Saturday, May 06, 2017

An Important Movie Against Racism

A stirring movie on the subject of racism and athletics was released last year. "Race" depicts part of the life of Jesse Owens, one of eighteen courageous African-American men and women to compete in the 1936 Olympic Games held in Nazi Germany. Owens beat all the odds by winning four gold medals in the packed Berlin arena, which had been created with the express purpose of putting the stamp on Hitler's evil, unfounded claim of Aryan racial superiority. His victory inspired people all over the world and strengthened them at a time when fascism's power was rising, culminating in the titanic struggle of World War II. 
Student Athlete Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens at Ohio State University

Before I saw this movie I already had great admiration for Jesse Owens. “Race” had me respect him even more. The film shows some of the virulent racism he faced as a young man in Ohio, and gives a sense of how infuriating it was, how demeaning, and how disheartening. He faced enormous difficulties even to get to the Berlin games, including discrimination at every turn. One great value of the film is that we see events unfold through the eyes of Owens before he became world-famous, when the struggle was all
Hitler, Olympics, Munich, Jesse Owens, 1936, Nazism
Nazis saluting Hitler at opening of Olympic Games in Munich
before him. It helps us place the magnitude of his victory in that arena. 

"Race" had me see newly the need for people everywhere to know this: the cause of racism has been understood definitively by Aesthetic Realism. It is contempt. Eli Siegel, the American poet and critic who founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941, described contempt as "the disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world."

Contempt is common but it is brutal. It is contempt when a husband dismisses his wife's ideas and sees them as inferior to his own; when a man ponders over what he'll be doing later while his friends is speaking about something that concerns him; it's contempt when you sum up a person you see on the street and don't see him or her as having the depth of thought and feeling that you do, just because they look different or have a different sense of style. 

Yet that "ordinary" contempt is what has one person see someone with a different background, religion, ethnicity, language, or skin color, as beneath him. Contempt has been the phony justification for great cruelty in history such as slavery, imperialism, and the Holocaust. As a student and teacher of social studies for many years, I am sure none of these would have occurred had it not been for contempt on the part of individuals, including those in government.  

Segregated Cinema Entrance, 1939
One of the tragedies of Jesse Owens' life is that after the glory of Munich, having personally shattered the myth of Aryan supremacy, he had to return home to live out his life in the America of Jim Crow. "Race" presents this situation through one single incident as it shows how he, a national and international hero, arrived for an awards ceremony only to find himself forced to use the service entrance of the hotel!

Meanwhile, the enduring legacy of Jesse Owens is that he beat the Nazis in their own stronghold where they had planned to demonstrate their supposed racial superiority. He gave courage and strength to millions of people.

A moving and important aspect of this film is the surprising, real-life friendship between Jesse Owens and German star athlete Luz Long. There's been some questioning of the details, but the movie is pretty accurate from what I've read. About Long, Jesse Owens said later: "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler...
You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment." Shortly before he was killed in the war, Long wrote to Owens: "Someday find my son...tell him about how things can be between men on this Earth."

I believe Aesthetic Realism is the knowledge that can, through education based on principles, meet that hope to have "things between men on this earth" everywhere be kind, inter-enhancing, beautiful. Their friendship reminds me of sentences I've quoted before on this blog. They are by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education: 
For racism to end...what is necessary is the seeing and feeling that the relation of sameness and difference between ourselves and [another] person is beautiful. People need to feel...that difference of race is like the difference to be found in music: two notes are different, but they...complete each other; each needs the other to be expressed richly, to be fully itself.
I think Jesse Owens and Luz Long would have been so grateful for this. 
Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic 

Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens (AP)
Games. He won gold in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash,
the long jump, and the 4-by-100 meter relay. He set three world records and tied another in under an hour of competing at the games." [History versus Hollywood]

You can watch some of the races of Jesse Owens and the other great athletes at those games in these videos

* * * * * 
To learn what people are saying about Aesthetic Realism and how it opposes prejudice, see the important work of Alice Bernstein, the website of anthropologist Arnold Perey and his seminal talk on the aesthetics of evolution - what a refutation of the ignorance and ill will of racism!
For more on how this philosophy sees art and life, - in this case, music - go to the website of rock singer and critic, Kevin Fennell

Educator Leila Rosen writes on Wilfred Owen's World War I poem "Strange Meeting" and how her use of the Aesthetic Realism teaching method. Here too is Ms. Rosen's report of a lecture Eli Siegel gave on the poetry of Sterling Brown. 
Read the international periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism To Be Known with commentaries by Ellen Reiss, Chairman of Education and poet.   

