On Purse Thieves, Pangs of Conscience, and Sociopathic Thuggery

A colleague of mine recently had her purse stolen on an area college campus. I cannot imagine the horror of having such an important personal item ripped off. While I normally avoid gendered stereotypes, I think it is fair to say that many women carry much more of their lives in their purses than most men do in wallets.

If my wallet were stolen, the thief would get little cash (I rarely carry more than $5.00) one debit card (useless without a PIN), one HSA medical account debit card (only good on prescriptions and office visits), plus some pieces of identification and junk like my Kroger card and my Red Cross donor info. However, most women I know have veritable home offices in their purses, and losing a purse would be a nightmare.

There should also be a special place in hell for those who victimize fellow human beings in this manner. Now, I am not one to encourage lawlessness, but I have a lot less antipathy for a criminal who robs a bank or defrauds the government, since these are impersonal entities that frankly build such losses into their operational models. But stealing a purse? Egads - that is some serious sociopathy.

I am tempted to ask how a person gets past the guilty conscience associated with an act like purse-snatching, but this of course assumes that the thief has a conscience to begin with. Sure, a drug habit or some other money-hoovering behavior explains the why of thievery, but how does this type of criminal look in the mirror each morning?

My difficulty in understanding such a crime probably lies in the fact that I do not think like a sociopath. While I am occasionally given to moments of self-pride, at no time have I ever deluded myself that I was somehow better than other people, or that I mattered more than the rest of the schmucks out there. Even at my worst moments of selfishness I retained an ulcer-producing awareness that there were better ways to lead a life, ways deeper than wondering about getting the best deals on Enzyte.

To the purse thief who caused my colleague such distress: I am a firm believer in the principle of karma, and no doubt you will one day suffer mightily for your behavior. But for now I will simply say that no life traumas you may have experienced in the past justify the harm you brought to this innocent victim, and I hope that someday you develop what most of us take for granted: a conscience.