Sacred Land Vs. the Origin of Land Ownership
|January 13, 2014||Posted by Staff under Editorials|
This 2013 excerpt of the Hampton Institute, Dec 27, is by Jeriah Bowser. In 2014 the full article appeared at Truthout, Jan 12.
Unless I purchase a piece of land, I will forever be a serf to a landowner, forever paying “rent” to another person who “owns” the land I am living on. And even if I do manage to acquire a parcel of land, I will be forced to pay taxes to the government in which ‘my’ land is located in, or I will have ‘my’ land forcibly taken from me. There is simply nowhere to live for free, no public areas, no “commons” with which one can live simply and quietly without having to participate in industrial society.
Completely foreign to humanity for over 200,000 years was the concept of private property while sacred land was familiar.
For those of us who are not landowners and don’t have the economic means to purchase and then free land, there are still many actions we can participate in: squatting, eviction-resisting, and communal housing. Participating in or starting a land conservancy is a great way to preserve and reclaim land. Engaging in direct-action to protect land-grabs by government and corporate powers is another way that you can participate in this movement.
Ed. Notes: Is owning land wrong? Don’t people need a place to call their own? A tribe of hunter/gatherers in Africa, the Ik, have the custom of a “di”, a place reserved for just one person where he can sit in full view of others and be ignored, just as if he were in a private home. Perhaps the actual problem is absentee ownership.
Further, even before the planet got crowded, people have always competed for the same parcel or region. Often they settled claims by killing. Now where there isn’t much room for commons — and even within commons people long for the right to a particular site — isn’t paying money for some land an improvement on violence?
Happily, having to pay for land can also force absentee ownership to retreat and owner occupancy to expand. Where societies levy a land tax, or a property tax which contains the land tax, having to pay for land on an ongoing basis makes it not profitable to be a middleman. So the grasping landlords who had too much sell off their excess and speculators don’t even bother to accumulate an excess of land.
Far better than paying site rent to the government, however, is paying it to one’s community. Then residents would not only pay Land Dues for the parcel one claims but also get paid a fair share of the amassed dues that all one’s neighbors pay: Land Dues into the public treasury, Rent Dividends back out to residents, somewhat similar to what Aspen CO and Singapore do. It’s a third-way alternative to renting land, to buying land, or to paying land (or property) taxes.
One would expect this sharing of socially-generated land values to strengthen one’s ties to both community and to the earth.