This morning, I was leaning on a fence looking out into the distance; past hedgerows and trees into rolling countryside that stretched away and vanished into the distance, all under a bright blue sky. It looked very calm, very tranquil, very English. While I stood there, I thought how nice it would be to go for a stroll over that way. Maybe take the dog for a walk. If I had a dog. I don’t, I prefer cats. OK, take the cat for a walk then.
Only, there was this fence. I mentioned that. It stood there, minding its own business, incidentally stopping me from falling face-first onto the ground, which I would have done if the fence weren’t there, given that I was leaning against it.
Systems develop. Biological systems. Physical systems. Mechanical systems. Political systems. Liquorice Allsorts.
If these systems do the job they were put in place for, they assert themselves: they dig in, they fight off all the opposition. The strongest survive – not always the best, but that can depend on how you define ‘best’. (This is the essential idea of memes.)
We become accustomed to these systems, especially the ones we grow up with. Over time, they transform into seemingly natural laws, handed down over generations like ornamental heirlooms: sacrosanct, untouchable. Suggestions that there might be alternatives – whether ‘better’ or not — have to first struggle up and over high peaks of custom and tradition before they can even be given a fair hearing.
The concept of ‘property ownership’ is one such system. It is ingrained in our society so deeply that not only is it difficult to consider an alternative, it’s almost a knee-jerk response to dismiss offhand any suggestion that it’s not the best way. I probably shoudn’t risk even mentioning the ‘all property is theft’ minefield, that would raise too many reflex hackles. Oops.
As I stood there admiring the view, a view that I would probably be breaking the law of the land by strolling around in, I contemplated how pleasant it might be if there were no fences.
Sometimes I wish I were a cat.