Gregory Sams
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14. Birthright Denied

"I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures."

Geronimo,
Apache chief (1829-1909)
Though we have come a long way in our evolution, we all recognise that until we developed tools and learned to manage fire, we basically lived off the land, and did so for a good while thereafter too. We still cherish stories of those who were cut off from civilisation and managed to survive in the wilderness with nothing but nature to provide. And we wring our hands with genuine concern when we hear of primitive tribes in Africa or South America being forcibly civilised or just plain wiped out by disease and avarice.

With one exception, of course, every organism on earth, plant or animal, assumes that it will live off the land with no other support structures whatsoever. The exception is us, and we are right to be proud of the major achievements we have made in creating tools and structures to advance our civilisation and remove us from the rawness of living on the edge of survival. We can keep ourselves warm in hostile climates, travel great distances with relative ease, communicate around the world with each other at low cost to our pocket or the environment, and live in houses that have evolved a long way from a makeshift tent, cave or covering of branches.

In taking these developments of our civilisation, however, and instituting them as the natural order of life, and then effectively legislating any other lifestyle out of existence, we are threatening the very ability of our civilisation to survive. Survival in this world requires evolution, change and experimentation with the established order and "way." We have always accepted that parents will look askance at their own children's lifestyle experiments and wonder what will become of the younger generation. This has been going on for years. Today's experimenters are, consciously or subconsciously, looking at ways to live that are neither dependent on the state, nor threatening and disrespectful to the earth that supports us.
"Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric."

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)
If there is one basic right to which every human being is entitled it must be the right to LIVE OFF THE LAND on the fruits of the earth. This is the right enjoyed by every other one of God's less "civilised" creations. We have volumes of laws concerning our rights and entitlements covering areas of housing, employment, marriage, discrimination by sex, race and so forth. Yet how can this mountain of rights be of any value when the most fundamental building block of rights is not only absent but virtually a crime in most developed nations of the world - to live in a natural state on the planet earth?

It is extraordinary. Almost every other inhabitant of this planet lives off the land without even thinking about it. Yet should one of us wish to do so then we risk harassment, fines and even imprisonment. In our development of civilisation we have so surrounded ourselves with the often wonderful inventions of our species that it is quite possible to forget that the natural state of our ancestors, not that long ago, did not involve houses and apartments, motor cars, telephones, suitcases, personal documents, lawyers, stereos, policemen, television, couture and all the other trappings of life that we sometimes mistake for our life itself.
"What men value in this world is not rights, but privileges."

H.L. Mencken
I do not suggest that the trappings of society are all evil or that we should seek to forgo them for some higher purpose. I do suggest, however, that our society is in mortal danger when it has created a climate in which to live without its trappings is considered and indeed made criminal behaviour. Such is the case in England, the United States, and most of the developed world today. In many places, including England, you are not even allowed to pursue this simple lifestyle on land in the country which you have purchased. Apparently the state and therefore the fabric of society are threatened if we should seek to live in a teepee without electricity, growing our own vegetables, rather than as a "productive" taxpaying member of society. We are NOT ALLOWED to opt out of the so-called benefits of the state, or even to choose just those that we support and believe to be good value for our taxes. Because the state has mandated our entitlement, it is deemed logical and necessary that we should HAVE TO MAKE our contribution to these benefits - as a ludicrous precondition to being alive on a given part of the planet.

This state-mandated entitlement to the benefits it offers constitutes one of the major rationales used to support the removal of our basic right as humans to move freely on our planet and to cross the red lines defining who owns which tax collection area. Of course, we must not have foreigners gaining access to the benefits we expect from the hard-earned money that our state has taken from us. That money is meant to come back to us, after the bureaucrats' salaries and expenses, maintenance of the military machine, foreign aid projects, European Community contributions and so forth as mentioned elsewhere herein.

The issue of land rights, or ownership of production from it, is a complex one. Many have recognized that it is impossible to personally possess and be the owner of something as indefinable as a piece of land, a section of land that is integrally looped together with the rest of the earth through feedback interchanges, sharing air and water with adjoining land. It's limits extend down into the core of the earth and upwards to some undefined level approaching a limit at, presumably, earth's atmosphere. Though no one claims to own the wind or air around us, nor the shifting waters of the seas, many now would agree we have some right and duty to keep these treasures clean.

But however we define a piece of land, we have developed entitlements and rights that we call ownership because the tenancy seems permanent. Custodianship of land and property is part of our culture and arises in many different ways, originally from the raw effort of transforming what was once raw land into a farm, a house and garden, or indeed a whole community. This process happens in nature when an oak grove makes its own environment, a city of termites changes the topography of their earth, or a pride of lions define their hunting area. Some new ideas could be developed in our society - on the nature of property rights over land, and its link to the usage and appreciation of the property. It was, after all, that usage which probably endowed it with "property-hood" in the first place. Perhaps, in the same way that we have discovered new and beneficial cures for humanity through investigating some of the medicines of "primitive" tribes, we could also gain some knowledge and possible tools from investigating their different perceptions of property rights.

Whatever rights over land and land use are indeed necessary and proper for our culture to work successfully, there can be no rationale in a sane society to deny an individual the God-given right to live off the land and to move about on it from time to time, in direct interface with our Earth. The situation becomes ridiculous when we supposedly have a "right" to a home, yet those who choose to temporarily live in a teepee, tree house or bender on so-called "common land," in a roadside lay-by, or on derelict land are forcibly evicted, fined and threatened with prison. In the state's doomed efforts to guarantee us all decent and proper housing they have legislated out of existence any viable options between "approved" housing and a cardboard box on the streets. This is the very real void in our housing stock. Simple shelters and modest dwellings are neither difficult nor expensive to put together - they are just illegal. There are many supposedly poor countries without housing regulation in which it is unusual to find anyone sleeping permanently on the streets, let alone those who have intelligence and education.

There is no simple solution to how the state excludes from its "benefits" those who would choose not to contribute to its upkeep - those who embrace DIY culture and feel safer entrusting their health and well-being to their own efforts, rather than to the questionable abilities of the modern state. But it is patently obvious that a dangerous hypocrisy exists in a society that outwardly extols the virtues of preserving tribes in the rain forest yet allows its own citizens to be jailed for emulating such a lifestyle in their own land.
"Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty."

Samuel Adams (1722-1803)
American revolutionary
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From the book "Uncommon Sense - The State is Out of Date"
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