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Crime & Unpunishment

After a nauseating boat ride to the other side of the town and entering the big corporate bookstore, I quickly checked where the cameras are located in the floor and scoured through the bookstore’s now second floor. Already knowing the possible locations at the shelves, I reached out to the books’ glossy covers and lifted them into my messenger bag gently while staying out of the camera’s view.

Stop rfid

This was right at the time the clerk was passing by, a middle aged lady holding what appeared to be a small veggie toast in her palm with a smile on her face. I replied to her presence with a slight nod and stopped for a second.

Why was everyone working in the store was so kind and nice, so confident in a curious way?

Was it because their customers never steal or is it because they trust technology of the imported books which has a small RFID chip on them, oblivious to the fact that it can be easily removed with strong magnetic force?

The little neodymium magnet I stole from the lab has proven itself useful over and over again, being on a streak I was happy to walk the store just before I felt hesitant due to the unnerving happiness of the lady at the info counter.

Hesitancy has slowly paved into anxiety when all the scenarios rushed into my head; maybe their security records last not 24 hours but weeks and by carefully going through the suspects on a slow day after a stock check and with the simple trick of a face recognition software my address and even my dog’s name could be reached in a matter of seconds by the police.

The deadliest of all possibilities is the human error, my error: What if I missed a chip, hidden inside the shiny covers I just picked? How can I be sure? Why am I stealing books in the first place? Why do I want to steal books in the first place?

As if the air itself was set on fire, which is unlikely due to nitrogen being inert and needing lots of energy to ignite it, I found myself in a state of paranoia due to a gut feeling that things are going to go really bad. The rational fear of my human error turned itself around and became an existential crisis on its own in front of the exit door.

Why was I doing this to myself?

My poorly developed philosophy against the banal modern consumer society has led me to recent events. You see, I was very happy breaking into a marketing conference which Zizek attended the week before (that’s his strong suit), held in a grand hotel which I spied my way through and met the man. Here’s the best part: I got his book “For They Know Not What They Do” signed! – which I made into 100th page and gave up – had lots of fun talking about my misadventures and how I got to craft a press ID to get into the door and talk my way in using a French accent only an ignorant hotel manager could believe and how I bought a pirated movie especially for him. In a recent talk he has talked about favourite thing he loved about X is that they had a lot of pirate CD shops. If that wasn’t a great thing for an authenticity seeking fool like me, I don’t know anything is.

My god pure ideology

At the moment I was meters away from the exit door, pondering why I was doing this, I briefly got honest with myself.

I wanted to break the routine of academic climbing, sexual frustration and horrible routine I was part of. There was a part of me wanting to get caught in the act for I was never caught before and knowing it is wrong internally, which I kept doing it repeatedly hoping to get punished, hoping to get to feel guilty for my actions.

Finally, at the edge of the door being totally unsure if I was going to get caught or not I took the leap. Moment I slipped through the door but this time with an alarm sound after my back I was left with two choices: either make a run for it with kilos of books on my back or give up and head back to the store.

I even made a pathetic attempt to act like there was something wrong with the system at the counter which lasted for couple of seconds. Thinking my career is lost or my life is ruined, I wished I read that damn book, Crime & Punishment which I totally not need to finish due to being reduced to the state of it’s main character.

The chubby clerk with plaid sweater was now looking at me, I asked him to talk to him personally and act as if there was something wrong with the system or ask him I could pay the books it would all be fine…

This overweight neckbeard clerk – who now holds my fate in his hands and now cooler than Tyler Durden for a brief amount of time in his life, looked at me for what felt like an eternity pointing while his finger towards me, giving a talk about how wrong my action was and he’s a student like me and working two jobs at the same time blah blah blah – I already realized he has forgiven me – He now wasn’t a deadbeat clerk anymore, but a patron saint who has saved me from my wrongdoings and blessed me with his humility and his kindness.

He has told me that I should get that medical degree. He pitied me for he was a greater being who has given a scoundrel a lesson and a path to my salvation. The clerk now feeling so much better about himself, I walked out with books in my bag, breathing the fresh air that which is pure bliss.

What has troubled me later was, who was the Raymond K. Hessel in the situation?

One thing was sure, we were both very grateful for what has happened a minute ago.

