Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Private Property Strips our Freedom and Destroys our Future

recently, ambassador, author of the pamphlet time for outrage, and concentration camp survivor, stephane hessel, appeared on democracy now! and was asked why there is such an anti-immigrant sentiment in many countries of the world and what impact this has on uniting people. he replied:
I think the word "security" is one of the most dangerous words that can be used by governments. They say, "For reasons of security, we cannot accept this, we cannot do that, we cannot do the other." Security is all right, but freedom is even more important. 
and why do we need all this security? to protect private property and personal ownership. accepting the idea of private property and ownership is why people tolerate democracy restricting security measures. we believe our right to personal ownership and the constant buying and consumption of things makes us free. but how can we be free when we are constantly living in fear of someone else who is out to hurt us and take our stuff?

for some reason we have allowed our slavery to property, and all its concomitant violations of freedom, to trump democracy.

yes, funneling wealth to the top does create jobs. jobs for those who maintain this unjust system based on inequality and greed. how much time, effort and money is spent on police, lawyers, judges, jailers, armies etc., all in an effort to protect our things, instead of seeing to it that the needs of all are taken care of? imagine how much brain power and resources we would have available for education, health care and creating clean, livable communities if we weren't so worried about protecting our stuff.

executive director of the labor and worklife program at harvard and member of the democratic socialists of america, elaine bernard, has stated:
Medieval life, was a collectively lived life. It was a brutish, nasty affair. But there was a collective responsibility. People belonged to the land; the land did not belong to people. And in this European world, people, farmed the land in a collective way, because they saw it as a commons.
Beginning with Tudor England, we began to see a phenomenon emerge, and that is the enclosure of the great commons by parliamentary acts in England, and then in Europe. And so, first we began to take the great land masses of the world which were commons and shared, and we reduced those to private property. Then we went after the oceans, the great oceanic commons, and we created laws and regulations that would allow countries to claim a certain amount of water outside their coastal limits for exploitation.
In this century we went after the air, and we divided it into air corridors that could be bought and sold for commercial traffic for airplanes.
With deregulation, privatization, free trade, what we’re seeing is yet another enclosure and if you like private taking of the commons.
One of the things I find very interesting in our current debates is this concept of who creates wealth. That wealth is only created when it’s owned privately.
What would you call clean water, fresh air, a safe environment? Are they not a form of wealth? And why does it only become wealth when some entity puts a fence around it and declares it private property? Well, you know, that’s not wealth creation. That’s wealth usurpation.
the destruction of our ecology, where private industries and multinational oil and gas companies are polluting the air and water and destroying the land and stripping away native hunting rights for indigenous people, is not only a usurpation of what belongs to all beings now, it is also a usurpation of what rightfully belongs to all those who will come after us.

a clean environment is the commons belonging to all creatures of this planet, and we are destroying it in the name of ownership and private profit. we believe we have a right to take and keep, in other words steal, what rightfully belongs to all. and it belongs to all because all are the inhabitants of earth and need a clean, healthy world to survive.

the fact that there are so many fossil fuel burning vehicles on the road, pumping poisonous emissions into the atmosphere, illustrates how we believe we have a right to destroy what belongs to all because of this god-like notion of worshiping private property and personal ownership.

french anarchist pierre joseph proudhon in his book what is property writes:
Then I commenced a most laborious investigation. It was necessary to arrange informal notes, to discuss contradictory titles, to reply to captious allegations, to refute absurd pretensions, and to describe fictitious debts, dishonest transactions, and fraudulent accounts. In order to triumph over quibblers, I had to deny the authority of custom, to examine the arguments of legislators, and to oppose science with science itself. Finally, all these operations completed, I had to give a judicial decision. I therefore declared, my hand upon my heart, before God and men, that the causes of social inequality are three in number:

1. Gratuitous appropriation of collective wealth;
2. Inequality in exchange;
3. The right of profit or increase.

And since this threefold method of extortion is the very essence of the domain of property, I denied the legitimacy of property, and proclaimed its identity with robbery.
property is not only theft, it is destruction. it is destruction of our external world and it is destruction of the internal world of our minds as well. we are witnessing how our desire to own, to make a profit, to accumulate more and more, is causing horrendous stresses on our atmosphere due to industrial pollution, which then has adverse effects on people's health, with increasing cases of cancer for example . it is causing untold suffering in the form of poverty and wildlife habitat loss.

but it is also destruction of the better part of the human mind. the mere fact that we have come to accept the very idea of it as normal and live our lives by it, only serves to allow greed to flourish. greed may or may not be a natural trait, but it doesn't matter, it is harmful to our own and to another's well-being and should be kept in check, not encouraged by systems like free market capitalism. it suppresses our other more beneficial and positive sentiments of sharing and empathy for the suffering of another.

the idea of private property is also destroying our ability to think beyond our current economic arrangements, toward a system of personal governance and social responsibility, where the world's wealth is more equitably distributed among everybody.


we now view, at least in theory if not in practice, the ownership of humans as immoral and unjust because it robs the slave of his freewill and well-being (one day we will also come to the realization, as many already have, that to enslave sentient, thinking and feeling nonhuman animals is wrong as well). but if we do not abolish the idea of taking and keeping for ourselves the essentials of what another requires to live (eg. land, food, water, shelter, clothing, access to transport, tools of communication etc.) then we are still holding people in subjection. 

if others do not have access to what is required to sustain their lives or give it meaning because we own it, then we rob them of their lives. we are thieves. we are either forcing them into a position of servitude toward us so that we may give them a few metaphorical table scraps to keep them going, or we are forcing them to unite and take from us, by whatever means necessary, what rightfully belonged to them, what rightfully belonged to all, in the first place.

both slavery and ownership are two sides of the same evil coin. either a person is free to have access to clean air, land, water and nutritious food, without taking away those same things from another, or he is a slave to the ones who have claimed ownership of them.

as humanity grows and matures we will no doubt find fairer and more just ways of distributing the world's wealth, in addition to building cleaner, more sustainable local economies based upon healthier, renewable energy sources. it is not that we don't have enough for everyone, we do. the problem is our reluctance to share because of a system that values and encourages personal fortune and greed over the well-being of all people and taking care of this planet, which all of its denizens call...home.

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