Tag Archives: Freedom

I Am Charlie

Je suis Charlie.

I am Charlie.  Charlie Hebdo, a French satire magazine.  I was attacked twice over the years by religious extremists for exercising my freedom of expression.  A freedom that truly reflects the unique and indominable human spirit while ensuring all opinions are held valid and no ideas are censored.  A freedom that gives a voice to citizens, opposers of tyranny and defenders of liberty.  A freedom that must never be taken away and should always be carefully guarded.

Today I was attacked and more than ten of my employees were murdered along with a police officer who was executed in the streets.  All because of a joke.  But not just any joke, a joke about a particular religious prophet.  A prophet people are currently killing others in the name of, which is a pattern we’ve seen repeated too many times throughout history.

I could have not made this joke and maybe the tragedy would have been avoided.  But at what cost?  To allow a group of people to command me into silence with the threat of physical violence?  To be forced to conform to others’ subscribed beliefs and dogmas rather than my own?  To give in to bully behavior and make this religious prophet the one thing I can’t joke about?  Laughter is the greatest medicine and helps people unite in harmony.  Laughter helps us take ourselves and life a little less seriously, it eases tensions, it reduces fears, it humbles us, it elevates us above our problems, it strips power from people and things so we are all equal and empowered, it makes boring topics easier to understand, it turns strangers into friends, it makes illuminating truths easier to swallow and it makes us feel good.

Most people are offended by something but making those subjects taboo to joke or talk about only keeps them offensive and leads to the banning of other subjects–in other words, censorship of expression. If you can’t laugh about it, you can’t heal or get over it and it will always have power over you.  Either everything is okay to joke about or nothing is okay to joke about.  This is how we maintain balance and remind ourselves that we are in fact human, we make mistakes, we don’t know half as much as we think we know, we think and do stupid things sometimes, we have transcendable fears, we have painful experiences that need healing and we like to be playful with each other. It also helps make difficult topics easier to talk about, which promotes responsible discussion and social change. 

My jokes made extremists the subject of ridicule to empower free citizens everywhere and demonstrated why ideologies shouldn’t be followed blindly.  Yes, many consider religion a sacred topic but just as many people consider it a fallible human creation…while we all have different beliefs and perspectives we all also like to laugh and have different senses of humor.  Denying people the freedom to express their senses of humor denies them expression of themselves and their personalities–what makes them unique and authentic.  If we don’t find something funny then we don’t laugh at it and we either move on or explain our position to seek understanding…rather than demand the censorship of that joke and shoot those who make it.  This is how free society operates.

Today’s attack was a test of our collective will to defend our freedoms and stand up to those intent on taking them away.  The pen is mightier than the sword and as humans we should seek to understand each other and discuss our issues peacefully rather than force each other into doing things our way and using violence or coercion as an incentive. 

My thoughts are with the lives lost today along with all those who died due to violent extremists.  I hope the victims’ families find peace and closure and that all who are affected by these individuals find shelter and sanctuary.

We are in the midst of volatile and trying times but don’t lose sight of peace and prosperity.  Together we can make a difference for a better tomorrow, when we can all take a joke in stride and respect each other’s right to self-expression and critical inquiry through humor.

I am Charlie.  You are Charlie.  We are all Charlie.  This was an attack on all of us and our freedoms by a group bent on domination and control.  They don’t represent all Muslims but they do represent all people who let their beliefs run wild and use them to oppress other humans and disrespect the sanctity of our condition.  Poking fun at people’s beliefs may not be the most classy move but we are allowed to think they are ridiculous or degrading and have the right to say so.  Especially when the beliefs have led to thousands of years of bloodshed, disparagement of women, beheaded soldiers and journalists, citizens murdered in their homes, children shot by snipers or orphaned and seeking refuge in another country, terror attacks in Boston and New York, legitimizing torture to find terrorist leaders, several nations in shambles and the apparent need for increased government surveillance that invades privacy.  All this because of a few beliefs.  We can poke fun at them to make the monster easier to deal with or we can say nothing yet act sovereign and free.  I choose the former.  Because I am Charlie.



Corporate Personhood meets Personal Business

If corporations are recognized as people in the eyes of the law and thus can enjoy certain constitutional rights, can people be legally identified as businesses and thus enjoy certain tax exemptions and benefits?  It’s an interesting question that fights the fire of corporate America with the fire of America’s humanity.

