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MARTHA SEZ: ‘Meanwhile, the criminals … feel they are being left out of the equation’

When I saw a story about rock cairns in the “New Yorker” recently, I thought it was supposed to be funny.

According to the article, a Zion National Park media post referring to the “curious but destructive practice” of building cairns, stated “stacking up stones is simply vandalism.”

Since then I have learned that placing rocks on top of each other is very wrong. One more thing to worry about, especially for those of us who live inside a vast wilderness park like the Adirondacks.

According to the Live Science website, “There’s a controversial trend of artistically stacking stones in the wilderness, expressly to post pictures to social media.”

Humans around the globe have been hauling rocks around and building cairns for various purposes, many of them unfathomable, since time immemorial. Nobody, as far as I know, objects to StoneHenge in England or the ancient Blackfoot medicine wheels or stone figures on the North American prairie or the native rock piles and stone mound sites in New England. It’s this newfangled cairn fad that many consider criminal. Instagram, indeed!

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual report for 2020, violent crime, as well as property crime, which had been steadily declining for decades, shows an alarming 18% increase in murder during the pandemic.

Well, many consider this alarming, but you can’t expect everybody to agree about anything. Take for example criminals. Where do they stand on the issues?

Now, before you get to complaining about how criminals are not fairly represented in the press, stop and consider: How many criminals do you know who actually get it together to publish their own annual report?

Let’s face it. Criminals today are unwilling to do the hard work of researching and then publishing their own crime figures. Much less do they convey their views to the media in any organized manner. If our view of crime in the United States is one-sided and biased, criminals have only themselves to blame.

Meanwhile, the criminals–who, let’s face it, are in truth the people responsible for committing fewer crimes until last year–feel they are being left out of the equation. If there were no criminals, there would be no crime rates to rise or dwindle. Yet the criminal class receives little, if any, praise for its partial abstinence from robbing, pillaging, building cairns and so on.

Social scientists at major universities have put forth various hypotheses in an attempt to explain the phenomenon of crime decline. One theory is that the US population is aging. What does this mean? their students ask. Isn’t everyone aging, technically?

Yes, but, due to the enormous birth rate increase following WWII, resulting in the famous Baby Boom, the average age of our citizenry has been affected. Thus, in the 1950s we were primarily a nation of children, in the 1960s a totally groovy and far out nation of young people, and so on, to this rather regrettable stage in which we presently find ourselves a nation of senior Boomers.

Regrettable for some of us, but good in a way, since criminals, experts postulate, are aging out of the system. As stockbrokers, prison guards and teachers retire, criminals retire from their lives of crime or perhaps die from natural or other causes, like getting shot, or get caught and put behind bars.

Also, elderly people are less likely to be climbing mountains and stacking up heavy stones to build cairns and taking pictures of them which they then post on Instagram. Although I wouldn’t put it past some I know.

Experts say that in the city criminals are discouraged by the ubiquity of cameras. Cameras are everywhere. It doesn’t do to think too much about it, especially if you are a person who suffers from paranoia, or an English major who has read a lot of books by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell; you might never leave your house.

This theory, that criminals are stymied by the threat of having their crimes caught on surveillance cameras or by the cell phones of random passersby or other hikers, has some credence, although there will always be those who just say what the heck and go for it anyway.

I would like to be a fly on the wall at a gathering of retired criminals, oldsters spinning their yarns of stick-ups and derring do. Of course you would have to take it all with a grain of salt. Criminals are such liars.

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the Lake Placid News for more than 20 years.)