To Be a Non-Person

To Be a Non-Person

Can you identify the context of this passage?

To have a persona [to be a person] was to have a face before the law—which is to say, to be recognized as one possessing rights and privileges before a court, or as being able to give testimony upon the strength of one’s own word, or simply as owning a respectable social identity. For [your turn–fill in the blanks here], legal personality did not exist, or existed in only the most tenuous of forms…. [Fill in the blank again] was [someone]… “not having a persona,” or even, “not having a face.” Before the law, he or she was not a person in the fullest and most proper sense.

Of whom might this author might be speaking? Does this represent an injustice? If so, on what basis, and what could be (or might have been, if this was in the past) be done about it? I’ll let you know later today or tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “To Be a Non-Person

  1. I think many who visit this blog will probably get the context – both past (Roman slavery) and present (Missouri re: person-hood).

    Reminds me how powerful definitions are in debate, and how we use certain umbrella terms without thinking. For instance, quite literally, there is only one “birth control” – abortion. The rest is pregnancy prevention.

  2. Would it surprise anyone if I said this was about unborn babies? (Doug, I know you know whether to be surprised or not, so please hang back while others answer if you don’t mind.)

  3. If I were reading this same passage on the PETA website, I might guess it to be about non-human animals.

    But based on the nature of this blog, I am not surprised at the context!

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