The Ownership Complex – By Joel Aaron Foster

June 25, 2014

In honor of the Dog Days of Summer, we are releasing a series of thought provoking essays from AFP’s Joel Aaron Foster on the philosophical underpinnings that drive free market ideas and individual liberty.

Have you ever wondered how things that are so precious, valuable, meaningful, are so elusive and once acquired, so difficult to hold? The shallow things, the weak, the superficial, are easy enough to come by…they often throw themselves at us. Too often we oblige them, we grab at them. Is it out of self loathing that we engage in this way or a smaller belief in our potential or a simple lack of curiosity as to why we react in any given way to the incentives placed in front of us? We build an illusion around the superficial to convince a superficial society that these things are of value. In reality, the opposite is true but to admit such would be to cheapen our manufactured persona, if, after all, we’ve invested so much of ourselves in the superficial. So we live the facade, selling the trinkets as if they were the Crown Jewels.

We have a choice in life; either cling to to the security only found in superficiality, found in the grand delusion, or enter a world with a constantly ebbing measure of torment – where darkness ravages beauty and truth out of its own fear and misunderstanding. The unfortunate thing (or perhaps the most fortunate) is that meaning is only found by the ones who seek beauty, truth, where it is to be found, not in the superficial but among the ravaging wolves where it is inevitably misunderstood. To seek it is to be persecuted. Superficiality cannot afford the truth that lies beneath to surface for air. Truth is the achilles heel of a liar. One of the more insidious methods of modern-day censorship is to shame truth on arrival, to dub it incompatible with reality. The Censor will say, “Degrees are all that exist, never truth”.

Man will often assert his rights with no regard for his obligations, thinking his role (and his goal, for that matter) to be ownership, where stewardship is and always has been his only charge! When something is a gift to begin with (which is the argument, I make, for all things) our only role must be stewardship, never ownership. Ownership of a gift will destroy the gift as easily as it will destroy the recipient. Man cannot own anything but man can be owned by anything and the one who places ownership of something as his highest virtue will eventually be consumed by that which he seeks to consume. The wiki generation knows this inherently. Ours is a collaborative focus, a shared focus, to whatever extent focus rules the day.

Many a man, fancying himself an Amateur Providence, seeks to control as much as possible. He is depraved for thinking such. At his best, he can only hope to control, as a transient being, that matter which does not transcend his reach. And what will such a man do if ever he achieves full control? In pursuit of his objective, he will systematically destroy the very beauty, society, people, mechanisms that he aimed to wield. Having destroyed the value of what he set out to control, the best that can be hoped for is that he will grow disenchanted with his own accomplishments and leave his conquest to forage for the next target. He will leave desolated beauty in his wake, a shell of what once was, having sucked the very meaning and dynamic out of the object of his conquest. This is the very definition of perversion.

Man, in his illusions of grandeur, the “Master Gardener” seeking to supplant the Garden of Eden, will inadvertently reap a desolate hell from the earth of his good intentions. We need look no further than the case of religion today, the systematic effort to control the Almighty, to illustrate this nature. Religion is pagan insofar as it becomes a series of tactical maneuvers for holding God at arms length, distancing one’s self from faith by way of ritual while insulating one’s self from conviction through a clever ruse of piety. This is at odds with authentic faith. It is the difference between tradition and traditionalism. The alternative is found in the sublime belief that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights – life, liberty the pursuit of happiness. We do not nor can we ever own these rights. We are endowed with them through no effort of our own. We exist, therefore they are ours as members of humanity. And secure in this knowledge our role and goal is no longer a false piety, religion, superficiality or ownership. It is a simple role of stewardship, nothing more, nothing less. And there is nothing more noble under Heaven.

Joel Aaron Foster is Communications Director and Grassroots Coordinator of Americans for Prosperity Georgia.

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