Protection and ownership

My friend and entrepreneur co-hosts a just-in-time, on-demand network for professional service in Taiwan, saying that skilled professionals no longer need a lifetime job—they need a work that matches their life. Someone always needs to get something to be done, but it does not have to be a long-term agreement anymore.

That makes great sense especially in this era. We somehow have been accustomed to think that whenever two people work together, their waists must be tied by an invisible rope so they can protect and own each other. We call this system employment. Protection and ownership: that has been the norm for our work life. Where did this come from?

In our private life, most of us live inside a collection of partitions which we may call a house/apartment/dormitory. Each partition, which is called a room, protects its resident, serves a purpose, and is owned by one or more residents. Commonly, each partition comes with its own lock. If we think of our housing in this way, a house forms a fractal pattern where the whole resembles its parts. We see protection and ownership here again.

In our relationship, most of us form a bond called marriage at least once in our lifetime. Need I reiterate the role that protection and ownership plays here? For my own protection—ha ha—I am not debunking the idea of monogamous marriage nor saying that people get together just wanting to be protect(ed) and own(ed). I just cannot help noticing the similarity with the other major elements in our life when I take a detached view.

Work, house, family. That’s almost everything we have in our modern life, and they all have a common structure: protection and ownership. We may also note that it is not a one-way street. Employers also own the company and protect their boss collectively, humans build and maintain their houses, and husbands are as much as (or even more) owned and protected by wives  (again, I guess no more explanations are necessary).

I have no idea where the original protection-ownership model came from—maybe it is the nature of agriculture-based civilization—but I believe this model is based on one word: fear.

We protect ourselves because we fear that we are surrounded by enemies. We claim ownership because we fear that the resource is insufficient. The whole protection-ownership model is based on scarcity which subconsciously tells us that the world is not abundant of security, income, and even love.

True, if we look into the details of our life, the simplistic idea of protection/ownership fades away little by little. Behind that one-dimensional and black-and-white view, there are rich layers of sharing, compassions, creativities, flexibilities that go on and support us equally fundamentally.

But I still argue: If the overall framework forms a certain pattern, is it easy for us to not get influenced, or even trapped, in that structure—consciously or unconsciously? I believe it helps us tremendously to take a hard look at the pattern and acknowledge that it exists. Then we can make a decision whether or not to follow it.

Where do we go from here? I will continue to think and share my thoughts as I go along.