Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Puerto Rico: People There Are Real!

I used to teach at a middle school in Brooklyn, NYC, that had a large - maybe more than 50% - student body of Puerto Rican descent, and I came to care for these children very much. So like many other people I am very affected by the situation in Puerto Rico right now, as people struggle just to find clean drinking water, for God's sake! It seems to me that the pathetic response to the devastation of Puerto Rico is happening not so much because Puerto Rico is an island but rather because Puerto Ricans speak Spanish and are not Caucasian. I believe there are other reasons which I won't go into here.

Ellen Reiss, the Chair of Education, wrote the following passionate, categorical sentences on the subject in issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known #1963, titled "A World to Be Just to--or Manage?":  
[A]ll kindness and justice come, not from the desire to manage people and facts, but to know; to see them in some fundamental way as real. For example, after the recent hurricanes many men and women tried to help others; some even put their own lives in danger to do so. Their action arose from a desire to see, be vividly aware of the plight of another: "These people going through so much have feelings. These people are real; they need something!" And now the anguish of devastated Puerto Rico cries out: See as real and answer this question asked by Eli Siegel: "What does a person deserve by being a person?"
Read more. 

For more on the situation in Puerto Rico as of October 20, 2017, see this news story.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Aesthetic Realism is necessary for people to see other people justly

This morning I read the following sentences by Aesthetic Realism consultant and architect, Dale Laurin:  
The most important, most urgent matter in the world now is for people to see other people justly. And for that to be, the knowledge of Aesthetic Realism is necessary. People need to learn that there is a fight going on in everyone all the time between the desire to respect the world and the desire to have contempt for it. Knowledge of this fight is a national and world emergency—because people need to know that all cruelty arises from contempt, and contempt is very ordinary. For instance, contempt has a person feel important thinking someone different from oneself—of another race or religion—is inferior.
“As soon as you have contempt,”Mr. Siegel wrote, “as soon as you don’t want to see another person as having the fulness that you have, you can rob that person, hurt that person, kill that person.”*
Contempt is the cause of crime, racism, terrorism, bullying, and economics that sees human beings in terms of profit and has a few people be very rich and millions of others poor. Yet contempt is also what has a person not listen when someone is speaking, or sneer smugly in one’s mind at someone for what that person is wearing.
I respect this writing very much. This relation between the very ordinary, everyday thoughts a person can have, and the outward depravities that we see increasingly in the news, is incalculably important. Racism is not in a separate world from other cruel manifestations of contempt. The central fight in every person, which I've seen goes on in me all the time, has to be understood, studied, for people to feel proud of our thoughts and our effect on other people, and for the brutal injustice that is racism to end. That can happen through the world study of Aesthetic Realism, which is so needed in 2017.

* See James and the Children, by Eli Siegel  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Aesthetic Realism: Art against Injustice

All art, I've learned from Aesthetic Realism is against injustice, including the injustice of racism. The purpose of an artist, in the act of creation, is to know, to see in a new way. Racism is never on behalf of true seeing, as the etymology of the word "prejudice" indicates. That's why in this post I'm writing about the Terrain Gallery.

The Terrain Gallery website has the finest works of art criticism I know, and some are about art that is in the field of social justice.  One of these is a critique of Dorothea Lange's famous, evocative 1932 photograph, White Angel Breadline.
What does a person deserve?: The answer found in a great photograph
"White Angel Breadline," by Dorothea Lange
It is called "What does a person deserve?": The answer found in a great photograph, and it is by photographer and student of Aesthetic Realism, David M. Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein explains technically why this photograph is great and why it has lasted. Remarkably, he also explains why it is kind. He writes, "Dorothea Lange brings us closer to the feelings of millions of people. As an artist she gave beautiful form to her anger about what people were forced to endure."

As we read, we learn about Lange's technique and purpose, and we also learn what in us interferes with kindness. This talk gives me more passion about economic justice. How can we sit by knowing that literally millions of people in this nation are worried about bills right now, with so many more hungry or homeless? The answer is, we can't. The one way to respect ourselves is by seeing that they are people like us, whatever their background, religion, ethnicity - and we take it from there. One of the kindest questions I know is this, by Eli Siegel, which Mr. Bernstein references in the title of his talk: "What does a person deserve by being alive?"

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Aesthetic Realism & 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.