The Sin of Property

“The sin of property we do disdain. No one has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain.”

Leon Rosselson – The Diggersʻ Song

Private ownership of land has always been at the root of state patriarchy. It is most certainly at the root of global state capitalism.

In order for some persons to own land, others must be excluded from owning land.

This creates a basic class division in society between owners and non-owners.

In order to exclude persons from owning land or from having free access to land, social mechanisms must be employed to separate people from the land. This fundamental alienation separates the common person from their direct source of sustenance.

Over time, mechanisms of exclusion become codified as social and political laws.

In order for laws to be effective they need to have either broad societal consent or some mechanism of force to back them up. Usually there is some combination of both consent and force on the social contract continuum.

In traditional, sustenance oriented, village, clan and tribal societies that rely on oral systems of law and governance (ie. indigenous cultures) social consent forms the primary basis for law and compliance, with much less emphasis on the use of force.

Such societies did not conceive of land as property, but rather as a shared resource that came with a sacred social responsibility to protect as the source of community sustenance and vitality. Often, these societies did not even have the conceptual framework to conceive of land as property.

In order for land to become personal property, which implies rights of exclusion, the view of land as sacred and belonging to itself, or to the elemental forces or gods that govern nature, must be abandoned and ultimately broken as a social and philosophical norm.

Land cannot be both owned as personal property and held as sacred. What is sacred and eternal and governed by natural law and mystery must, by definition, be outside of private ownership. No one owns the universe and therefore no one can own the gods or the pathways to the gods or god.

Only patriarchal religious establishments claim otherwise. And historically such religions have always supported and reinforced the rule of law by force, rather than consent, in state patriarchies.

From the beginning, city and state patriarchies have used violence and brutality, and the threat of violence, as their primary source of authority. Violence establishes and maintains law and social order according to the dictates of the owning class. Ownership of land is the primary mechanism of holding and maintaining wealth and power over classes of non-owners under patriarchal systems.

The philosophical basis of this system is “might makes right.” This premise might be disguised under religious or democratic window dressing but always exists at the heart of patriarchy.

When property has rights, violence is the arbiter of law. It can be no other way.

This poses serious problems for modern so-called democracies. All states and state institutions universally agree upon state or private ownership of land. All states and state institutions therefore rely upon force and violence as the ultimate source of their authority.

This is inherently anti-consensual and therefore inherently anti-democratic.

Therefore ownership of the land, the earth, is inherently anti-democratic.

We have a problem. How can we expect state actors to be helpful? Their source of authority comes fundamentally from violence, exclusion and the separation of the owning class from the laboring classes and upon the alienation of the common person from their direct source of sustenance. Patriarchal states exist to compete for dominance.

How can we possibly expect state actors to do anything about the deliberate greed that is consuming the earthʻs capacity to maintain regenerative living systems?

The struggle for peace with justice, the effort to address climate catastrophe with justice and the fight to democratize society must inherently stand against the “sin of private property.”

We must never believe that we can generate lasting solutions by petitioning the patriarchal state for reform.

We can strategically petition for reforms that will buy us and our planet time. But these can only be understood as transition strategies, not as solutions. The Green New Deal is a very important transition strategy to fight for. It is not a real solution in the long run because it cannot address the global injustices of North and South.

Unfortunately, all of this is much too bitter of a pill (or too red of a pill in Matrix terminology) for most people to swallow. This is because it strikes directly at the heart of our deep cultural indoctrination under patriarchal rule.

It is a practice of calculated restraint to be a revolutionary while strategically fighting for mere reforms to an inherently corrupt system. This is exactly the place to engage in ongoing debate about strategies moving forward.

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