Think of it like this.  Our work paychecks are our revenue, and our business is a self-investment capitalist venture that generates revenue by providing services for our clients (e.g. employers and the companies we work for).  We have expenses that are similar to business expenses, such as rent, living expenses (similar to a business’s upkeep expenses), utility expenses, and travel expenses.  These expenses add up and for many people, they consume more than half of a year’s salary.  For many other people, they consume the entire year’s salary.  Still, we have to pay taxes on our full salaries despite the financial burdens our expenses place on us.  This is something most businesses are not required to do, as they can use their expenses to offset their taxable income and reduce or eliminate most of their taxes in order to protect their profits.  While people can do the same thing by claiming deductions, there are a lot of restrictions on the things we can deduct and how much we can deduct off our incomes for each item.  Because people aren’t able to take advantage of their expenses in the way businesses and corporations can (unless they are sole proprietors or their own businesses), many people don’t turn much of a profit at the end of the year as most of their wages go to paying for their living expenses.

Now, by asking if people can be identified as their own businesses I don’t necessarily mean sole proprietorship, where self-employed individuals claim themselves as their own businesses.  Though in many cases individuals would be classified as sole proprietors and would be eligible for certain advantages, such as offsetting their incomes with their expenses and being taxed less by the IRS or not taxed at all if their expenses are greater than their incomes.  Which of course is a very enticing advantage.

Rather, what I am asking is can people be legally identified as businesses whether they are employed, self-employed, or unemployed?  This way people could be able to form business partnerships with other individuals such as friends, family, and spouses — or even form partnerships with their employers — in order to receive certain tax advantages.  Additionally, they could report net losses if unemployed or making low wages in order to avoid paying income tax.  They could spend their time doing charity work and philanthropy and count themselves as nonprofit organizations, which come with their own tax breaks, advantages, and insurance premiums.  Individuals could also be identified as Limited Liability Companies (LLC) and be protected from some or all of the liability of their actions and debts, and then decide whether they want to be taxed as sole proprietors, partnerships, or corporations instead of taxed as individuals — all of which come with their own sets of advantages and disadvantages.

For instance, with  S corporations the business itself does not have to pay federal income tax, but the shareholders do after reporting the corporation’s income or loss on their individual tax returns (shareholders in the case of people being their own businesses would be individuals and their business partners, financiers, or spouse).  So before paying their taxes, S corporations subtract their expenses from their revenue and are taxed on the profits that are left afterwards.

This would be the equivalent of you making $25,000 in one year but spending $10,000 on rent (a living expense), $5,000 on food (another living expense), $2,000 on gas (yet another expense), and $4,000 on other expenses (such as car repairs, business supplies, internet and phone bills), leaving you with only $4,000 in income that year as $21,000 of your revenue was spent on expenses.  Which in turn means only $4,000 of the $25,000 you made would be taxable income.  And since your income is so low you wouldn’t have to pay as much federal income tax and might even qualify for certain tax breaks.  This benefit also applies to sole proprietors, however they have unlimited liability for their debts and can be audited by the IRS or sued by creditors for not making money any given year.  On the other hand, as a LLC an individual wouldn’t be as liable or responsible for his or her debts, which may even include credit card and student loan debt depending on the individual’s situation.  While you may not be doing any work at your place of residence and your food may not be in the form of business lunches, you do need to pay for rent and food in order to survive and to continue making money (or to keep your money-making “business” afloat, if you will).  You also need to pay credit card bills to keep your credit in good standing and keep your business a reputable one.  The same applies to school loans, which are technically business investments in yourself that you plan on seeing returns from in the future.  These are all expenses that need to be paid for you — an individual business — to continue operating smoothly and making money.  It’s only fair that these expenses offset our revenues before our income is taxed, rather than taxing us on our salaries without taking the majority of our necessary expenses into consideration, while handing us deductions with limitations attached to them that hardly do anything to benefit us.

