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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
The infamous decision of the NeoConservative, pro-corporate, U.S. Supreme Court in their infamous “Citizens United” decision in 2010 has further strengthened the already powerful and overprivileged status of the corruptible, purely profit-motivated, multinational corporations that control most every-thing in the United States.
The 5-4 decision has made into law the absurd notion that corporations deserve the same rights as individual human citizens.
There was brief bit of outrage expressed in the media and a note of caution expressed by President Obama, but what should have resulted in weeks of massive civil disobedience was quickly drowned out of the public consciousness by the well-timed, media-orchestrated “tempest in a teapot” – the Japanese automaker Toyota’s recall of tens of thousands of accelerator pedals – most of which had never caused any serious accidents.
The media coverage of Toyota outnumbered the Citizens United decision a thousand to one.
Crime and punishment, corporate style
In view of this, here is a question that needs to be asked again and again:
If corporations now have the official privileges of personhood, shouldn’t corporations also bear the same responsibilities and incur the same pun-ishments for crimes committed?
It is important to understand that the allegiance of the corporation is to its shareholders and corporate executives, and not to the people whose lives and health depend on the sustainability of the planet, the land, the water, the air and the food supplies.
Consider the prime example of the ongoing multinational corporate exploitation of minerals in Northeast Minnesota. Most conscienceless corporate exec-utives and their equally conscienceless stakeholders, especially of the extract-ive and polluting industries like mining, are not adversely affected by the plunder of local resources, the extraction of wealth or the long-term destruction of already struggling local communities.
The marketing propaganda from the mining industry is powerful and seductive. Vulnerable communities in boom-and-bust economies might be tempted to sign on, for 30 pieces of silver – or less – to the agendas of entities that are their future executioners.
The temptation of the creation of temporary jobs (that will soon disappear when the resources are all used up) is easy to understand, but what is harder to fathom is the fact the corporations will take little of no re-sponsibility for returning the environment back to normal (an impossibility) – and the people, especially the children, will be left behind with their previously pristine environment poisoned for generations to come.
The mess that is left behind will not be the corporation’s problem, no matter what is promised prior to the pull-out, the merger or the bankruptcy - whichever comes first.
Linking human and corporate criminals
There are a number of common denominators that link human and corporate exploiters/rapists criminals (like Union Carbide, WalMart, Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Nestle, Enron, British Petroleum, Halliburton, Deepwater Horizen etc, etc).
For one, the corporations, and their lobbyists that are all over Congress, our government bureaucrats and the mainstream media, are just as afraid of facing the music as have been Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay and a multitude of others of their ilk, and they will use any means necessary to acquit themselves of their criminal activity.
Similarly, none of them will admit their guilt (“we deny all allegations”) and none of them seem to have shown genuine remorse for the human suffering their actions have caused.
There is a personality disorder label in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (the DSM, the recipe book and billing manual for psychiatrists and other health care providers) that describes entities that are typically pathological liars. These entities are cunning, deceitful, aggressive, immoral, unethical and conscienceless.
These individuals are fully capable of committing crimes and, when they are caught, try to evade the law, refuse to admit blame for their actions, refuse to accept responsibility, try to plea bargain to minimize punishment when they finally get convicted, show no remorse.
The disorder is called “antisocial personality disorder” (diagnostic code # 301.7), which is essentially synonymous with “sociopathic/psychopathic personality disorder”, widely acknowledged to be incurable. Serial killers or rapists qualify for this diagnosis, and perhaps the serial Ponzi scheme operators and other investment bilkers that are all over Wall Street should be also, even if they did not physically or sexually wound their victims.
We are talking about criminal disorders in otherwise sane but very cunning individuals. These disordered persons (as do their sociopathic corporate counterparts) seem to be incapable of experiencing feelings of guilt, and therefore never really even try to change.
What should be the punishment for sociopathic corporations (and their government bureaucratic spokespersons) when they act unethically, lie, cheat, advertise falsely, promote experimental products as proven to be safe or plunder/poison the environment, the future and the children?
By and large, most criminally-minded sociopaths have to be locked away to protect society. So, another set of questions needs to be asked: “what needs to be done with sociopathic corporations when they lie, cheat, commit crimes or otherwise act unethically?”
Given the 2010 Citizens United ruling, if corporate “persons” are now to be treated like people, shouldn’t they also be subject to the same punishments as are their human counterparts? Shouldn’t they be punished with whatever is the equivalent of long prison sentences, confiscation of property, fines, reparations to their victims or even capital punishment? (I hasten to add that I am against capital punishment for individuals, but corporations – contrary to what the 5 NeoCons on the Supreme Courts have ruled – are not really human, don’t bleed and don’t cry out in pain when tortured).
I firmly believe, however, that the threat of capital punishment for corporations would help prevent some big businesses from committing crimes.
What should be done with corporate plunderers?
What about the crime of rape?
Rape has several definitions, including the following ones that are in my dictionary: 1) Any violent seizure or hostile action against a weaker opponent; 2) to rob or plunder; 3) the act of seizing and carrying off by force; and the common one most people think of, 4) the crime of having forcible sexual intercourse without consent.
What should be done with corporate robbers and plunderers who rape the land?
And what about the mass murder, often to extinction, of the earth’s wildlife inhabitants who have every right to co-exist with us humans, but are never considered in the plans of extractive industries?
What about the known lethal poisons that the thousands of chemical corporations wantonly and knowingly discharge into the water, air, soil and then into the bodies and brains of unsuspecting consumers?
What about the mineral corporations that blow the tops off mountains in Appalachia to extract minerals more “cost-effectively” and then claim innocence when the living things downstream die off from the toxic sludge that slides into previously pristine streams?
