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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
Experienced psychologists tell us that sociopathic individuals that have committed crimes have to be locked away or otherwise isolated to protect society from them.
As a review of last week’s column, part 1, I reprint below the 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 to make the 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
6) incapacity to experience guilt
7) the failure to conform to social
norms and respect for the law.
Other helpful traits that are
commonly manifested by sociopaths
Lack of conscience
Lack of remorse for evils done
Indifference to the suffering of
Rationalizes (makes excuses for)
having hurt, mistreated or stolen
Willingness to exploit, seduce
or manipulate others
No sign of delusional or
Usually above average
Always looking for ways to make
money or achieve fame or
Willing to cause or contribute
to the financial ruin of others
Cannot be trusted to adhere to conventional standards of
So a number of questions need to be asked. Given the fact that full-blown human sociopaths need to be avoided, marginalized or locked up, we need to ask what needs to be done with corporate entities that meet three of the seven criteria above? What needs to be done with corporations that have a history of deceiving, lying, cheating, raping the land, poisoning the water, fouling the air or otherwise acting unethically?
Given the anti-constitutional 2010 Roberts’ Supreme Court ruling granting personhood to corporations (Citizens United), shouldn’t sociopathic corporations be dealt with just like their human counterparts when they act criminally? Shouldn’t long prison sentences be given to the CEOs, Boards of Directors and management teams? Shouldn’t there be confiscation of property or even capital punishment in the case of egregious cases including mass deaths as in the cases of Union Carbide, Coca-Cola and Merck (examples: the Vioxx and Gardisil deaths)?
What Should be Done With Corporate Rapists?
What about the crime of rape as applied to corporations?
Rape has several definitions, including the following ones that are in my dictionary:
1) Any violent seizure or hostile
action against a weaker
2) to rob or plunder;
3) the act of seizing and carrying
off by force;
4) the crime of having forcible
sexual intercourse without
Corporations that plunder, pollute or poison Mother Earth or execute hostile mergers and acquisitions of weaker companies meet some of the above definitions for rape. Shouldn’t our society punish corporate rapists as severely as we punish the human kind?
What about the known lethal poisons that thousands of unregulated chemical corporations knowingly discharge into the water, air, soil and food? Should their acts of desecration be regarded as premeditated murder? Their homicidal or ecocidal actions have already caused a multitude of die-offs of thousands of species in the increasing numbers of planetary dead zones in aquifers, wetlands, rivers, lakes, rivers and oceans. What about the dead zones in human brains from neurotoxic pharmaceuticals that were allowed on the market before being tested for long-term safety?
What about the extractive mining companies that, with their poisonous explosives, blow the tops off mountains in Appalachia or the Philippines (and are now planned by GTac for the Penokee Mountain range of northern Wisconsin) in order to more economically extract and export the non-renewable mineral resources beneath? Does it make any sense to believe corporate mining officials and their lobbyists when they claim innocence when living things downwind and downstream from their plants are sickened or die off from the poisoned water, air and toxic sludge (euphemism for “tailings)? Who should be responsible for the toxins that contaminate the previously pristine streams and aquifers that once provided safe drinking water and a healthy natural environment for fish, wildlife, wild rice and humans (especially the aboriginal First Nation brothers and sisters that had their lands and livelihoods stolen from them a century or two ago)?
Zero Tolerance for Corporate Predators; Stop Them Before They do it Again!
How many strikes should any out-of-state extractive industries be allowed before they are called out for the predators that they are, kept off the land and thrown out of the game? Shouldn’t non-human intruders that exploit be stopped before they despoil even one more aquifer, one more stream, one more lake, one more mountain or this one planet? Shouldn’t cunning, politically-connected corporate exploiters be banned, arrested, tried and punished just like the human predators that relentlessly stalk their prey? And shouldn’t there be generous monetary restitution to the victims of past corporate criminals?
Shouldn’t industrial thieves, liars, rapists and killers be treated the same as human thieves, liars, rapists and killers? Shouldn’t we be suspicious of untrustworthy corporations that have lied to us in the past, even if they have spent millions of dollars on multicolored Power Point presentations, feel-good commercials, “green-washed” billboards or highly-paid lobbyists that bribe politicians and the media to not oppose them?
What about those executives that are addicted to their wealth, profits, prestige, corporate jets, vacation homes and quarterly bonuses?
We regularly intervene for society’s human addicts who need help overcoming their gambling or drug addictions and who are a danger to themselves or others. Shouldn’t there be interventions planned for these wealth addicts before they do any more damage to us, the planet or their families?
The answer, in a fair society, should be yes to all these questions, no matter how often the smiley-faced, well-dressed corporate spokespersons - in their most cunning damage-control mode - try to convince us that their companies are “responsible citizens”. We star-struck celebrity-worshippers of high profile corporations and CEOs seem to sucker for that line again and again. But the stakes are higher this time. The survival of the planet and its creatures is at stake.
Should Multinational Corporations be Judged Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
One wonders what should be the best approach for dealing with cold-blooded, non-human corporate entities. Rather than applying the standard American constitutional guarantee for human citizens (to be judged innocent until proven guilty), shouldn’t we be judging dangerous non-human entities as guilty until proven innocent?
