We declared independence from Britain for the sake of some inalienable rights, but what happened to them? Spoiler alert: Greed.
So much meddling, so little time! While all ears and eyes were recently glued to the congressional hearings re Russian interference in our elections, cybersecurity experts alerted us (well, those of us listening to NPR) to the fact that “the data of almost 200 million voters was left exposed online” and “included all kinds of detailed information like voting histories, phone numbers, even posts from anonymous sites like Reddit.”
Chris Vickery, the cybergenius who discovered the breach, sounded shocked that political parties are clueless about the vulnerability and incensed by their not really having any incentive to care. “It shows that commercial interests are overtaking concerns of security, privacy and the good of the public overall,” he said in the interview. “The fact that there’s money-making incentives to collect and not secure this data very well, it just speaks volumes about what needs to change in America regarding privacy, security and our priorities.”
“Overtaking” or “overtaken”? Are you likewise shocked that making money is prioritized over the rights of individuals? Well, you shouldn’t be. I mean, if you think the Constitution protects the interests of us little people, the interests of the individual, you’d better go back to school, Democracy School.
So Much for Independence
The Constitution was crafted with the craven intention of preferential treatment for business over the consumer, to make sure money could be made at all costs—gawd forbid someone should be deprived of the privilege, the inalienable right, if you will, of filling his coffers, of lining his pockets, with as much money as possible. (I do mean “his”: Women were not considered persons until 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed, but rather the property of their husbands; don’t ask me about, gasp, women without husbands!)
A brief history of our brief history of independence: On July 4, 1776, right smack-dab in the middle of the war with King George III that would become known as the American Revolution, we officially rejected Britain’s tyranny over our individual rights (like the rights to self-government and no taxation without representation) and, with the thoughtfulness and brilliance of main author Thomas Jefferson, we put it in writing and shoved it in the Crown’s face.
… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. …
The Crown wasn’t happy about the pushback (read: the potential loss of revenue from its colonies) that was the Declaration of Independence, but we kept pushing back with words and bloodshed for another ten or so years, until the thirteen colonies eventually trounced their oppressors and we became the United States of America.
Top Secret Repeal and Replace
A dozen years later, a confab known as the Constitutional Convention was held at the State House in Philadelphia and was so secretive, it’s possible that George Washington, who presided over this rebuke to the revolution for independence, was a pre-incarnation of Mitch McConnell. It was a time when people were too busy rebuilding their lives from twenty-plus years of war to care about what was going on beyond their immediate vicinity, and voter turnout was thus down from about 70 percent to something like 15 percent.
Nonetheless, the State House’s windows were blacked out, guards were posted, and minutes were not to be released until all participants were dead. (I think Mitch made his cabal eat their minutes!) The goal? Repeal and replace the Articles of Confederation, aka our beta Constitution.
Why? To make business easier between sovereign states, to open up trade. So rich dudes like Washington could protect and grow their riches. (Washington’s wealth was acquired in the ways of empire: conquer territory and claim the spoils. He “owned” 63,000 acres of land and expelled the people—settlers, Native Americans, whomever—living there.)
Empire Wears New Clothes
We threw off the yoke of one system of government designed for and by the aristocracy (Britain’s monarchy) only to yoke ourselves to “a conspiracy of the Well-born few, against the sacred rights and privileges of their fellow citizens,” admitted one co-conspirator.
Voila! Empire wore new clothes, this time made in America. We got three branches of government and the Senate because the fat cats feared the House of Representatives might be too close to the voice of the … people!
The character of this upper house was designed to protect the interests of this wealthy elite, the “minority of the opulent,” against the interests of the lower classes, who constituted the majority of the population. —James Madison, quoted in Notes of the Secret Debates of the Federal Convention of 1787 by Robert Yates
Jefferson, who just happened to be in France on official business during these shenanigans, characterized the delegation as an assembly of “demi-gods.” So much for majority rule. So much for taxation without representation. So much for being able to protect your community from the ravages of industry. So much for independence from a monarchical government.
The Beginning of Corporations as People
It didn’t take long for property to have more rights than people, for business interests to take precedence over those inalienable rights we declared our independence for. And if you think corporate personhood is a new idea: The Fourteenth Amendment, which was passed in 1868, was interpreted in an 1886 Supreme Court case to apply to, yep, corporations. Corporations got equal protection under the law before women did. Are you shocked yet?
So what does all this revolution and counter-revolution have to do with yoga? Did I say it did? Well, in ratifying the Declaration of Independence, the signers committed an act of treason against the Crown. You might call the fomenters radicals. To be a radical means to get to the root of things. My teacher Sharon Gannon likes to remind us that yogis are radicals—our goal is to get to the root of things:
Middle English, from Late Latin radicalis, from Latin radic-, radix root + -alis -al — more at root
3 a (1) : the origin or cause of a condition, tendency, or quality; c (1) : the underlying support or foundation of something : basis; d : the inner core or essential nature or part of something : heart
But, although their predecessors in revolution may have been, the framers of the Constitution were not radicals at all and seemed to have either deliberately or inadvertently framed such an obtuse document as to make it impossible to get to the root of it, a document that has forever remained open to interpretation according to which way one’s agenda blows. And to obscure the fact that it totally obscures what this country was founded on as declared in the Declaration of Independence.
Get a Clue! Become a Radical!
Most Americans are clueless as to what the Constitution actually says, including politicians, who often proudly tote pocket-size copies to prove their patriotic bona fides, only to confuse the second sentence of the D of I, “we hold these truths to be self-evident,” with the preamble to the Constitution, John Boehner most infamously.
And that conflation of these two seminal historical documents may explain why most people probably don’t consider that in celebrating the Fourth of July what we are celebrating is a bunch of radicals launching a showdown against a government that did not represent their best interests, performing a ginormous act of not-so-civil disobedience to loosen that stranglehold on individual liberty and ensure that individual persons and their property cease being plundered and pillaged the way lands had always been.
… certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. … That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it. …
Revolution (the D of I) begot a counter-revolution (the big C). Is it time for a counter-counter-revolution?
Happy disobedience day, everyone!
For great good reads on the Constitution:
For the 411 on why we feel so powerless against corporations and what we can do about it:
For a great history of how endemic slavery is to corporate profiteering, check out the movie 13th (and don’t be surprised if you’re as shocked at the truth as I was).
Jaimie Epstein’s mission is to bring a more enlightened life to light. You can find her at blissninny.com.