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In George Orwell's eternal warning beacon, 1984, evil is distilled to its purest essence and writ large in the shape of a world turned into Hell: Inescapable, absolute, and pure malice encoded into the very fabric of thought and communication, poisoning and destroying humanity with every passing moment, every word, every thought, every decision, and every action - a bottomless downward spiral that Dante could only have dimly imagined.  At the heart of the horror is a simple tactic: Redefining value-based words to mean their opposites.  War is peace.  Slavery is freedom.  Ignorance is strength.  It's hardly a news flash that conservatives, being authoritarian, have a penchant for redefining terms in this manner, so it's unsurprising that they would now (for the third time in a single decade) be trying to pervert the definition of the word "person" - a term at the root of all legal characterizations of rights under the law.  Their contortions on this subject have been so Orwellian and deranged, that I thought I'd make some visual aids to keep track of what exactly these incredible heaps of hatred have defined as human or not at some point.

On the left are images of what conservatives define as a Person, and on the right are images of things they've denied are people, with a description below:







The reality is that even progressives have some growing to do on the definition of personhood.  Some non-human species are intelligent enough to merit both the term and the protections it carries, at least on the level of legally incompetent humans.  The funny thing is, even if you disagree with that opinion, you cannot deny that extending the definition down the scale of political power increases the overall strength of everyone it applies to: That has been the lesson of history.  If the system is forced to protect the defenseless, then those who are not defenseless are even stronger when their rights are attacked.  

Conservatives have gone in the exact opposite direction, and insisted on granting the definition to powerful, gargantuan, unconscious money-grubbing organizations that in no way resemble a person.  The only reason they even care about zygotes and fetuses is that they're a convenient way to attack the rights of women - i.e., an attempt to assert the power of religious institutions over procreation.  That just shows how cynical a Trojan horse the whole so-called "pro-life" movement is.  Just watch: The moment the entire conception, gestation, and birth process can be automated, they'll suddenly forget all about the "precious babies" and treat fetuses the same way they treat animals in factory farms.  It's about controlling a mode of production for them - about asserting what they view as their prerogative over life: The same mentality that causes them to not merely support, but love capital punishment - it's the exact same perverted power trip for them.

The absolute last thing conservatives would want is for society to take their "pro-life" rhetoric to heart, because if we did, we would enact actually pro-life policies effectively turning America Buddhist - rigorous social services; veganism enshrined in law; animals as legally incompetent entities with inherent rights rather than property protected from cruelty merely to placate sensibilities; a Defense Department that actually does its job rather than trying to create problems for itself to half-assedly address; abolition of capital punishment; the final end of the war on drugs; and so on, and so on.  Anyway, I've ranted enough: This was supposed to be a cheeky diary, but then I got all indignant and started typing.  I'll shut up now.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You forgot one group, the 99% who aren't (11+ / 0-)

    worth at least a million dollars, they are non persons, as far as rethugs are concerned, (So says the sacred Prophetess, Ayn Rand).

    May you live in interesting times--Chinese curse

    by oldcrow on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 09:09:13 PM PST

  •  Society? WHAT™? (5+ / 0-)

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 09:14:22 PM PST

  •  I (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, alkalinesky

    think that's a plan.

    When all you can do is lie, cheat and steal, it's best to not exceed your own grasp, reach down.

    one iota (sig apparently subject to interpretation, and attack, by those who wish to destroy individuality).

    by Maori on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 09:27:38 PM PST

  •  Another distinction (6+ / 0-)

    There's a distinction I perceive, and I don't know that I have the time to try to lay it out clearly.

    To a healthy adjusted person and to most Democrats, the body is a dimension of the subjective self. It is part of me.

    It is common in consumer culture and ubiquitious in conservative circles that the body is owned by the self. For a conservative, the body is the property of the mind and the defining characteristic of personhood is ownership.

    I don't quite have the time and inclination to develop this idea in full at the moment. But it works in your model.

    Om gate gate paragate parasamgate Bodhi Svaha

    by copithorne on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 09:30:17 PM PST

    •  You're on to something there. (5+ / 0-)

      Take it a bit further and you get to the heart of conservative mentality: Ownership is purely a matter of power - the willingness and ability to dominate.  If current ownership does not provide them with advantage, they simply change the rules until they come out ahead and then change them back so no one can follow their lead and dilute the power they've acquired.  At its root, it's simply infantilism - they are incapable of reflection, so everything they do is blind assertion of impulse: An infant's cry or a toddler's tantrum taken to an absurd degree of behavioral complexity.

