Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Personal Property

I mentioned that the last post came out of a Facebook discussion. One of the ways that conversation got derailed, was that people converted concern for personal property into intrusive comments about people's bodies, including what they eat.

I hope that my previous post could address some of those fears head-on, that body autonomy means your body is your own, my body is my own, etc. We can talk about issues of body-shaming, Healthism as the New Puritanism, Ableism and fatphobia later. One step at a time.

Part of the discussion involved questions of private property, namely the idea that one can do whatever they want with the things that they own.

Much like body autonomy, I think there's a "Yes, but..." to that discussion. If one began to smash every object in one's apartment or house, I think it's likely that neighbors would call police to report a domestic disturbance.

Wantonly destroying property - even one's own property - is violence. It can be disturbing to perform, disturbing to watch, disturbing to read about.

Just as I said intent matters in physical violence (the difference between accidental contact in sparring, vs. intentionally punching a person), intent matters in destruction of property. Accidentally dropping one's phone in the toilet, or dropping a tablet and cracking the screen, is different from intentional destruction. It happens, and the natural consequence is that one doesn't have the hardware anymore. One may pay money to replace it.

Which brings up one other point about personal property. One of the textbooks for my M.A. recounted a story of Americans visiting another country. Some of the young men started horseplaying in the street in front of the hotel, and tore the collar of a shirt. They went inside, oblivious to the (bad!) impression such destruction left on the locals.

Having grown up "on a budget," videos of a new iPad in a blender, or news articles about people smashing their Xbox for no reason... bother me. Again, accidental breakage is one thing. Purposeful destruction of things is... rude, disrespectful, thoughtless, wasteful, and WRONG.

(Another disclaimer. I work as an engineer. I understand that testing hardware needs to happen sometimes, and sometimes that means testing to destruction... for data that can prove or improve the hardware. That's also different.)