Coursera how to change the world – an essay

Describe at least two examples of how individuals or private corporations have tried to take something to which a community had free access and restrict this access on the basis of private ownership or price. What can you do to bring something back into the commons?


I am going to discuss three areas of relationships between the private and the commonwealth:

·     Religious buildings

·     Local authority rules about car parking restrictions and fines

·     Allowing car parking in front gardens of terraced houses


I have chosen religious buildings because  Frederique Apffel-Marglin (2012) quotes:

“although thou are a civill Owner, yet thou are a spirituall Usurper.[i]” 

and discusses three worlds which are actually one – the human world, the non-human world, and spirits, gods, sprites.

Religion in Britain is carried out primarily in buildings, although there are exceptions like the solstice at Stonehenge, but that is also enclosed and one has to purchase a license to enter the land. Some Anglican churches are free to enter in the daytime, but I believe all are now locked at night and the larger ones charge entrance fees, except if attending for a ritual.  Other Churches Mosques etc are generally locked when not in use. 

But if Apffel-Marglin and other’s arguments are correct, there are three problems here. 

·      We are not free to carry out rituals on common ground when where and with whom we wish

·      We are not free to create our own rituals and theologies with others, but have an extremely limited menu in many cases imposed on us by very big religions

·     We often have to pay or submit to a theology, to enter a religious building, when it is self evident a shaman should be bringing together we the people, the universe and the gods, healing.


Roads and streets are another area of commonwealth.  Locally, there are parking restrictions and charges near local shops, but sheds and supermarkets have free parking on their private land.  This strongly biases in favour of the large and powerful, and the parking restrictions are there primarily to help traffic flow to the supermarkets, not create local relationships within communities.


The estate where I live is 1900 built medium to large terraces with reasonable front gardens, except they are now majority for cars.  “Crossovers” are ubiquitous and make pavement quality very poor, and there are minimal spaces to park on the road.  The street scene is actually very poor, but other areas with smaller properties like Kew are very different, primarily because homes still have front gardens.


I am reminded of the famous pictures in the town hall of Sienna!


It is as if Local Authorities and their officers are not that conscious of their responsibilities towards commonwealth, although there are many legislative matters around sense of place, health and well being and similar.  There seem to be institutionalized biases towards the powerful – the car in contrast to the garden, the pedestrian, the cyclist or the disabled person, or the supermarket in contrast to the local trader.


Religion is not helping, as it does specialize in particular theologies and rituals, creating boundaries instead of beating the bounds and building up commonwealth.

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