Ownership. It came up in the comments to yesterday’s post, and somehow a lot of my thought lately has circled around that concept of ownership, how we as a society have approached it in the past and how we do now, what it means and what it should mean in a perfect world.
What does it mean to own something? What can we own anyway? Are there things that cannot be owned, and if so, why?
If there is an intuitive answer to what we “can” or “cannot” own, who or what determines this ability or inability? Is this a matter of moral doctrine or is there some intrinsic law, and if so, is that law immutable?
Things have changed radically in the last 20-50 years. It has gone out of fashion to ask questions, to challenge the pillars of our political and economical system. On our way to a hyper-connected, hyper-monitored society we have lost the Brechts and the Sartres along the way. Here we are in the middle of the biggest machine mankind ever constructed, the Internet, and we leave it to the corporations and competing secret services, happy with cheap porn and mindless chatter. Meanwhile corporations and their owners begin to let us feel what they mean by owning ideas and concepts.
For me this means realizing that I know nothing. I have to go back, have to at least get a feeling for what at the beginning of another age, the Industrial Age, was discussed, what changes were predicted, were seen as historic necessities.
Immediately that means to read Karl Marx and his “Kapital”. Of course that is not enough. One would need to read John Stuart Mill, as Marx criticizes him, would need to read Hegel, as Marx sometimes builds upon him, of course all that must remain completely arcane without a profound knowledge of Kant and …
I’ve been there. Once I’ve tried to prepare for a role-playing game that would take place in ancient Mesopotamia, and in my desire to research some of the historic background, I read about all ancient history in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, Egypt led to Greece and Rome, from there I ventured into Byzantium and the crusades, and that’s where I stayed for a long time. I read every history of the crusades and of Byzantium available on the market. The original purpose, the game, was long forgotten, and while it was interesting, I probably can’t do that with all of philosophy 🙂
The second time I immersed myself so totally into a subject, was when I bought Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. I had the desire to go back in time, find the roots of late Baroque music, and I went back via Purcell, Monteverdi, all through Renaissance, to the very specific topic of “L’Homme Armeé” masses, back to the Ars Subtilior of Ciconia, the Ars Nova of Guillaume de Machaut and my beloved Philippe de Vitry, back to the Cantigas de Santa Maria, the Trovères and the troubadours of long gone Occitania.
There I stopped. Music stopped as well. The Gregorian Chorale would have been left, but that did not interest me any more. Instead I went back to Baroque, to Haendel, Bach, and via Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Wagner (where I spent a long time) all up to Berg, Webern and my equally beloved Schönberg.
This unexpected journey, going there and back again, left roughly 1000 CDs on my shelves and took about ten years.
Again, I can’t do that with philosophy. My life is limited and we are well past a time when a learned person could read everything that matters. This may indeed be one of our central problems, namely the loss of our history, the loss of what has already been thought. It’s still there, you can download it from Amazon, look it up in the Wikipedia, but it is largely inaccessible to the masses, if for no other reason then for its volume.
I don’t expect Marx to give answers to the problems of our time. I expect him to give answers to the problems of his time, and I expect me to be able to see where exactly things went wrong. Maybe we can build from there.
The Song of the Day is “If the Stars Were Mine“, one of the few songs in my possession concerned with ownership, although in a decidedly non-Marxian way. The Image of the Day is an old image chosen because it fits the title 😀
Hear Melody Gardot’s song from her 2009 album “My One And Only Thrill” on YouTube.