Friday, February 03, 2017

"Every person can tell you something about yourself."

Here - below - is part of a review published in the Harlem Times by Alice Bernstein, Aesthetic Realism associate, journalist and founder of the Alliance of Ethics and Art. She is writing about Eli Siegel's book "Children's Guide to Parents and Other Matters." I am quoting it because, in its brevity, it describes the way of seeing needed in order for racism to end. Mrs. Bernstein writes:
"Reading these essays I asked myself the question: How should we see people different from us, whether in our own family or in a strange land far away? I’m sure every reader will be grateful for the essay on “People,” in which Mr. Siegel writes:
People are of all kinds. No matter what kind they are, they have something to do with you. You use people right when, by finding out what they are, you come to be more yourself. Every person can tell you something about yourself.
"As a person who’s read this book to youngsters, I want everyone to experience the good time of finding out how the feelings of others–a brother, friend, classmate, neighbor, and people of different races and nations–can have us know ourselves better! This way of seeing is so needed today, personally and internationally."
                                    --Reviewed in Parent Guide magazine.

I agree with Alice Bernstein, whose work has done so much to have this essential education known. It is light years ahead of the idea of "tolerance" or "acceptance": it is a true guide to the way of thinking about other people that every child and every adult is longing to have. 

* * * * * 

To learn what people are saying about Aesthetic Realism and how it opposes prejudice, see the important work of anthropologist Arnold Perey and his seminal talk on the aesthetics of evolution - what a refutation of the ignorance and ill will of racism!

For more on how this philosophy sees art and life, go to the website of rock singer and critic, Kevin Fennell and the blog and website of photographer Harvey Spears; also the website of Aesthetic Realism consultants Bennett Cooperman and Meryl Nietsch-Cooperman.

To find out about events at the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation, every single one of which is on behalf of justice to people and the world, and against prejudice and contempt, see the Facebook page and the Calendar of Events.

See the writing of Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chair of Education and the kindest person I've ever had the pleasure to meet. 

Go to the Aesthetic Realism Foundation's YouTube channel, which includes "The Heart Knows Better," and "Brushstrokes," by Emmy award-winning filmmaker Ken Kimmelman.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Aesthetic Realism Class: Anthropology Is about You & Everyone

Arnold Perey, PhD, consultant and anthropologist, teaches this groundbreaking class at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation. Dr. Perey is also the author of the powerful and stirring novel against racism, "Gwe: Young Man of New Guinea."  

Here is part of the syllabus for the Winter, 2017, semester, which begins later this month, from the Aesthetic Realism Foundation's website:

Syllabus—Winter 2017
Anthropology itself has an aesthetic basis. This grand and comprehensive principle stated by Eli Siegel explains why: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” This semester we explore this crucially important idea through time, from prehistory to the present moment.
Jan 25    Are We Civilized?—a Time Perspective
Feb 8     Animal & Human: Are Both in Us?
Taking up Love & Hate by ethologist Irenäus Eibel-Eibesfeldt
Feb 22    In Hinduism—Aesthetics: Wild, Logical; Many, One
- - - - -
See the full semester of classes 

Register for the class here. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Victory at Standing Rock

The recent victory at Standing Rock in North Dakota, fought for by the Lakota Sioux people, joined by other Native American protectors, added to and supported by thousands of other Americans, I see as an important event in US history. That is true no matter how long it lasts. The spectacle of a few brave individuals from a nation that has been so wronged and dishonored, standing up against the odds, being joined by more, more and still more, from all over the US and beyond, with so many other people of all nationalities following and cheering them on from afar, is beautiful.

The subsequent apology by US armed forces veterans, and the expression of forgiveness by the Lakota, though it did not involve so many people, is one of those things that ends up in the history books children read at school. It's powerful and moving, and is for all time. 

Photograph by Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post
The following question came to mind. It was first asked by Eli Siegel, the American poet, critic, educator and founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism: "What does a person deserve by being alive?" 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"The Heart Knows Better," by Ken Kimmelman

Aesthetic Realism anti-prejudice PSA
The Heart Knows Better
It's a great time to see this important PSA! In fact, it should be broadcast and shared EVERYWHERE. See it here: "The Heart Knows Better."

