Imagine you’ve finally gotten your chance to play a giant game of Monopoly where there are 100 players. Imagine you were only able to begin playing once someone left, and the game had been going on for a long time. Imagine further that by the time it was your turn to roll the dice, all the property on the board had already been bought and most of it was in the hands of a few players. Would you keep playing?
What if, after taking a few turns and realizing that short of some disaster or a lucky break you’re not likely going to get far with the standard allotment of money you started with, one of the top players moves on? Excited by your chance to make some gains, you have renewed interest in playing, until you’re informed that all the property is being passed on to a member of that player’s family, who has been waiting patiently to play. This new player enters the game and is instantly granted all the power in the game that their relative had, but has started the game at about the same time as you, who has next to nothing. Would you keep playing?
Not to make light of the situation most of us find ourselves in, but looking around our society, it’s pretty clear most of us will keep playing, for the game I’ve described is a simplification of the game we’re all engaged in daily. By default, it seems, we’re tossed into the social and legal structures of society against wildly skewed odds. By default, there’s hardly a fair shot in sight. Why do we keep playing? Honestly, I cannot understand why we allow our lives to be governed by a situation we’d never accept if it were framed as a trivial game.
The whole world has been had, people! And we aren’t all talented, and there certainly aren’t enough jackpots to go around. What’s worse, if you can’t turn it around for yourself, your children will be damned to play from a ridiculous starting position as well. Worse still, even if you do make it to a better place on the board, you do it at the expense of all others on the board, and all those not yet able to play.
The thing is, the concept of private property is not an absolute law of nature. It’s an idea that people designed, and as such is liable to be flawed and manipulated. It’s an old idea, with a lost origin. It’s an idea that has claimed many more losers than winners (which is usually the case when ideas are formed around competition). With these ideas we’ve created a monstrous game that pits person against person, and most of us were losers before we got started.
Today we witness the culmination of what these ideas have brought. The natural world is being destroyed due to concepts of ownership and there is nothing left to be had. So, what do we, who’ve been born into the loser’s lot, do? We roll the dice, hoping that luck and a little strategy will put the board in our favor. Really, we should be asking ourselves, “Why the fuck am I playing this game?”
Let’s start thinking about ways to knock the board off the table. I’m not talking about a bullshit redistribution of wealth, it’s likely the concept of “wealth” that’s the problem. Besides, how is any wealth justified?
My guess is it all started when one person, we’ll call him Jimmy, decided “Hey that’s a good piece of land.” Then went on to convince others that that piece of land belonged to him. And like fools our long dead ancestors accepted this and went, “Hey, if Jimmy can own something, so can I,” and so on, until there was nothing left. But what gave Jimmy the right to lay claim to anything beyond the fact that our ancestors thought it was a good idea? Fundamentally, not a whole lot.
The problem is, if someone doesn’t own something, we can’t trust others not to fuck it up. People would treat the world like a public sidewalk, feeling free to litter on and deface it. In a sense, it all comes down to a basic trust issue that’s core to the nature of humanity.
The sad thing is this distrust seems justified, because quite simply, most of us don’t really deserve each other’s trust. We lie, cheat and steal and always at the expense of others.
I think we can do better than this, and I’ve got some ideas of how things could work, but I’m not the only guy on the board and everyone else still wants to roll the dice and hope for a lucky break. So I’m left to hold my tongue, and hope for the board to work out favorably.
Let’s not sell the person next to us short. If nothing else, projects like Wikipedia have shown us that we can work together and make great, useful things in this world without needing credit or forwarding a partition agenda. There will be bumps on the road and vandals abound, but we can share this world. I believe that deep down most of us want to make a better world — a more fair and sustainable world. I believe that deep down, if we understand we have no good justification for anything we own, we will come to an understanding that sharing is the only way. Individuals only own the world so long as we accept the rules of the game.
I don’t accept them and neither should you. Once we understand this, together we can start generating ideas on how to exist together in a shared world. Our whole society is built on ideas; let’s get thinking.
Corey King like you, is a product of the universe, however it began, we have the same origin, and thus are family.