Defined Words: property, consumerism
We are selfish by nature; nothing wrong with that, it’s more advantageous to your survival. Let’s say you are walking through the woods and find a good stick that will help you complete your journey. When using the stick, you are synapsing the idea of the stick with yourself and to do this, causality is needed.
You are fully in control of the stick. It is up to you and only you whether that stick acts as a cane or a weapon and you are responsible for what it does while you hold it. All that responsibility and control can be summed up as a simple relationship, you own that stick. Any person, place or idea can be synapsed to a person with this relationship; when something is seen as belonging to someone, we call it property.
Let’s keep with this stick example for a bit longer. If you are holding onto that stick as though it were yours, a friend could not come up and claim the stick as theirs as well. Therefore, the idea of ownership is one that is exclusive: only one person can own something at a time. If you want to use your stick for firewood, it prevents your friend from using it as a cane.
An object can be traded between people, though the real trade is the idea of ownership. In reality, the entire idea of money is just a numerical way for humans to systematically transfer ownership between traders. Even the idea of sharing property only means that one person has full ownership at any given time.
Recognizing others’ property can sometimes be a messy business. People can lie to give themselves an advantage, claiming ownership of something is an easy start. To discern true ownership from false claims, an authority must be willing to weigh in on the issue. Like many other trends of looking to authority, our ancestors shifted the authority away from humans and placed it with their gods.
It seemed natural to place authority with a god merely because of the idea of ownership. If you and your friend are arguing over who owns the stick, the argument might lead you to question where the stick came from. The stick came from the tree which came from the Earth which came from…. Well, our ancestors believed the world and everything they knew was created and therefore owned by their god.
Our entire world, even ourselves, was seen as the property of some being more powerful than us. It’s no wonder how we became habituated to the idea that everything must be the property of someone. We quickly became used to the idea that everything is either claimed as someone’s property or up for grabs.
When I say “we” here, I’m mostly referring to our ancestors whose lives were filled with ownership. People owned land and servants, but were also owned by their family name or their faith. I make this distinction because the two cultures’ perspective on property is possibly the largest difference between the European explorers and the native people of the newly explored lands.
White people arrived on their boats and asked, “Who owns all this beauty?” Many of the native people, not habituated to expecting ownership, would say, “Nobody owns it, it is the land.” If you just traveled for months on a ship to escape your home filled with stuff that other people own and you are told that this new beautiful world has no current owner, of course you’re going to call dibs! The rest is history but needless to say, the new owners weren’t as respectful to the land as the natives.
Our habituation to property still exists and it’s the main reason we are still in a consumerist culture. Consumerism, a mindset caused by capitalism and an influential and omnipresent advertising media, is nothing more than a habituation to having ownership of things. It causes us to want ownership to more things and strongly defend our claim of ownership.
Consumerist effects on us are difficult habits to break, especially since our expected reality improves whenever we imagine ourselves with a new toy or product. If I tell you that I’m going to give you a wave runner, you will probably be happy about your improved reality now that you have access to something you previously didn’t. It is just logical that gaining more things leads to happiness but there’s a reason for the phrase “money doesn’t buy happiness,” expectations always change.
In our current world, property disputes are being fought over ideas, not objects at all. “Intellectual property” is the name they give it and, as far as I’m concerned, intellectual property is one of the dumbest things to exist. If you come up with a great idea, I’m happy for you and I hope that you get a shout-out whenever someone uses it. If you have a great product idea and need to keep the plans secret so nobody steals it, that’s fine too. However, making information inaccessible for the sole reason of increasing profit is actively slowing progress.
We are best, as a species, when we work together and share our ideas and perspectives. Art is a great example of how information cannot be owned. Art is both the actual work as well as the interpretation by the audience. The interpretations are different to each person and therefore the art cannot be owned by anyone; or it’s owned by everyone separately. We currently live in the Information Age where everyone is gaining access to all information with the Internet. Property is nothing more than an idea and unowned information is the key to freeing the world from ownership.