Category Archives: Words of Wisdom

The Right to Own Property: Musings on the Differences Between Gifts and Loans

Standard

Ever since I was young, I’ve been proud of how unmaterialistic I am. I’ve often claimed that I’d rather give gifts than get them and, in fact, that I don’t like getting gifts very much. This struck me as being a bit strange. Doesn’t everyone like getting gifts? It’s as I learn more about Youth Rights that I realized where this hang-up, along with many others, came from.

As a child, just like everyone else, literally every single thing I owned was a gift. My clothes, my food, my house, my toys, my school supplies, whatever pocket change I had, my hairstyle. All were gifts. I was taught very young that when you give a gift to someone, it is theirs forever and it is the height of rudeness and insult to take it back. So I never did. I was also thought that it was the height of rudeness to refuse a gift. So I never did.

My custodians, however, did not feel the need to adhere to the first rule. Anything I had could at any time be taken away because I was disobedient, thrown away without my consent because it was “old” or donated without my permission because “you don’t use it anymore” or “you’re too old to keep this”. Furthermore, I was expected to show gratitude every day of my life for every single gift I ever got, even the ones I hadn’t wanted in the first place. If I was ever angry or upset, I’d hear “after all I’ve done for you, I feed you, I house you, I gave you XYZ” as if in accepting those gifts that it would have been rude to refuse anyways, I’d signed some kind of contract claiming I’d never get mad at the gift-giver ever and owed them my unwavering adoration, my soul, and my future.

Needless to say, I quickly learned to divest myself of any and all kind of material attachment. I cared for nothing. As few objects as possible were given names or affection. I didn’t cherish my objects and took no particular pains to keep them clean or undamaged because it was clear to me that if I didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt if/when it was taken away, or hidden from me, or destroyed.

What few objects I cherished, I either carried with me everywhere in an obsessive manner or hid whenever they weren’t on my person. I had one toy I adored and that toy was my teddy-bear. I used to have nightmares that the bear would go up in flames as soon as it left my eyesight, that it would be bear-napped or that it would die. It was the only object I truly loved – I have it to this day – and even though I protected it as best as I could, it wasn’t safe from harm. It was often taken from me against my will to be used as a pillow for the adults during car rides or punched, kicked, thrown or otherwise injured in front of me as a “joke” or to mock me.

As soon as I began earning income of my own, I became a pack-rat. I collected items and to this day have difficulty throwing away anything I’ve bought because it is mine. I still hate getting gifts because accepting them feels like accepting that the person who gave them can, at any time, hold them hostage or punish me or throw the debt back in my face.

That’s what made me realize that, as a child, I never got a gift from the people who called themselves my “parents” while acting like nothing more than my custodians. Ever. Instead, I got loans, on which I paid an absurdly high interest in the shape of obedience and gratitude. Despite my best efforts, I never managed to get near to paying off the capital and I never would have. Everything they gave me was called a “gift”, but they, not I, owned the items given and I owed them for letting me use them. The items could be repossessed at any time so I learned that it was best not to get attached.

That’s cruel. I honestly think it is cruel to give gifts and then take them away, claiming you own them because you paid for them. I wish my custodians had been honest and told me “I bought this item so I own it and am lending it to you” because if they’d made it clear that every single thing I ever received from them – from food to healthcare to clothes – was a loan, I’d have refused to accept as much of it as I could. I’d have begun working earlier. I’d have paid my own way sooner. I’d have rejected every single Christmas and birthday parcel and never asked for anything, ever. I would not have accrued a debt that made me feel as if I had to shut up and accept abuse because “after all we’ve done for you”, I owed my custodians my submission.

They called those things “gifts”, which means a thing freely given out of love. They called housing and feeding me their “duty”, which means an action freely done out of responsibility. They never called them loans, even though that is exactly what they were. When you give someone an item you own and control and can and do repossess at will, you are not giving them a gift, nor doing your duty by them. You are giving them a loan and it is massively unfair call it otherwise, to fail to tell them what the interest rate will be so they know to refuse it if the cost is too high.

I ended up escaping my custodians’ demand for reimbursement on a technicality. One day, they pulled out the old “after all we’ve done for you, after all we’ve given you, YOU OWE US” card. And, in a fit of brilliance, I retorted: “No. I don’t. You called those things GIFTS. You never once said they were loans. You never told me I would have to pay them back because if you had, I wouldn’t have accepted any of it. I can’t be held as agreeing to a contract I didn’t sign. I owe you nothing.”

They called me an ingrate. “Ingrate” is what parents call children who point out that they can’t be expected to pay interest on a present, or on care given to them out of charity. What many people fail to realize is that parenting is very much so a charitable donation of years of one’s life gifted to another human being. It’s not an investment. It’s not a loan. Children don’t owe their parents some kind of emotional salary for taking care of them because no one is forcing people to become parents. All parents are volunteers.

I should have been able to enjoy getting presents because once I got a gift, it should have been mine. Giving oneself the right to “confiscate” a present means the gift was a loan, and should have been presented as such when it was given.

This is why I firmly believe that children who get enraged when their possessions are thrown out without their consent are right to do so. ANYONE would get enraged if another person gave them a gift, then took it away or threw it out. Children who hide, or cling to or get possessive or overprotective of their possessions are also very right to do so because ANYONE would get paranoid and insecure and bitter if their belongings could be stolen – I mean “confiscated” – at anytime if they were deemed to be behaving badly.

