Somehow — maybe the election season has something to do with it — this question keeps going through my head: When you get what’s yours, just what exactly do you have?
A lot of the political rhetoric seems to be about who has what and whether they should keep it or share it, whether they deserve it, whether someone else should have at least some of it, whether their having it is fair or unfair, and whether in any sense the people who have stuff can honestly say, “It’s mine! You had nothing to do with it!”
Consider the chair I’m sitting on. I guess it’s mine because I paid for it, I sit on it when I’m at my desk, and if it disappeared without my knowledge, I’d call the police. And, oh yes, I have a desk. I would guess more than half the people in the world don’t have desks, much less quasi-ergonomic chairs, but I have both.
In fact, I have a lot of stuff. But I keep coming back to this question: In what sense is it mine? I didn’t make any of it. Well, I do make dinner, but then we eat it and it’s gone. The stuff around me as I’m writing this — I didn’t make any of it.
And who exactly made it anyway? My ergonomic chair was Custom Made for Office Depot. (I know that because I just looked.) So I guess some business made it and sold it to Office Depot.
But this isn’t entirely accurate. Some factory, owned by the business that sold the chair to Office Depot, produced it. The people who owned the business that owned the factory didn’t make the chair; the people working in the factory did, or at least, some of the people working in the factory made this particular chair.
And we all know that the people whose hands actually operated the machines that were used to make this chair got to see very little of whatever money we paid for it. The people who owned the factory saw a lot more of our money because that’s how capitalism works: Owners provide materials and opportunity for other people to produce stuff that the owners sell for a profit.
I personally have no problem with this unless those owners forget that they didn’t do it on their own. But, unfortunately, they often do. Which leads to the question: In what sense is the factory theirs? In what sense, given the long-term inevitability and short-term unpredictability of death, can we truly own anything?
Folks, we are inescapably in this together. Whatever situation it is we are in — and I’m pretty sure that we have no idea of what this situation is, even though we think we do — we are in it together. Anything we have we only have for a little while. Including and especially our lives. Can we manage to remember this for more than five minutes?