Came home Sunday morning to find that my house had been robbed the night before.

It’s such a bad feeling, to know that you have been punked by a band of high school boys roaming the street. Around 11 o’clock Saturday night I left the house to stay the night at a friend’s house and watch a movie. When we walked got outside, we saw a group of boys skulking around aimlessly by our mailbox. One asked if we were having a party at the house. They must have heard my housemates’ band playing downstairs, I thought.

But he asked the question like a bratty teenager would ask his mom for the car keys, as if he was entitled to a party if there was one. I said it was just band practice. This was supposed to sound like it was nothing exciting, friendly but parsimonious at the same time. Instead it probably came off sounding too generous. He said, “Oh, ok,” and they all left. I noticed one of them was carrying a big case of golf clubs, but I did not think anything of it. Four people were downstairs, and another person upstairs. The house should be safe.

When I came back home the next day my housemates asked me if I knew where all their stuff was. I said no, and went to my room to discover that a $4,000 video camera I had been using for the past two years was stolen. I knew right away what happened. I said to myself, “Those fuckin thieves.”

Looking back, it was so obvious! I should have caught on to their suspicious behavior. But who ever does until it’s too late? I figured the boys might have stopped at our house to check out the anarchist newspaper/zine box we have sitting outside, which was intended to attract pedestrian attention. I figured they might have been looking for college parties, which happen nearby every weekend. I figured they could have been playing night-golf, because I have seen frat boys play golf at night before. And I figured the music downstairs attracted them to our house. I guess I was proud to live in an “interesting” house, and so it seemed not worth paying attention to.

“Well, at least you learned your lesson,” some friends told me. But what lesson? Maybe people who read this blog can help me out.

One obvious lesson is that you should be vigilant and lock your doors even when people are home. Maybe that is inconvenient and maybe you’ll seem paranoid. If you have expensive stuff then your friends will understand. But how friendly should you be to your extended neighbors? Should you be friendly and invite Oliver fucking Twist into your house? Or should you tell him to get the fuck away from your mailbox and if you see him again you’re getting out the shotguns? Should you ask him where he lives and what he’s doing? Or would that only make friendly people suspicious, instead of making suspicious people fearful? Should you lay booby traps? How many? And if you catch the fucking bastards red-handed, how much (if any) mercy should you give?

As I told my housemate, so long as these thieves steal from us and thereby stop us from being effective community organizers or activists etc., they are no better than the police. Are we supposed to think of this crime as driven by class oppression – as if they’re the proletariat stealing from the bourgeoisie? Yes, we have “wealth” in terms of computers, lap tops and cameras. Yes, we are college-educated and make food with quality herbs and spices. Yes, we have a painting by Jean Honoré Fragonard in our living room. Does that make us petite bourgeoisie?

In one analysis, we own the means of production because we make propaganda. We have our own means of production. But this analysis is incoherent. Since the thieves have the means now – it would make them the bourgeoisie and now our roles are switched. Anyone who ever published or created intellectual content is the bourgeoisie. No, we should have a better class analysis than that. If we think of ourselves as petite bourgeois consumers with surplus wealth for the taking, then we must really be confused.

And is it true what Machiavelli says, that it is better to be feared than loved? Some people are simply not interested in what they can gain mutually from friends in a relationship and would rather take from you, no matter who you are, no matter which side you are on. How do you scare the shit out of those people, while making new friends and maintaining your mutual respect for others? How can you tell friends from enemies and what do you tell your enemies?