Against Racism, For Truth and Kindness

One of the most important statements I've seen is this, by Bishop Frederick C. James, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church:
I'd like to say what's in my heart. What this nation needs is more caring across ethnic lines. I think our nation and the world needs what Eli Siegel, the great founder of Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy of life in America and the world, teaches. It's certainly in harmony with the great religious scriptures and the heart of all faiths across this globe.
Bishop James, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop James
I am proud to agree with the careful and large opinion of Bishop James. And I am grateful to Alice Bernstein and the Alliance of Ethics & Art for publicizing his comment, for her courageous writings and videos and so much more.

Our nation and the world sorely needs Aesthetic Realism, including its understanding of how people of different backgrounds, religion, ethnicity, can see each other with respect and real affection. I write from personal experience. Though I saw myself as progressive, before studying Aesthetic Realism I had prejudice against people of other nations, backgrounds, and religions. I learned that the cause was contempt, the desire to make less of the world in order to build oneself up falsely. I thought I was clever and superior in looking down on people I saw as different. I regret this very much. It's the ugliest attitude in the world, and I had it. I have learned, too, that there is a bigger power in seeing other people truly; a true pride, gratitude, excitement, and size of emotion in feeling "I'm added to by what is different from myself." But contempt, because it is not understood and criticized, is a powerful and dangerous force in the world today.

Remain or Leave?
UK EU membership vote ballot
Here is just one example: England, my country of birth, which I love, has voted to leave the European Union. Left and Right were both divided on the issue, for various reasons.

One thing that's clear is that the forces of hatred and racism have been stirred up and exploited during the campaign. Refugees have being wrongly blamed for the destruction of social services in Britain, including the deterioration of the National Health Service. They are being made a scapegoat for the real culprit, the policies of austerity that have been imposed on poor people in Britain and all over the world.*
Refugees in the UK
This is cruel and it's hazardous. It is also not true. It is like the anger and contempt evoked through lies by Hitler in the 1920's and 1930's.  Eli Siegel explained in an issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known:
It is necessary to see that while the contempt which is in every one of us may make ordinary life more painful than it should be, this contempt is also the main cause of wars. It was contempt that made for the trenches of France in 1915; it was contempt which made for the labor camps of the Second World War. It was contempt which made for that awful mode of retaliation called Nazism...Hitler is perhaps the greatest evoker of human contempt in history...Contempt for the world simply because it is different from oneself is an insane principle of great place in history.
People in the UK, angry at the vast profits a few corporations are making while they themselves face a lower standard of living - that increasingly includes includes unemployment, homelessness, and hunger - are retaliating, as they see it, against a target that is not to blame for their woes. Contempt for refugees and suspicion of them is being evoked on a massive scale. It's as if half a nation is hardening itself to the reality of people they do not know and see as different from themselves, and hostile. In reality, they should be angry at the profit-driven economy that has brought them to this state, not at that person called a refugee, who is so desperate that he flees his homeland and travels across countries, even continents, to try to find a decent life and future for himself and his family.

It is urgent for people to learn from what Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, has been teaching about the cause of and answer to racism. She wrote this some years ago, and it needs to be taken up now more than ever: 
...for racism to end we have to be against the thing it begins with: contempt for the world itself. Further, racism won’t be effectively done away with unless it is replaced with something that has terrific power. What needs to replace it is not the feeling that the difference of another person is somehow tolerable. What is necessary is the seeing and feeling that the relation of sameness and difference between ourselves and that other person is beautiful. People need to feel, with feeling both intimately personal and large, that difference of race is like the difference to be found in music: two notes are different, but they are in behalf of the same melody; they complete each other; each needs the other to be expressed richly, to be fully itself.
It is possible for millions of men, women, and children to have an emotion about race that is like an art emotion. And it is necessary...
Aesthetic Realism has the understanding, the uncompromising and precise criticism of contempt, AND the means for people to truly care for - have large emotions about - the sameness-and-difference that other people represent. It can literally end the toxic, brutal, and uncivilized force in the world today that is racism. I have experienced, through careful study, this change in my own life, and I know it is true. Let us do all we can to have everyone else around the world know this.  

* *Read about how Aesthetic Realism sees the economic policy known as austerity, and its true meaning and purpose.

