Ownership Apostasy

A friend’s comment in an email message to me this morning started the wheels turning. He suggested the possibility that posts on one’s blogs or on Facebook might be like property. I tried to wrap my mind around it. That’s where it started this morning. But it morphed into questions of whether the concept of property has legitimacy, whether in words or in things more tangible.

The writer puts his words on the “market” as if they were offered, like real estate, for sale. Instead of the “consideration” being cash, the words (or the ideas they support)  trade for comments.  Or maybe there’s no “buyer.” The property goes unsold.  I might be the owner or I might be the real estate agent or I might be both.  I’m the guy facilitating the commerce of language.  I engage in trade.

But what about comments on blog posts?  They take up space on “real estate” that belongs to me!  I should be able to charge a rental fee, shouldn’t I?   My mind races.  I try to make sense of it.  But the concept begins to unravel as I consider what it is that I own.

How can I “own” anything?  When all’s said and done, isn’t all we use and all we see and all we read in the public domain?

We try to capture parts of our environment for ourselves and we believe those parts we capture belong to us, but we are not property owners.  We’re staking a claim to something. We’re attempting to prevent someone else from staking that claim.  We may allow someone else access to our home.  We may allow someone else to borrow our car.  We may allow someone else to read our books.  At some point, everything over which we claim “ownership” ceases to belong to us.  We may sell it or, when we die, it may pass on to an heir or to the state.  That transfer, like the ownership that preceded it, is simply an abstraction that societies have decreed as real.  It’s a lot like religion in that regard.

“Real property,” land ownership, is an odd thing.  The land was here before we were, yet we claim to own it.  We (or our forebears) have cared for the land and improved it; we’ve cultivated it and groomed it and enhanced its appearance.  By doing those things, we assert ownership of land that, heretofore, was not “owned.”  A hair stylist could use the same logic to claim ownership of the hair on your head.

And so I come to a conclusion reached long ago by people who roamed North America well before the Europeans arrived.  We are not owners.  We are simply stewards.  Not just stewards of the land, but of all the things to which we claim ownership.  The computer with which I am recording these thoughts is not my property; it is simply in my possession at the moment.  The same goes for my car, my couch, and my house.

It’s hard, this early in the morning and with such a short time to prepare, to reach conclusions about how “stewardship responsibilities” might replace “ownership rights” but I’m working on it.  And I’m nearing the point of rejecting, outright, the concept of ownership.  But that may be a temporary thing.  Another cup of coffee may change everything.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to Ownership Apostasy

  1. Juan says:

    Yes, you’re right! Why did I think “blue,” and why 10 degrees less than the actual title? Must be Freudian, or just simply I don’t care. I have half a mind to read it, just so that I can say, “I know.”

    I think frontier. The blog site owner lays out a prompt or theme in his/her story or narrative piece. Others correspond based on that theme, and so it’s like the Blog writer is a real estate agent?

    I don’t know. I’m only playing with an allusion – a world of metaphors. Is a blogger’s world like the universe, where what is written is only a fragment of what is the infinitesimal?

    There is no end to what can be said about a given topic?

    I’m looking for parameters from which to begin the discussion, and then why am I looking for parameters?

  2. I think you mean “50 Shades of Grey.” Regardless, probably is junk (I haven’t read it and don’t plan to). That having been said…

    Value is in the eye of the beholder. Someone may like my blog and decides to make a movie; someone else may think it’s garbage and decides it’s not worth the time to read even a single post. Who owns the ideas behind those decisions? And whose blog is it, really? Perhaps the posts I make are mine…because I am steward of my own thoughts. But the comments? Do they belong to the people who made them or to me (since they’re on my blog)? If there are no comments, yet people read the blog after I abandon it, do they become the stewards of my work?

    Ownership and value and reward remain elusive concepts to me, Juan.

  3. Juan says:

    Let’s Philosophize!

    Begin with this thought: Space is a void. Words fill a void with meaning, and they even take up space, as in the number of words that fill a given page at 12 font. Meaning can have value. Some meaning is more valuable than others, but that is determined by the readership, and even that may be controlled by what is “popular” or even “faddish,” as in “it’s neat to own a rock” – a fad that came about in 80s.

    “40 Shades of Blue” is shit reading…. “valueless” say many critics (me, too); yet, the internet book has developed great, abstract and cultural value – even monetary value! The market is determined by need or want.

    Now, you host a blog. People fill it with what they think is valuable stuff. Like FB, we even race to fill the space. Being first to say something bears value.

    The meaning of the text fills a void: It even has legal, property values involved. I think there is even a movie now on 40 Shades of Blue.

    Suppose, for example, that some writer decides to do a movie on your blog. That’s possible. Value again!

    Let’s begin with that, John.

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