The Illusion of Ownership

” Imagine no possession, it’s easy if you try”

Remember that line ? That’s from John Lennon’s song Imagine. Nice try but in this day and age, in your dreams pal. Perhaps 1000 years down our road to enlightenment. For most of us this life is all about acquisitiveness, a lifetime rampage of passion to own things beyond our reach. I’m thinking – what would the world be like of all of us aren’t obsessed with owning things that are for the most part, materials that exceed our needs and meant more to boost our egos? To prove that that this kind self-indulgent behavior is dysfunctional , isn’t it our utmost satisfaction albeit subconsciously, when we know that what we own is beyond the reach of people we know? Therefore, does it mean that the less friends and relatives we have, the less obsessive and greedy we become? Imagine if there are no people to brag to, or everyone can have the same things you own, would you have the same level of acquisitiveness?

Some of us would argue and say, “don’t I have the right to the better and finer things in life ?” Sure all of us do but our problem is identification with ego. Oftentimes we don’t look for the finer and better but the most expensive because it makes us standouts in the eyes of society. We are under the illusion that the most expensive stuff are the best quality when they are not. People who rave for a certain product believing it is the greatest are often hoodwinked by clever marketing hype into thinking that it is. Our egos dictate our brains and influence our decision. We buy a 60 in. flat screen and throw double the money because everybody else has less than 60. We build expensive private schools and exclusive housing subdivisions because we want to put a tag on our identity as members of the elite to separate ourselves from the pack.

People who have been to Cuba, one of the last bastions of communism left in the world today tell me that Cubans cannot easily own assets of substantial value and that even food is rationed by the government, the only employer in the country. The concept of free enterprise does not exist therefore people cannot enrich themselves and fulfill their version of the proverbial American Dream. The country looks like decades behind in terms of infrastructure development, much like the 50’s. Yet when I look at the Human Development Index ( HDI) rankings for 2009, Cuba places 51st amongst the 182 countries sampled, 54 slots higher than Pinas. Cubans might look poor for they can’t own much but they have free health care, free education at all levels, adequate housing and no one is dying of starvation. Contrast this scenario with a densely populated, cramped city like Manila, proud owner of the three of largest malls in the world but surrounded by extreme poverty, unemployment and an unstoppable population growth behaving like a runaway train. All because of our obsession to own and belong leaving the others on the other side of the fence where we think they should be ? Is this what we call the virtues of freedom under a democracy?

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