We belong to the land
Landownership is as old as humanity. From tribal territorial disputes, to nuclear holocaust, humans have fought over land and its resources for thousands of years. The conflicts range from the petty garden fence dispute to centuries long diaspora and more wars than I can count. Despite all the suffering and horror that war is still bringing to people all over the world today, it doesn't look like we're about to stop engaging in fights over territorial control, taking it right to the ridiculous with the Maldivas in 1982.
You could state that on that kind of level, there's little ordinary people can do to stop war, as the massive protest marches against the war on Iraq sadly showed us, but the intolerant attitudes are not just the prerogative of governments, far from. It seems to me that in every one of us hides the Scrooge element, ready to shout: "Get off my land!" if experiences of travellers are anything to go by. For as long as they have existed, nomadic peoples have been at the receiving end of some of the most despicable treatment by the settled communities. It is utterly incomprehensible that those who live the lightest on the land, should be persecuted so. I've had a bit of a taste of the intolerant attitude that the public have towards itinerants. In my late teens and early twenties, I travelled around in the warmer parts of Europe and lived for a while in Gran Canaria in an unoffical hippy community, where we were fair game for the Guardia Civil. Not far from where I live in Wales, the people of The Piod near Rhayader were harrassed for many years before they were finally left to live on the land.
When I first met my husband, 20 years ago, he was a horse-drawn traveller. Although the vast majority of his memories and experiences of the travelling life are positive, he is not unfamiliar with more aggressive and prejudiced reactions from the public. He did get told more than once to move on from just a grassy verge of the road.
If the Thatcher years culminated in some of the worst treatment of travellers ever during the Battle of the Beanfield and the creation of the Criminal Justice Act, the current Tory government seem intent to do their bit by trying to criminalise squatting and by the hard line taken by Basildon Council against the travelling community of Dale Farm. The problem is not just that a tiny minority owns the vast majority of the land in Britain, it's that this minority are the ones who have the ear of or are those that have all the political power in the land. And they have absolutly no interest in land reform, as for the onerous task of owning all this land, they get fat payouts from you and me through the common agricultural policy. Seriously, how much more screwed up can it get?
I don't own any land, I don't even own a house. I've never felt entirely comfortable with the idea of landownership. We are all born onto this planet, should we not all have the use of some of it's surface space to live and create a livelihood, regardless of how wealthy or poor we are? How much conflict, inequality and suffering could be avoided if we changed our views on how we hold land; how much wealthier and happier we would all be. But, I suppose, we are closer in time to the Neanderthals where the guy with the biggest stick got the best land, than we are to giving up on owning land and admitting that in truth; we belong to the land. On that subject, Australian Aborigines are much more evolved than us; in their traditional culture, they have no concept of landownership.
So where does Transition fit into this? How can transitionistas make a difference? Well, it's very easy, yet most of you will find it hard: If you own land and you do not use all of it, you can share your land with those who do not have any. If you don't own land, find a landowner and see if they are willing to share. Time to walk your talk! I guess of those that read this blog, the landless ones might agree with me, whereas those with land will find a lot of reasons to disagree. It has always been thus.
Photo's: Dale Farm resident holding up a crucifix aginst a backdrop of burning barricades/ John and Jean parked up near Rhayader, from left to right: Jean, Merlin, Magic/ Squatters protest/ John and Magic going down the road