Hey! Give That Back!
By Wendy Ford
Expropriate is defined in Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary as a verb:
To take away money or property especially for public use without payment to the owner, or for personal use illegally.
Did you ever watch the schoolyard game of Keep Away? Perhaps you were even a victim at one time or another or maybe even a participant. For those unfamiliar with this classic children’s game Keep Away consists of one person grabbing an item from another and tossing the item back and forth amongst two or more “others” just out of reach of the owner while taking great pleasure in watching the attempts of the owner to retrieve the item. Perhaps its owner chases after the person who grabbed it only to have the item tossed quickly to another just as they are about to capture the bully who took it. Other times the object is handed back and forth among the “players” so fast that it is difficult or impossible for the owner to keep track of who has the object.
Depending upon how much meaning the object has to its owner the attempts to recapture the object can become increasingly desperate. Apparently it is this reaction that is the main object of the game. The more desperate and upset the owner becomes the greater the perceived pleasure or “fun” of the perpetrators. The ultimate goal of course is to wear down the owner until tears are shed. The “game” is generally abandoned at this point with the object being tossed into the nearest bushes or tree or pond or other suitably difficult place for the owner to retrieve it. If it is an item of particular use or value the perpetrators may decide to keep it as their own. If the game is taking place in a schoolyard perhaps the recess bell is a blessed interruption or an adult in attendance intervenes but that is part of the challenge to the bullies. Play the game without interruption and play without being caught by an authority figure. Other children observing the game are generally not inclined to intervene and many are just glad they are not the victims.
A big secret that usually eludes the victim: if, when the bully takes the item, disinterest is feigned. The game is no longer fun and the bully or bullies will move on in search of another victim who will be more entertaining or who has an item they deem to be of with higher value to them.
The game generally starts very early in childhood. It can be found wherever a group of young children gather and over time take note of the similarities and differences among themselves. The stronger tend to pick on the weaker or more sensitive. Initially the game is really just a fun game involving much chasing, screaming and giggling with adults or older children around to intervene should things get too out of hand. But as children get older the game takes on deeper and darker meaning as the bullies emerge from the social group and it becomes a form of torment; a way for the bullies to assert their noble selves and show how strong and great they are thus intimidating the rest of their peers and giving themselves the perception they are really hot shots and superior to all others. It would appear that learning the process of expropriation has roots deep within most of our childhoods.
Keep Away continues to be played out in ever increasingly suave and sophisticated ways for the rest of our lives. The stronger always pick on the weaker. In this sense physical strength and prowess are not the sole defining factors of strength or weakness. The bullies of the schoolyard have learned how to function quite effectively in the adult world. Only now they have learned to disguise their schoolyard false bravado and false senses of their own greatness behind the appearances of wealth, knowledge, intelligence, power, assets, access to information, and the ability to withhold information or knowledge. But the game of Keep Away is ever present. Take something that has meaning or value to someone without consent and use it for your own reasons. Expropriation.
By definition in the Cambridge Dictionary expropriate is a verb that refers to property being taken especially for public use without payment.
Doesn’t it just sound like a fancy term used to distract attention from an act? Guess folks won’t notice what we’re up to if we call it something fancy. They won’t want to appear ignorant or stupid so they are less likely to question what we are doing, especially if we tell them it’s for public use. They’ve all been taught (trained, programmed) it’s not right to be selfish. If we tell them it’s for the greater good they’ll do it. They won’t want to look like bad citizens or disloyal.
In Roget’s Thesaurus guess what shows up as synonyms for expropriate? “Verb: expropriate: To take quick and forcible possession of: Commandeer, confiscate, grab, seize, snatch”. And as an idiom: “help oneself to”. Don’t two other words immediately jump to the head of the line: steal and theft?
Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines steal “to take something without the permission or knowledge of the owner and keep it”. The same source defines theft as “(the act of) dishonestly taking something which belongs to someone else and keeping it”.
