The great thing the truly amazing thing, about the Occupy Wall Street movement is its lack of unified voice. Every person who is a part of it or who seriously thinks about it is forced to decide for themselves if and how the status quo needs to be changed. Brilliant.
In following the Occupy Wall Street protests and the sympathy demonstrations around the world, I had to consider my own thoughts on the matter, and I came up with one obvious, glaring, pernicious facet of the world we live in: Corporate Personhood.
I believe that the best way to actually make changes that can be seen and felt in the world is by demanding status of the corporation change from a legal “person” to that of a company run by real live people. People who have real liability, responsibility and accountability, and will face real consequences for each and every action taken by that company.
This point was hit home to me recently while reading a novel recently published by an old business school friend of mine. When we were class mates, back at the University of Ottawa, and we had many an ideological discussion about corporate personhood and what it meant. Justin Mazzotta went on to fully imagine a world wherein corporations were not ethereal, legal technicalities, but actual breathing, walking and talking people. He wrote a book about it called Psych. Co: The Corporate Awakening.
It was one of the most horrifying pieces of literature I’ve ever read.
The premise of the book is that across the world, corporations are taking over the bodies of humans and using them to conduct business in the real world. They lie, cheat, steal and kill to make money. They admit it. They have no problem with it, because to a corporation none of those things are wrong.
The reason people are standing up and clamouring for change right now is because, at the fundamental level of our economy people don’t matter as much as profit. That’s not conjecture, and that’s not hyperbole that’s fact. A corporation in its current form is legally obligated to generate the maximum amount of profit before anything else and if people get hurt that’s just too damn bad.
In the novel, you get a picture of what it would be like if corporations were things you could talk to, but in the real world they’re not. They’re entities that affect our daily lives in myriad ways and have no concern are allowed to have concern – for the individual, for the environment, or even for the law. If the potential profit is greater than the cost of breaking a law… well, we’ve seen the result of that often enough.
I doubt that corporate personhood is an issue that will factor strongly in this round of dialogue, and that’s okay. There are scores of ways improvements to the system can be made without touching the matter, and there is an argument to be made about limiting personal liability in order to facilitate business. I’m not certain I agree with it but it’s there.
Whether or not corporate personhood is something that bothers you – the status quo must, and so it needs be changed. We can no longer tolerate the fact that large entities, who no one elected, and who bear no responsibility for their actions get to make decisions about our nations, our environment and our lives.
So protest. Demonstrate. Write articles, and blog posts. Shoot videos and write plays. Make your voice heard. I’ll do it because I believe that corporate personhood is wrong and allows otherwise moral human beings to take actions that would make any dictator blush. You have your reasons too.
The scenario painted in Psych. Co is a little too close to reality for my comfort.
Have you demonstrated? Will you? Why?
Ed note: We are glad to welcome back Megan Dougherty. Megan used to write The Lemonade Stand for FTB and has successfully been working on several other business ventures that have kept her very busy (too busy to write for FTB). Megan Dougherty is a Montreal blogger and marketer trying to carve out the smallest bit of respect for new writers, freelancers, interns and the otherwise entry-level over at Hire-Me-Dammit.com. She likes fall vegetables, skirts that reach her knees and chubby felines.