Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Aesthetic Realism and Understanding the Cause of War

In 1976 the important article by Eli Siegel “What Caused the Wars” was published in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known. Using texts including Churchill’s The Gathering Storm and Auden’s poem “In Memory of W.B. Yeats,” evidence was presented for this conclusion: “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.”

For example, Winston Churchill writes in The Gathering Storm, “The war leaders assembled in Paris 1919 had been borne thither upon the strongest and most furious tides that have ever flowed in human history” (p. 4). Eli Siegel asks, What is in a psychological “tide”? It is known that Allied leaders were impelled at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 by a desire to humble old enemies. Is this contempt in action?

How did the revenge on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles lead to Hitler’s retaliation in World War II? Was the idea of Aryan supremacy that drove the Nazi armed forces into Poland, across France, and eastward into the USSR a furious form of the “lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it,” which is contempt? Mr. Siegel points out that analysts of history write of war arising from the desire for “dominion” and from human “aggression.” But dominion and aggression are extreme forms of the everyday desire to diminish and control what is outside oneself.

I have done research that confirms the invariable presence of contempt for the enemy in tribal warfare in each region of the world where it has occurred. [See for example Gwe: Young Man of New Guinea--a novel against racism.(2005)]

The study of contempt in the human self is presented by Aesthetic Realism as the study most needed to bring an end to wars. Israeli essayist Ruth Oron, for example, has written on the need to replace contempt with mutual respect in the Middle East and documented how Aesthetic Realism has brought out respect where contempt had been.

At present I have been presenting evidence in the anthropology classes I teach at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.


Resources to know about:

The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method
The Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company
Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism: A Biography
Friends of Aesthetic Realism—Countering the Lies
Photography Education: the Aesthetic Realism Viewpoint
The Terrain Gallery / Aesthetic Realism Foundation
Aesthetic Realism: A New Perspective for Anthropology & Sociology
Lynette Abel / Aesthetic Realism and Life
Alice Bernstein, Aesthetic Realism Associate
Ellen Reiss writes on the "criticism" of John Keats
Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, on poet Robert Burns
About Eli Siegel
Eli Siegel's 'Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?'