No, I don’t respect private property

…or, I don’t respect private property qua private property.

I was walking home from the park today. As I was a couple of blocks away from home, I noticed a man doing some gardening work in front of some townhouses. He was talking to a couple of women. I didn’t hear what they were talking about (and wasn’t actually paying attention), but I did hear him remark, “…what, expect people to respect private property?”

So, clearly, there was some sort of discussion about what someone had done to the garden or the building. Or maybe someone had parked in their little lot. I don’t know, but there was some sort of transgression.

I’m going to admit, whenever people start talking about “private property” or, really, the sanctity of private property, I bristle. When it’s put like that, no, no I don’t care about private property.

Too often (though not exclusively), when I hear people talk about the importance of private property, they’re really talking about their desire to foist their desires on the rest of the community. Why can’t I pave over my front lawn? It’s private property. Why can’t I build a giant wall of a building? It’s private property. Why can’t I cut down all these trees? It’s private property.

As the cult of private property slowly pushes out public space, as it erodes our communities, no, I can’t really respect it.

This may seem like some kind of anarchist philosophy (and, hell, maybe there’s a tinge of that), but it’s really, truly, a deeply conservative and traditionalist perspective.

No, I don’t respect private property, but I do respect people’s homes. I respect people, and think they should be treated well.

But I also understand that home means more than the land you “own”. My street is part of my home. My neighbourhood is part of my home. I don’t ever see private property fetishists concerning themselves too much with respecting my home. They won’t (perhaps) litter on my front step, but will they speed past my home? Will they clog up the streets of my neighbourhood? Will they respect that this is a community and not just an attraction? Will they respect that my main street isn’t just an arterial?

Generally speaking, I don’t see it. This concept of respect is supposed to be extended to private property but not to communities.

The concept of private property can be useful, but it’s still pretty imaginary. As long as we’re using it for the betterment of our communities and our city, rather than the enrichment of certain demographics, then, yes, by all means, let’s respect.

But that’s not how it’s used. That’s not the mentality in this city, or this country, or this society. It’s used as a bludgeon. It’s weaponized to protect entrenched interests.

So, no, I’m not going to respect private property, and you shouldn’t either.

Respect homes. Respect communities. Respect people. That’s the better way to go.

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