      Democracy? You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

      by Troubadour on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 09:40:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  An obsession with "the rules" (7+ / 0-)

        If the rules allow them to get what they want, they enforce the rules. If the rules prevent them from getting what they want, they subvert the rules.

        "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

        by CFAmick on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 10:16:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The basis of all rule-based society is fairness. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, alkalinesky, fumie

          And the authoritarian mentality is incapable of conceiving of fairness when they themselves are included in the picture.  They can imagine treating everyone else equally badly, but for themselves they cannot imagine their own moral value being less than 100% or that of other people being anything but dependent on how convenient they are as tools.  Fairness between themselves and another person doesn't make sense to them: It does not compute.  

          Democracy? You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

          by Troubadour on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 10:23:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  about them test-tube babies: it's about domination (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour, Pandoras Box

            The extreme right won't go for test-tube babies.  

            They like making women go through pregnancy and labor.  

            They like being able to strut and crow about their "prowess" at producing babies, they like making women suffer the difficulties and pains of pregnancy, and they like the reinforcement of gender roles that enable men to assert "protective" dominance over women who are pregnant or busy with small infants.

            However in our progressive desire to offer women an exit from the hardships of pregnancy, we should be careful: the environment of the womb, neurochemically intimate with the moods of the mother, probably has something to do with setting up the biological basis for empathy later in life.  Doing away with that, risks breeding a race of sociopaths even worse than the ones who presently occupy high places.

            "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 11:15:47 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  now that's an interesting theory (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Troubadour, G2geek

              never heard it before...any links?  not challenging you, just interested

              •  i assume you mean the latter. (3+ / 0-)

                The item about rightwinger men taking advantage of pregnancy to assert dominance over women, is either already part of feminist thinking or proceeds directly from it.  

                The item about the roots of empathy in the womb: I came up with that, though I have to believe that someone with more initials after their name came up with it earlier.  

                It follows from a lot of what we know about neurophysiology.

                As the fetal brain is developing, it's exposed to various neurochemicals are circulating in the mother's bloodstream.  At the earliest stage of brain development, these would be associated with the most rudimentary sensations that make up the basis for various types of pleasure and displeasure, for example laughter and sadness, love and anger, and so on.  At this stage there's no consciousness as such, merely responses to stimuli.  

                Other stimuli include the sounds of the mother's voice in conversations, and the vestibular sensations of motion through space as its mom is walking around or doing whatever.  

                Some of these are associated with others:  For example the woman gets on an airplane and it takes off, so the fetus is exposed to the vestibular sensation of acceleration and then changes in the sense of gravity.  If the woman is happy to be flying, the neurochemicals for happiness get associated with those sensations.  If she's afraid of flying, the neurochemicals for fear get associated with those sensations.  And keep in mind that this does not require consciousness, only the ability for a developing brain to receive the various stimuli and sensations and emotions.  

                At some point in fetal development, probably the middle of the third trimester, the fetal brain reaches the degree of development needed to support consciousness.  Now there is an individual self that is aware of its own existence and aware that it is having various sensations and emotions.  

                This is also a difficult issue in terms of abortion rights because at this point there is a separate self in existence.  However in most cases it should be possible to remove the fetus from the uterus and keep it alive in the same manner as if it was born prematurely, and then place it with adoptive parents.  So by the time the fetus is conscious, if the woman wants to terminate the pregnancy this can be done without killing the fetus.  

                The obvious exceptions for medical necessities in which the fetus has to be destroyed to protect the woman's health, can be seen in light of the ethics of medical triage.  For example on the battlefield you may have to decide that a grievously wounded patient is going to die so that another patient can be saved.  The fact that it's "not an easy decision" does not produce a predetermined moral conclusion, and life in the real world does not spare us the necessity (or deny us the right) to make these choices from time to time.

                So back to the subject of empathy.

                Assuming a normal pregnancy carried to term, the fetus in the womb will continue to be exposed to various sets of stimuli from the external environment, and neurochemicals from the mother's own body.  Those things will be its only inputs from outside of itself, and they will form the entirety of its objects of awareness until it is born.  

                What this adds up to is prenatal conditioning to associate certain stimuli such as tones of voice and physical movement, with certain emotional states.  This becomes the foundation of being able to make further associations of that kind during infancy and childhood.

