I AM always fascinated by the older dwelling houses we can discover in Scotland. The Skara Brae settlement on Orkney is a thrilling place to see. The stone tables and shelves are so nearly as they must have been abandoned thousands of years ago. It is a tease to try to recreate those lives in the imagination.
I also enjoy the Auchindrain Folk Museum near Inverarey In Argyll. It illustrates a life only two or three generations from every Scottish family. Yet I have never seen an archaeologist consider whether or not we owned our homes in the past.
My own guess was a sort of familial ownership. I believe the act of owning something transforms our relationships and our purpose. Partly it is all a matter of psychology but ownership has its corollary - the right to sell... or the right to borrow against it.
There are exciting projects being undertaken abroad which may yet be applied to transform our towns here. Every city in Brazil is surrounded by shanty towns. These "favelas" evolve from being little more than cardboard boxes to quite robust structures, yet they are owned by nobody - certainly not by the occupants nor by any civic agency or landowner.
The teeming millions in these favelas have extended their range up precipitous hillsides and even on stilts out across marshes and rivers.
More than two million Brazilians live in such locations. They are barred from any proprietary rights. They cannot get post delivered. No water or electricity will be supplied into what are no-go areas for the formal agencies of the nation. Whatever energies these people possess do not reach the trading part of the community let alone the rest of the world. These proper