I'm generally pretty optimistic about my fellow human beings. I believe most people are fundamentally good, in that they generally wish others well, and would rather behave rightly than wrongly, all else being equal. I'd like to think I live in a fairly harmonious society, where strangers treat each other with respect, and trust in the civility of one's fellow citizens is not entirely misplaced. Am I hopelessly naive? I'm beginning to wonder...
Yesterday I was mugged. Thankfully I wasn't hurt at all, but it was still an unsettling experience. I was just walking down the street to a friend's birthday party, gift-wrapped bottle of tequila in hand, when some young punks in a car noticed my luggage and decided that they'd rather it be theirs. Two young men got out of the car and advanced towards me, demanding I give them the bottle. I couldn't believe they were serious, but they evidently were, for they grabbed the present right out of my hands. Then they walked back to their mates in the car, as I just stood there, dumbstruck. When the others saw my expression of puzzlement and loss, they laughed.
I just don't get it. For a starving man to steal a loaf of bread, sure, that makes sense. For a greedy man to rob a bank, that too is something I can comprehend. But to threaten a random pedestrian, in broad daylight, for something so trivial as a bottle of alcohol? And to do so when your car has license plates in full view? What idiocy is this? And then to laugh, as if the autonomy and rights of one's fellow citizens were some kind of joke... Who could live with such vicious character? Are they not ashamed?
At least I recorded the number plate. It didn't take the police long to track them down. I was told later that night (by which stage I was slightly less sober) that they were in custody, and monetary damages would be sought against them. So that's something. I'm thankful to the police for acting so promptly - they get a lot of bad press, but it's hard to think of them as the bad guys when you come up against the real thing.
As Jonathan noted after experiencing a hit-and-run, this sort of thing can really shake one's "trust[ in] my fellow man-on-the-streets". That's the worst thing, for me. The offence itself was nothing serious - I wasn't physically hurt, and the stolen property was not valuable. But I've never faced such disrespect and maliciousness before. (A sheltered life, I know, but I rather liked it that way!)
Such scum have no place in my society. Of course, the world does not shape itself to fit my desires, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised when it turns out that the society in which I live is not my society after all. Even so, I'm sure my optimism will return. There is work to be done, to build the society that ought to be.
Update [March 3]: One asshole (I don't know what happened to the rest of them) was fined $500, $130 court costs and ordered to pay me $45 reparations. I'm very happy with this result. Pity they didn't cut off his hands though... ;)