See Aesthetic Realism on Facebook YouTube, and Twitter.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Aesthetic Realism & a Beautiful and Profound Novel Against Racism

I recently saw a stirring, deep, kind and most surprising event at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in NYC: "GWE: YOUNG MAN OF NEW GUINEA - A Novel Against Racism." Written by Dr. Arnold Perey, anthropologist and Aesthetic Realism consultant, and presented by the author together with actors Anne Fielding and Bennett Cooperman of the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company, this presentation included singing, with beautiful flute accompaniment by Barbara Allen, dancing, slides, and the dramatic reading of chapters of Gwe. Like other audience members, I was transported in mind and spirit across land and time to the home of the young man, Gwe. 

Rainbow in the Valley: Papua New Guinea, by Arnold Perey

We lived through the stirring events of the book, including an intense and ultimately shocking conflict between the arrogant, colonial police force and the downtrodden, indigenous people of Ketta-bora, just a short distance from where Gwe was born. 

From "Gwe," by Arnold Perey
We are made witness to Gwe's birth, and to a profound and keen understanding of how parents anywhere in the world may feel about the birth of a child; to dramatic incidents of his childhood; to brutal economic injustice and what causes it; and to the first meeting between Gwe and the American anthropologist, Alan Hull, who has come across the ocean to study Gwe's people for his PhD field study work. They look different and see each other as so different at first, but the great theme of this novel is the finding of deep and remarkable sameness within difference. 

Gwe is a work of great importance, the serious study of which could change the world.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

What Does It Mean to See Another Person Rightly?

Aesthetic Realism is the greatest critic of injustice; that's why it has the power to end racism but has made a few selfish people angry. 

In an early issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Eli Siegel wrote:
The purpose of Aesthetic Realism is to encourage a person to see other persons rightly and to see what it means for himself to be seen rightly...
According to Aesthetic Realism, anything which does not see a man or a woman as illustrating all of reality is disrespectful to that man or that woman. Another phase of disrespect is the unwillingness to see someone as having an inward life he is aware of. The most fashionable way of not giving respect to a person is the not giving him full, busy, deep consciousness. A person can be defined as: A living being who is aware of himself and of his particular, changing life.
I love these sentences, and have done ever since I first heard them read on a Saturday dramatic presentation over thirty years ago. They are sociological, political (would there be such ferocious and tricky attempts to deny voting rights to millions of people if American citizens were seen this way?), psychological, ethical, and beautiful. Moreover, they illustrate the way Eli Siegel saw, which became Aesthetic Realism itself. This is the way I was seen first in Aesthetic Realism consultations, and now in classes taught by Ellen Reiss, the Chairman of Education.

In consultations I learned that I was related to Puck, from Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream," to Sidney Carton from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, to Oliver Cromwell of the 17th century, to poet Matthew Arnold, to George W. Bush, Winston Churchill, and more. The relations were true, usually involved criticism of a self-centred way of seeing I had but disliked myself for, and made me feel proud. I learned that I could think about my attitude and become a stronger, kinder, better person.

I also learned how I was related to the students I taught, to friends, to objects such as the sturdy, warm-coloured three-legged wooden table in my apartment. I wanted to put together opposites the way it did; I wanted to be strong but also warm, not harsh and aloof.  And I learned I was related to my own family. That's not meant to be a joke! I thought I was the sensitive one in my family, and I looked down on my parents and sister. I saw myself as so different from them.  I learned I was WRONG! I treasure the changes that happened in how I saw the members of my family because of my study of Aesthetic Realism. As a result, I feel closer to all people, connected to the world in a way that would have been just impossible without what I have learned.  And this brings me to the subject of racism.

No one can be a racist if they see that the other person is, as Mr. Siegel wrote, a "living being who is aware of himself and of his particular, changing life." As you think of this, you respect another person for the depth they have. (For more on how Aesthetic Realism sees racism itself, see the Online Library). A writer who put this way of seeing consciously into his short story, though it deals with the subject of the family, and not race as such, is Sheldon Kranz. Sheldon Kranz was also a teacher of literature, a poet, and an Aesthetic Realism consultant.

His story, "My Mother Was a Girl," gives an inner life, a reality, to a person most sons do not see as having one. I respect it immensely as literature and as a valuable example of how one human being can change, and see another with depth and wonder.