Monday, April 20, 2009

Pen Meets Paper April 20'09

Opinion by Helge Nome

Is there one characteristic that we humans have in common with just about anything that is ”alive” on this wobbly rock that dances around the sun? Something that would explain a lot of things that we do to each other on an individual and collective basis?

I think so and it has been called the “territorial imperative” by some writers. It applies to all life and its occupation of space. Just ask the weeds in your garden, especially chicken weed. In 1883 Friedrich Nietzsche coined the phrase “Wille zur Macht” (Will to Power) in Thus Spoke Zarathustra and in so doing embedded the territorial imperative in mainstream modern literature.

This may seem like a rather abstract observation, but we are directly affected by struggles for territory and power in our everyday lives. And we have developed ways of dealing with such issues within civilized society: Rather than getting shot if you park you car in a space where it is not supposed to be, you get a parking ticket to discourage you from turning it into a habit.

The advantages of an enforceable legal system are obvious when you consider the lives of native people in Borneo, prior to their contact with civilization: The tribes used to hide from each other in inaccessible mountain areas, out of fear from attack by neighbors, rather than availing themselves of fertile river valleys nearby, where they could all have had a good life with abundant food at their finger tips. Collectively, we have come a long way in today's world, but the underlying principle of “control of territory” is as active as ever in ways more subtle than most people realize and can be summed up in one sentence: “If you can make a person believe he is a peasant, without any power, then that is exactly what he is and will behave accordingly”. If you can make a person believe that his main goal in life should be to have a big house and a big car and all the toys, and provide the interest bearing credit to acquire those toys, then he has become a peasant at the whim of your will.

The next step is easy, when you want to fight a major war to expand your territory and need a willing soldier, you create a situation where he has trouble finding work to pay his loans and feed his family. And when the level of frustration has reached a certain point, you offer him a well paid position in the armed forces, convince him of the nobility of his mission, and send him on his way.

So today, as in the past, the majority of people are the victims of the territorial ambitions of a few individuals with the power to manipulate them. And the legal system is being turned into a tool for oppression. Is there another way?

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