Wednesday, 21 November 2007

You cannot own it!

Ran has just done a good post today (November 20) about ownership and how it just doesn't make sense. This is something I've believed for the past few years now - how can anyone actually own anything in this world? I've got a lot of thoughts around this, and reasons why ownership cannot work as we humans use it. I've not written about it before, mainly because it would be quite a long post, as I do have a tendency to try and be complete about things (which some people might see as being a bit rambling). Whereas Ran just gets the essence of an idea across, and I can read between the lines of what he says.

Anyway, as Ran says, ownership is really a negative thing, like a lot of other man-made laws. It is not really about what the 'owner' can do with the owned property, but more about what everyone else in the world cannot do with that property anymore. Which means that in the long run ownership is a restrictive practice that alienates more and more people and disenfranchises them from 'normal' living. And such 'normal' living becomes an acquired privilege, rather than an intrinsic right. The haves versus the have-nots.

And as a result it is unsustainable, as Ran points out. At some point it is going to collapse one way or another. In one distinct possibility, a few select groups of people will officially 'own' every physical object on the planet, and everyone else (the vast majority) will be paying rent for access to and use of it all (also known as wage slavery).

The thing that strikes me as weird, is how mankind ever came up with the concept of outright and everlasting ownership of everything i.e. that just about anything can be owned by someone. Usage of something, and an exclusive right to use it - yes, I can understand that. But outright ownership in perpetuity, whether used or not, seems bizarre and unnatural.

Ownership of specific things, I can kind of get my head around - 'this is my knife', 'this is my house'. But ownership of non-specific things, and general, natural things seems completely weird to me. What I've come to realise is that 'stewardship' of something is possible. I am responsible for an area of land, and for ensuring its wellbeing so that I and many others can benefit from it. This stewardship is a two way relationship - I take care of the land and environment and in return it takes care of me by supplying me with food and resources. And in time this stewardship will pass on to someone else.

Ownership is a one way, exploitative relationship. I take what I want from this, and give nothing back to it in return. Which is the opposite of stewardship (I don't know what other word to use for this at the moment). I do not own this land, as the land beneath our feet cannot be truly owned. I might put down some concrete as a floor surface, and claim ownership of the concrete itself. But I cannot own the land underneath the concrete.

The most bizarre element of this to me is that anyone can own naturally occurring resources such as land, water, air, minerals and animals. I just find the whole concept bizarre and incredible. The argument seems to be that someone can own a piece of land, because the land does not move. It is always the same piece of land in the same location. But what about a river that flows through the land? Can that be owned? What do you own? The land enclosing the river, the form of the river within the landscape, but not the water in it? Or you own the water in it too? So you could dam or divert the river, as it belongs to you?

But who owns this water that you say you own on your land, before it enters your land and after it leaves it? If ownership can change so suddenly then it just shows that ownership of such natural resources is impossible. What about the air above the land? Do you own that too? Can I stop planes flying above my land? Can I shoot them down? And out into space? Or does it stop at some atmospheric boundary? And what about below the surface of the land? All the way down to the core of the Earth?

What about the animals on the land? The current laws seem to say 'Yes, you own the animals on your land'. Which is of course how farms work, and why taking such animals is theft. But what about all the other animals? What about wild animals which wander over large areas? What about deer, foxes, rats, and so on. What about birds and fish? Do you own those when they appear on your land, but no longer own them when they move off? How can you own a fish in a moving river? What about salmon that are born in a river, travel down to the sea, live there for many years, and then travel back up the same river again to spawn? So what if a fence breaks around a farmer's field and the cows wander out onto open, public land? Does the farmer no longer own them?

When a wild deer gives birth to a baby fawn, who owns that new born deer? Real answer - no one does. Nearest answer according to man made laws - that baby belongs to the mother deer, until it becomes old enough to be an independent deer. So who owns the newborn calf of a cow, or lamb of a sheep? The mother animal or the farmer? How can a farmer own something that did not exist before the mother cow gave birth? If the cow temporarily breaks out of the farmer's fields, and gives birth on public land, does the farmer still own the calf?

What also makes 'ownership' impossible in my view is, who owned this stuff in the first place, so that someone else could 'acquire' it and become the legal owner? Answer - no one owned it originally. It just existed. So how can it become owned suddenly? Even if mankind 'owns' everything, who owned it before humans existed? Who owned it all in the time of the dinosaurs?

If all animals were free and unowned, then how did someone come to own an animal for the first time? There was no existing owner to buy it from, or to transfer ownership from. So surely it is impossible to own animals in this outright sense. It is all just a mockery - the emperor's new clothes - and we are all willingly going along with it.

As Ran says, at some point the majority of the people will wake up to this scam, and stop paying rent and stop acknowledging ownership as the man made law currently defines it. And then we might go back to where we were before all this ownership mess started.

Anyway, I've now made the main points I wanted to about the fallacy of ownership. And thanks to Ran for his post for kick starting me to follow up and get my thoughts down.

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