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Posts Tagged ‘property’

In “Tent City, Tent Tent City” we learn of the movement in Austin to create a roaming Tent City to inspire awareness and legislative change around ideas of homelessness.  The tent city uprising piggy backed a little on the occupy Austin movement due to the fact that the laws used to restrict occupy Austin activities were the same laws preventing homeless people from squatting in public places.

I wasn’t fully aware of this reality because I was so caught up in the basic ideas being reported about occupy.  I was more focused on the 1% vs. 99% message.  Which in reflection isn’t even close to the more fundamental problem of property ownership.

What is property?  What in the world are these empty parks and buildings and old alleys?  All these public spaces and abandoned privately owned spaces?  These are opportunities for the “owners” of these spaces to extract revenue.  And the essay makes a powerful point in that the revenue increases the more people are kept on the move.  The key to property value isn’t in having people inhabit it!  It’s actually about the potential to inhabit!  Creating desire to inhabit is what we call development!  As long as people inhabit a space one can’t be improving it and selling it to others.

Ultimately the tent city movement fizzled for a variety of reasons. The participants made, in my opinion, a wise choice in disbanding the movement once a point a been made and the media started to get weird.

This issue of laws against homelessness – you can’t occupy public spaces in some cities (see this great report for overviews) – and that of property as something are far too big to be tackled in one movement.  Property ownership is the basis of civilization.  Our entire world is drawn into nations, states, cities, zones, personal real estate.  Ours is a history of conquest over those who occupy property we want to claim as our own.  This history will not be easily overthrown.

Though I do believe as we move into a more predominantly digital existence the idea of property ownership will erode.  I don’t see a short term end to property ownership because even the digital requires physical resources.  The difference though between the past and the digital future is that it is much more difficult to lay claim to digital property because it is so easily reproduced and modified and shared and expanded.  The idea of protecting intellectual property is already cracking for mostly practical reasons – it’s not physically possible to do so, even my offensive measures.   Beyond the digital I wonder how comfortable younger generations are getting with “renting” or “sharing” property.   (stats on rent/own in housing and some rent/own survey here)

The essay closes with a thought that perhaps it’s best to “keep on the move” as a means of experimentation towards a better world order.   It’s hard to argue with the idea of experimenting with ways of living that don’t include property ownership is probably a worthwhile exercise.   The way we do things currently – increasing income gaps, more punitive laws against homelessness, climate change – seems hardly sustainable for ANY way of living for lots of people.

Impasses Questions at the end of the essay responses follow.

Question 1: “How does the noting of profit involving bodies being set in motion intertwine with the idea that camps in order to survive, must be on the move?  Is this tactic playing into the profit-based motion or is it a form of subversion, a way out? Would standing ground and defending a camp be a resistant tactic, and in what capacity, to what degree?”

It’s all about the type of motion that’s inspired.  The intent to own a home or own a different home is what drives property valuation.   Simply being on the move from camp to camp doesn’t necessarily do that.  Though if we were in a fight for camps in more opportune places for survival the camps would be competing for space and thus there would be an opportunity to profit off of offering campers better places to camp.   The fact is this isn’t a new problem in the world.  It’s always been a competition for resources.  What’s changed is that people abide by various laws and/or give into various trade offs for survival.  One of those trade offs is going with the flow in society vs. subverting it.   Camping in places where it’s legally not ok to camp is subversive.  It is resistant and could be useful.  I believe the Occupy movement made a good case for taking over spaces that people in power frequent can stir a discussion that might just lead to change.

Question 2: “How do we move from homeless camps being a method of survival to a method of offensive resistance? Are the participants looking to just find a more comfortable way to live or a new way of living?”

I don’t know if there’s any relevant response to this.   The later part strikes me as nonsensical.   In either  case it’s a new way of living.   And in the former, EVERYTHING WE DO IS A METHOD OF SURVIVAL.  all of it, even resistance to existing power structures.

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Homelessness, then, is a social relationship produced by an archipelago of vacant property and those who keep it so. This system of properties and their managers manifests itself in laws, vouchers, rent, in the police officer, the code enforcer, the fence, and the plywood-covered door, reserving places for some, excluding others.

– page 29, IMPASSES

The Tent City essay from IMPASSES is potent.   I probably will have a multi-part response to this essay because there’s a lot going on.  At a first read I dismissed it mostly because I have yet to fully support the Occupy movement and the essay, while not 100% aligned with Occupy, had enough coincidence to turn me off a bit.

But then I thought more deeply about one of the main points presented in the essay: the concept of homelessness.   Sadly, I’ve never really thought too deeply about homelessness other than thinking about ways to eliminate it in the traditional ways society thinks about it – get people into homes.   When I threw that notion out and asked, “why should we force people into homes?”  I didn’t come up with any satisfying answers.   This then lead to an even more fundamental question, “What is property?”.

Which, obviously, I’m not the first person to think about this and ask these questions.  In fact a French thinker, Proudhon, wrote a book with this title in 1840.   I have not finish this book but am quickly working my way through it.  He calls for the abolition of property as a concept calling it robbery.    I have yet to find anything particularly wrong with the IMPASSES essay nor Proudhon’s basically argument.  I mean how can any of us claim rights over anything on the earth? over ideas?  over information?   the idea of property simply makes no sense.

If property as a concept doesn’t make sense the idea of forcing people into homes seems rather unfounded. Eh?

I will discuss the specifics of Tent City, Occupy and the essay itself in a follow up post.

 

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