Yours or Mine

October 1st, 2005
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private] v3-10-Our IslandsI know that at least once in your lifetime you’ve heard someone say, or maybe you’ve said it yourself, “I’d rather see it go to waste than to give it to him.” These kinds of expressions should not surprise anyone, as they are a true reflection of the possessive nature of the human spirit.

We were programmed from day one to be possessive and territorial in nature. Man will fight his neighbor for one square foot of ground even though that foot of ground has absolutely no value for him and maybe it could solve a walkway or fencing problem for his neighbor.

A sociologist from the State University of Pennsylvania has come up with a couple of observations that is proof of man’s selfishness. Do you know how long it takes to move a car from a parking space? According to the above mentioned sociologist the average driver will take twenty-seven seconds to vacate a parking spot, but if he notices someone waiting for him to move then it could take that same driver as long as one minute to accomplish the same operation.

Have you ever been waiting for someone to finish using a public telephone and it seems like they are taking forever? The next time you would like to make a call, but the telephone is in use don’t let the person in the booth see you because the average phone call from a pay telephone is only eighty-two seconds, but if the caller sees someone waiting to use that telephone the average time of the call goes up to four minutes.

There are other behavioral patterns that we all see on a daily basis, like the guy using public transportation who is finding a vacant seat next to the one he is using, this person will spread his legs to occupy as much of the other seat as he possibly can, or he will put a parcel in the other seat; did you think that he was just getting comfortable? Well he was not getting comfy, he was trying to possess somebody else’s space knowing full well that this ownership would last for only a few minutes, or at least until the traveler reaches his stop, when some other person begs him or threatens him with their eyes to relinquish it.

I seriously doubt that this behavior is because of any conscious effort on the part of the person. I rather think that it is more like a sub-routine of the main program that suddenly kicks-in when someone else tries to encroach on our property or when there is an opportunity to expand our own territory.

There are other more subtle ways that we act out this sub-routine, like when we purchase more food than we need then keep it until it spoils and we end up throwing it away. We are all aware that there are people in our communities with alimentary needs that could make good use of this food, but we would rather possess it until it rots than to give it to someone who can use it.

There are quite a few more of these observations that we could mention but they are so common place that we all accept them as our natural behavior and we reinforce the acceptance of this behavior -revealing our disregard for our fellow human being- with statements like: “May the best man win” and “Every man for himself.” [/private]

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