It seems if something is taken dishonestly and without permission and then kept for oneself it is called theft or stealing. But if it is taken away for public use then it is expropriation. My, my, my. The line distinguishing the difference sure appears very thin. Looks like one big, fancy game of Keep Away.
Except that it has become a deadly game. Continue to give tax breaks to big corporations and the wealthy but Keep Away from the poor, the sick, the elderly. Refuse to infuse enough money into educational system so that our youth will be able to compete in the global economy. Allow the price of gasoline to go so high that people have to choose which tank to fill, their car gasoline tank or their own stomachs. Pay lip service to the need for alternative fuels but don’t fund the necessary programs to build the infrastructure required for distribution. Crow on about family values and morals then go on demanding mandatory overtime and requesting voluntary relinquishing of vacation time. Pay lip service to the need to save and protect our environment but deny funding to programs that would restore our coast marshlands. Wring hands and cluck tongues at how horrible the destruction was from Hurricane Katrina but tie up funds (our tax dollars which have been deducted, expropriated, from each of our earned dollars) so that after almost ONE YEAR the gulf area looks not that much different from a month after the event. Puff out those manly or womanly chests and pound on them with clenched fists to show strength and greatness to the world and to competitors. Gather cronies around and continue to show just how sophisticated the game of Keep Away can be.
Expropriation. Look around. Can evidence of it be seen? Probably right under your very nose. To whom do our natural resources belong? How is your paycheck being expropriated in the market place? Who owns your personal time, indeed ANY of your time and should that even have to be questioned? How much of it has been expropriated by your employer in the form of mandatory overtime? Who owns your ability or right to make decisions about your health care? Most of us are at the mercy of our healthcare insurance companies who, for the most part have very little concern over any one individual’s state of health. If you work in a field of research, who owns your “discoveries” (intellectual property)? Depending upon the employment agreement you may not even have the right ownership of your own ideas and discoveries, you may not be eligible to be credited with a patent. Expropriation.
Bullies can blind others with their false greatness, kindness and false genuineness so suavely and smoothly that they can be quite easily elevated to positions of power and influence. From those positions their acts of expropriation can often be completely unnoticed. Why? Because those of us who put them in those positions have for far too long had the belief they will act in our interest and we have blindly put our trust, money and very lives and well being in their hands. They have taken that trust and run with it. They have inflated their own egos and while one hand grabbed personal power the other has covered our mouths to smother our voices.
Their grasp has become so firm that it is strangling the very life out of us as individuals and families. It is crushing our children’s education and the very future of our country and society. And they will continue to get away with it unless the right questions are asked and followed up on, asked again and again with persistence until the truth is uncovered. Until enough eyes and ears are opened enough that folks will stop, shake loose of the grasp and say, “Hold on a minute. Just what is going on here? Just what do you think you are doing? And more importantly, why are you doing it? Who are you serving?” Until we as individuals choose to band together and make our voices heard the bullies will have no reason to stop.
A reverse game of Keep Away needs to start. We could call it Take It Back, or Give It Back. It appears through various sources and media that people are starting to look around and say, “Hey! Wait a minute! I didn’t say you could do that. What are you doing? I didn’t say you could have that. If you had asked, I might have been willing to share it or let you borrow it. But you can’t just take anything you want any time you want it. You aren’t in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory stomping your foot ‘I want it NOW Daddy. Give it to me NOW!’ ” No.
Expropriation: just another fancy word for stealing and theft, which, by the way, ARE illegal. Just who are we going to hold accountable, along with When and Why aren’t the true journalists of the world pounding on this theme?
There are times to be generous and there are times when it is necessary to fight the bully who keeps trying to grab your stuff on the playground. Sometimes others will come to stand with you if they see you are willing to stand up to the bully. Sometimes when you fight the bully you end up with scraped knees, a torn jacket and a black eye, but sometimes you earn the respect of the bully and he thinks twice about messing with you in the future.
May the Lord of Life bless you with courage to enable you to stand up to the bully and fight for what is rightfully yours.