Have nothing and you will be unhappy | The USA Print

Have nothing and you will be unhappy



More than a decade ago, when the housing bubble burst and bank abuses were exposed, many took advantage of the juncture to rail against the abundance of homeowners and to praise Germany, where renters dominate. Today, after a few years, home ownership is no longer criticized, but property in general. Those who praised the German model at the time now promote different forms of dispossession – the car sharinghe co livinghe co working―, as well as the elites gathered annually in Davos they assure us that in 2030 we will have nothing and we will be, however, or, therefore, very happy.

The case of the car is representative. Owning one has a cumbersome, almost enslaving point. Its owner, who must pay for periodic inspections, insurance bills, ITVs, repairs prior to ITVs, gasoline, tire changes, road taxes and so on, ends with the feeling that there are no longer hierarchies but chaos and that it is he who serves the car and not the car who serves him. Consequently, solutions like the renting and the lisingwhich a priori remove some problems, or the car sharingwhich a priori removes all of them because it restores the correct order of things: one uses the car when they really need it and then they don’t worry about it.

There are many objections, however, to this idolatry of rents. In the servile state, Hilaire Belloc claims that a person who is not an owner is less free, there is no doubt that one that is. Many philosophers, for their part, assure that man only evolves on condition that there is something stable, property, that cements his evolution.

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rental dominance

I adhere to all this and then add something that is rarely added. The predominance of rentals, by hours or days or months or years, adds to those of us who suffer from it in a fiction of availability. It makes the real world a full-scale replica of the virtual world, where everything is available, waiting for our click. When one rents an object, he uses it and ignores it. When he owns it, on the other hand, he does not limit himself to using it, to disposing of it, but also to taking care of it. Care somehow becomes the condition of use. You can only drive your car if you regularly take it to the workshop. You will only be able to listen to music if you protect your vinyl from the threat of dust. You will only be able to lie down in your garden if you make it a habitable place with your effort.

Accustomed to maintaining strict consumer relationships with things, we also end up consuming each other

The reader may object that it doesn’t matter, that after all they are just things and that it doesn’t matter if we use them and take care of them or if we simply use them. I will answer, first, that our relationship with objects also conditions our relationship with men. It is not surprising that the era of rentals, of car sharing and of the co livingthat the time of dizzying consumption and planned obsolescence is also the time of Tinder, of one night sex, of throwaway friendships and euthanasia for salivating old men. Accustomed to maintaining strict consumer relationships with things, we also end up consuming each other, squeezing each other out and then discarding ourselves like cigarette butts that have already fulfilled their function.

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And I will answer, second, that possession elevates the object. When we rent them, things are just things, valuable for what they give us. When we possess them, on the other hand, they acquire a different importance. They no longer have value solely for what they report to us; they have it above all because of what they are to us. As Byung Chul-Han says in no-things, they transcend the sphere of functionality to settle in that of being. When it is yours, the car is no longer just a machine that allows you to move from one place to another at an estimable speed, but also the silent witness of a multitude of important events: kisses, breakups, jubilant conversations, calls for help. When it’s yours, the coat is no longer just a useful garment to protect yourself from the cold, but material, tangible proof that your grandfather, from whom you inherited it, has survived death.

Today, I am convinced, the revolution does not demand of us great political programs or incendiary rants, but rather small, humble acts. Continue wearing the dress coat that you inherited, even if it is threadbare, outdated and you can buy another one at a good price in Wallapop. Keeping your old car, the one that has housed moments of love and heartbreak as well, even when the logical thing to do is to give it up and give yourself the car sharing. Claim a home of your own as spokesmen herald the advent of co living. Spitting on those who already rule and still want to rule a little more that only those who have something can be happy.

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