Sunday 8 March 2009

The hidden face of ownership

A father has two sons: one is musically gifted, not the other. Who should get the guitar?

Surely the instrument ought to go to him who can make use of it.

The concept of ownership changed over time. With an evolving formality came a symbolism standing in for the original notion of a more direct relationship. The latter still exists, even if not always acknowledged. The functionality of the object behind the symbol cannot be erased through a transference of meaning; against the reality of the former the substitution remains superficial.

If symbolism is allowed to rule what constitutes ownership becomes sidetracked towards the trivial.

True ownership does not present itself through imaginary perception. It lives and activates itself through the relationship between subject and object, and the relationship has to be a fulfilling one.

The superficial view does not reach beyond the trivial and does not recognise the absence of a meaningful nexus.

Descend from the abstract to the tangible and apply the principle to like scenarios. Extend its scope across society, across enterprises. Replace the guitar with machinery, exchange it for a corporation, an estate; include land and territory. Let the family become a nation and all the people within it.

If a mere instrument is not worth arguing about (although a musician may see things differently), once we arrive at the larger scale the sheer magnitude gives substantial weight to any such relationship.

What is technology, what is a corporation worth in the hands of the dilettante; what becomes of a land falling into the custody of the less accomplished?

True ownership is not some artifact that waits for a higher provenance to be bestowed. While it exists for the taking it requires the will to be grasped and pressed into service. Only those to whom the significance of the act is obvious possess the will to use it for their ends; no-one else does it for them.

In that sense societies define themselves and live to enjoy or otherwise their fruits. Not to know, not to understand their own role condemns them to servitude.

In the end serfdom is an act of negative will.

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