Ownership of one’s objects shouldn’t be dependant on one’s behaviour or degree of obedience. Misbehaving shouldn’t mean losing one’s property. Children should have the right to own their own property, even if said property is comprised of nothing but the gifts they have received from charitable adults in possession of actual paychecks. Especially then.

Advertisements

Transportation is a Need, Not a Privilege

Standard

In a previous post, I had mentioned that, in my street-wise opinion, one of the leading causes of homelessness and poverty is the extremely high cost of public transportation. Indeed, many people work in cities in which they can’t afford to live but that they can also not afford to leave since cars are pricey and the bus is almost more so.

That you now have to be middle class to take public transit is outrageous. If you are poor, you bike. If you can’t afford a bike, can’t ride a bike or it’s, say, winter, you walk. This means that you have to make sure your job is within walking distance (by which I mean an hour, not ten minutes; when you’re poor you walk a lot) of your dwelling or you can’t work at all. Read the rest of this entry

To Those Who Would Not Meet My Eyes (If They Knew)

Standard

When I was about ten years old, I received a present from my aunt (actually a cousin twice removed, I think, but I always called her “Tati” – Auntie – and so that is who she shall remain) that I carry around with me to this day, much like my cherished teddy-bear and my newer companion, my teddy-bunny.

My auntie is a writer, which is quite a magnificent and wondrous thing to be. Every now and then, she’d send me a box full of books she’d written and I’d be delighted. I too wanted to be a writer when I grew up (as well as a cat, and a mermaid, etc.) so the books bearing her name were proof that it was possible to become a real live author.

I’d always pick up her books with the intention of reading them cover to cover but I never got very far. Being a strong reader, I could understand the books just fine but they were always about – no offense, Auntie – boring things. Acclimatization to a new reality, separation from one’s family, solitude, fear, hope, hope, hope. Loss, tragedy, pain. Growth. I don’t know if there were happy endings; I never made it that far into the stories. Read the rest of this entry

On Being Burnt Alive

Standard

“A history lesson: A faggot is a bundle of sticks originally used as kindling for fires that engulfed gays. When they were burned at the stake, people were firewood. But Moses came across wood on fire and saw God in it. What is a burning bush but bundles of branches on fire? Isn’t it funny how faggots and God can look the same sometimes?”

Excerpt from the slam poem  “God is Gay” by Elliot Darrow


I’m always hearing people use the words “fag”, “faggot”, “gay”. They use the former two as synonyms for “unworthy” and “unworthy” and the latter as a synonym for “most terrible evil bad of no-goodness”.

I’m also always hearing people use the words “fat”, “stupid”, “retard” and “crazy”. They use these words as synonyms for “unworthy”, “unworthy”, “unworthy” and “makes me feel unworthy, which is completely unacceptable”.

I’m always hearing people be unkind to each other. I’m always seeing people be unkind to each other. I have damned good hearing and my peripheral vision makes owls jealous, which might be why I notice this unkindness so much.

Or it might be because I’m not apathetic to the suffering of others. Read the rest of this entry

Dear Unsolicited Advice Giver

Standard

Dear Unsolicited Advice Giver,

Ever since I was born, you’ve been approaching me with declarations such as “I wouldn’t do that if I were you”. This confused me for a very very long time because that sentence makes no damned sense. It makes no sense because I am 100% certain that you would do exactly what I am doing if you were me because you would be me. Being me, you would have the same genes, upbringing, experiences and thought processes as I do so and so, you would be exactly where I am now.

Your more audacious announcements such as “you should(n’t) do this instead of that if you want to amount to anything” or the particularly sadistic sanguine “it’s not that I don’t like you, it’s that you would be better/prettier/more likeable/more credible if you did/became that instead of this” confused me even more as they sounded just a tad bit shaming and dehumanizing mean but you always spoke them with a hopeful smile and kind eyes. The dissonance was a bit dizzying, to be honest.

However, because I cried myself to sleep night after night for years and gave myself a ludicrously high number of breakdowns in the process have excellent communications skills, I was able to translate your coded message of “I wouldn’t do that if I were you” and its kith to the following idea, which I am assuming is what you meant to say: Read the rest of this entry

The Hierarchisation of Preferences

Standard

The hierarchisation of preferences is a practice better known as “being a Judgy McGudger”.

If there is only one thing possible, you have no choice. If you have no choice, whatever you take is automatically right because nothing else exists. In other words, in a Universe where varieties and differences do not exist, it is literally impossible for anyone to ever err, mistake, go on the wrong path or do anything reprehensible because no options other than “right” available. Such a Universe is, by necessity, very very small and also very very boring. No one wants to live there.

Thankfully, this is not that Universe. Read the rest of this entry

Resisting Hunger: The Dark Side of the Marshmallow Experiment

Standard
Resisting Hunger: The Dark Side of the Marshmallow Experiment

The Dark Side of the Marshmallow Experiment

What does it say about a child when they feel hungry yet are still capable of maintaining the self-control necessary NOT to eat the single marshmallow they are offered, preferring instead to wait fifteen whole minutes to get two marshmallows? Most people agree that it says they will be successful later on because they can, from an early age, calculate short versus long-term benefits and plan for the future. Such planning is an essential life-skill because, obviously:

  1. Short-term benefits and long-term benefits are never the same thing in the final term, i.e by the end of a person’s life, and
  2. Long-term benefits are always better than short-term benefits.

Right? Right?

Wrong. Read the rest of this entry