A conversation with Raphael Lambert
Property is one of the most discussed issues of our time: it is not possible to deal with this important issue without knowing the ancient roots of the term. GG students have done an amazing journey throughout property’s history from John Locke theories and the American declaration of independence of 1776 to the contemporary era in Africa and United States about inequality and multifaceted living conditions.
Raphael Lambert is a professor of African American literature and culture in the department of American and British Cultural Studies at Kansai University in Osaka, Japan. He has published essays in Journal of Modern Literature, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, and The African American Review. He is currently an Associate Visiting Research Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University.
The Preamble of Declaration of independence (1776) outlines a general philosophy of government that justifies revolution when government harms natural rights.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”
This documents is the collective first step for small States to form the United States of America and some passages of the text represent a moral standard and an example of courage to a global perspective. The declaration was the foundation of Lincoln’s political philosophy and the chaining of principles located in the text are fundamental to better understand the United States constitution. It has offered a wide picture of men possibilities in life and the new added value given by property.
John Locke, one of the most relevant English philosopher and physician, is considered the father of Liberalism and his writings influenced Rousseau, Voltaire and American revolutionaries; his contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence. He uses the word “property” covering human aspirations, interests and material goods. Property is a natural right, as he stated in the Second Treatise of property (chapter V, 1689), “Every man has a property in his own person”; in this work Lock underlined the state of nature and the origin of property and civilization. He claims that civil society was created for the protection of property, a meaning of life and liberty that has to be safeguarded:
“as much as anyone can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he may by his labor fix a property in :whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy.”(Second Treatise)
In the second part of the conversation, the guest opened a parenthesis:
“Is the Constitution pro slavery?
He analyzed various author’s points of view: Sutton E.Griggs, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Ellison.
Articles considered ambiguous (union defense, liberty and justice) Douglass defended the constitution saying that the constitution “it is for We people and not we the white people”.
On the other hand, Griggs stated that the constitution does not protect black people. Ellison added that all the early documents of USA protected everyone and he is in favor of constitution, “still vital covenant” in which Americans of diverse backgrounds and religions are bound.
Knowing that the 5thAmendment from the Bill of Rights affirms:
”no person shall be […] deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”.
A particular focus has been made on the 14thamendment which, both with the 5thone, underlines a due process clause stating that no person shall be deprived of the property of life without a fair process of law. The 14thamendment’s due process clause has to be applied to State’s governments, while the 5thone is for federal governments.
The above mentioned Amendments as it follows:
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, libertyor property, without due process of law. “
The chain: FACTIONS-DIVERSITY-DEMOCRACY, is the heart of Federalist 10, an essay written by James Madison as the tenth of The Federalist Papers; in particular the No. 10 addresses the question of how to reconcile citizens with interests contrary to the rights of others.
“The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government”. (November 22, 1787)
“The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property” (November 22, 1787)
This discussion is linked with the notion: if you have property you should have more political power and rights ( you have more talents).
Nowadays, this issue is popular enough all over the world. this is a new perspective that global governance allows its students to think of: collect the information which circulate in the modern world and create a new challenge to be solved by a multidisciplinary approach. It is interesting a linked that is possible to create with the actual situation in Rome about the different possibilities for students who live in various zones of the city; relationship property-possibilities.
“I would like to know your smart opinion about the social integration of of poor people in some zones of Rome: people do not feel integrated in that context because of the lack of property of expensive clothes or the newest iPhone model… what do you think about this process? In addition to this rich people think that they possess particular talents because of their bank account compared to teenagers who live in suburbs.
Is it possible to change this static condition of the future generations? If yes what should be the first step?”
All I can say is that every big city faces similar issues. You are right, social disparities are shocking, and some among the wealthy tend to think that they are wealthy because they deserve it. Those people also tend to think that the poor are responsible for their own lot… and that students who barely have enough to make it should compete for a better life like everyone else. I disagree with this last point: students, whatever their social background, should be put in the best possible conditions to succeed.Investing in education is investingin the future.
All in all, there is a contradiction between the conception of freedom and happiness and what people say and actually are living these days; a change from theory to practice was visible after the American constitution came out.
The word equityis strictly linked with the notion of property and this challenge has no barriers, borders or skin color: it is a global matter.