                For example a fetus picks up conditioning that associates a certain tone of voice with a certain set of neurochemically-mediated emotions.  Then the infant sees that certain facial expressions are associated with the same tones of voice, and trigger similar feelings in himself or herself.  Over time the infant and then the child, develops an increasing repertoire of these types of associations: most or all of which already have "places to plug in" in the brain, that developed during the course of gestation even before the onset of consciousness.

                So back to test tubes.  

                If you substitute a test tube or artificial uterus for the real thing, what will be missing are all of the stimuli that occurred to the mother, and all of the complex neurochemicals that her own body produced in response to stimuli in her environment.  The fetus will not develop with the imprints of those things on its own brain.  Then later on, fetal development of consciousness will not be accompanied by further reinforcement of those sensations, emotions, and associations.  

                The baby born under those conditions will not have a basis on which to associate tones of voice and vestibular sensations (movement) with feelings, and then with facial expressions and gestures.  This is highly dangerous because in effect it breaks the paradigm that "no man (sic) is an island": instead, that infant will start its air-breathing life outside the artificial womb very much as an island when it begins to interact with others.   Major psychiatric complications are a 100% certainty from that situation.

                Further, there was an experiment performed in the 1960s with infant monkeys, in which they were isolated from other monkeys and reared in an environment with a) a terrycloth monkey doll and b) a wooden monkey figure that had a bottle from which the infant monkeys could feed.  The result was that the infant monkey would go to (b) only to feed, and then cling helplessly to (a) and show all the signs of full-blown schizophrenia complicated by chronic severe anxiety.  

                That type of experiment could only be done once ethically (when the effects were not known), and could never be repeated without violating every moral and ethical precept that governs experiments with complex animals.  But the lessons learned were of vital importance in terms of a warning against deprivation of contact with others during infancy.  

                So in a way, all I've done has been to extrapolate backward from that experiment down through the course of fetal brain development.  That plus a having studied related issues in grad school, about which I can't say more or I'll out myself.

                But I'm quite certain that this is correct, and that there are ethically sound experiments that could be done to test it.   For example assume a pregnant woman with an emotional response to flying on an airplane.  Now assume the baby is adopted at birth by parents who have the same or different or opposite attitude toward flying.  If my theory is correct, it produces the hypothesis that the mother's emotional response to flying, will influence the child's emotions toward flying.  

                For example:

                Mother likes to fly, infant is adopted by parents who like to fly: we would expect to see that the child likes to fly.

                Mother likes to fly, infant is adopted by parents who are afraid of flying: we would expect that the child is somewhat afraid of flying but not severely so.

                Mother is afraid of flying, infant is adopted by parents who like to fly: we would expect to see that the child likes to fly, but not as much as the child in the first condition.

                Mother is afraid of flying, infant is adopted by parents who are afraid of flying: we would expect that the child is much more afraid of flying than the child in the second condition.

                We can do this for large numbers of adopted children, and large numbers of stimuli, from airplanes and apples to xylophones and zebras.  We can probably also do it for twins who were raised by different sets of parents.  And at some point in the future it may also be possible to use medical imaging techniques to observe the effects of maternal emotions and stimuli on the activity in the developing fetal brain.  

                The only impediment to this research is that the extreme right has no tolerance for the idea that consciousness has anything to do with fetal brain development, because this would deprive them of the entire premise for the "personhood begins at conception" arguement.   As progressives we can deal with the moral quandaries presented in the third trimester, for example by applying the ethics of triage to protect the woman's right to make the difficult choice when faced with a health crisis surrounding a late-stage pregnancy.  The extreme right has no capacity to deal with those kinds of moral complexities, and so it reacts by entrenching itself in the scientifically false proposition that a blastocyst without a brain somehow has a mind and therefore has personhood.

                Note also that the arguement I'm making for choice in the third trimester is subtly but significantly different to the equally antiscientific arguement that the late stage fetus deserves no consideration whatsoever, and that a woman has a kind of property right in her body that supersedes any consideration of a fetus up to the moment of birth.  The arguement from property rights is convergent with the entire mentality of unfettered capitalism, whereby everything is commodity and everything can be traded for money.  

                If your body is your property, and property rights can be bought, sold, and traded, then slavery once again becomes feasible under various conditions (such as when the value of your indebtedness exceeds an assigned value of your body).  The possibilities get worse from there, including the evil calculus of "murder by spreadsheet" by the health insurance industry.  

