Can I steal a face mask to protect my family?

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Responsibility has never been of this amplitude.

As citizens, we were taught to be responsible towards ourselves and others. However, citizenship’s responsibility is more abiding by the law for a smoother organized life in society. A transgression of the law leads to punishment and repair.

Suddenly, in this peculiar pause, a walk outside has become an individual and a collective moral question. The dilemma is this:

Can I steal a mask to protect myself/my family? Or, in absence of a mask, can I walk outside uncovered?

Stealing is universally criminal. Foolishness, taken to a certain extend, in time of crisis is as criminal. If ethics are made of somehow universal principles (truth, respect etc.), never before, wise practical and casuistic ethics (i.e to wear a mask) has become a universal principle. Therefore, in this precise matter, stealing a mask is less harmful than to be face uncovered outside.

We might save the world by stealing a mask!


12 thoughts on “Can I steal a face mask to protect my family?”

  1. What about whens it’s harder for essential workers to get their hands on masks? Should we still steal them, even if it means putting them in danger? I feel like the most consequentially ethical thing to do might be to refrain from going out as much as possible and to give protection to the most vulnerable people rather than protect yourself.

    Also with social distancing at the rise of DIY masks limiting risk, is it really necessary for people to steal a mask?

    Your conclusion doesn’t really sounds like the selfish and dangerous conclusion many people who have bought M95 masks for their families, therefore taking them away from healthcare workers, have come to. I mean, doctors are willing to lay down their lives to save the lives of others. I don’t think it really gets more utilitarian than that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your comment but I am talking here about a planetary responsibility when facing a crisis; hence the ironic title. What is allowed and what is forbidden? In time of crisis morals seems to step back because there is something more important to deal with.
      This also goes for governments who didn’t respond well to this crisis. Where does the responsibility lie?
      Hospitals in Italy were so overcrowded that doctors unwillingly had to choose whom to save,
      So it is not about stealing or not, it is about responsibility, its beginning and its limit

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So, in this time of crisis, how deep is our moral obligations to ourselves, vs our responsibilities to the collective whole of our community? Or expanding on this — does one ever supersede the other? And if yes when? Where is the line?

    And that’s a good question, because we are all inherently programmed for self-survival. I believe we all have the ability to say “the hell with everybody else,” its time to take care of number one! Time to do whatever it takes, morally right or not. The question is, where is this desperation line? And how bad do things have to be — before we cross it?

    As far as having to deal morally, or with the making of potential life or death decisions puts us in situations that most of us are not used to. Very few of us have ever before been personally responsible for the lives of others. And those of our leaders that have been making the big decisions for us (governments and health-care experts) they will be later scrutinized endlessly on their every move.

    In a crisis, hard decisions must be made and made quickly. And In the end, we will all have to live with the decisions that we’ve made— be them right or wrong!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow thank you! That’s a comment I was waiting for from you 🙂
      Yes responsibility is getting bigger and confusing in terms of what action should be taken and which shouldn’t be. I hope this crisis will end soon.. Do you think it will end soon?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I truly wish I knew. Perhaps it may subside in the future but I believe we have a long ways to go before that. And success will mostly likely be in those Nations who have been patient enough to adhere to their pandemic experts.

        In the end perhaps, only a proven vaccine will totally end this living nightmare we’re in. And that may be a year or more coming in the future. Let’s hope I’m wrong and the sun comes out even brighter sooner than later. At this point I guess — all we can do is hope!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Does it make a difference who you are stealing the mask from? eg are you depriving someone else of the protection you seek, or is it from an apparently plentiful source where one mask will not be missed?

    And what about stealing food, if you are starving and have no money. Surely it’s better for you/your family to survive than to starve, or is it, because you are a very moral person.

    There is of course no absolute answer to these questions. If we act according to conscience, we can let our higher selves resolve the dilemmas. There is no logic that will solve them!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True. Very well said. Responsibility as a higher moral principle becomes more important, therefore more confusing, in times of crisis. Why? Because it is permanently confronted to the survival instinct. Thank you for your insightful comment

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Some jurisprudences formally recognize necessity as an excuse to breaches of law. As a – with regard to its formality – rather undefined rule, the Latin quote “virio esurienti necesse est furare” translates into French law as “nécessité fait loi” (necessity is its own law). Quite formal, however, is the Brazilian notion of “furto famélico” (famished larceny), an exhoneration from legal prohibitions to steal food and other articles of vital importance in case of dire need.

      In case of masks, I should think maylynno gets a point, and in answer to your first question I add that the provision is that the theft takes place at a store (with likely surpluses) and is not robbery from an individual, who has a right (and duty?) to wear a mask equal as his or her robber’s.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My question aimed for responsibility, both individual and collective, in time of crisis. Responsibility and morality are not the same in time of peace. Thank you for visiting


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