Later I got into the railway near the bookstore, among the crowds with black and white soccer uniforms marching into the stadium but this time not using crowd to get into the train zone free, but paying my way through this time.

I never thought I could have bought my cure for narcissism, maybe years long therapy in an incompetent psychiatrist’s office worked.

Seriously though, why am I writing this?

It suddenly dawned upon me. I am Raymond K. Hessel…

… and I just want my books.

The true face of power.

The true face of power.

*adjusts his tinfoil hat*

Normally, there’s a piece of media or something to refer to in deconstructions provided externally although this time the text provided above is our medium.

Our antagonist is now almost entirely faking through his recovery almost abolishing all his ways before, never stealing again.

This is precisely the problem itself, he has now another reason to justify his world view by tweaking it slightly.

He now is the object of the tale, acted upon from outside and thus transformed only on the outside. This is only the illusion of change since the tears he created was for his own sake, was for his own goals. Ego is looking ways to remain static.

Isn’t it obvious that he still believes he is special.

Why? Because he would think this wouldn’t happen to everyone else, his whole past and reasons were justified by allowing him a free pass by a student who is only naive enough to offer him some guidance – and for his own character’s sake – an over arching kindness which is also another sign of vanity. (which is a subject for another story)

For maybe ten seconds, our character was crushed under his deeds, truly suffering maybe first time ever for his actions until he was proved otherwise, why the universe has allowed himself to go free? Who are we to judge his actions now? This was his Crime & Unpunishment.

For the real change there needs to be pain, physically or psychologically through five stages of grief or whatever is your taste.

This was denied, what our fellow needed was a quick trip to the police office where he would try to explain his existential problems to a police officer with 5 kids whose only sports activity is to beat up suspects because that’s the only exercise he can get from his toil (he can’t buy tickets to soccer games anymore) so with few broken bones and bruises in his body but still looking sharp with no marks on his face, he would then maybe learn every time he found his way out of trouble (principal’s office, bank fees, etc.) music was getting louder and bigger and inevitably he had to face it.

Maybe after being beaten out of consciousness, somehow the remaining honest part of his soul would remind him something he had read years ago while researching class struggle and racism: “To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace.”

P.S Find the X. I’ll send a book of my choice to the winner!

Categories: 2013 Winter Writing Contest, Uncategorized.

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14 Responses

  1. I don’t understand, find what X?

  2. Question: is the quality of being Raymond K. Hessel

    a) in the objective conditions of social structure such that there is no way out, and you get stuck in it as soon as you set foot a place like a bookstore without dynamite strapped to your chest, as the first part of the story suggests, or

    b) is it mental thing that you can escape if you learn to think rightly about those social structural conditions, as the second part of the story suggests?

    Serious question. I’ll go ahead and record Frugal’s vote for b.

  3. “I wanted to break the routine of academic climbing, sexual frustration and horrible routine I was part of.”

    At first this line made me very sad. The routine of horrible routine? What? But then what initially seemed like bad style suddenly turned into the most important sentence of the whole thing. The routine lies in the routine. The narrator will never find what he searches for because he will turn everything into a routine. He turned breaking the routine into a routine.


  4. you germans and your pessismism

  5. Zhat is vhat we do best.

  6. Is the X above the second picture where it says “thing he loved about X”? Or am I going about this in the wrong manner? The latter would not be uncommon!

  7. Guy, you know me too well. But seriously, whether the answer is truly A or B, isn’t it best to pretend that B is the answer? You might say I take it on faith, but isn’t it also the rational solution? If we control anything, isn’t it best to limit our definitions of success to that which we control?

    I realize similar logic could be used to justify the multitude of religious faiths as well, but this in itself does not help to differentiate between the different dogmas and doctrines. Those should also be subject to rational analysis, in my view. But I seem to have gone off topic.

  8. oh, my guess – either russia or china

  9. @Frugal: You might be right, but is that the best reason for it? Some kind of Pascal’s wager for sanity’s sake?

    @Fabius: I see a personal theme developing here, for which I have a lot of sympathy. Couple of questions that might be more/less gotcha cheap shots or might help push ze sinking forvard:

    1) we use conventions all the time to good purpose, viz. language, stopping at red lights, etc. We don’t need good reasons for all of them, even if they serve good purposes. How do you tell which conventions you should keep and which you should jettison for the sake of freedom & authenticity?

