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Sunday morning rituals

from Lars Syll

One of yours truly’s Sunday morning rituals is reading the obituary column of The Telegraph. This obit is rather typical:

Peter Scott, who has died aged 82, was a highly accomplished cat burglar, and as Britain’s most prolific plunderer of the great and good took particular pains to select his victims from the ranks of aristocrats, film stars and even royalty.

Peter Scott, 'King of thee Cat Burglers'According to a list of 100 names he supplied to The Daily Telegraph, he targeted figures such as Soraya Khashoggi, Shirley MacLaine, the Shah of Iran, Judy Garland and even Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother — although he added apologetically that, in her case, the authorities had covered up by issuing a “D-notice ”.

In 1994 Scott wrote to the newspaper to say that he would consider it “a massive disappointment if I were not to get a mention in [its] illustrious obituary column” … He added that he had been a Telegraph reader since 1957, when newspapers were first allowed in prisons, “on account of its broad coverage on crime” …

He identified a Robin Hood streak in himself, too, asserting in his memoirs that he had been “sent by God to take back some of the wealth that the outrageously rich had taken from the rest of us” …

Always a meticulous planner, Scott bought a new suit before each job, so that he would not look out of place in the premises he was burgling. Fear, the possibility of capture, excited him.

In all, by his own reckoning, Scott stole jewels, furs and artworks worth more than £30 million. He held none of his victims in great esteem (“upper-class prats chattering in monosyllables”) … “Robbing that bastard Aspinall was one of my favourites,” he recollected. “Sophia Loren got what she deserved too” …

In one Bond Street caper alone he stole jewellery worth £1.5 million, and in 1985 he was jailed for four years. On his release he expanded his social horizons by becoming a celebrity “tennis bum”, a racquet for hire at a smart London club where — as he put it in his autobiography — he coached still more potential “rich prats” …

Scott was also a past-master in self-justification of his crimes and misdemeanours: “The people I burgled got rich by greed and skulduggery. They indulged in the mechanics of ostentation — they deserved me and I deserved them. If I rob Ivana Trump, it is just a meeting of two different kinds of degeneracy on a dark rooftop.”

In his memoirs, Gentleman Thief (1995), Scott admitted to an even stronger motivation than fear as he contemplated another “job”: “Even now, after 30 years, it was a sexual thrill.” There was the additional satisfaction in his assumption that the millions reading about his exploits in the papers were silently cheering him on.

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  2. JD
    October 25, 2020 at 1:05 am

    Do economists acknowledge the phenomenon called “occult restitution”? This is when people, perhaps even unconsciously, try to even out some kind of unfairness they feel in their lives. For example, otherwise honest people may take home office supplies from where they work if they feel they are being exploited or underpaid. They only do it to the point where they feel things are a bit more balanced, apparently. Mr. Scott may have been driven by a stronger than usual need for occult restitution in his chosen profession. There is certainly no question that rich pretentious prats have not earned their wealth and status, at least not all of it. Personally, I don’t think it is really necessary to justify stealing from the extremely wealthy.

  3. Ken Zimmerman
    November 27, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    There is not one but many justices. The meaning and performance of justice, like all the actions and words of humans is historical and locational. And this in turn is the result of actions and words being relational and evolutionary. One of the many ways such actions and words can be arranged is using such descriptive terms as justice. So, in this way justice is both the result of historical and locational relationships and at the same time defines their nature.

    Hence, the use of the term justice is situational. Humans use it to carry out the purpose they have in mind. Often never clearly recognizing these purposes or other alternative purposes. And thus, alternative justices. Most commonly an existing meaning of justice is selected. But for some with strong (emotional, political) purposes an entirely new version of justice is created. This happens frequently with academics, political campaigners, proselytizers, minority communities, new issues raised in the public sphere, and provocateurs. And others, as times and places change.

    Therefore, making a just decision or creating a more just world is tricky. Where does your chocolate come from? Does it matter if your coffee is fair trade or not? It matters–more than you might think. Julie Clawson in ‘Everyday Justice, The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices’ tells us “In our everyday lives our ordinary lifestyle choices can have big implications for justice around the world. How we get our food and clothing can have surprising costs of consumer waste. How we live can make a difference not only for our own health but also for the well-being of people across the globe. The more sustainable our lifestyle, the more just our world will be.” Everyday justice is one way of loving God and our neighbors, says Clawson. We can live more ethically, through the little and big decisions we make every day.

    But to approach even the possibility of this goal, ethnocentrism must be overcome. Or we must mitigate it in some ways. Ethnocentrism is a way of historical thinking deeply rooted in human historical consciousness that works throughout all cultures and in all times. Ethnocentric history conceives of identity in terms of ‘master-narratives’ that define togetherness and difference as essential for identity in a way that causes tension and struggle. These narratives conceive of history in terms of ‘clashes of civilizations,’ and they reinforce the idea that international and intercultural relations are merely struggles for power.

    The main elements of ethnocentrism are asymmetrical evaluation, teleological continuity, and centralized perspective. There are several possibilities for overcoming these three elements by replacing asymmetrical evaluation with normative equality; teleological continuity with reconstructive concepts of development that emphasize contingency and discontinuity; and centralized perspectives with multi-perspectivity and polycentric approaches to historical experience. Adopting these possibilities would lead to a new mode of universal history rooted in a concept of humankind that can help us overcome the problem of ethnocentrism. This idea of humankind conceptualizes the unity of the human species as being manifest in a variety of cultures and historical developments. This is in fact the traditional concept of historicism, which can be further developed towards a historiography that responds to the challenges of globalization and cultural differences. The main problem for carrying out this agenda is how to bring these notions not only into the work of historians and social scientists but also into the lived experiences of ordinary people. Thus, enabling them to contribute to a new culture of recognition. Creation of such a recognition culture is the number one task facing historians and social scientists today. The secondary but equally important task is to establish this culture for ordinary people so they can be changed and thus change others to shift the basic assumptions of socio-historical-cultural debates around the world. Thus, reducing or eliminating cultural clashes that underlie wars and other conflicts.

    Some so called ‘conservative’ scholars and other commenters tend to make completing these tasks more difficult. For example, Thomas Sowell in ‘The Quest for Cosmic Justice’ contends that justice is the equivalent of a ‘spontaneous’ natural order. There are no personal intentions in a spontaneous order-a cosmos, as Hayek defines it. Thus, there is an absence of either justice or injustice. “Nature can be neither just nor unjust,” according to Hayek. “Only if we mean to blame a personal creator does it make sense to describe it as unjust that somebody has been born with a physical defect, or been stricken with a disease, or has suffered the loss of a loved one.” (Friedrich A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol. 2: The Mirage of Social Justice, pp. 33, 64) Thus, Sowell, following Hayek tells us there is no way to even up unequal starting points for people. Not only can such tasks never be finished but the results always tend to be different from those wished for or anticipated.

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