Shouldn’t those corporate rapists and plunderers be stopped before they strike again?
Shouldn’t they be arrested, tried in courts of law and punished just like the human predators that civilized people fear and loathe?
Shouldn’t corporate predators be treated the same as human ones? Shouldn’t pathological liars, whether they have huge advertising budgets or not, be disbelieved forever? And shouldn’t we be suspicious of corporate behemoths like Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, et al for their attempts to sell us their sublethal, synthetic substances that have not yet been thoroughly studied for long-term safety?
And shouldn’t some of the most dangerous synthetic chemicals so cavalierly marketed by Big Pharma (that kill as many as 100,000 people per year in United States hospitals alone), be recalled just like Toyota’s accelerator pedals? Shouldn’t the corporate drug suppliers and sellers of potentially lethal substances be exposed and stopped just like the street corner pushers of illicit drugs that kill far less people than the legal ones? What about the corporate pushers of the cocaine-like drug called Ritalin and the amphetamine drug Adderall, dispensed so cavalierly to little children whose brains haven’t been hard-wired yet?
What about those companies and executives that are addicted to their ill-gotten gains, their prestige, their privilege, their corporate jets, their multiple vacation homes and their excessive quarterly bonuses? Shouldn’t there be interventions planned for them just as occur for some of society’s drug addicts, who are also unwittingly on the road to ruin and damnation?
The answer, in a fair society, should be yes to all these questions, no matter how often the smiley-faced, well-dressed corporate and bureaucratic spokespersons, in their damage-control role, claim that their companies are “responsible citizens” that can be trusted to regulate themselves.
‘Guilty until proven innocent’?
It is a fact that corporations are paper entities and not actual people! Corporations are authoritarian, dictatorial entities; that despise the one-person/one vote principles that govern democratic populations. Perhaps the best approach for society in dealing with their inanimate corporations is to, rather than applying the standard democratic constitutional guarantees for human persons (one of which is being considered innocent until proven guilty), we should instead consider treating the most ruthless and inhumane corporations as being guilty until they are proven innocent.
I like that notion. Who knows how many lives would be saved if that were done?
I have often advised many of my patients who had been psychologically traumatized in childhood by cruel or punitive parent figures to withhold respect for them until they have truly earned it and therefore deserve to be honored.
At the very least, I say; don’t honor, respect, trust or believe any authority figure that has lied or tried to deceive, defraud or seduce (sexually or otherwise). Similarly, perhaps we should not trust, nor do business with, any entity that hasn’t first been proven innocent and trustworthy. And that should include corporations, government bureaucrats and any other authority figures.
Staying outside the sphere of influence of a conscienceless sociopath is the proper thing to do, even if the entity (including family members) is superficially charming, a celebrity figure or given excessive amounts of media attention.
That is why the tactic of boycotting deceptive corporations who are trying to “get away with murder” has been successfully used in the past. Corporations hate it when the nonviolent tactic of boycott is used, but in our thoroughly propagandized, “advertised-into-submission” status, it seems that only small numbers of people recognize that they are being brainwashed.
The concept of corporate person-hood has massively benefited Big Businesses in the U.S. at the expense of us “untermenschen” (a term used by right-wing Hitler-era Germans that is synonymous with “subhuman”, which was widely applied to early 20th century Jews, Slavs, foreigners, non-whites, socialists, homosexuals, gypsies and the physically or mentally deformed).
Multinational corporations have been increasingly in control of the White House and the U.S. Congress. Both political parties are guilty of being seduced by corporate campaign money (aka, bribes) and therefore under the control of obscenely wealthy corporations and their billionaire owners for generations.
And now the third branch of the federal government, a slim majority of the Supreme Court justices, has obviously been bought off and the Citizens United ruling has moved American democracy far too close to corporate totalitarianism.
By exercising the privileges of corporate personhood while simultaneously refusing to accept the responsibilities of being human, corporations are exhibiting classic sociopathic behavior. Because of their insatiable greed, their dog-eat-dog competitiveness, their demand for never-ending “growth” and their need for perpetually rising share prices for their stakeholders, corporations are cavalierly risking the future of the planet – all for their own economic gain. The corporate tactic of ruthless exploitation of non-renewable resources is unsustainable.
The motto of the guilty multi-nationals seems to be: “grab what you can steal, don’t get caught, control the lawmakers, the mainstream and public media and as many cunning lawyers as are necessary to get you off the hook when you are accused and ’set the devil take the hindmost’.”
We all know that most powerful corporations are rarely punished for their crimes. Most are considered “too big to fail” and therefore can’t be brought to justice because of their economic clout. Wrist slaps are the norm, especially when corporate offenders are actually brought before conservative judges. If there are significant consequences for reckless business practices, the company will often just move its headquarters to low-tax states or nations, leaving the messes they left behind to be cleaned up by somebody else, just as one would expect of a pathologically self-centered human sociopath.
The outrageous action of the 2010 Supreme Court, granting corporations the privileges, but not the responsibilities of personhood, might be the final nail in the coffin of our mortally wounded constitutional democracy. However, despite the fact that corporate personhood is now the law of the land, it may not be too late for us “untermenschen” to insist that the criminal activities of the transnational corporations be punished as severely and as justly as human serial rapists.
We need to exercise our ethical duty to preserve and defend the U.S. Constitution (and the planet) from all enemies, foreign or domestic, human or corporate, judicial, executive, legislative or bureaucratic. We need to protect the finite resources of our dying planet and the universal human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The future of the planet’s children depends on it.