The Widdershins

Archive for March 8th, 2012

People, this whole “person” thing is becoming a wildly overpopulated “hood”.

I grew to seniorhood believing that people were – well, people.  I am rapidly being disabused of this antediluvian notion.  “Person” is now definitely in the eye of the beholder.  All of the humanoid characteristics of a person – eyes, bones, skin, internal organs – are no longer useful identifiers.  A person can be as tiny as a sperm or as large as Microsoft.

This is not the first time in the history of our country that we have had to address the concept of persons.   Abolition gave such status to former slaves.  Years of hard work liberated  women from being considered as chattels.  There is also a movement in Europe to assign a measure of human rights to the Great Apes, many of whom exhibit human behaviors and tendencies.  The latest push for “personhood” is something different altogether.

There’s been a lot written about the “Personhood Amendments” that have thus far crashed and burned in both Colorado and Mississippi.  Fear not, for the “Personhood” people are beavering away to get their amendment onto state ballots in Nevada and Florida.  Mitt Romney went so far as to state that he would have supported such an amendment when he was governor of Massachusetts, but I believe that at this time, the “personhood” folks will be giving blue states a wide berth.  Anyhow, the ova so righteously protected herein are small, amorphous and devoid of any of the usual physical characteristics of persons as we know them.

The “Personhood” theory is being debated in the Oklahoma legislature.  State Senator Constance Johnson helpfully proposed this amendment:

However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.

So, if that passes, are sperm people or pre-people?  I wonder if there would be an exception for IVF – but wait!  A “personhood” amendment could effectively quash IVF, so who cares?  Hmmm……I have to wonder what enforcement mechanism that Sen. Johnson has in mind?

We have discussed Citizens United endlessly.  Ad nauseum, in fact.  Here lies the other end of the people spectrum: large, amorphous, and lacking the physical characteristics with which one usually identifies an actual person-type person.   I suppose that I could get past the lack of physical resemblance to actual people  if the expectations of the newer species of people (for lack of a better term) were anything resembling that of the persons previously described as “people”. 

Here are some philosophical definitions of “persons”:

The philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt writes that, “What philosophers have lately come to accept as analysis of the concept of a person is not actually analysis of that concept at all.” He suggests that the concept of a person is intimately connected to free will, and describes the structure of human volition according to first- and second-order desires.

Well, ova and sperm do not appear to possess free will.  Corporations?  Maybe, maybe not.  They have a board of directors.  First and second order desires?  Nope, and maybe so.

Philosopher Thomas I. White argues that the criteria for a person are as follows: (1) is alive, (2) is aware, (3) feels positive and negative sensations, (4) has emotions, (5) has a sense of self, (6) controls its own behaviour, (7) recognises other persons and treats them appropriately, and (8) has a variety of sophisticated cognitive abilities.

Ova and sperm are alive.  Corporations should control their own behavior.  Otherwise, my  scottie comes closer to meeting these criteria than either of the latter day personages.  

We could go on and on, but you get the gist of this.  None of the new “persons” meet the philosopher’s criteria.  Now. lets consider some personal  responsibilities. 

As a citizen, I am subject to a plethora of laws and regulations, most of which are in place to ascertain that I do my share and am respectful of other people.   I assure you that should I fail to pay all of  my taxes, I run the risk of incarceration.  Should I decide to fire up the barbie with really smoky wood, I will hear about it from the city.  If there were loud noises eminating from my bungalow, the police would be by to ask me to tone it down. Terrible odors wouls invite an inspection of the premesis and a prompt order to desist whatever created them.  Were I to deposit my used motor oil, worn-out tires, or leftover paints in a nearby water supply, the powers that be would truly go ballistics.  I am expected to keep any property that I might own neat and clean whether I live there or it’s abandoned, or face the wrath of code enforcement.  Now, I do not realistically expect sperm, ova, or fetuses to live by these laws.  However, I hereby respectfully request that the other new kind of people  get with the program.  Corporations, welcome to American personhood and the responsibilities that come with it!

If I can’t pollute, you can’t pollute.   Clean it up.  Pay your fair share of taxes and stop expecting subsidies and loopholes from the taxpayers.  Keep the noise levels down.  Make your properties look a little nicer.  Even if you’ve left the property, if you own it the upkeep is on you.  Quit whining, already.  I am much, much more regulated than you will ever be.  Furthermore, we’re tired of supporting your ungrateful corporate keisters.    Grow up and act like responsible American people.

This is an open thread.

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