What Do We Own?: the Nature of Reality, pt 4

I don’t have anything brilliant to say today.

Kind of recovering from the last couple of days. But I ran across some notes I had written down awhile ago about the nature of ownership.

What do we own?

Do we own our homes, our land, our cars? Do we really?

Wally Felt, my girlfriend’s great grandfather, in front of his home in South Dakota, c.1919

Think about it. If you have a house payment to make every month, doesn’t that mean the bank owns it? In reality, they do, or they think they do. Even if you have paid off your home, free and clear, what if you don’t pay your property taxes for several years, and refuse to pay them? What will happen then? What if you refuse to pay any taxes? Will you still own your home, car, or anything? Probably not.

How Do We Own?

Let’s go a bit deeper. How do we say that we own something? How did we manage to claim sole ownership of the land our home sits upon? I’m sure that you paid money for it, or more likely, took out a massive loan from a bank — who is the real owner until you pay them back 4 or 5 times over.

But who did you buy it from? How did they obtain it?

If you trace back the ownership of the land your home sits upon, where do you end up? How far back can you trace it? My land can only be traced back about a hundred and fifty years or so. And guess who ‘owned’ it then? Native Americans, of course. But they thought about land and ownership in a very different way than the Europeans who came to claim it from them.

How did the Europeans obtain the land from the Natives who lived here before? Answer: Mostly through coercion, theft, murder, genocide, and trickery.

That’s simply the historical truth to it. Not a pretty fuckin’ picture, to be sure. But if you dig deep into the origins of the ownership of just about anything — and I won’t be quite so bold at present to argue that all ownership is this way — you’ll find that most of it originates in similar ways, if not identical: coercion, theft, murder, genocide, and trickery.

So, do we really own our homes? I don’t think so. According to the law, we do, if we’ve paid the banks off, that is. But don’t tell the taxman you own it; he has different ideas.

If we don’t actually own property — and all major property is subject to the taxman — then what do we own?

Our bodies?

Not really. They are transient. We don’t really have a body, not as a static thing, anyway. It’s constantly rearranging itself; cells die every second to be replaced by new ones, and as much as we think we look the same, day to day, we all know that in reality, we’re gradually slipping towards decay. Ergo, we don’t own our bodies either. At best, we’re renting them, or borrowing them for awhile, much in the way that we own our cars, which are always fuckin’ falling apart, too.

If we can’t really claim ownership over our own bodies? What the fuck can we claim?

Maybe our minds? Our souls? I’m gonna give that one some more thought, until next time…

[This is part 4 of the Nature of Reality series. Click HERE for part 3: A Penis, a Hammer, & the Ever Illusive Reality

Steve Bivans is host of the hit YouTube show, Second Breakfast with Steve Bivans, the author of the best-selling Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, and is working on his second book, The End of Fear Itself. If you love what he does, support him on PATREON!

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