against society. It’s an attack on the core values of our civilization. Trust. It’s people like you who erode the trust between the human beings in this world.”

I just looked up at him and shrugged without giving any verbal reply. I had nothing to add to his philosophical analysis of humanity and its interactions. There was no point. He wouldn’t understand me anyway. They never do—his types. Or any other type, for that matter. He wouldn’t understand that from my point of view–from my philosophical standpoint, if he wanted to take the discourse to that level—my acts were not aimed against society. Quite on the contrary. One could clearly see them as being caused by society. It was not me who was mistreating the code of our civilization. It were the norms of this said civilization that were mistreating me—putting me into an awkward situation.

Had the world not demanded of me to put on a face mask before entering the supermarket, it would not have ignited in my head the stereotypical scene from the movies where the bank robber puts on a balaclava to cover their face before entering a bank. And whenever a cause rears its head, effect is bound to follow. The point is that the whole episode was out of my control. It was society, with its norms and values, that made me feel like a bank robber. And when society makes me feel like a bank robber, I feel like robbing a bank. And if not a bank, then at least a box of chocolates. It’s just as simple as that.