Linking Citizens United to Octavia Butler’s Science Fiction

Activists find inspiration in debate over corporate lobbying.

By Jamilah King Jan 31, 2011

Over at AlterNet, activists and writers Adrienne Maree Brown and Dani McClain discuss the 14th amendment and the role of corporations in U.S. democracy. They ask, "Corporations ain’t people, so why do they have the power of citizens?" It’s a discussion that was sparked in part by the January 21 anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, which allowed unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns. But it expanded more broadly from email discussions around ongoing attacks on the 14th amendment that go back long before the Court’s controversial ruling. Yet what makes this conversation different from most? It’s honest and hopeful talk. And invokes the wisdom of famed black science fiction writer Octavia Butler:

McClain: …What would Octavia Butler say about the way corporate power is growing? What solutions would she write into a novel in which people who had for generations gained citizenship by virtue of their humanity and place of birth are slowly edged out of citizenship because they lack access to money?

Brown: Oh, she foresaw this. In the Parables she knew this was coming and warned us, in her way. Her solution was to rethink our purpose as human beings, and change how we live  – even if that means leaving what we perceive as safety. Part of why we held the Octavia Butler Symposium at the Allied Media Conference last year was to explore how we connect ideas like hers to how we are living and organizing in the world. I feel like she did a powerful job, for instance, of challenging the idea that our future lies in the struggle to act as a nation, when our destiny might actually be something much more global, or universal. In her stories, our way to evolve is to leave behind the right-wing politics and struggles of earth and go to space.

Of course, the conversation is much more than that, and includes powerful insights on the state of national organizing, mainstream media, the Tea Party, and net neutrality. So if science fiction and constitutional law are your sorta thing, read more.