The elephant and the castle

In this case, the elephant is the room. There can be few enormous subjects more often dodged than the space we occupy on the surface of the earth. Land ownership - its many modes, its distribution, its history - is the great ignored in politics today, gingerly taken up if at all and quickly put down again in favour of more fashionable topics: capitalism, urbanisation, democracy, industrialisation, the role of the state. The question 'Who owns the land?' has a musty aroma to it.

London Review of Books: Ferdinand Mount - reviewing Owning The Earth by Andro Linklater.

 

... The ownership of land is the great fundamental fact which ultimately determines the social, the political and consequently the intellectual and moral condition of a people.

Henry George: Progress and Poverty 1879

 

Puts into context a prayer that was commissioned to be declared across the country in 1553. When questions were being asked yet again concerning the worrying trend of exclusive land ownership by a select minority, faith was not silent. 

 

... the earth is thine, O Lord, and all that is contained therein; we heartily pray thee to send thy Holy Spirit into the hearts of them that posses the grounds, pastures and dwelling places of the earth that they, remembering themselves to be Thy tenants, may not rack and stretch out the rents of their houses and lands, nor yet take unreasonable fines and incomes after the manner of covetous worldlings.

revised 1553 Book of Common Prayer

 

Although the people who penned this prayer resided within a space that sometimes operated contrary to those words, it echoed a growing dissent that would eventually lead to revolt. The protest in the 17th century failed, Paradise Lost as Milton described it in his political commentary. Yet the questions never went away.

Today our approach to the land has come up short, and the questions that remain are increasingly encroaching into our private lives. Refusing to apologise and stubbornly remaining, many times without invitation. From food produce and distribution, local and international economy, housing and education, to the examination of what it means to truly live. Land is one of the connecting factors that demands a re-imagination.

It is the elephant in the room that cannot be ignored... an elephant that is the very castle we have so proudly and selfishly built.