Friday, December 29, 2017

Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves

Gypsies exist in nearly every culture - people who will take rather than give.

Today we don't use the term "gypsy" to describe an ethnic group - it is now politically correct to call such folks Roma or Romani to distinguish the ethnic group from the criminal one.   But the term "gypsy" has entered the lexicon as meaning any person or group of persons who live in the margins of society and make their living through chicanery or theft.   And the term "gypped" has evolved from that to mean, well, what happens when you engage in a financial transaction with gypsies.

You buy a caravan from a pikey and you'll get gypped.

Now, thievery and chicanery have been around as long as man has walked on two feet.   Eons ago, some clever cave man figured out that hunting mastodons and growing crops was time-consuming, and merely murdering your neighbors and taking their food was a lot easier.   But of course, that is kind of messy, and when you murder the hunters and gatherers, you only can only eat for so long as they stored food for - then you have to go murder someone else.

And eventually, the other cavemen get wise, form an army, elect a chief, and hunt you down.   I guess in a way, we should be thankful for those early sociopaths - they inadvertently created civilization and government, as primitive man gathered together in early city-states and kingdoms, for protection against highwaymen and robbers.

Theft and theft by deception are far better ways to make a living.   You just steal a little here and there and then move on.  People are pissed, but not enough to leave their crops and fields and chase you down.   And thus, the gypsies were born.   Well, I suppose that's how it evolved, anyway.

Today, there are gypsies in all cultures all over the world.   A reader from Southeast Asia writes that his family finally evicted relatives from a house they owned, after nearly a decade.   These nee'r-do-well cousins claimed poverty and asked for money constantly - while never paying rent.  Once evicted, the family found bank statements left behind, indicating that these gypsies actually had substantial sums of money in the bank.  They had been had.   Falling for the "feeling sorry" gambit, they tried to help out a "less fortunate" relative, who merely managed to transfer a good portion of the family fortune to their fortune.

Such folks exist everywhere - playing upon the sympathy of strangers, or even friends and relatives.  They live by an immoral code that whatever profits them is moral, and all that matters is that other people give them things, or they take them.   We even have such a band here on retirement island, believe it or not.

There is a family of gypsies - a loosely organized group of husbands, wives, second husbands, ex-husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, cousins, children, uncles, etc., that has hung out here for well over a decade.   They perform acts of minor theft, perhaps a little drug dealing, and they go to work for local employers and steal as much as they can before they are fired.   They get caught, on occasion, go to jail, get out, and go right back at it

They are not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, but like the squirrels breaking into my bird feeder, very persistent.   We had a series of break-ins on the island, and if you plotted them on a map and put a dot in the center of all the incidents, it would center on their house.   One fellow was eventually caught and went to jail, but that didn't stop the rest of the family from continuing their criminal enterprises.  They get jobs at local restaurants, work long enough to collect unemployment, and then get fired, which isn't hard when you show up late or not at all, don't do any work, and steal food and money and liquor until they are caught.

And a lot of people live this way, believe it or not.   And the smarter ones figure out smarter cons to use to get at people's money.   I described before how a Russian mafia ring was using stolen credit card data to place fake ads for non-existent dogs on the Internet.  They then used Craiglist to advertise for "secret shoppers" to "test" Western Union for them, by picking up wire transfers from the duped buyers of the non-existent dogs, and then forward them to Russia.   The complexity of the thing staggered my imagination - but in retrospect, it was not very hard to set up - just a few clicks of a mouse and a few hours online with some photos of dogs "scraped" from the Internet, and you're in business.

That is one hallmark of a real gyppo strategy - to make a con or a theft so complicated that it is hard to follow and hard to prosecute.   For example, in Rome, there are organized groups of purse snatchers and pickpockets.   One will take your purse from the back of a chair or bump into you and grab your wallet.  They quickly hand this off to a cohort, so even if you realize the theft and call the Police, they can play innocent and say, "go ahead and search me, I have no such wallet!"

At the Trevi Fountain in Rome, tourists gather to see the sights, and suddenly you find yourself surrounded by a swarm of gypsy children, all shouting and laughing.  So colorful and fun - and designed to distract you, while someone else puts their hand in your handbag - it happened to my sister-in-law, but fortunately she was with a local who knew the score and grabbed the gypsy's arm halfway through the "pull".

My parents were targeted by a similar group, who followed their rental car and waited for my parents to stop at a roadside historical attraction.  They smashed the rear window and grabbed all their luggage and were away in a heartbeat.   Later, while waiting for new passports, they went to the Trevi Fountain, and the colorful gypsy children showed up.  My mother, being wise to these scams by this point, started kicking them in the shins.

Speaking of break-ins of cars, we had a rash of these on our island, and next door on rich people's island, at remote beaches where people park their cars.  Smash a window, grab a purse or backpack, and then move on.  They caught one fellow with 15 purses in the trunk of his car.  He had just been released from jail and as the arresting officer noted, "He must like prison food" and he went right back.

And the Police really aren't very sympathetic when your shit gets stolen.   They've had to deal with more serious stuff, so your stolen iPad isn't a priority prosecution for them.   Odds are, they will never catch the guy, and a better approach is - sadly - to not leave stuff in your car when parked in isolated areas.   Of course, why we don't have a security camera at these remote beach locations is a good question.   Oh, right, our privacy concerns.  I sometimes wonder if that is just a canard put up by the association of gypsies, tramps, and thieves in an effort to preserve their livelihood.

These sorts of folks are one reason why many States have a "three strikes and your're out" law - designed to put chronic criminals being bars forever.   Every so often, the media runs a story where they lament that "poor Joe" went to jail for 20 years for "stealing a loaf of bread" or something.  But if you look into the story, "poor Joe" is a habitual criminal, sent to jail several times for various charges, and also has an arrest record a mile long.   Oh, and he stole that loaf of bread at gunpoint.

