my toy!
November 20, 2011, 6:17 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

When you’re a kid property is power.  When you’re two feet tall and can barely walk, authority is a desirable commodity.  It’s important to let a child maintain control over what is theirs because, really, it’s all he has as a very small person in a very big world.

This makes me wonder about grown up people and their relationship to property.  Are people who are very possessive of their property, and their personal space, exhibiting a prolonged adolescence or even childishness?

I have always believed that Americans were the biggest advocates of property rights in the world.  I could be wrong; it may be a factor of living in America and seeing American property rights foibles up close, and on the other hand not seeing how other people in other places do property.

There is little doubt that property has always played an iconic and central role in the defining myths of the establishment of America:  from the original land grant charters, to the establishment of slave powered plantations, to the great western expansion to stake land claims, to white flight from urban centers and the making of suburban America.

There is also lots of evidence to suggest that America is an adolescent culture.  It’s addicted to newness, fast cars, deferred payment.  Could it be that there is a connection between our penchant for land ownership and personal space and our seeming prolonged adolescence?  That we are fundamentally a powerless, weak people who cling to property rights as a way of asserting a sort of dominion?

Following van Deven describes little childrens’ need to assert their being and authority by laying claim to toys:

Property is the biggest one. With very young kids, when researchers look at what the causes of fights are, some 80 percent of all fights in the playroom break out over property disputes. It’s a “my toy, not his toy” issue, which is an easy one for parents to identify and resolve. Once you figure out whose toy it is, you have a nice lesson in sharing and in respecting other people’s property. Parents shouldn’t just roll their eyes, even though conflicts over sharing are so common, because property for a small child is a critical way of establishing authority and control over a world in which they have virtually no power. You’re physically little. You don’t have any resources beyond what your parents can and are willing to give you. So, when something is yours, it becomes a real totem of the little bit of authority you have, which is one of the reasons little kids are so terrible about sharing.

Why we can never escape our siblings, Mandy van Deven, Salon


3 Comments so far
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Interesting take on our attitudes to property.
On a side issue – what is your attitude to tea from a pot?
We’ve begun making individual cups with tea bags, because according to Marx, all proper tea is, y’know, theft.

Comment by blackwatertown

I like loose tea, but tea in a bag is good too. How can anyone not like tea? I hope I didn’t come across sounding anti property rights in the post – I’m not. I was trying to convey a sense that any idea can be taken too far and when it is might also reveal deep insecurity. Not sure I understand your comment on Marx and tea – ?

Comment by Peter Rudd

Got your meaning.
As for me – just silliness. Property = proper tea. Old joke from college.

Comment by blackwatertown

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