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Dennis Shaw
Feb 13, 2022
In Garments for Survival
Dear Friends, There seems to be a common thread in our shared conversations. Most of us can see what we want to bring about but we typically seem to feel overwhelmed by the complexities that we need to grasp and the forces that we need to counter in order to do so. I touched on the juristic person during the on-line discussion last week and I would like to expand on the thought and to put out a challenge to all of us to consider the possible formation an imaginative picture to create and to hold as a tool to deal with it. Let me explain. I have long held the view that a core problem with society at large is our collective acceptance (in every western legal system that I know of and possibly throughout the entire world) of the abstract legal concept of the juristic person (or the legal persona, or whatever else it might be referred to as in all the different national legal systems). The original Latin name spells it out quite accurately - persona ficta - fictitious or feigned person. Stated bluntly, I think of it as a legal lie upon which all modern monarchies, states, corporations and their various legal systems and constitutions depend (and use to great effect) for wielding power. If we could take away from all legal systems the acceptance of the abstract concept of the juristic person (persona ficta) we would instantly dismantle all power structures. What would remain would by default be a collection of accountable individuals. It is of interest that the concept is attributed to the inventiveness of the 13th Century Pope Innocent IV who apparently solved the problem of monks from monasteries who took a vow of poverty and were consequently not able to trade in their individual capacities at the marketplace. He gave the monastery the legal status of a "person" in the eyes of the law so that the monks could trade at the market, with impunity, on behalf of the monastery. So began legally established and supported sovereign states and limited liability corporations in which politicians, and company directors can act, albeit under certain guidelines and codes of practice, without personal liability. The juristic person had effectively become a visor or shield. This visor or shield offers either protection or a hiding place, depending on the individual's leaning towards either good or evil. This broadly accepted concept of juristic person, whilst conceived of and often used with very good intent, has, due to its abstract quality, inevitably also become a tool for evil. In the hands of the greedy or the power hungry it stands between us and the crown of grass roots. We are so accustomed to its presence that we typically do not even see it. Indeed, we are schooled to believe in its universal merit. Attempting to eradicate it is likely to meet with ridicule. Can we perhaps see it for what it is and come up with an imaginative picture to hold in dealing with this abstraction? Dennis Shaw, Cape Town. 2022.02.13

Dennis Shaw

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