CELDF

Blog: America Denies “Personhood” to the Poor

Featured Image: Patrick Feller, Beneath Highway 90 bridge, Richmond, Texas 1018091117BW, Flickr Creative Commons https://flic.kr/p/79mZQ8

If you’re an American citizen without a home or bank account, a prisoner incarcerated in the American Gulag, or an immigrant with no “documentation,” you have few rights in the United States. Property defines who will and won’t be considered a “person” in the eyes of the law, because in the $ocialist Plutocracy of America membership in $ociety means participation as a wage-dependent “consumer” or as an “entrepreneur” (someone who becomes less and less dependent on family and community by leveraging wealth to increase wealth). You’re either one or the other, or nobody.

Revolutionary Intent

None of this is according to the plans of the American Revolutionaries whose aspirations were enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. According to that document, which justified the overthrow of a hierarchical government, all of us are created equal, with certain unalienable rights that any legitimate government is obligated to secure and protect. That means basic human and civil rights belong to everyone, citizen or not. It means those rights can’t be taken from any of us. We don’t have to purchase them or wait for government to give them the nod. Any government that won’t honor the rights of every natural person equally loses its legitimacy and forfeits its authority to demand our loyalty. At least, that was the original plan.

Rights for Property – Not People

Today property in the form of a corporation is afforded constitutional rights, while people without property are denied the right to participate in civil society. Property is the plastic bottle in which civil rights are packaged and distributed. Some people get a lot more than others. Some get none. Rights in America are as equal as wealth distribution, which is to say, not at all.

Today property in the form of a corporation is afforded constitutional rights, while people without property are denied the right to participate in civil society.

Rights are purchasable. Rights are marketed as rewards for acquisition and accumulation. With enough material possessions and immaterial “wealth,” you can not only live in luxury and leisure; you can buy the servitude of people lacking your advantages. You can choose who will govern you and them. You and your propertied class can decide to perpetuate the advantages you enjoy and eliminate competition from the less fortunate.

Without the rights-conveying receptacle of property, the poor are not allowed to quench their thirst for justice. They have no permanent address and can’t vote. Citizens and immigrants are denied public services without paperwork “proving” their eligibility as sanctioned members of the community. The paperwork itself is turned into a kind of pauper’s property. To get it, you’ll have to admit your inferiority in the great chain of being. Without it, you ain’t nothin’.

Image: Vincent Bernier Follow, Homeless, Vancouver, 2006 Acrylic and Collages on Wood, Private Collection Vancouver, British Columbia https://flic.kr/p/4ENnYH

No Property, No Family

It’s not just undocumented immigrant families being broken apart as a matter of public policy. Lacking “resources” (property), children are taken from their American parents as callously as immigrant children are snatched from theirs. Homeless shelters break up families because “men” – the fathers – are considered too much trouble. And yes, women and children should be separated from abusive men. But keeping families together is for the most part not an option. The most basic rights of privacy, a livelihood, shelter, healthcare, education, and the integrity of the family, are unavailable to the propertyless, because in American society, where materialism is the essence of substance abuse, property is the delivery system for an intoxicating dose of legal and civil rights. Those who get high – and mighty – through possession of and by excessive indulgence in accumulating more and more, leave less and less for everyone else.

Image by Ben, Laferrari in Flickr Creative Commons https://flic.kr/p/rejzkC

More Property, More Rights

It’s not jealousy over the obscene leisure and luxury of opulence. Those with the most property have access to the greater volume of rights. Thanks to two centuries of $ocial engineering by the courts, amassed property (wealth) conveys a vast reservoir of civil rights to its possessors, allowing them proportionally greater access to political power, government entitlements, impact on election outcomes, public policy and budget priorities, and the overall direction of American $ociety.

The needs of the poor are characterized as a burden on those who want as much as they can get. The lack of green cards among immigrants is less important than their lack of green backs. The utter expulsion from civil society of 2.3 million inmates in our for-profit and government run prisons is justified by self-righteous vengeance against a peasantry attempting to survive without surrendering to the hamster wheel of usurious debt and wage slavery.

The utter expulsion from civil society of 2.3 million inmates in our for-profit and government run prisons is justified by self-righteous vengeance against a peasantry attempting to survive without surrendering to the hamster wheel of usurious debt and wage slavery.

Divided and Conquered

We’ve been divided and conquered by the propaganda of “upward mobility” and the false promise that you too can become part of America’s avaricious nobility if only you’ll look upon fellow citizens as “marks” in a competitive game of bootstrapping. The police protect property from damage and demagogues encourage the poor of every complexion to take out their frustrations on each other. Property damage with a political message behind it is more and more classified as “terrorism.” But when over-medicated and under-privileged men and boys release their rage with flying bullets resulting in mass slaughter, a political firestorm protecting their property – their guns –  is the predictable reaction. Property – the gun – conveys extraordinary rights over the life and death of mere peasants upon which government has no authority, we are told, to apply prior restraint by confiscating constitutionally protected property.

What it Takes

Equal rights for all – citizens and non-citizens, prisoners and paupers – is the path to domestic tranquility and global leadership. But the promise of America can never be realized when so few believe in it and when so many are openly hostile to it.

The long counter-revolution against the ideals of the American Revolution must be reversed if this nation is ever to make peace with itself and all the people who live here. It is time to resume the American Revolution, and this time let’s win it.

 

Ben Price is national organizing director for CELDF. His book “How Wealth Rules the World: Saving Our Communities and Freedoms from the Dictatorship of Property” is scheduled for publication in March of 2019.

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