                However if your body is not an instance of property but one of identity, an intrinsic value that cannot be reduced to commodity, translated to money, or bought or sold, then all of those evils are averted entirely.  The arguement for a complete right to choose abortion, based upon the ethics of triage and recognizing the moral complexities thereof, is convergent with the premise of one's body having intrinsic and irreducible value.  

                I wasn't expecting to go from fetal brain development to a consistent progressive rationale for a complete right to choose abortion, but that's what happens when one starts reasoning these things out.  Sorry this was such a long reply but it was very interesting to figure out how the implications of these things interacted.

                "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 10:13:42 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  wow! fascinating, G2geek! (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  G2geek, Troubadour

                  I never expected such an amazing response.  that's a lot to think about

                  you could simply copy your comment and have a rather fascinating post about the ethics of true test tube babies - the idea of fetal development within an artificial womb!

                  •  thanks, and frankly neither did I. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Pandoras Box, Troubadour

                    I just followed the train of thought where it went and described it.  A lot of that is new thinking for me, for example linking the ethics of choice through the final trimester to the dilemma of triage, vs. the inability of the right to handle those kinds of moral dilemmas, vs. the conventional "property" approach.


                    "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                    by G2geek on Thu Nov 10, 2011 at 02:27:47 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

      •  instant meme! (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Urizen, fumie, Troubadour, Focusmarker

        With one edit: remove "an infant's cry" since crying infants almost universally evoke sympathy, whereas tantrum-throwing toddlers generally don't.

        "They are incapable of reflection, so everything they do is blind assertion of impulse: A toddler's tantrum taken to an absurd degree of behavioral complexity."

        "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 11:08:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  ownership vs. identity: (5+ / 0-)

        If your body is your "property," it becomes fungible and subject to commodity valuation as one more object with parts that can be bought, sold, and traded.

        If your body is part of your identity, part of "yourself," then it cannot have commodity value, it can only have intrinsic value: irreducible value.  It can't be bought and sold.  That thwarts the religion of the Holy Market.  

        "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 11:20:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I sometimes have fun trapping libertarians (4+ / 0-)

          with the logical consequences of their belief that liberty is synonymous with property.  I lead them down the following path, and they seldom if ever stray from the script:

          1.  So every person's body is their property?


          2.  And they have absolute discretion over that property, insofar as it violates no one else's rights, correct?


          3.  People have a right to sell property, correct?

          (They may sense a trap at this point, but will generally proceed with an affirmative answer)

          4.  So is it correct that they have a right to sell themselves into slavery?

          (Clusterfuck of cognitive dissonance.  Attempts to hold on to mutually exclusive positions.  If they back down at this point, lead them back to the original question and get them to admit that rights are not based on property.  But they may persist with a "personal responsibility" argument.)

          5.  Okay, so now you're a slave by your own decision.  Your body is someone else's property.  And as property, they have the right to do whatever they want with it, right?  Torture it, rape it, hack off limbs, inject it with diseases for medical experiments, feed it to dogs, etc?

          (Most back off and start sputtering attempts to find a way out of this logic, but a few will persist with a radical ideology of personal responsibility that has no boundaries for the general protection of society.  In the latter case...)

          6.  Fine, let's accept that personal responsibility is absolute for the sake of argument.  But when a person owns a machine, they own what the machine produces, correct?


          7.  So if they own your body, they own what your body produces.  E.g., children.  They own your children.  They own independent beings as property who never made any such decision to be slaves.  So personal responsibility comes full circle - because you would not accept limits on the principle, the result is the complete destruction of that principle, creating environments where the will of other people is imposed on others without their consent; indeed, where their very existence as entities is peremptorily nullified by the circumstances of their creation.  Your argument is at best inherently self-destructive, and at worst hypocrisy of the worst kind.

          Democracy? You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

          by Troubadour on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 12:40:22 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  oooh, niiiiiice! dude, that kind of stuff.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ... particularly where you get to point 7, the further philosophical reaches of the idea and its logical implications, is what makes the happy spots in my brain light up.  Very well done.

            Where I go from item 7, is to assert that certain values are intrinsic, irreducible, and not subject to commodity.  Long story short is that a few steps from there get us to the point of framing a type of "libertarianism" that is not the same thing as the "propertarianism" that presently passes for it.  That's how we turn rightie-libertarians into leftie-libertarians, also known as libertarian socialists.  

