Actor Seth Rogen received backlash after downplaying crime in Los Angeles like people breaking into cars. Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images
How important is your stuff?
Over the holiday, YouTube star Casey Neistat shared that his cars had been broken into but that the Los Angeles Police Department had found the perpetrator and gotten his stolen goods back.
Actor Seth Rogen didn’t understand all the fuss. He tweeted that Neistat could be mad but Rogen doesn’t “personally view my car as an extension of myself and I’ve never really felt violated any of the 15 or so times my car was broken in to.” Additionally, Rogen noted, “Once a guy accidentally left a cool knife in my car so if it keeps happening you might get a little treat.”
The deep privilege necessary to shrug off having your car broken into 15 times seemed lost on Rogen.
It’s not just him. We’re in a strange time in which we’re lectured we’re not supposed to care about “stuff.” Material goods shouldn’t matter, we’re told by people who have far more material goods than most people.
Last month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki referred to the “tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed” when talking about the supply-chain crisis. Psaki also dismissed concerns about Christmas presents arriving on time. Psaki earns $180,000 a year in her role.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain approvingly retweeted someone who called economic problems like inflation “high-class problems.” He too makes $180,000. It’s very easy to dismiss economic problems that affect people all over the country when you’re making more than three times the salary of the average worker.
And last year, as riots raged in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, we heard a lot that property damage doesn’t really matter. So what if someone’s business is destroyed? They’ll survive. But that dismissal of property crime has led directly to the shoplifting sprees we’re seeing in cities like San Francisco. If stuff doesn’t matter, people can just take it.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the supply chain crisis the “tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.”
EPA/OLIVER CONTRERAS / POOL
Things don’t matter as much as people, of course. I would set fire to every single item I own to protect my family. But history shows us that after the stuff goes, people often follow.
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro’s government has been seizing “stuff” for a while now. A toy factory here, a GM plant there. The government has taken farmland and apartments. And while it’s hard to say how many people have left the country, a 2019 Miami Herald story puts the number at “15 to 19 percent of Venezuela’s total population.” For some reason, they didn’t have Seth Rogen’s joie de vivre about property not being that important.
My great-grandfather owned a bakery in the Soviet Union. In the 1930s, the government outlawed private businesses, and his bakery no longer belonged to him. It’s just a storefront, it’s just your life’s work. It’s just what he used to support his family until it was no longer allowed.
He was seized, too, sent to a gulag far away. His wife saw him once, after she made the arduous trek. His four kids, never again. It was just a business, but its destruction consumed a family.
A barbershop’s broken window after the George Floyd riots in Minneapolis on May 25, 2021.
AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa
It’s not always as dramatic as a patriarch being imprisoned. In 1970s New York City, crime spiraled out of control. Violent crime like murder and rape went hand in hand with robbery, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft. Between 1970 and 1980, the city lost 10 percent of its population.
Those who can protect their things or just buy new stuff don’t get how perilous it feels to have what you’ve worked for stripped away from you.
Stuff matters. It’s the car that takes you to work and keeps your family safe from worry. It’s the business you built and want to protect.
It’s the joy on your daughter’s face when the toy she wanted arrives in time for Christmas. It’s especially poignant if you’ve been poor, had to go without, and you’ve worked a long time to make sure your kids have it differently than you did.
Our things are important. They are a layer of protection around us. They represent comfort but also freedom. When things are scarce, we lose far more than just the material goods. Abundance is good; security of that abundance even better.
Twitter: @KarolInternet Explorer Channel Network