(Un-)manufactured Consent

There is a lot to be complained about, when it comes to the legal system that stems from the American Constitution. As constitutions go, it is not a particularly bright one. When a group of slave-owning white men are chased out of Europe for being too fundamentalist (!), and they travel to a new land (well, actually the land was pretty old, but it was newly stolen!), and upon arrival and having massacred the indigenous population they attempt to write a constitution declaring “All men are created equal”, one can hardly expect the outcome to be sensible. And evidence for this is littered throughout American history, should one bother to look! Take James Madison, for example. In the Federalist Papers Madison stands out as a luminary hypocrite as he attempts a normalisation of slavery:

“We must deny the fact, that slaves are considered merely as property, and in no respect whatever as persons. The true state of the case is, that they partake of both these qualities: being considered by our laws, in some respects, as persons, and in other respects as property. In being compelled to labor, not for himself, but for a master; in being vendible by one master to another master; and in being subject at all times to be restrained in his liberty and chastised in his body, by the capricious will of another, the slave may appear to be degraded from the human rank, and classed with those irrational animals which fall under the legal denomination of property. In being protected, on the other hand, in his life and in his limbs, against the violence of all others, even the master of his labor and his liberty; and in being punishable himself for all violence committed against others, the slave is no less evidently regarded by the law as a member of the society, not as a part of the irrational creation; as a moral person, not as a mere article of property.” 

The debate of the constitutional committee explicitly affords another look inside the psyche of Madison’s entitled self, as he declares:

“In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability.”

Numerous examples abound should one bother to look, and in fact the majority of American history is witness to one irreconcilable paradox — an attempt at domination, control and imposed (later, manufactured) consent coming from the top, and a demand (eventually evolving into a struggle) for equality coming from below. This process now leans heavily in favour of redefining basic rights and re-interpreting basic moral truisms, so as to maintain the privileged status of the opulent minority in courts of law. Consider for instance the providence in North Carolina that effectively allows men (preferably well-off white men) to get away with rape, by a clever redefining of what constitutes “consent”.  Such redefining of concepts are well-within the boundaries of legality (it would seem), but here’s the problem inherent to confusing legality with justice.


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