Tuesday 30 June 2015

Revolting Boundaries

Thinking of boundaries, from the Berlin wall, to walls and fences round ghettos past and present to lines drawn on maps naming countries' borders, I wonder who owns the land and if they should.

The earth at one time had no boundaries. People did not lay claim to land or wage war to protect it and 21% of the land of the world was not owned by just 15 people (Business Insider). And any one person did not own a sixth of the land of the world. 

In case anyone wonders why Britain politically punches above its weight, it's not just a hangover from the Empire when in 1923 it covered a quarter of the earth (Historical Atlas of British Empire). Today Queen Elizabeth II of England is the 'legal owner of about 6.6 billion acres of land, one-sixth of the earth's land surface' (New Statesman).

The world is 123 billion acres and the worlds land is 37 billion acres according to New Statesman 'a notional four acres available for every man, woman and child in the predicted 2050 world population of nine billion.'

John Steinbeck wrote in Grapes of Wrath, about our lack of learning from history and the eventual and inevitable outcome which held true in his time and which holds true today:

'And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed. The great owners ignored the three cries of history. The land fell into fewer hands, the number of dispossessed increased, and every effort of the great owners was directed at oppression. The money was spent for arms, for gas to protect the great holdings, and spies were sent to catch the murmuring of revolt so that it might be stamped out. The changing economy was ignored, plans for the change ignored; and only means to destroy revolt were considered, while the causes of revolt went on.' (Steinbeck, 1939, Chapter 19, p. 249)

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