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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde and Buckminster Fuller All Agreed that Property Ownership is a Big Problem

Source: Truththeory

If we think about it, we can see that private property – a mental construct we protect by laws and police forces – has made our world an unfree world. A pigeon, a rat, a squirrel, has far more freedom of movement than a human being, who confronts fences and walls in most directions he might like to go. These fences and walls also live within us. We internalize them. It is possible that our world will always remain unjust and unfree until we end the system that protects private ownership, above all other rights. As unlikely as it is to imagine, this could be done humanely and benevolently. Eventually, we will supersede property rights through new cooperative arrangements.

Three of my favourite social thinkers – Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde and Buckminster Fuller – agree with Rousseau that private property is at the root of our society's sickness. For Marx, one problem was that property contorted the human personality, making us 'stupid and one-sided'.

We confused the abstract 'sense of having' with a real sense. We got lost in this abstraction. Marx wrote, 'In the place of all physical and mental senses there has therefore come the sheer estrangement of all these senses, the sense of having.' If humanity abolished private property and collectivized resources, Marx reasoned, people would be free to live in the present again. They would open their senses to the world around them.

Like Marx, Oscar Wilde saw that private property damaged human psychology by substituting a removed, abstract relationship to the world for immersion in the present: 'By confusing a man with what he possesses, it has led Individualism entirely astray. It has made gain not growth its aim. So that man thought that the important thing was to have, and did not know that the important thing is to be. The true perfection of man lies, not in what man has, but in what man is.' All the world's mystical traditions tell us that we cannot truly own or possess anything – everything in the universe is energy undergoing processes of transformation. Chief Seattle said, 'How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?' Ownership supports the low-frequency delusions of the ego that wants to control, possess, dominate the world. We turned the sense of having into something concrete, forgetting this is just an illusion of our minds.

Wilde similarly believed a new socialist arrangement was necessary. Socialism, Communism, or whatever one chooses to call it, by converting private property into public wealth, and substituting co-operation for competition, will restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and insure the material well-being of each member of the community. It will, in fact, give Life its proper basis and its proper environment.

Wilde did not see a contradiction between art and individuality – which he prized as the highest ideal – and a socialist or post-capitalist civilization. He thought socialism would allow the people's individuality to flourish for the first time. He noted that ownership of property 'has so many duties that its possession to any large extent is a bore. It involves endless claims upon one, endless attention to business, endless bother.

If property had simply pleasures, we could stand it; but its duties make it unbearable. In the interest of the rich we must get rid of it.' I think we need at least to consider the possibility that we can never have a truly regenerative society as long as the basis of it is private property and hoarded capital. I find obvious reasons this is the case.

First of all, property (and the rents or interest collected from it) divides the world into two classes of people: Haves and Have Nots. When somebody becomes wealthy, a Have, a huge amount of their intellect and energy gets channelled into protecting the wealth they have gained, rather than working for the comprehensive good of all. Perhaps they originally wanted to create things that helped and improved the human condition. With personal success, however, their focus inexorably shifts to protecting their own assets and their family's interests against everyone else.

Those without property, the Have Nots, feel little incentive to fight for the future of the Earth, because the world is already cut off from them. It is owned – lock, stock and barrel – by the wealthy. They don't feel the state of the Earth is their problem or responsibility. It is significant that indigenous people around the world have been courageously leading the battle against the extractive industries. Of course, this is partially because their homelands are directly threatened, but it is also because they come from cultures where private property either didn't exist or had limited value as a construct.

In today's 'Brave New 1984', a gigantic surveillance and security apparatus hangs over us like an invisible spider web. Its main purpose is to protect property rights, both physical and intellectual forms of property. 'When private property is abolished there will be no necessity for crime, no demand for it; it will cease to exist,' Wilde wrote. The enormous waste generated by the capitalist system is caused, at the root, by the individual's thirst to attain personal wealth – the only way to be secure in such a system.

Like Wilde, Fuller thought that private property would become a thing of the past once humanity liberated its creative powers through a design revolution. Already in the 1960s, he noted, 'Possession is becoming progressively burdensome and wasteful and therefore obsolete.' Masses of people, particularly younger people, are starting to realize this now. We see a major cultural trend away from ownership towards a new sharing economy. Even the New York Times has noted, 'Sharing is to ownership what the iPod is to the 8-track, what solar power is to the coal mine.' This trend could be the start of a large-scale metamorphosis.

Ideally, in the future, people will own little – or absolutely nothing– yet live abundantly, joyfully, able to access whatever they need or desire, when they need it. As virtual tools proliferate, property matters less to us than intangible assets, such as time and attention.

In The Ecology of Freedom, Murray Bookchin declared that we need to end the 'private ownership of the planet by elite strata' if we want to survive. As an alternative, we must establish 'a fully participatory society literally free of privilege and domination'. Bookchin expressed suspicion of partial 'solutions to the ecological crisis, like green consumerism, renewable energy, or carbon taxation'. He believed these reformist initiatives only concealed the deep-seated nature of the crisis, and 'thereby deflect public attention and theoretical insight from an adequate understanding of the depth and scope of the necessary change'. I think Bookchin makes a valid point – although one that will be difficult for many people to accept. The fundamental basis of capitalism – private ownership of physical and intellectual property – may be ecologically unsound.

This excerpt was taken from Daniel Pinchbeck's book "How Soon Is Now: From Personal Initiation to Global Transformation" How Soon is Now?presents a compelling manifesto for personal and planetary change. It proposes a revolutionary new narrative for a unified social movement. Through global cooperation, we can face this collective threat ecologically, socially, politically and spiritually. We can launch a new operating system for human society based on regenerative principles. You can get your copy Here


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