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The thrilling story of the life of Louie Zamperini, best told in the biography “Unbroken“, is memorable for numerous reasons. After crashing into the south Pacific in WWII, followed by 47 days floating (and fighting off sharks and starvation) on a torn up inflatable raft, Louie was finally “rescued” by the Japanese. He was then thrown into a seemingly endless cycle of Japanese torture and imprisonment, before finally being rescued at the end of the war, and eventually becoming a Christian!
 
Once you have read the book, or seen the movie, its hard to forget the images of what Louie went through.
 
Recently, an obscure passage from the book came back to mind, as I was pondering the the “lockdowns” being enforced in so many nations of the world. As you work your way through the rest of this article, please note that I am not arguing for imitation. I am, however, pointing out a similarity or parallel that is becoming more and more obvious the longer people’s freedoms are stifled.
 
To begin, let me first set the stage for what is to come further below…
   
When Zamperini and his fellow POWs were forced to work on behalf of the Japanese war machine, they “rebelled” by joyfully undermining their enemy’s efforts. For example:
 
“[Several POWs committed] an act that was potentially suicidal. While enslaved at a railyard, they noticed that a group of track workers had neglected to put their tools away. When their guard became absorbed in wooing a pretty girl, the POWs sprinted from their stations, snatched up the tools, dashed over to a section of track, wrenched the pins and bolts out, and rushed back to their work. The guard, still talking to the girl, noticed nothing. A switch engine chugged in, pulling several boxcars. The engine hit the sabotaged strip, the rails shot out from under it, and the entire train tipped over. No one was hurt, but the Japanese were frantic. They looked to the POWs, who kept working, their faces devoid of expression. The Japanese began screaming accusations at one another.
 
As dangerous as these acts were, for the POWs, they were transformative. In risking their necks to sabotage their enemy, the men were no longer passive captives. They were soldiers again.”
 
 
Now very few nations in the world are enslaving their people and forcing them to work against their will (North Korea is undoubtedly an exception). The current problem in many nations is actually the opposite. Millions (billions?) of people are imprisoned in their homes and forbidden from doing the work that they need to do to survive.
 
With that in mind, the following sequence from the book is an example of what almost always bound to happen when human beings are not given the opportunity to provide for themselves:
 
“What the POWs couldn’t sabotage, they stole. They broke into shipping boxes, tapped bottles, lifted storage room doors off their hinges, raided ships’ galleys, and crawled up factory chutes. Scottish POWs who worked in the Mitsubishi food warehouse ran the most sophisticated operation. When the Japanese took their shoe sizes for work boots, the men asked for boots several sizes too big. They knitted special socks, some four feet long, and hoarded hollow bamboo reeds. Once at the sites, they leaned casually against sugar sacks, stabbed the reeds in, then ran the reeds into the socks, allowing sugar to pour through the reeds until the socks were full. Others tied up their pant cuffs, stuck the reeds in their waistbands, and filled their pants with sugar. Each load was deposited in a secret compartment in the latrine, to be retrieved at day’s end.
 
Each evening, Louie saw the slaves tramping back in, their clothes packed with booty. The critical moment came when inspection was called. Men would deftly pass contraband, or the men bearing it, around during the searches, while the guards’ backs were turned. McMullen would hide fish in his sleeves; when patted down, he’d hold his arms up and grip the fish tails so they wouldn’t slide out. 
 
When the men were safely in the barracks, Louie watched them unpack themselves. Under the men’s clothes, sugar-filled socks hung from necks or arms, dangled under armpits and down pant legs, in the necks of turtleneck sweaters, in false pockets, under hats. Two-foot-long salmon would emerge from under shirts. Louie once saw a thief pull three cans of oysters from a single boot. Legs would be swaddled in tobacco leaves. One American built a secret compartment in his canteen, filling the bottom with stolen alcohol while the top, upon inspection, yielded only water. 

Men were caught all the time, and when they were, all the men of the work party were beaten with fists, bats, and rifle butts. But the men were fed so little and worked so hard that they felt they had to steal to survive. They set up a “University of Thievery,” in which “professors”—the most adept thieves—taught the art of stealing. The final exam was a heist. When men were caught stealing, POW officers suggested that the culprits be transferred to sites that didn’t carry food. The Japanese agreed, and the POW officers then replaced the inept thieves with University of Thievery alumni.
 
Thanks to the stealing, a black market with a remarkable diversity of goods flourished in camp. One group stole all the ingredients for a cake, only to discover, upon baking it, that the flour was actually cement. Because there were so many men, there wasn’t a lot of loot to go around, but everyone benefited in some way. Whenever the thieves had something extra, they gave it to Louie, who still wasn’t managing to gain weight. A few times, they even smuggled him smoked oysters. Louie devoured them and tiptoed to the fence to pitch the cans into Tokyo Bay.
 
Stolen food, especially the Scots’ sugar, was the camp currency, and the “sugar barons” became the rich men of Omori, even hiring assistants to do their laundry. The Scots drove hard bargains, but they also donated one-quarter of the loot to sick POWs. One night, when he found Frank Tinker deathly ill, Louie waited for the guards to pass, snuck to the Scots’ barracks, and told them that Tinker was in trouble. The Scots sent Louie back to Tinker with a load of sugar, no charge. Tinker would later say that Louie’s sugar run “saved my soul.” According to Martindale, Tinker wasn’t the only man saved. Deaths from illness and malnutrition had once been commonplace, but after the thievery school was created, only two POWs died, one from a burst appendix. And in a place predicated on degradation, stealing from the enemy won back the men’s dignity.”
 
I remember feeling a bit scandalized when I first read this. Isn’t it morally wrong to steal, no matter what the circumstances? Does being “at war” create an exception to the rule? Should starving people be content to die of hunger rather than pilfer from someone else (especially when the “else” is the enemy)? The answers to the above questions are at least debatable.
 
Now how does this relate to our current crisis in Peru? 
 
Every day millions of Peruvians are being forced to engage in “illegal” activities just to survive, due to the overbearing and immoral laws that have been enacted by the president (similar to some governors in the USA). People may not be desperate enough to resort to stealing (yet), but many homeless people are scavenging, poor people are discreetly begging, day laborers are offering their meager services and seeking tips (for carrying groceries, hailing taxis, cleaning windows), not to mention small business owners and individuals who secretly sell things out of their supposedly shuttered shops and homes.
 
What all these normal and “essential” activities have in common is that they are currently against the law! Each one of these scenarios involves individuals breaking the government’s forced quarantine and “stay-at-home” mandate. When government oversteps its authority, good, hard-working citizens are turned into “criminals” for merely trying to provide for their loved ones; for refusing to “stay at home” while their families suffer silently. 
 
And this is where our current situation comes closest to the reality faced by the POWs in WWII (although the gap is still quite far). As half-starved prisoners, they arguably had a right to even steal from their captors in order to feed themselves, besides scavenging for whatever they could find.
 
Similarly, as governments around the world knowingly remove from their citizens the only avenue to provide for themselves, nobody should be shocked when millions of mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas, friends and neighbors, suddenly become “criminals” for being responsible adults and doing what it takes to survive.