Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in the case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The overt argument in the case is whether a company with a certain set of religious values can be required by the government to provide contraceptives to female employees under the Affordable Healthcare Act. The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that companies do NOT have to meet this requirement. My Facebook feed since the ruling has been aflutter with criticism about how this is a major step backwards for women’s rights, because this decision allows a corporation to decide–for religious reasons–how to control a woman’s body. As far as woman’s rights, yes, this sets a nasty precedent. There’s also a lot of nuance to the discussion about how birth control can be accessed by women, and, as one might imagine, the Internet is divided on this ruling.
If you want, here’s the Supreme Court document. I haven’t read it, and don’t really intend to.
My concern is less about the implications for women’s rights, which is a major concern, don’t get me wrong. My concern is that this ruling effectively ensures that a corporation–a business–has personhood with the rights and liberties of the Bill of Rights, and that this corporation can make decisions that impact all of its employees that supersede government regulation.
Take a moment and think about this.
I mean, really think about this.
Whatever your opinion of government may be, a corporation is not a person. It’s not even a governing entity. But this ruling, and other rulings over the last few years, grants that power to the corporation.
Let’s stop and consider what a corporation is. It’s a hierarchical, micro-civilization that functions in service to some service. At the top of the hierarchy sits a CEO, like a king or queen, surrounded by his or her Board of Directors. This limited elite, with a few other Chief Officers, are the lawmakers in this hierarchy. The Presidents and Vice Officers that sit below them are the enforcers of this law, and so on down the food chain to the largest population in this micro-civilization: the basic employee, the frontline trooper the public has immediate interaction with who must put on the happy face that represents the corporate values.
The corporation is not a person, nor does it function as a collective entity. That limited elite who sit at the top of the food chain spread their values down to the bottom, and the decisions of this elite may or may not be in the best interest of the workforce.
I know what you’re thinking, why doesn’t the employee just find a new job or why don’t we as a consumer just not shop there? Well, yes, but corporate control is growing–and we’re letting it. Increasingly, we as employees are encountering difficulty not having to compromise our own morals and values in service to a corporation. Increasingly, we as consumers are facing a limited pool of consumption options.
I write this blog not because I want to try to persuade you to see things my way. If you support Hobby Lobby, by all means continue to do so. By the same token, respect my decision to no longer shop there.
No, I write this blog for another reason. As a student of the Humanities, I have spent my share of time delving into a wide range of history, myth and religion, and culture. As a teacher of the Humanities, I have lectured about the relationship between lack of government oversight, propaganda, and the fall of the Roman Empire. I’ve lectured about the power of the Church in Medieval politics. I’ve lectured about how Humanism and Nationalism helped bring about the Renaissance. I’ve also devoted a lot of research to American mythology and how Disney used it to feed mid-century Nationalism, while also nurturing the American hunger to consume. The American people need to wake up and pay attention about corporate control.
But I don’t think we will. And that’s where I I find myself feeling very, very sad.
Side Note: If we think of consumption as an addiction, then corporations are our drug dealers. Or, if we think of consumption as a religion, then corporations are our cult leaders. Either perspective is problematic to the needs of the people, because the people are denied their own personhood in the service to the dealer or cult leader. But corporations, the embodiment of mid-century white privilege, have leverage and can get away with much more than drug dealers or cult leaders. If we as a culture can stop consuming, perhaps we can reduce their power. But the Stop Shopping movement is small, radical, and not taken seriously. Perhaps we can educate a generational shift and teach the children of today how not to consume.
Side Note Number 2: Another problem is that American consumption, or at least the right to consume, is seen around the world as equal to freedom and “democracy.” We need a world-wide shift, and it *could* happen if everyone got on board. We are globalized enough to enact such change. My skepticism of humanity leads me to think it won’t happen, even for all my Disney-colored optimism.
Side Note Number 3: Yes, I’m a consumer, and I admit it. My recent year in poverty has restructured much of my consumptive behaviors, but I’m still consuming nonetheless. One way to change consumptive behaviors is to unplug, and for some reason, I can’t bring myself to do that. And in that way, telecomm corporations have won this round.