Back a few years ago, those in charge threw around the term ownership society quite a bit- of course it was meant to serve as one of those encapsulated dictates to encourage citizens to fully immerse themselves in the bank led housing feeding-frenzy. But amidst the smoking ruins of all that fucked up lumber, the term does have a certain raw truthfulness that so aptly sums up our predicament and our well, Weltschmerzy-ness. You know- it’s that world weary pain that comes from just being alive- the way our minds want more than the hardness of our reality.
The inevitability of ownership, (not the faux ownership of mortgage- laden homes) is a reality we inhabit without even the slightest notion trickling through society that there might be other ways. We become accustomed to our government’s ownership of us, many not questioning even the most basic intrusion into our thoughts and correspondence. “It’s for our safety” they parrot on the Nightly News for the Elderly. People consider those around them to be owned instead of thinking of them as freely independent autonomous beings. The freak in Ohio being the horrid extension of that civilizational pathology.
Individuals like Edward Snowden are rare that truly have a visceral disgust for this kind of fang-laden paternalism coming out of government corridors. I’ve heard jokes made about the guy having to roam around an airport for his troubles, eating Cinnabon and what have you. That does sound kind of icky, but then the concept that a bright guy couldn’t stomach the mental ownership of so many souls falls out of the discussion and turns hokey jokey. I suppose these same asses would have mocked Thomas Paine for dying poor. If they knew who he was, that is. I would just say he is a guy who would have hated the royal baby coverage. That damn baby.
In our deepest core, we need to be more than owned. In the weirdly readable (I say that because have you seen the size of this thing?-But time flies when you start to digest it.) Debt: The First 5.000 Years by David Graeber, he artfully (if not sparsely) explains how the corruption of our souls was hard cast when all became marketable. It stemmed from placing a value on items which should have been intangible, and we have been struggling with a world-pain ever since. People become obsessed with callous advancement over the benefit of the community, for one thing. And there is no social stigma when you step on others. It’s admired, if anything.
This is about identifying key components that are not fair to put a dollar value on, whether it is something like health care or education, or maybe the free rights of people to unhinge from toxic circumstances without dire consequences (or outrageous fees). The simple notion that it is okay to limit some people- well, it implies that it is okay to bring in middlemen to benefit through the allocation of the resource. It becomes very ugly, and pretty damn unholy.
And it certainly needs to be eroded, this notion that hoarding is acceptable. They make superstars out of people like Steve Jobs, and posthumously analyze his style, but portray someone like Snowden to be a dork with gummy icing on his face. Sociopathic “flaws” are overlooked if said individual has a lot of money.
The most common complaint heard when one drops down this rabbit hole is that it simply isn’t practicable to have a society that values free will associations, and the concept of true individual freedoms. That would simply equal chaos. I’ve written before that if a toxic world view from a damaged woman like Ayn Rand can drip into some measure of practice, then the marrow affirming concepts of Emma Goldman sure as hell could too, if the desire existed. The thing is, a 100% spoon fed concept that life needs to be uncharitable, contractual (that is, for those with the most expensive attorneys) and with no inherent dignity fits the viewpoint of hierarchy and ownership. It doesn’t benefit anyone but those carnivorous individuals at the top. The majority wrestle with each other while those above watch. And the hell of it is that it doesn’t sit well, even with individuals who can’t identify the problem. Suicides are up; most individuals have a gnawing angst about them with no cure in sight. One wonders if even the smallest changes came about, what would blossom beyond? Ideal isn’t on the radar, but incremental change through erosion isn’t beyond possible.
So what is to be done with this damn Weltshmerz? It is an incredibly terrible condition, and also really hard for me to pronounce. The problem is vague and unsettling just like the feeling it elicits. One has to think with softer margins and appreciate nebulosity to gnaw away at these “accepted truths” and rules. We have to turn to the small things within ourselves, the things we can modify-the first being how we see the world. Are we all competitors or are we here for something more? With another damn birthday coming soon I think of my favorite un-birthday song by Bright Eyes. This is what they recommend for the Weltshermz… (the first lines are there to rile you up, hopefully)
We must blend into the choir
Sing as static with the whole
We must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul
And in this endless race for property and privilege to be won
We must run, we must run, we must run
We must hang up in the belfry
Where the bats and moonlight laugh
We must stare into a crystal ball and only see the past
And in the caverns of tomorrow
With just our flashlights and our love
We must plunge, we must plunge, we must plunge
So with that, we must plunge, we must plung, we must plung.
Kathleen Wallace is a writer who resides in the US Midwest. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org