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“Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person.” - Anonymous
In 2010 the neo-conservative, pro-corporate, anti-democratic Roberts’ 5/4 Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling to grant personhood to corporations by allowing unlimited, anonymous monetary contributions to political campaigns and candidates. This ruling, called by many to be the worst Supreme Court decision of the past century, has emboldened the already powerful and corruptible multinational corporations (that now have achieved dominion over U.S. politics as well as the economy) to “buy” any number of politicians and brainwash voters by multi-million dollar ad campaigns that the rest of us can’t afford to counter in state and national elections.
The U.S. Supreme Court has thus made legal the absurd notion that inanimate corporations like PolyMet and GTac (potential despoilers of northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin’s irreplaceable wetlands, aquifers and aboriginal land and water rights) deserve the same privileges (but not the same responsibilities) as living humans.
After the ruling came down, there was only a brief bit of outrage from the so-called national leadership of our essentially “one-party system” (one-party, that is, when it comes to the GOP and Democratic Party’s corporate and militarist agendas). What outrage was expressed was quickly drowned out by a well-timed, mainstream media-orchestrated “tempest in a teapot,” namely Toyota’s recall of tens of thousands of accelerator pedals (that had only infrequently been the cause of significant accidents).
What Should be the Punishment for Corporate Entities That Plunder, Rape and Pillage?
The following question about the consequences of the Supreme Court’s democracy-threatening decision must be asked: If corporations are given the privileges of personhood, shouldn’t they also bear the same responsibilities and incur the same punishments as individuals when they commit crimes, poison the water and air, or rape the land?
Peace and justice activists applauded when the citizens of Shapleigh, Maine, protected their water rights last year from the insatiable water-extracting corporate giant Nestle. (See video and more information on this episode at http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/40335.)
Nestle, one of the many multinational corporate exploiters, has no allegiance to Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin or any other state where this foreign entity tries to extract water or minerals that never were theirs to begin with. But when the minerals have been depleted and the water has been polluted or drained, Nestle, PolyMet and GTac will be gone, and so will Exxon/Mobil, British Petroleum, Halliburton, Deep Water Horizon, British Petroleum, Coca-Cola, Perrier or whatever other corporate intruder ruthlessly extracts or poisons the people’s resources—all for the economic benefit of their faceless investors, shareholders and CEOs at their out-of-state corporate headquarters, none of whom will have to live with the poisoned environment they have left behind.
The good citizens of Shapleigh recognized the foxes that tried to get inside their henhouse, and they did the right thing by vigorously resisting. Another underdog David—with a lot of justice, a lot of pluck and a little luck on his side—won a rare victory against another evil giant.
Move to Amend: Overturning Citizens United
That small victory against injustice should illustrate what must be done if American democracy is ever to thrive again. The outrageous Citizens United decision must be overturned with a constitutional amendment. (See www.movetoamend.org for more.) The future of the nation, our children, the planet, our drinking water, natural habitat and aboriginal rights are all at stake. And exploitive corporations, just like other sociopathic entities, don’t seem to care.
It is important to understand that the allegiance of big corporations is to its investors, shareholders, executives and management teams, and not to the people whose lives and health depend on the sustainability of the land, water, air and food supplies. Most corporate shareholders and executives from multinational corporations that are part of Big Pharma, Big Food, Big Agribusiness, Big Oil, Big Finance, etc. are motivated by profits and not the common good, and therefore they are not concerned when local resources are used up and struggling, degraded communities are left behind to fend for themselves (after being fooled into trusting non-human corporations that are inherently untrustworthy; see below).
Trust us: We’re the Experts; Toxic Sludge is Good for You; We’ll Clean up After Ourselves” - and Other Corporate Lies
Conscienceless mega-corporations that swoop down on unsuspecting people and naïve governmental bodies usually ask them to “trust us” and that—at some time in the uncertain future—they will un-poison the often permanently-toxified environment they secretly intend to just leave behind. The people, understandably desperate for jobs, are usually fooled into believing well-crafted disinformation that is cunningly delivered—until it is too late and the mess that is left behind is no longer the sneaky corporation’s problem. It’s an old con.
Promises made during the courtship phase are likely to be broken with impunity when these foreign corporations are forced to pull out, merge with other entities, or file for bankruptcy. Silver-tongued experts from out of state are very good at getting us rubes up north all starry-eyed over temporary jobs, jobs, jobs while discounting the huge risks of permanent dead and dying zones being created because of their poisonous chemicals.
The Crimes of Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Union Carbide/Dow Chemical and Henry Kissinger
A good example of the many tax-avoiding American mega-corporations is Wal-Mart. A large portion of its profits go to a handful of Walton family billionaires in Arkansas. Wal-Mart successfully—and legally—avoids paying for healthcare insurance and other benefits for most of its exploited, underpaid, part-time employees, who are also victims of the corporation’s notorious union-busting policies.
U.S. taxpayers are left holding the bag while Wal-Mart legally avoids what should ethically be its corporate responsibility: to be fair to its employees. Wal-Mart’s notorious wages below subsistence level force many of its workers to work a second or third job and also seek welfare benefits—a cunning cost-shifting tactic that places economic burdens on the tax-paying public.
Another example is Coca-Cola. Coke depends on water it extracts from any water source or aquifer from which the corporation can economically extract it, including, as a particularly egregious example, the aquifers that are situated beneath thirsty, struggling, starving (and then suicidal) farmers who are losing their farms in newly drought-stricken India.
Millions of gallons of water that have traditionally been used for farmland irrigation systems are being depleted by Coca-Cola in order to meet the artificial demand that has been created for the sweet, sugary, caffeinated (and therefore addictive), nutritionally useless, obesity-inducing and diabetes-producing soft drink that contains a few cents’ worth of ingredients and then is sold to poor people everywhere for as much as the market will bear.