These are folks who don't play by the rules and never will.   Our justice system is a joke to them, and going to jail is just part and parcel of their lives.   And for every one crime they are prosecuted and convicted for, there are maybe 10 or 20 they are arrested for.  And for every one they are arrested for, maybe anther 10 or 20 or 100 they are never caught at.   These are the folks who steal all your shit.  These people are the reason the rest of us can't have nice things.  They are anti-civilization at its most basic form.   I shed no tears when one is locked up under three strikes and neither should you.  And shame on the media for making "heroes" out of such folks, just to generate a few clicks and sell a few SUV advertisements.   It is disgusting, and one reason why this "fake news" thing has taken a new meaning with the far-right.

But of course, the smarter gypsies in the modern era do their chicanery online.   It is a lot easier to steal over the internet - and a lot less risky - than to do so in person.   People in America have a lot of guns, and breaking into someone's house could result in your death.   However, if you are in an internet cafe in Nigeria, mass-uploading craigslist advertisements for non-existent campers, the risk of bodily injury is nil, the cost is de minimus, and the profits are huge.

And just like with the smash-and-grab theft of your purse from the front seat of your car, the Police are going to have little sympathy for you when you call them to report the crime.   They can't go after someone in Lagos, Nigeria, and moreover, it is your own damn fault for thinking you could buy a $20,000 camper for the oddball price of $2314 on Craigslist.

So what can you do to put a stop to this sort of thing?   First, you have to be more astute in your own life.  Stop falling for cons and scams and get-rich-quick schemes.   Don't go to timeshare seminars or casinos.  Stop believing in the tooth-fairy, the gold-fairy, or the bitcoin-fairy (or the IPO-fairy, while you're at it).   Be skeptical of these things and be able to spot them from 1000 yards off.

Second, stop buying crap.  No one can steal your fancy stereo you put into your $1500 1999 Honda if you don't own one.   Parking your car in a sketchy, isolated spot and then leaving thousands of dollars of computers, cell phones, and iPads on the front seat (as happened recently on rich people's island) is just asking for trouble.  Own less stuff, and have less stuff to worry about.   Yea, I know, that seems like you are letting the gypsies win when you do this, but there really is no other choice.   Buying alarm systems, putting bars on your windows, and getting a vicious dog to protect your television is just idiotic thinking, if you think about it.   Move to a better neighborhood and own less stuff and own more money.

Third, stop feeling sorry for criminals and perhaps stop being one yourself.   So many people in the United States have this visceral hatred of the Police, mostly because they get speeding and other traffic tickets all the time.   As I noted before, the problem for the Police is that they really can only police the law-abiding citizens, who have fixed addresses, fixed assets, and good jobs.   The secretary coming home from the office Christmas party blowing a 0.09 might end up losing her job and paying $25,000 in attorney's fees to stay out of jail.   The gypsy who lives in a trailer park, has 3 DUIs on his record, and no valid driver's license, goes to jail again and again, until he finally kills someone.

The media loves a good "wrongfully convicted" story or a story that wants to make us feel sorry for criminals.   For example, there is one in the paper today, entitled "Teenager with mental health issues jailed nearly 4 years without trial" which sounds awful.  The article is accompanied by a photo of his 6th grade graduation - such a cute kid!  But when you read the article, you realize he was a young adult at age 16 - old enough to drive a car, old enough to kill.   And he stabbed his Father's girlfriend in the gut and severed her colon.  Luckily, she survived (but no doubt will have medical issues for the rest of her life).

And the travesty of justice?   Well, he gets out of jail in 2018, a mere six years from the commission of the crime.   But of course, this is based on a BBC story, and Brits love to run down America (particularly The Guardian) to distract themselves from their poor life choices with regard to Brexit.  We are supposed to feel sorry for this "kid" who attempted to murder someone, because... what again?

Reject these sort of articles and arguments.   Sadly, it seems that we in America (perhaps the world) tend to romanticize crime and criminals.  Most television shows are about crime, and while in the past, the Police usually always "got their man", today it seems that more and more we are identifying with the criminals as happy-go-lucky folks who just like to steal your life savings and break your kneecaps.

It is like our romanticization and fascination with pirates, who back in the day, would murder the entire male population of a coastal village, burn it to the ground, and then rape and murder all the women.   Some fun, eh?  Today it is a ride at Disneyland.   Maybe in 100 years, they'll have a similar themed Nazi ride?   I highly doubt it - but really if you think about it, it is the same idea.

And I guess that is the point - our society, human society, often sides with the criminals.  So you have to look out for your own interests and stop "feeling sorry" for people or being gullible and taken in.  As it turns out, the folks who seem "vulnerable" are often quite good at taking care of themselves, and often do odious things to get by, as they are easier and more pleasurable things to do.

We feel sorry for the "shoeless" homeless man, until we realize he is just taking off his shoes to gain sympathy, in the same way beggars in Mexico and India rent children and smear them with dirt to have a "prop" to beg with.  And if you point this out to people, they get on their high horse, and claim to be morally superior to you, because they care.  Moreover, they want you to think that the guy stealing your shit is the real victim here, and you, who work hard and pay your debts, is some sort of criminal by dint of earning a living.

But eventually, everyone gets fatigued by crime and criminals.  Today's "social justice warrior" in college is just one getting-his-bike-stolen away from becoming tomorrow's "law and order" young Republican.   Eventually, you realize that the folks taking from society are not romantic (an interesting word, considering it has the same roots as roma) but merely thieves.

And you should have no sympathy for criminals and thieves, of all sorts.