Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Aesthetic Realism and Human Rights

A group of refugees land on Lesbos, Greece. (Pic: Antonio Masiello, Daily Telegraph).
The way refugees are spoken about and dealt with, both in the US, where I live, and in the UK, where I am from is deplorable. I cannot stand it. There is an almost unbelievable level of cruelty shown by otherwise decent human beings to these people in distress. It seems to me that the large cause of the abuse of refugees is that they are seen as fundamentally different from and inferior to oneself. 
A Syrian Kurdish woman crosses the border between Syria and Turkey at the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province on 23 September, 2014 ( BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images )
Refugees are seen as dirty, strange, unproductive, criminal, alien, avaricious, mendacious. They are not seen as three-dimensional human beings, as real as you or me. Things are used such as their skin colour, religion, country of origin, or language. Seeing other people this way seems to justify one's coldness. It is implied or said that you have to take a firm line with these people; you have to be severe so that they don't abuse our hospitality and generosity. (Notice how we become noble in our minds even as we're brutal).

A Syrian refugee trying to reach Europe
This is one more reason why it is imperative for the understanding of contempt as explained by Aesthetic Realism to become general knowledge, studied honestly everywhere. 

In Self and World, An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism, Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, wrote: 
Aesthetic Realism states that ethics begins with the human obligation to see everything, living and not living, as well as one can. Where we get away from this obligation or don’t see it, or diminish its meaning, it is rather clear that contempt is showing its strength; indeed, is winning.
The first victory of contempt is the feeling in people that they have the right to see other people and things pretty much as they please. For this reason, the viewpoint of Aesthetic Realism that we have an obligation to see everything as well as we can, is a critical matter.
The fact that most people have felt there is no such obligation, that they had the right to see other people and other objects in a way that seemed to go with comfort—this fact is the beginning of the injustice and pain of the world. It is contempt in its first universal, hideous form….
These words explain the cruelty towards refugees. It is evil, nothing else. Meanwhile, the economic worry and pain that so many people feel as 2018 comes to a close can be used by a person to feel he or she has the right to be unkind or at best uncaring. We don't; none of us have that right, and if we act as if we do we will punish ourselves in ways that we may not even realize. There is that feeling Mr. Siegel describes here, that we have the right to see other people in a way that goes with comfort. But under our skins, brutality never makes us feel comfortable. I've learned from Aesthetic Realism that we will always pay ourselves back if we are untrue to our deepest desire.

Many people do feel uncomfortable today, concerned about the future. Then here are all these people looking and sounding different, coming into one's country. The tendency is to see them as different only, and not see the great, deep correlation there is between them and us; nor how much we can be added to personally,  culturally, even economically, by the people whose lives have been so difficult in their homelands that they have uprooted themselves and often their families in order to look for a new start in a place that is strange to them. 
Migrants who traveled with caravan towards U.S.

As to how much we in the West are directly responsible for the troubles in their homelands, I am not going to even begin to address that in this post. My view is that even if we and our governments had nothing at all to do with the refugee crises, we are human beings and we owe something to every other human being on this earth. How else can we bear ourselves? And what pride comes from thinking of how we can make others stronger? 

Central American Refugees Gather At U.S.-Mexico Border In Tijuana
Good will, according to Aesthetic Realism, is "can be described as the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful." This is the purpose we need to have towards persons called refugees, let alone for our own families, friends, and acquaintances.