Coke’s predation of poor people in India and elsewhere brings to mind another corporate crime that has never been brought to justice: the infamous 1984 Union Carbide cyanide catastrophe in Bhopal, India, that killed 25,000 slum-dwellers, left 100,000 permanently poisoned victims whose lives were ruined, and has left uncounted numbers of people living on poisoned soil, drinking poisoned water and breathing poisoned air.
Every person that has been exposed to the Union Carbide cyanide plant environs is chronically ill, and Indian mothers are still delivering malformed babies and dead fetuses because of the pesticide residues that cannot be detoxified. Union Carbide, the American corporation responsible for the disaster, has consistently shirked, just like most criminal entities, its moral responsibilities to the suffering victims. Carbide eventually sold itself to the equally infamous Dow Chemical, the company that brought us Agent Orange, immune-destroying silicone breast implants, and a multitude of other highly profitable but very poisonous products.
Carbide’s corporate executives have been repeatedly subpoenaed to appear in Indian courts for their crimes. But the U.S. has not honored the extradition treaties it has with India. These executives have repeatedly refused to appear and are therefore in contempt of court. There are warrants out for their arrests in India, just as there are warrants out for the arrest of Citizen Henry Kissinger for his part in international war crimes and crimes against humanity in Chile, East Timor, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and other nations. All of these accused criminals remain at large, harbored by America’s Big Business-friendly, corporate-controlled nation.
Sociopathy and the DSM: The Common Denominator Linking Human and Corporate Criminals
There are a number of common denominators that link human criminals and the multinational corporations that populate the Fortune 500 and/or Dow 30 Industrial Average lists (like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Dow, Chevron, Exxon/Mobil, du Pont, British Petroleum, Halliburton Monsanto, Merck, Pfizer, Proctor and Gamble, Nestle, Perrier, Nike, Goldman Sachs, J P Morgan Chase, and Enron). For one, the corporations are just as afraid of facing the music as were Henry Kissinger, Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay and the other multibillionaires of their ilk (who are rich enough to employ rafts of cunning defense lawyers). Be certain that they will use any means necessary to evade or delay justice. Similarly, none of them can be expected to show any genuine remorse for the human suffering that their actions have caused.
There are checklist diagnoses for various personality disorders in the billing and diagnostic manual for psychiatrists (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel [DSM], which, by the way, contains no statistics—go figure). One of the 374 disorders listed in the 4th edition of the DSM is antisocial personality disorder (code number 301.7), which identifies chronic pathological liars, cheaters, extortionists, abusers, thieves and killers whose lack of morals, ethics or consciences commonly enables them to avoid being caught or punished for crimes and misdeeds.
These “sociopaths” (a.k.a. psychopaths) typically refuse to accept blame or responsibility for their actions. In the case of sociopathic mega-corporations that are occasionally successfully sued in court, business-friendly judges will often allow a gag rule to be imposed against the plaintiff and may also allow the corporation to deny any wrongdoing, even as it accepts the penalty!
Those supposedly “human” corporate entities can easily meet the criteria of antisocial personality disorder, and thus they seem to be incapable of showing genuine remorse if or when they are caught or convicted for their crimes. (Learn more about corporate sociopathy at http://www.thecorporation.com/ or by watching the 2003 Canadian documentary “The Corporation.”)
Below are seven diagnostic criteria that are used to diagnose antisocial (aka, sociopathic or psychopathic) personality disorder in humans (be mindful that only three of the seven are needed for a positive diagnosis):
1) callous disregard for the feelings
of other people,
2) the incapacity to maintain
3) reckless disregard for the safety
5) deceitfulness (repeated lying and
conning others for profit)
6) incapacity to experience guilt, and
7) the failure to conform to social
norms and respect for the law.
Other common traits manifested by sociopaths include:
Lack of conscience
Lack of remorse for evils done to
others Indifference to the suffering
of its victims
Rationalizes (makes excuses for) having
hurt, mistreated or stolen from others
Willingness to exploit, seduce or
No sign of delusional or irrational
Usually above average intelligence
Always looking for ways to make
money or achieve fame or notoriety
Willing to cause or contribute to the
financial ruin of others
Cannot be trusted to adhere to
conventional standards of morality.
We are talking about criminality in individuals that are not considered mentally ill. Sadly, sociopaths are, for all intents and purposes, totally sane, but are also incurable of their personality disorder. These individuals make up at least 4 percent of the U.S. population, although certain professions, such as the killing professions, tend to attract larger percentages of them (read “The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us” by Martha Stout, PhD).
Actually, the exact number of sociopaths—humans or their corporate counterparts—is not precisely known, but, lacking a conscience, none of them truly feels guilty about their misdeeds. And therefore they never truly try to change. Believing that there is nothing wrong with them, human sociopaths rarely ask for help, and corporations are no different, especially when the law and the markets are on their side.
If and when human sociopaths are court-ordered to submit to evaluation and “treatment,” they typically only pretend to change until the pressure is off and their unethical or criminal activities look doable again. Academic psychologists tell us that attempts to rehabilitate full-fledged sociopaths are useless, although the often charming, charismatic, silver-tongued sociopath will commonly fool the treatment team into thinking progress is being made.
And sociopathic corporations don’t seem to have much trouble seducing regulatory agencies, local governmental entities, and desperate underemployed workers by promising jobs and a secret un-tested plan to prevent environmental catastrophes. Only when it’s too late and the megacorporation has skipped the country with the loot will all the painful truths come out.
(To be continued next week.)
Dr Kohls is involved in peace, nonviolence and justice issues and therefore writes about fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, imperialism, totalitarianism, economic oppression, anti-environmentalism and other violent, unsustainable, anti-democratic movements.