The ownership society we know today was preceded by the sharing community which was more sustainable and where we will find ourselves in the future. Already, I see a shift happening where more people are moving beyond a world where the self, and fulfilling our material needs, is the center of the universe and are returning to caring about others.
Children were encouraged to develop strict discipline and a high regard for sharing. When a girl picked her first berries and dug her first roots, they were given away to an elder so she would share her future success. When a child carried water for the home, an elder would give compliments, pretending to taste meat in water carried by a boy or berries in that of a girl. The child was encouraged not to be lazy and to grow straight like a sapling. ~~
Mourning Dove Salish
I learned a lot from the students attending the local university and visited the apartments where I lived. One particular student aligned so closely with what I learned from Native American people that I couldn’t help but think we, as a society as a whole, are on the right path…finally. He commented on ownership being the “destruction of our innate and natural tendencies”. Don’t let anyone tell you the youth of today are self-centered, they are any thing but.
We will continue to see a clash between those still holding on to their illusion of ownership and those who have embraced the concept that all resources should be shared mutually for a time while we go through this shift. A minor example of what I mean can be explained with a story from one of my boys.
My son was walking with a friend and had finished a drink. He didn’t want to carry the container back to his friend’s home and saw a garbage can sitting at the curb. This seemed like the perfect solution as there were no public waste receptacles along his route. Having been taught to care for the community by not littering, he lifted the lid, placed his container inside and returned the lid. The owner of that particular can came running out of the house yelling at my son to respect his property and keep his hands off. My son didn’t miss a beat. He asked the man if it would have been better if he acted like so many other people and just tossed his trash on the ground.
The company that picked up the town’s trash required that you use one of their garbage containers, so this trash can wasn’t actually owned by the man who confronted my young son but because it was loaned to him he claimed ownership.
….I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.
Red Cloud(Makhpiya-luta) , April, 1870
We put so much weight on our ownership we forget to look at the bigger picture.
Personally, I believe in a sharing economy where one doesn’t have to own everything they might need to have. This week we have been experiencing heavy rains. I have an umbrella left behind by a student who lived in the same apartment complex I did. Today, a friend is borrowing that umbrella to walk to an appointment. I’m not going any where so it would have just sat here dry and lonely.
We can share what we have, whether big or small.
When I lived in Arizona my next door neighbor was a Navajo man who was raised with traditional values. He taught me a lot about how far we can go in sharing. A few years ago I shared his story, but it’s worth sharing again. He owned a home in another city, but needing work his house would have sat empty, so he offered his home to friends from the Reservation who had found jobs in that area. He never charged them for living there. His reasoning was that he had something his friends needed therefore it worked. Because he was raised with traditional values he believed in sharing his home, not renting it. He felt his home was being looked after and that was a fair trade.
This same man walked everywhere, including the fourteen or fifteen miles one way to work. One day after a work-place accident, injuring his leg and ankle, he commented that he wished he had his truck. At this point I had known him for two and a half years but never saw him with a truck. He explained that he bought a truck four years prior but on the day he took possession of his truck he took it to the Reservation to show his father, his father remarked that having a truck like that would make working his ranch so much easier. He handed the keys to his father and got a ride home. This man had his brand new (not used mind you) vehicle for less than 24 hours but had never driven it after that day. Yes, just like his house he made all the payments on the vehicle he never saw.
“Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house. They told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to be taken care of, and that by and by they got it back with interest. “We are Indians and we have no such bank; but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by and by they return them with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our way of giving is our bank.”
Chief Maquinna, Nootka
When I asked him why he didn’t call his father and ask if he could at least borrow his truck back until he healed from his accident. He was shocked I would even think that was an option. To call his father and inquire about his truck would have been rude.
I have a long journey ahead of me yet to fully embrace sharing to the extent my Navajo neighbor saw as natural. At the time he and I had this discussion my youngest had just learned to drive. I had informed my son if he wanted his license he would have to have his own car because I couldn’t walk every where I might need to go and couldn’t risk him having an accident and leaving me car-less. Listening to my neighbor I felt shame in the extent to which I claimed ownership of my car by refusing to share it with my son. I still don’t know if I will ever reach that level of sharing having been raised with Western opinions but I like to think I get closer to that goal each day.
The tide is turning
A couple of years ago I won a book from David at the Good Human called Sharing is Good: How to Save Money, Time and Resources through Collaborative Consumption by Beth Buczynski.
At the time I was pretty smug thinking I knew all the sharing resources available to us. To my surprise I didn’t know a fraction of the ways in which a sharing economy has grown. We all know about Craigslist and Freecycle, same with seed banks and many others but what surprised me was that there was in addition to house sharing a resource to permanently trade homes. From homes to clothing everything we could need, or want, can be found through sharing groups.
Half of this wonderful book lists all the resources you could ever need to share what you have and receive what you need. Everything is broken down by subject into an easy to use reference.
(Note: all quotes borrowed from Native American Quote’s)
Let’s quit worrying about whether something is our possession and look for ways we can share. Your actions will be repaid many times over.