Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Well, the carpet men didn't come yet. And the floorboards aren't nailed down. And there are guys doing something about the damp in the basement, but there is no guarantee that it will be effective. And (as ever) I am probably glad I do not own property.

Although renting has gone out of fashion, and 'ownership' has come in, it is just a trick of the language. Previously you could rent a place and, if you stayed long enough, acquired some rights to stay. Now you stay, and pay 'rent' to the banks and other money-lenders, and they pretend you already 'own' the house even though they will take it back the minute you stop paying off your 25 year loan. Because I went to the USA at the end of the Sixties (when every one else was going off to live in in India) I saw what happpens. You go from this 'Live Now, Pay Later' form of ownership back into what is effectively renting. Americans seemed to lease cars and houses and whiteware, and so on - as part of their 'mobility' model, if they were going to move they didn't pack it all in a van and take it with them - they dumped it, traded it, passed it on.

For such a materialist culture it was interesting to see how unpossessive they were. It goes with true wealth, I guess. If you are nouveau riche you want the big house and car and clothes, etc. When you are very, very rich you probably don't bother. Personally, I'd travel with just a passport. Why carry clothes when you can buy new ones? Why carry a toothbrush when wherever you stay there will be a fresh one? Why stay in one place when you could afford to keep moving, and hiring what you need when you arrive?

I remember that Bucky Fuller went from owning cars to renting them (in his multiple circumnavigations of the globe) for similar reasons. This hasn't help me convince anybody that this ownership thing is already out of date. You can't tell them it is a gamble and a house of cards. It's like telling people that their ticket will not win the lottery - you're probably right (they even admit it sometimes) but you can't be sure. Well no, I can't be sure things are hopeless, but if I want a glimmer of hope in life it has to be more than a vague promise from a huge corporation that a worthless piece of paper which they have sold me just might turn out to be worth lots!

Still, I guess I am only bitter and impoverished, having not climbed on this particular bandwagon. And like any of my rants against cars and mortgages, and hire purchase - there's an old fashioned term for what we now call ownership (it used to be more obvious that you were renting something up until the day you had paid the capital costs, at which point the owner might not want it back, used, and could afford to 'let it go' to you) - it's all considered to be 'sour grapes' rather than despairing humour.

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