Pickpocketing: The Reverse Secret Santa

Continuing with things that remind me of Columbus, we’re going to talk about pickpocketing.

La ocasión hace el ladrón 

We all know that “opportunity makes the thief.”  Right, so that person who just stole from you wouldn’t have done so if you hadn’t presented the opportunity.

The Metro de Santiago has recently launched a campaign to stop pickpocketing: No Te Andes Regalando.  Check out some of the campaign boards:

These announcements and billboards feature various personal items, such as wallets, purses, and cellphones, tied up in ribbon.  And the message is that you shouldn’t just go about giving away your belongings as if they were gifts (regalar means “to give a gift”).

Let me get this straight…

Carrying my phone in my pocket is the same as wrapping it up and putting it under a thief’s Christmas tree?

Ok, so maybe this campaign doesn’t aim to stop pickpocketing, but at least to stop people from being careless and getting robbed.  Careless people are at fault for getting robbed, right?

As part of the campaign, comedy group Woki Toki has released a video (see below) that pokes fun at a man doing careless things, such as walking around with his backpack open or with his cell phone in his hand.  One man gives him advice and then calls him clueless and stupid (pavarotti y ahuevonado).

Amidst all this, he asserts, “Let’s be clear; the thief is always at fault, but even so, we can the job more difficult for them.”

This is true.  Of course, even though every house is guarded with wrought iron fences, barbed wire, shards of broken glass, and prison-like bars on their windows, breaking and entering is all too common in Chile.


Because the thief can also create the opportunity.

To apply this to pickpocketing, thieves are known to slash purses open with knives or razors and remove their contents before the owners notice.  They sometimes clog up bus exits so that if you want to get off the bus, you are squeezed between two or three of them single-file.  Then they can quickly and efficiently remove dozens of wallets or coin purses.  And people feel completely helpless against this.

So what does this have to do with Columbus?

Chile’s conceptualization of theft insists that your own strength and force or perceived weakness in others justifies wrongdoing.  In other words, might makes right.

This was Columbus’s opinion of natives in the Americas, whom he perceived as kind and therefore weak.  (The Oatmeal had a clever way of describing this in their Columbus Day comic.)

The Metro de Santiago campaign implies that your vulnerability actually means you are giving yourself willingly to those that would take advantage of you.  And you’re gift-wrapped.

I know it sounds crazy, but that’s the way it is with rape cul—I mean, Chile’s culture of robbery.


5 thoughts on “Pickpocketing: The Reverse Secret Santa

  1. Gabrielle, your posts are very interesting and thought-provoking. The Metro ads and video are amazing! I had never read anything by Oatmeal before. Very powerful.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you are enjoying them. I’ve always thought of The Oatmeal as comedic, but I was surprised by this last post of theirs! They must be branching out. Un abrazo!

  2. This makes me think of those comparisons people make about rapes and muggings, stating that you wouldn’t blame a man for wearing a fancy suit or watch if he got mugged. But, sounds like the Metro de Santiago would do just that!!! hah! Muy interesante… me da mucho para pensar.

    • Yes! That’s exactly where I’m going with this post… the comparison to victim blaming in rape culture is what’s coming next. And it’s funny because as Americans or “Usonians” or whatever we are, we recognize how blaming a person for getting pickpocketed is silly in this context, but we don’t draw the parallel to blaming a person for getting raped.

      Thanks for commenting, lady! Saluditos!

  3. Pingback: Our Shared Heritage: Columbus | Chilean Adventures of the Pelirroja Peligrosa

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