The reason I ask is because corporations are allowed to assume personhood in order to engage in lawsuits, they are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and guaranteed certain constitutional rights (freedom of speech and the right to petition, for example), they can enter contracts, they can own property, and they are legally responsible for themselves as people instead of employers, shareholders, and managers being responsible for a corporation and the corporation’s debts.  Because of this, corporations can act independently of their owners since they are classified as their own people, which means the owners aren’t necessarily responsible for the actions of their corporations in a legal sense.  It’s a nice little loophole that reduces the accountability of CEOs and allows corporations to donate to political campaigns because their contributions are considered “freedom of speech” that don’t necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the CEOs and owners:  the corporation made the donation using its own, God-given free will.

Due to the laws of the United States, corporations are legally treated as people unless otherwise noted by a judge.  As stated in 1 U.S.C. §1 (United States Code):

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise– the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.  –From Wikipedia

So if corporations are recognized as people and are protected by constitutional rights, can people be recognized as businesses and receive the tax benefits that come with it (along with being eligible for small-business stimulus packages)?  This is already possible and happens frequently in the cases of sole proprietors as I mentioned earlier, but I’m talking about people claiming themselves as businesses even if they aren’t self-employed or if they work for a company.  Work is business regardless of what kind of work it is.  Employee and employer are doing business together as time and services are being exchanged for pay.  Since we own ourselves and we are trying to make money, we are technically our own businesses already and should qualify for at least some of these 31 small business tax deductions.  But it seems as if the tax laws do not recognize us as our own businesses or give us the same benefits as businesses receive.

If we were able to use all of our expenses to offset our incomes, then we would be taxed less (or not at all) and our finances would improve since we could essentially write off rent, gas, furniture, and groceries as “office operation expenses,” “equipment, furniture, and supplies expenses,”  living expenses, and other business expenses.  The collective quality of life in America would increase and people would have more money to make purchases, take out loans, and otherwise stimulate the economy.  Instead of punishing the people who make America happen everyday, we should be doing all we can to support the people and make it possible for them to live and spend freely:  for the sake of liberty and a stable economy.  After all, the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution refers to “We the people,” not “We the corporations.”  Perhaps it is time to stop investing so much of our faith and favor in the corporations and instead invest more in humanity.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this idea in the comments section below!

Freedom, Liberty, and Autonomy

Social inequality
Pyramid of the Capitalist System.

We are raised to follow the rules and to go with the flow.  To mildly go where everyone has gone before in hopes that we’ll grow up into responsible, respectable adults who quietly sit in our cubicles and work hard everyday to make some other person rich.  “Don’t rock the boat,” our parents and teachers would say as they mapped out our daily schedules.  “Think this way, not that way.  Behave like this, not like that.”

As children we’re given these little boxes to fit into so we can be packaged and shipped off to the next stages in our lives, complete with postage stamping and other categorical labels meant to identify us.  At the same time we learn about the men and women who shaped the course of history:  Christopher ColumbusSusan B. AnthonyMartin Luther King Jr.  The Founding Fathers.  Rosa ParksAlbert EinsteinAbraham Lincoln.

Men and women society idolizes so much, yet takes strides against raising more individuals who share the celebrated qualities of these historical people.  Individuals who broke their molds and went against the norms of society.  “Give me liberty, or give me death!”  What kind of country would this be if Patrick Henry‘s immortal words did not echo through today’s classrooms?  Or if Thomas Jefferson decided it was best not to upset the English and refused to write the Declaration of Independence?  It’s hard to say.  Maybe there wouldn’t be an America at all.  Maybe the world as we know it would still be flat, in the center of the universe, with African slaves and women without rights if there were no individuals bold enough to change things.

For this reason, I say “rock the boat.”  Question authority.  Stay true to your convictions and principles.  Don’t let anyone stuff you inside one of their precious little boxes so they can put a pretty little bow on it and pass you on as another kitchen set or cardigan sweater for someone else down the line to use or re-gift later.  Because history is made by those who forge their own paths and think for themselves.  Those who aren’t afraid to stand up and be defiant.  Those who know what is right and where society has went wrong and aren’t intimidated by the challenge of fixing it.

Be you, above everything else.  An independent, thinking individual who doesn’t follow the herd or goes along with everything society tells you to do.  It isn’t anarchy and it isn’t even disobedience.  It’s freedom.  It’s liberty.  It’s autonomy.  And it’s your choice.

Now, carpe diem.  (Seize the day)

(Inspired in part by a couple amazing professors and the late, great, George Carlin)