Citizens United? … “Divided we Fall!”

23 Feb

Citizens United?“Divided we Fall!”:  The Fallacy of Commodification in Life, Nature, and Human Society


When corporations are declared to be “people”, there are certain consequences we can expect for society … one being the undue influence of corporate money and power in politics.   Everyone else becomes second class citizens while a kind of primary citizenship is bestowed on corporations and organized power groups who stand above them in the social hierarchy.  … And, this makes individual persons and unorganized masses of people of no more worth than chattel or livestock.

Yet, a case like Citizens United doesn’t appear out of the blue or happen in a vacuum.  It arises out of a certain context of ideas.  “Corporations” can be said to-be-‘people’-too because individual person-hood, that is ‘what it means to be a human being‘, is cheap … and it’s been cheapened in a climate of thought that makes humans nothing more than objects or commodities.

The problem isn’t really “materialism.”  The problem isn’t just “mechanistic” models of life and physics.  The actual problem is the “objectification” of nature, and the idea that people, creatures, and things are only worth anything if they’re made into useful tools for the benefit of the powerful in society or what the Establishment sees as being a useful social function.

As humanists, we have a responsibility and unique opportunity to combat this problem.  First, we’re uniquely positioned to discuss the issue and redefine it. Materialism and mechanism need not be associated with the gross objectification of people and things; the flaw is in the commodification of reality and real things, not in their scientifically-established foundations as material entities.  People and things have been belittled or demeaned, not because they are material or mechanical, but because a value judgment’s been applied to them that says they’ve no greater worth than to be exploited and made-cheap-of.  They’ve no intrinsic worth and therefore can be taken advantage of or cheapened from above.

But if people, creatures, and things are constituted not by extrinsic value but internal endowment, then objectification & commoditization are without justification or basis. They have no warrant but for the cultural vision that created them.  What determines worth here isn’t some value placed on something from the outside, but an internal state invested in it by virtue of evolution.  Things have worth in themselves by virtue of their being separate from the opinions we have about them (as things).

As that’s the case, then, objectification is not a supportable position to hold.  Life, nature, and person-hood (i.e., the outward quality of human life) are not so cheap so as to render them meaningless in the face of utilitarian ideology and the impulse to turn them into commodities.  They have worth … and it’s that internal, priceless worth that puts the lie to the commodification of the world.  The Citizens United Decision is faulty legal policy founded on faulty reason. Corporations aren’t people.

… People ultimately matter because the world itself matters. Argue differently and you open the floodgates to more Citizens United-type cases and policies in society.  Objectify the world, and you harm the world – cutting off the circulation of its vital lifeblood, i.e., the power of its internal worth. In human terms, that worth is measured by our ability to speak-up and speak-out. When we curtail that by allowing corporations to assume person-hood, we stifle our own voices in the process.  We’re silenced in the clamor of the crowd, lost and alone in a sea of shouts.  We become divided when we can’t make our voices heard … and ‘divided we fall.’

Citizens United?“Divided we fall!”


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