The worst thing about chasing a robber that has just stolen a bunch of stuff from students at the library is not the chase. It’s realizing that you’re going to catch him, and have no idea what you’re going to do.
Long story short: guy stole a bunch of stuff, I saw another staff member chase him out the building, I joined the chase. He was weighed down from stealing too much stuff. So I was gaining on him pretty sharpish and realized I had no idea what to do if I caught up. I’m not even sure, legally, what you can do to somebody who’s stolen stuff and is running away. And this was pretty obviously somebody who was marginalized and didn’t have a lot to lose, so the odds of things getting stabby were higher than I’d choose for baby’s first crime-fight.
Fortunately a bunch of fitter, fleeter student had caught on and caught up. So then it was a matter of kind of surrounding the guy, and he dropped everything and kept going. One of those everyone looks at everyone else moments, and nobody really wants to get in a fist fight with somebody who looks like they have something bloodborne that we don’t wanna get. So that was that.
And it turns out that while I was chasing this guy down, a partner was robbing my office. Irony!
So this thing kind of ties into yesterday’s thing, and a kind of meta-problem I have with figuring out where genetics and society end and personal decisions begin. I mean, I have direct personal experience from the last 48 hours of having unfortunate genetic-social triggers encouraging dumb behaviour. I can shout them down. But I can measure the distance between me, being able to resist dumb impulses, and somebody who can’t. It’s not a vast difference.
I’m angry that somebody stole my phone, and I was angry when I was running down the guy who stole a bunch of stuff from our students. But it’s hard for me to parse, sometimes, how people get to the point where they’re jacking laptops in a library. Or heisting phones they’ll never be able to do anything with.
I’m trying not to go on forever with this. But with a lot of things: booze, diet, exercise… I often wonder if I make the wrong decisions due to a moral or personal failing, or if I’m really fighting a hard upstream battle against my own brain chemistry and DNA. And that extrapolates out to other people as well. I struggle to understand what people are responsible for, and what a stew of bad luck, bad genetics and bad social structures drive people into.