All property is theft.
So believed Karl Marx. Gandhi had similar ideas. He gave up ownership of his trousers. Jesus wasn’t keen either. He threw a bit of a wobbly around his local supermarket, tipping things onto the floor. The consensus amongst these important people seems to have been that an obsession with ownership was quite bad and to be avoided.
Back when I was just starting out as a parent, I naively thought I could guide my son away from excessive consumerism. As a family we wouldn’t worry about owning stuff. Instead we’d spend our days together making daisy chains and reciting poetry. To say things haven’t gone to plan would be an understatement. It has, even by my standards, been a spectacular failure.
“Mine!” My son screeches, snatching his sister’s toy out of her hand. “Mine!” He shouts about almost anything that’s being played with by another child. “Mine.” He points at my shoes, or my glasses, or the TV, or a passing tractor or fire engine. “Mine.” He pleads as I release a butterfly, saving it from a horrible fate.
“Have you finished your food?” I ask as he pushes his plate away.
He nods. “Finished.”
“Can I have it?”
“No! Mine!” He grabs his plate back again.
It must be something we’ve inherited from our monkey ancestors, the desire to protect what’s ours from our rivals. My son seems pretty extreme, though, even for a chimp.
He drags me into the living room where, surprisingly, he’s been watching a re-run of The Sky at Night. Being a bit of a space nerd, I find this extremely pleasing. He points at the screen as it shows an animation of the solar system. “My Space!” He yelps excitedly. Now, apparently, he owns the entire universe.
He seems possessed by possession, but he can still surprise us.
“Mine.” He points at us each in turn. “My Mummy. My Daddy. My Sister.”
We look at each other, gurning with parental emotion.
Not all possession is bad.