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  • Territory. It's a strange word, reminiscent of war zones, armed guards and animals pissing on lampposts. It's an incredibly strong, primal instinct, that most if not all of us share. It's in the smallest things, from post-it notes in the fridge, (letting us know that this is Steve's cheese and we should not touch it, under pain of death,) to the guy that's left behind, looking like a gooseberry, to keep the table secure while his compadres go for drinks. Mothers have it, cubicle workers have it, students in their dorm rooms have it. It's the reason locks exist and keypads and security guards and banks and cctv and car alarms and computer passwords and tracking chips exist. We can't ignore it, we can't pretend we're not all part of it. Securing territory, like it or not, is a natural part of human life.

    It's not always a bad thing. Things can be personal to us, they can mean something, so we want to keep them safe. A stereo isn't just a stereo - it's Jeff's compensation for a hard day's grind, rocking out in his underwear. A dress isn't just a dress - it was the one Debbie wore for her first date in 1986, still with the ketchup stain from that slippery hot dog. And there are always going to be people who will hurt or take advantage of others. When the thieves and murderers and abductors are lurking in the streets, the bolt on the door keeps them out. Often it's just the illusion of security that allows us to sleep at night, so our brothers and sisters and children and grandchildren can sleep at night.

    But of course there's a darker side to it all.

    There's always a line we should be wary about crossing. It's the line between Pragmatism and Distrust. It's the line between Security and Paranoia. It's the line between Social Awareness and Prejudice.

    It doesn't take much to build a barrier between those that have and those that haven't, to cast those we might once have thought of as our neighbours as our enemies. If a poor man steals from a rich man's house, is the poor man to blame for being a thief and a criminal? Or is the rich man culpable for the divide between them that makes the poor man so desperate? My answer is - Neither are to blame. And both are.

    The photo above is right around the corner from my house. At first it made me laugh. What has the world come to that we now have to protect a pile of nondescript rocks? But then I asked myself, isn't that all that territory is about? Protecting our little pieces of land, our pieces of space? It was clear to me that this right here was the problem - the council indicate that they do not trust its citizens by erecting fences around the rocks thereby stigmatising the honest majority that would never do such a thing, but if they took the fences down and they were stolen perhaps none of its citizens would be able to enjoy whatever they are being used to create. For a community to exist it requires people to trust each other and work together for the greater good, but we've got so good at guarding our territories, the things that we hold dear, that we've forgotten how fulfilling it is to share them.

    But there is hope. There are people out there who will let their guard down, who will open up their space and their hearts and their wallets and let people less fortunate than themselves in. These people are our role models - they deserve recognition. We need to resist our primal instincts sometimes in favour of a more civilised society. So I want to dedicate this post to Benjamin Weinberg, a fellow cowbirder, for it was him that inspired me to write this. Please read 'A World Apart' at!/22652 and I think that you'll see what I mean.

    And thank you, fellow cowbirders, for letting me in to your space.
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