Should Looting Be Considered A Crime After A Disaster?

It seems that one of the only common thread to any social groups in any culture or country after a natural disaster is an inability for the governmental authorities to bring necessary help to its people, and further to care more about the dissolution of the social order, in its more raw expression which is looting, than the basic welfare of the victims.

Looting  took place in New-Orleans post Katrina, in took place in Haiti after January 12 earthquake, and it is taking place right now in Chile, specifically in the city of Concepcion, which was the closest to the epicenter of February 27 massive 8.8 earthquake.

Chileans in Conception are in shocked, and just like the residents trapped in New-Orleans in 2005 and the million of Haitians still very much in need today feel, for very good reasons, abandoned  by their respective governments. They are homeless, thirsty and hungry. Under such circumstances it is absolutely understandable that social order would break down quickly and that ordinarily perfectly law abiding citizens resolve to looting.

Yet, governments  independently from any geographic considerations   or even political ideological views always put the accent on social order and “controlling the masses” as opposed to bringing some help to its  people which  it is supposed to protect.

It was the case in New-Orleans where the National Guard (see first photograph) and Blackwater were dispatched to maintain order. The same of course applied to Haiti, where the US dispatched a massive amount of troops for the same purpose. And it is now the direction which the left leaning government of Chile has taken towards the victims of the earthquake. Today, Chile’s President sent  10,000 soldiers to maintain order in Concepcion.

Concepcion’s Mayor Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe expressed this concern today in her own way.

“We need food for the population. We are without supplies and if we don’t resolve that we are going to have serious security problems during the night,” said the Mayor. Once again, the Mayor expressed the key concern of any authorities in such situation: The first priority is order and “security”, the second is the survival of the population.

What I think should be done in such tragic situations is the exact opposite. Any store owners in possession of supplies should be obligated to let the population take what they need, providing they don’t have the humanity to do it on a voluntary basis. And instead of sending soldiers brandishing guns to “maintain order”, a more human form of government would dispatch its soldiers with large quantities of blankets, bottle water and food. There is no moral justification that should allow any governments to victimized in such a way its own people. Survival should always be more important than social order under such dire circumstances.

Good governance should be about the welfare of the people, and not about maintaining, often brutally, social order. It is of course the common “Standard Operative Procedure” of all governments, but it is still, regardless, completely lacking any sort of moral justification.

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12 Responses to Should Looting Be Considered A Crime After A Disaster?

  1. Pingback:

    +2 Vote -1 Vote +1uberVU - social comments

  2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Stephen Dufrechou
    March 1, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Get off this estate.
    What for?
    Because it is mine.
    Where did you get it?
    From my father.
    Where did he get it?
    From his father.
    And where did he get it?
    He fought for it.
    Well, I’ll fight you for it.

    –Carl Sandburg, poet and biographer (January 6, 1878 – July 22, 1967)

  3. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Stephen Dufrechou
    March 1, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Great article, by the way, Gilbert.

    Indeed, what this article is highlighting, too (as a subtext), is that the nature of civilization is always tenuous, always ready and threatening to collapse. It takes a tipping point–like an earthquake or hurricane–to expose the flaws in modern society, that are usually concealed by State violence of some manner–whether it is linguistic, legal, or physical violence.

    And it’s precisely when these flaws are exposed, as such, that we can see them–but in a chaotic form. It should be our responsibility, then, as humans to make sense of this chaos, in order to fix the exposed flaws, to build saner societies.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1gaming mouse reviews
    March 2, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Social order is like a house of cards, fragile and held together by flimsy invisible glue

  5. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Jack Robertson
    March 2, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    “abandoned by their governments” It’s worth noting that in the above-mentioned disasters, the governments were as much victims of the events as the citizenry. And respectively, those governments responded as they had the means. The first order of business would be to restore order.

    The lawlessness that unfolded in each of these events was not limited to the simple taking (read: Looting/Stealing) of basics needs such as bottled water or food. I watched several videos of people attacking others to take away looted items such as DVD players, stereos, and a bag of beach balls. The owner of a corner market is victimized twice; once by the devastation of his building from disaster, then by thieves who come and take by force, the shopkeepers goods inwhich he/she has a lifelong investment. The taking of goods or services, by force, without compensation, is ROBBERY. It is a crime! Call it what it is and stop trying to justify it.

    Additionally, in all three above-mentioned disasters, the CRIMINALS often were not satisfied with only meeting their immediate survival needs, they regularly resort to other crimes, such as rape, assault, pedophilia, kidnapping, etc. These kinds of hordes will only be deterred by an opposing force of equal or greater power, such as government troops/police, or an armed citizenry.

    Get off this estate.
    What for?
    Because it is mine.
    Where did you get it?
    I bought it with hard-earned sweat and money
    Then I’ll fight you for it, and I’ll take that woman standing behind you as well.
    BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Stephen Dufrechou
      March 2, 2010 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks, Jack. Your hysterics gave me a good laugh.

      • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Jack Robertson
        March 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

        Great quip, but no opposing viewpoint or intellectual argument, which seems to be a common theme here. Am I right or wrong, in your opinion? And do you think Looting should be legal? That’s the whole point (debate) here, isn’t it?

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1Jack Robertson
    March 2, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Final thought: The “flaws in society” are derived from a class of citizens who are too dependent upon their governments to provide everything for them. Learn to be self-sufficient, people! YOUR GOVERNMENT has been hollaring from the rooftops for years to be prepared for disasters. Take some bloody responsibility for yourselves for once! You cannot save a drowning person if you never learned how to swim yourself.

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Marcel Kincaid
    March 2, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    the CRIMINALS often were not satisfied with only meeting their immediate survival needs, they regularly resort to other crimes, such as rape, assault, pedophilia, kidnapping, etc.

    I note that you provide no evidence to quantify your “often”. OTOH, you substitute for Carl Sandberg’s description of a common situation (inheritance of an estate) a relatively rare one — buying one with hard-earned sweat and money (the people I know personally who bought their own estates got lucky in the dot-com bubble; they worked hard, but a lot less hard than most people). Such intellectual dishonesty is what the right wing is made of.

    • -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Jack Robertson
      March 2, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      “often” is quantified by the plethora accounts of DOCUMENTED crime in the aftermath of these unfortunate and devastating disaster.
      I missed the .com bubble. I really did (and still am) pay with hard-earned sweat money.
      So, I’m still not clear … do you support looting and do you believe it is not a crime?

    • -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Jack Robertson
      March 2, 2010 at 6:11 pm

      of·ten
      Function: adverb
      Etymology: Middle English, alteration of oft
      Date: 14th century
      : many times : frequently

      MANY TIMES : FREQUENTLY

      Do you deny that this is the case in the previously-mentioned disasters?

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1I Remember When
    March 2, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    BRAVO?
    “Final thought: The “flaws in society” are derived from a class of citizens who are too dependent upon their governments to provide everything for them. Learn to be self-sufficient, people! YOUR GOVERNMENT has been hollaring from the rooftops for years to be prepared for disasters. Take some bloody responsibility for yourselves for once! You cannot save a drowning person if you never learned how to swim yourself.”

    So very true. Societies need to learn that the Government function is not to be a ‘father’ or ‘mother’ figure. For people to be free and independent they need to understand that they (the individuals) are responsible for their well-being and basic needs. Helping out neighbors used to be considered a valuable part of society.

    What has happened in the last 50 years to change people from ‘we need to work together to make the best of a bad situation’ to whining ‘where is our government help?’ How did self-reliance get bred or brainwashed out of democratic societies?