    2) maybe the world needs one Finnegan’s Wake and one version of Katzenklo, but if defying conventions becomes a maxim in itself, couldn’t it become banal, powerless and routine? If there were no more conventions in literature or music, wouldn’t there just be a lot of really incoherent frippery. (NB: exactly this is what gutted postmodernism in its first iteration – frippery became the default, and so much became so predictable and meaningless).

  10. theobscure2013-05-13 @ 08:12

    Hi I’m new….

    to me this article screams working out some “god” vs “Ubermensch” issues… whether you’re atheist or whatever here is what I see…. maybe I’m reading in to things way too much, whatever…

    1) “why the universe has allowed himself to go free?”

    a) By “universe”, you mean God, right?

    2) “knowing it is wrong internally, which I kept doing it repeatedly hoping to get punished, hoping to get to feel guilty for my actions.”

    a) “thou shall not steal”, you unconsciously know/feel/believe this, irregardless of your conscious beliefs in sin
    b) “when they have no mythology to live their lives by, they just start spewing a bunch of crap out of their mouths.” -Father Maxi in South Park….
    c)you don’t “just want your books”, you want god, i mean the universe, to punish you…. why?

    2) Because “For the real change there needs to be pain, physically or psychologically”

    a) Is not self-loathing and self-condemnation a form pain, physically or psychologically?
    b) How far has that gotten you?

    3) You want your existential freedom (control over the ego) via Ubermensch, but Ubermensch cannot change by condemning/punishing himself, that only protects the ego from change:


    is better than

    is better than

    4) As I see it this means you unconsciously desire “something” (universe/god) outside “you” that is the giver of values and meaning (the anti-Ubermensch) because you, unconsciously, “feel” that this is “a” path to freedom, but your ego is that Ubermensch that cannot relinquish its death-grip, why?

    5) Because that renders you “not in control”… which is the very thing the Ubermensch toils to achieve, but fails at ceaselessly.

    6) Solution: yield


  11. theobscure2013-05-13 @ 08:15

    I didn’t post the TLP reference properly…. it should read…

    -doing awesome-
    is better than
    -feeling terrible about yourself-
    is better than
    -the mental work of change-


  12. Guyfox: 2) In all shortness, I condone habitualization everywhere EXCEPT in your most important endeavour. (Important: )

    What is the most important endeavour in this case? Happiness. The dude in tha story ain’t got it.

  13. mackytrajan2013-05-16 @ 07:51

    Hi SkepticalChemist,

    I read this a second and third time after glossing over it the first time and not understanding it. But I think there may be something to it.

    I’m trying to understand the overarching idea of the whole thing because I believe there IS one, I just may not be getting it.

    It seems to me that you are going over the difference between choices made due to self-imposed will vs. choices made due to external (social, systemic, institutional) variables, right?

    I feel like you’ve gone incredibly meta with this as well. Judging by the picture with the etched out nametag and etched out University Bookstore name, I’m inclined to say that you really did do this (unless it’s obvious, I might be an idiot). Which means that if you really DID do this, and if I am correct about this being the difference between self-imposed choices (and those consequences) and externally imposed choices (and those consequences), then your act of writing this post and publishing it must have something to do with the latter.

    You say directly that you’re Raymond K. Hessel in this case. Did you write this for yourself?

  14. @GuyFox, The comparison is apt, although I buy the inconsistent revelations objection. Pascal’s response to this objection, “But if you desire with all your heart to know it, it is not enough; look at it in detail” is essentially what I try to do on a theoretical level. In the case at hand, nothing is actionable if A is the case. Tellingly, you incorporate self-destruction as part of A, and I think if someone believes in A this is where it leads (and thereby indicates that A is incorrect).

    @fabius, I love Paul Graham, but thank-you notes are not bad procrastination. I would rather be remembered as someone who always wrote thank-you notes than as a jerk that invented the iPhone (not that I have anyone in particular in mind with that example or that I want to judge such a person…)

    @macky, Speaking strictly for myself, I’m always writing for myself (even this and thank-you notes).

Got insight?