The woman moved the landmark. She made an addition to her house which encroached on my father’s property. A lawyer was contacted and the infraction — no, the contravention of the laws of Jamaica — was addressed. As to what the outcome was, I do not recall. But, it was, most definitely, as mind-boggling as it was upsetting. This was in the parish of Trelawny where my father’s folks are from.
That incident occurred when I was a young man, but I had learned valuable lessons before about the importance of boundaries and the fallout which was likely to occur if they are not respected. Fights with my brother and with other children over the lack of respect for boundaries predated any lessons found in books, or in seminars conducted for the layman on property or civil law.
The word property has been through its fair share of evolution over the centuries — depending on where one happens to be in time and space — with the various mores and folkways contained within the various cultures of the world. Whether they are found on the continents or on the islands of the sea — the respect for boundaries is universal. Many wars have been fought over boundaries.
Several years ago I was deeply disturbed at an account given about neighbors ignoring boundaries. In fact, what made the crime egregious was that the lawbreakers came from a family with a long tradition of law and order. They built houses where they should not have, and constructed a wall that encroached on their neighbor’s land. The violators claimed that the folks next door were troublemakers and posed a threat to their safety. And so, as far as they were concerned, their actions were justified.
The people who were trespassed against appealed to the courts, pointing to laws that established the boundaries between the two properties. As the evidence was in black and white the offenders could not effectively defend themselves in court. In fact, the signatures of the parents of both parties on the document confirmed that an agreement was made for their lands to be divided as they were. But, the aggressors persisted.
What is even more curious was that through their actions, the aggressors vociferously and brazenly sought to de-legitimize the laws and the framework in which they were fashioned — the very things which gave them the title to their piece of land in the first place. They asked for justice against their neighbors — those who they had offended — by asking the court to ratify their outlawry. They were as those who, having been grounded by the force of gravity, felt it was now alright and even rational to dispense with it altogether.
The problem of this disregard for boundaries which began so long ago continues today. The trespassers are just as aggressive, just as intractable, and just as incorrigible as when the feud between the families began. As a young boy, I could have understood the hurt because of such a violation, as I did as a young man and, even now that I am much older. But, what I witnessed in my life pales in comparison to what the Palestinian people have suffered at the hands of the state of Israel. In fact, Israel too has suffered from her very own actions.
Like the woman who moved the landmark on my father’s land on a whim, so continues Israel with her neighbors — on land illegally occupied by her. Numerous UN resolutions and prevailing international opinion hold that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights are a violation of international law, including UN Security Council resolutions made in 1979, in 1980 and in 2016. But no one needed the courts to spell that out, as every child on this planet knows about respecting boundaries.
Applying hard-line politics and military aggression in the Middle East, as we are all witnesses to, is like pouring petrol on raging flames in the hope of extinguishing them. Peace — itself being shy, delicate, and even skittish — must be wooed by better charms or by more hopeful enticements. And once blood has been spilled — which it has been for so many decades — this gainsays every rationale given for the use of violence.
Until there is mutual respect for boundaries of heart, of mind, and of soul — laws will mean nothing, absolutely nothing.