I like that notion. I have often advised my psychologically traumatized patients (falsely diagnosed, by the way, of having mental illnesses of unknown etiology) who were victims of physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual abuse in childhood to give respect and forgiveness to their abusers only when they have earned it, have sincerely and contritely asked to be forgiven and therefore deserve to be respected, forgiven or obeyed.
Psychologically speaking, not obeying -- and also not respecting -- one’s victimizers (even if they were parent-figures) should be the norm in interpersonal relationships. Psychologically speaking, the existence of significant parental neglect or abuse in a family should be one of the exceptions to the 4th commandment rule (that commands children to unconditionally honor their father and their mother). Likewise, we should only do business with companies that have earned and truly deserve our trust and respect.
Staying away from (including advocating the boycotting of) corporations that have behaved unethically in the past is one thing a person can do to combat corporate sociopathy. Corporations hate it when the nonviolent tactic of economic boycott is used, but in our largely brainwashed, advertised-into-submission culture, only small minorities of people recognize - until it is too late - that they are being chumped.
Say Hello to Friendly American Fascism
The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini is said to have proclaimed that “fascism should rightly be called corporatism as it is a merger of state and corporate power:” He should know, he invented the term and the concept. Italy’s right-wing, anti-worker, union-busting corporations loved and supported him as much as most 1930s German corporations loved and supported Hitler.
Fascism is a right-wing, nationalistic, authoritarian political ideology that rules with military discipline and police state power, backed up by a secretive national security apparatus, aggressive propaganda, control of the media and suppression of trade unions. Therefore Big Businesses, notably the weapons industries and other war-related or police state industries thrive in fascist nations that suppress workers and keeps workers’ wages low.
Fascist nations commonly violate the human rights of their own citizens as well as the rights of the nations that they invade and occupy). Fascist leaders try to unify the people by creating enemies, scapegoating them and then, usually via false flag operations, going to war against them. Dissent is not tolerated in fascist nations and often elections are fraudulent. Oftentimes there is some sort of a merger of church and state and the fostering of anti-intellectual/anti-scientific attitudes, thus appealing to the ignorant or uneducated. And there is always an obsession with law and order (police state tactics).
Who can deny that there has been a slow, rolling corporate, quasi-fascist coup d’etat that has gradually overthrown America’s one person/one vote democracy? America has all the marks of a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy privileged class) that prefers fascist rule and favors corporatism.
Who can deny that wealthy corporations and their plutocratic billionaires have inordinate control over the economy, foreign and domestic policy and both major political parties? And now these inhuman entities have their privatizing eyes on our water, our land, our breathable air, our Social Security, our Medicare and even our food (as Bob Dylan sang in Union Sundown, “I can see the day comin’ when even your home garden is gonna be against the law”.).
Elections will continue, although the choice of candidates, the so-called “debates” (that excludes minor party candidates) and the value of small monetary donations will be increasingly meaningless. There will be fewer viable anti-establishment candidates like Paul Wellstone (or a Green Party or a Democratic Socialist Party candidate) for whom to cast votes. The American dream (that “you have to be asleep to believe in”, as George Carlin put it) appears to have vanished. And we sheep were asleep at the wheel when it turned into a nightmare.
Corporate Rights vs. Corporate Responsibilities
It is the greedy, conscienceless, under-regulated multinationals (and NOT “man”) that have poisoned the planet’s ecosystems. It has been nonhuman corporations that have caused the economic and environmental crises -- including global climate change. And, because they rarely get indicted, much less punished for their misdeeds, corporations are continuing to try to get away with planetary rape, pillage and murder -- and they don’t seem to care. Their motto seems to be: “grab everything you can steal by any means necessary; enrich and privilege your CEOs, your boards of directors, your shareholders, spokespersons, lawyers, lobbyists, legislators, judges, military and law enforcement so they are on your side; don’t get caught; hunker down in your gated communities with your chauffeurs and your bodyguards; hope nobody revolts; and let the devil take the hindmost.”
Wrist slaps seem to be the norm for multinational corporations and the superrich if and when they are “brought to justice” for their crimes. If there are any consequences for reckless or destructive business practices at all, the company usually gets assessed a relatively small and very affordable fine. For large corporations, punitive fines for criminality are just a part of doing business. (The $2.2 billion fine against Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals for illegally marketing the antipsychotic drug Risperdal didn’t much affect its share price nor did it seem to stir up its shareholders.)
Sometimes though, a corporation about to be brought to justice will threaten to move its headquarters or its operations to another state, leaving their smelly and toxic messes to be cleaned up by somebody else, just as one would expect of a conscienceless sociopath.
We must identify and courageously name America’s domestic enemies even if they are corporations or members of the executive, legislative or judicial branches of our federal and state governments. Naming the evil-doers (and naming the evil that they do) must be done in order to effectively confront them. Simultaneously, we need to demand that our basic human right to have access to uncontaminated water, food, soil and air (and access to affordable health and dental care) be safe-guarded from the exploiters and predators in the plutocratic classes who extract the wealth and resources from whomever they can whenever they can. The fate of our children, grandchildren and planet Earth depends on those safe-guards.
Among the first of the many steps that must be taken if we are to reverse the multinational corporate takeover/privatization of the planet is to demand that our local, state and federal legislators reverse the Citizens United ruling and correct the damage that has already been done. (See www.movetoamend.org for more information.)
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.