A Man Named Robinson Crusoe

moves into an apparently abandoned home in Texas after paying a $15 fee to the County Clerk for filing an affidavit of “adverse possession”. (H/T ChrisMartenson)

His name isn’t really Robinson Crusoe.  Just Robinson.  But I digress.

What’s interesting to me about this is the reaction of the neighbors.  They’re from Texas, too, of course.  And they’re a-gin’ it:

Robinson’s new neighbors are upset. One of them, Sandy Dawson, said she and others “believe in working for what you get.”

Some even called police. Robinson said he showed officers the affidavit and explained to them the laws of adverse possession. That led investigators to search for an owner or mortgage company who might have a complaint against Robinson.

“We couldn’t find anyone. No foreclosure, nothing,” police Capt. Wess Griffin said. “It appears to us to be largely a civil matter.”

But a neighborhood delegation showed up at the house anyway to deliver a message: Robinson was not welcome there.

Robinson recalled one man telling him, “We don’t think you need to be here. You’ll never be our neighbor.”

I do not understand the thought process here.  A house sits vacant for a long time and apparently no one is asserting a claim on it and then someone finally asserts a claim on it and moves in.  Why is this upsetting to the neighbors or anyone else?  I have to try to think this through a bit.  Bear with me.

Neighbor Sandy Dawson offers an explanation of sorts:  we believe in working for what you get.  All right.  As a general rule, fine.  In any case, hasn’t Robinson “worked” for what he’s getting?  He scoped the place out, researched the law, filed the affidavit and paid the $15 fee.  He turned on the utilities and moved in and presumably is making some kind of home out of the place.

That’s work. It’s a lot more work relative to the value of a house than Goldman Sachs will put in relative to the $50 billion Facebook IPO.

Sandy Dawson doesn’t mean exactly what she is saying, then.  If she did, she’d show up on Goldman Sachs’ front steps and glare at them, too.

What does she mean, then?

It’s evidently not rational, so we have to look underneath what is done and what is said to discern possible meanings.

First, there’s an element of NIMBY.  Goldman Sachs is in New York.  But this guy moving in to the vacant house, this is happening right down the road.  Right here in Texas.

It’s mentally lazy, but people tend to focus more on what is near to them – or at least what feels near to them – than on things that are further away.  As a matter of fact, what Goldman Sachs is doing regarding Facebook and a host of other things is far more relevant to Sandy Dawson’s personal welfare than Mr. Robinson moving into a vacant house down the street.    And far more objectionable, if indeed what Mr. Robinson is doing could be characterized as objectionable at all.  But obviously that’s not really what this is about.

I think there is also something deeper.  “You will never be our neighbor.” says the angry man.  Mr. Robinson is to be shunned, in other words.  This is one of the most profound of human social punishments, reserved for the most serious transgressions.  Inter-racial sexual relationships used to incur this penalty.  Still do in many places, and with many people.

What social taboo did Mr. Robinson violate?

I have a guess.  Mr. Robinson asserted his freedom and conducted himself accordingly; the others in the neighborhood are exhibiting a slave mentality:

Based on Douglass and Tubman’s experience, we can define the slave mentality as follows: A person conditioned to quietly, and without objection, accept harmful circumstances for themselves as the natural order of things. They’re also conditioned to accept their master’s view and beliefs, about themselves, and strive to get others, within their group, to accept the master’s view.

Based on its description in the news story, this is a fairly “affluent” middle class neighborhood where all the homeowners occupy a certain social class characterized by some kind of professional or executive employment based upon the associated educational attainments.  The inhabitants – other than Mr. Robinson, that is – must have a level of income sufficient to service the mortgage debt and any other debt they took on to land themselves where they are.  By daring to move into the neighborhood and acquire the same status without punching all those tickets, Mr. Robinson unintentionally mocks his new neighbors.  They are debt slaves; he is not.  He must be made to “accept the master’s view” – or be shunned.

The explanation for why Sandy Dawson and the other neighbors are upset about Mr. Robinson and not Goldman Sachs, then, is not just a matter of geographical distance; it is a matter of class distinction.  Goldman Sachs is of the master class and is not to be questioned.

Mr. Robinson is an uppity fellow slave.

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