Published On: Mon, Jun 5th, 2017

A thief

Jacob Gelt DekkerA little island in the Caribbean belonged to a thief. He was also the only person on the little island. The poor man was very depressed since he was starting to doubt his status as a thief. When I visited him, he was overjoyed and immediately poured out his heart.

“ You see, my childhood was stolen from me by a thief. I was the victim. And after a thorough and very lengthy investigation, the conclusion was that I was the only one suspected thief. Since I realized the importance of the course of justice, I accepted my fate and became a thief-for-life.“

“But you are the only person on this island, there is no one else, so it must have been you, who stole your childhood, “ I said expecting him to be relieved. “ You cannot steal something that already belongs to you. Therefore you are not a thief. You should be happy my friend.”

“You are stupid. I am the only person on this island, as you said, except for you as a visitor today. If I am not a thief, then what am I ??? In all the languages of the world, you can look up in thick dictionaries and find the meaning of the word “thief.”

And my whole life, I have been a thief. It may not be the best reputation, but I learned to live with it.

And now, after all these years, I will no longer be a thief, I will be a nothing.”

The thief broke out into tears and started sobbing uncontrollably.

Hoping to console him, I said, ”but you are still a suspect, and that is something nobody can take away from you, once a suspect always a suspect.”

He looked at me through his tears with deep suspicion. “You are only saying that to make me feel better. You see we have a deeply rooted history as thieves. It goes back many, many generations. At first, we were not aware of it, but then European adventurers and explorers arrived, and they immediately knew. Heavy punishments were doled out, even executions and death by torture. So, after a while, we all knew that we were thieves and had to be treated likewise.

We were happy to keep up the skills of thievery from generation to generation. Unique skills, like an artistic craft, were passed on from father to son, as the most valuable family heirloom.

“Yes,” I said, “I perfectly understand. “You were branded thieves for the convenience of the conquistadores and got used to it to the point that you are even proud of it. Initially, it may have taken away your dignity, but then it returned. You gained global recognition and with it, even more dignity.”

“ Yes,” the thief said, ”and now they will strip me of my dignity, again, since I no longer can be a thief.”

When I realized that there was too much sadness on this island, I left even without saying goodbye to the thief. It was alright; one does not have to be polite to thieves.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle


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