Monthly Archives: August 2011

citizens, united

Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision which wrought the wreckage in which we now and shall live, rests on the premise that money is speech. If money is speech, limiting the spending of it in the influence of political discourse is an abridgment of a person’s freedom of speech. Corporations are (somehow) people, therefore they should be able to spend as much money as they like on political campaigns.

Of course they can. This decision is not the disease, it’s symptomatic of our collective incapacity for empathy. When money is what passes for speech, and corporations are mistaken for people, how could we expect otherwise?

If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

But money is not speech, it is coercion. We exchange it to compel others to share their goods or services. It entitles us to treat others in a negative way and to expect positive behavior in return. It is very easy to yell at some poor worker in a call center because they are not themselves, they are the corporation for which they work and you have an economic contract with that corporation. It’s simpler to not even say “hello” to the doorman or the barista or the gas station attendant because they are, in this model, the door-opener and the coffee-maker and the cigarette-dispenser. They are furniture.

The Theatre is, or should be, or could be if we just let it, the opposite of all of that. It is a place which does not function if anything you see is identified as other, and is at its best when the other is recognized as self.

Here’s where it gets dangerous: If you recognize yourself in the other, how does it change your politics? Is it possible to cut off someone’s unemployment benefits when you think of the meals they or their children might have to forego? Would you be able to stand the barrage of images from the several wars if you put yourself in the shoes (if they have any) of anyone there? Would it be conceivable that a person might tell another person how to live? to love? to die?

The very foundation of theatre, the actor-spectator relationship, is based on the ability to share in the thoughts and feelings of others. It is theatre’s most basic unit, and it is in direct opposition to the notion that a corporation is a person, or that you can put a cash value on speech.