            Hey, check out my ridiculously long posting elsewhere in this diary, where I reason out the connection between fetal awareness, empathy, the dangers of making babies via artificial wombs, and the issue of property rights vs. intrinsic rights in asserting an unfettered right to abortion even at the point where fetal brain development produces consciousness.  

            I'd be interested in what you think of all that.

            BTW, I'm going to be away from desk for most of the rest of the day so if you reply to this or the insanely-long posting, I'll reply to your reply tonight.  

            "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 10:21:59 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  And yet, oddly enough, even the voters in (8+ / 0-)

    Mississippi, most of whom would normally be considered to be wearing the uniform of the "Home Team", could not bring themselves to vote for personhood at the moment of conception.  Perhaps this is the truest validation of your last paragraph, because even Mississippi voters understand what the full expression of "personhood at conception" really means for even those people who spend a lot of time talking the antiabortion talk but who can't face walking down that path when all the supposedly unintended consequences are thrown at them...

    Nice rant.  Don't ever be afraid to let your indignation be your muse....

    "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

    by Jack K on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 09:32:01 PM PST

  •  The homunculus personhood amendment (6+ / 0-)

    has gone down to defeat. Praise be to FSM!

  •  They Want That Baby Born.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Then once it's here, they cut services to help the child.  They cut aide to dependent children.  If the child comes from a single parent family requiring help, they label it a welfare baby.

    It's about control.  It's about preening to their evangelical base.  They are a hideous bunch w/ a mean agenda.  

    In Mississippi yesterday, their personhood amendment was shot down.  If not, they would have had legal cover to ban all forms of birth control & having a miscarriage could mean a criminal investigation.  

    Hideous.  Mean.  

  •  "Orthodoxy is Unconsciousness" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Of course, all this Republican redefining results in Orwell's conclusion that "Orthodoxy is Unconsciousness."    In Oceania, the (important) people need to reach and maintain unconsciousness in order to swallow the perversion of thought offered by the Party--"Doublethink". (Of course, the "Proles" are irrelevant.) Welcome to "modern" Republicanism.

    Old Hippies Never Give Up!

    by ravenrdr on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 03:33:17 AM PST

  •  The source of the problem seems to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, radarlady, Mrs M

    be binary thought.  Some people perceive in terms of two opposites.  Everything is paired.  So, there's good and evil, black and white, male and female, natural and artificial, woman made and man made. And in every case one is preferred and the other is dismissed.
    Moreover, this binary system is so arranged that when one is negatively affected, its opposite enjoys success. Which means that to achieve success (e.g. create private sector jobs) all that's required is that their opposites (e.g.public sector jobs) be destroyed.

    It's not necessary that there be an intent to deceive. People who understand the paradigm aren't confused about their belief that the artificial person (what man makes) is preferable to the natural person (what woman squeezes out between her legs). They are not confused about the greater value of the male fertilized egg in comparison to the time and resource consuming child. Male = good; female = bad.  It's an attitude that's widely shared.  After all, it accounts for why there not enough women in China.

    Who knows? Binary thinking may be the default and it's humans with more diverse perspectives that are peculiar.

    The beauty of this binary system is that one can be entirely negative and still get what one wants. All that's necessary is that what one doesn't want is destroyed.  Then what one wants is automatically left over. It's what's called "creative destruction."
    So, for example, the destruction of Germany is credited with the reconstruction. That lots of people were destroyed in the process is immaterial because humans are fungible and eventually die anyway.
    That humans destroying their own kind is the essence of evil doesn't occur to them perhaps because they do not recognize their own kind as being distinct.  The only thing that counts is what they want and don't want, value and don't value, like and dislike.
    I used to think that such people are anti-social, but now it seems more likely that they are asocial, isolates, lacking a sense of connection to other living things.
    Is it genetic or a developmental deficit?  That's the question. There is some evidence that conservative brains respond differently to sensory input, but that doesn't explain why.

    Are conservatives hateful?  Not necessarily. Being focused on the negative is not necessarily driven by emotion.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 03:54:51 AM PST

    •  I would say they're developmentally challenged. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Their behavior and thinking - or what passes for thinking - would probably be very familiar to a kindergarten teacher.

      Democracy? You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

      by Troubadour on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 05:40:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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