I’ve had reason to ponder property ownership and the breakdown of the traditional community lately and figured I’d share a few of my thoughts with you.
Several weeks ago, persons unknown rifled through my car overnight and took it upon themselves to relieve me of an iPod that was tucked in to the centre console. While it is reasonably clear that I must have left my vehicle unlocked, I feel a great sense of disappointment that I should even need to lock my doors in front of my own house.. Really, is nothing sacred any longer?
Yesterday I looked in to my back yard to find a well dressed man picking the apples from one of the two trees growing against the inside fence. I was shocked at his brazenness and went out to speak with him. I’m certain he was caught as off-guard as I was, and when I politely enquired as to whether I could be of assistance to him he told me point-blank that he’d just stopped by to gather fruit. I reminded him that it was customary to ask before (trespassing and) taking someone’s fruit, and that had he done so he would have been welcome to it.
He tried to explain that he thought the house was unoccupied (I’ve been here full-time since November and owned the place for two years), and that he knew the lady that used to live here (three or more years ago) so I found the argument a bit weak. I’ve vehicles parked both in front of the house and out back as well. The lights are on at night, and I’m usually around during the day so really there’s no excuse to think the house is vacant.. or is there?
Property and entitlement
We live in such a consumer state that the quest for ever-more stuff in our lives is becoming an all-consuming passion for people and these two separate happenings have given me cause to reflect on the nature of property and what it all really means.
I pride myself on being generous and pretty relaxed about my own property, particularly the abundance of fruit in the yard. In fact, several people have open invitations to pick fruit throughout the summer just because they’ve expressed interest. I’ve given poppies and plant cuttings to several people because they asked. It pleases me to share and to be fair I have far more than I can use anyway. I’ve even an arrangement with Charles, the man that collects bottles in this area to set my recycles away for him. He asked, and I was happy to oblige.
What irks me though, is that people feel a sense of entitlement to the property of others; we’re drawn to the shinier-fancier-prettier stuff that other people have and we’ve been conditioned to desire it almost at-all-cost.. Why do we forget manners in the face acquisition? Why is this still desire still acceptable?
Further, what does it say about me to claim ownership of something that I’ve done nothing to create and little to maintain (after all, trees are pretty self sufficient)? Am I just part of the problem?
Rekindling the real community
This brings us to the real bee in my bonnet, which takes shape in an incredible lack of community here in my own neighbourhood (and I’ll suggest, in all of Calgary). I’ve lived in my house for two years, and know several of my neighbours through pleasantries exchanged over the hedge but I couldn’t even tell you a whole lot more than first names and whether they’ve got a dog. Of the ten houses that surround my own, four are vacant and two want nothing to do with the outside world.
If I wanted to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar I’d be forced to knock on four or five doors before anyone actually answered, there’s really nobody I can share tools with, nor ask for assistance with a home project. This may be partly because the neighbourhood is established, and full of retirees, or may just be an excuse on my part. I don’t know which end of that statement is true because I have not made the slightest attempt to find out.
Through this disconnection we breed ignorance of what is going on around us, and perpetuate it in ourselves. Had I neighbours that knew the score, would it have been more likely that my stuff wasn’t getting pinched? Possibly. We can’t know until we find out though..
My challenge next week is to start meeting the neighbours that I’ve neglected to date, and I challenge you, dear reader, to do the same!