|NUMBER 993. — April 15, 1992||
Dear Unknown Friends:
This issue of The Right Of is about the thing that people need most to understand: contempt. Because of the effect of Aesthetic Realism, the word contempt appears increasingly in the media. But only Aesthetic Realism explains contempt. Only Aesthetic Realism can teach people what contempt is, and enable us to be real critics of it. And this is so urgently necessary — because contempt is interfering with the personal life of everyone: it is bringing to people's lives dullness, sadness, meanness, emptiness, guilt — and worse. And this same contempt is the cause of every national and international horror. What Eli Siegel has called "the common human inclination for contempt" is the thing that has given rise to slavery, racism, genocide, apartheid, the Holocaust, and the economic exploitation of people.
I am honored to quote this description of contempt, by Eli Siegel: "There is a disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world." Contempt, Mr. Siegel showed, is the most dangerous thing in the world. But Aesthetic Realism's explanation of contempt is beautiful, is thrilling; and part of that beauty is the showing that personal troubles, and national and global troubles have the same cause. Boredom arises from the desire to lessen the world different from yourself — but so does the feeling that a person of a different religion or race should be killed.
There is no end to the beauty — and the urgency — of the following fact: Aesthetic Realism is the study that can defeat the desire for contempt and end its ravages. Only Aesthetic Realism can have people see clearly their other, their deepest desire — "to like the world honestly" — and can have that desire win!
In this TRO are two poems by Eli Siegel. They are humorous, musical descriptions of contempt as it goes on every day. And we print an article by Aesthetic Realism consultant Julie Jensen, originally of Germany, who writes about contempt in the family — and contempt as the cause of Nazism.
"Contempt Is My Good Right Arm: A Psalm" is a satiric poem. What it satirizes is the tremendous feeling in people that if other things have meaning and importance, one's own importance is less. It satirizes this false but popular equation: the more I can sneer at, be cool to, the more I will cultivate my own personality; for something-not-me to have value is an offense to me. It satirizes the fact that what people have really worshipped most is their contempt: the ability to feel instantly superior by saying something else doesn't matter. Meanwhile, Aesthetic Realism shows, this mode of getting significance is the very thing that has people despise themselves; because the human self is made to value the world: to become more through being vividly just to what is outside of us.
In "Is It Proper, Annette?" Eli Siegel explains with melodious richness and charm that sulkiness is really self-love. Through showing that things can't please us, we give our undiluted affection sedulously to ourselves. Aren't we too special to enjoy the vulgar world? We make ourselves royalty by sullenly proclaiming what Queen Victoria was said to proclaim: "We are not amused!"
Are everyday sulkiness and aloofness related to the greatest cruelties, related to what storm troopers did? Only Aesthetic Realism shows they are. We will either want to see this world with its people and objects as something to respect, to know — or we will see it as something to punish and walk all over. How a person's quiet lessening can become wide brutality is in one of the greatest sentences ever written — this, from Eli Siegel's James and the Children: "As soon as you have contempt, 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" (p. 55). The study of this sentence is the necessity — and will be the pride and pleasure — of humanity.
In her article, Julie Jensen relates Nazism to the press's boycott of Aesthetic Realism — and she has experienced both. Yes, members of the press have seen themselves as a kind of master race who should be able to feel superior to everyone and everything. They are furious that they can't feel superior to Aesthetic Realism and to Eli Siegel, whose knowledge was the greatest in all history, whose honesty was complete, and who fought for the world as something to be respected — not managed to suit a press person's ego.
Aesthetic Realism is the kind education every person hungers for. It is the wonderful, factual study of how being just to the world different from yourself is glory, adventure, real selfishness, pleasure, pride, intelligence, and self-expression.
The World — to Be Run or Known?
By Julie Jensen
I love Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism for teaching that there are two ways people can be ambitious, one that strengthens our lives and one that cripples us. Our deepest ambition is to be fair to the world, to want to know and value it truly. But we also have an ambition to make ourselves superior to the world and other people, to manage contemptuously what is not ourselves.
Managing: A Domestic Example
One day, however, over coffee, he told me how exciting it was to learn that there were three forms of German: Hoch-, Mittel-, and Plattdeutsch — High, Middle, and Low German. I was shocked; I had never heard of that! And though I had planned on being Robert Jensen's saving angel, he did very well on the final exam — and I wasn't even there.
I am tremendously grateful to Eli Siegel for questions he asked me in an Aesthetic Realism class of 1976. Through them I was learning about my managerial way, which had begun early in my life and could change if I were a critic of it. Mr. Siegel asked: "Do you believe you could be more interested in what your husband feels?"
ES. One of the ways of seeing how a husband and wife are is to ask this: Do you have any trouble about your mother or his mother?
JJ. I have a mother and my husband hasn't been interested enough in her.
ES. Now, Mrs. Jensen, do you believe the way you're interested in your mother is the best way?
JJ. No, Mr. Siegel.
ES. What do you think you were doubtful of as a child, about yourself? Did you, in some way, run your mother when you were seven?
JJ. Yes, I think I did.
ES. Do you think you felt superior to her?
I learned from Aesthetic Realism that this feeling that the world has to be whipped into shape — a shape that makes oneself important and comfortable — is contempt. In Nazi Germany, where I lived as a child, that contempt for the world different from oneself was made public policy. Hitler told the German people that they were superior to all other people and it was their destiny to defeat these inferior beings and impose the German will all over the globe. The pleasure of this presumed superiority was intoxicating to Germany.
I remember, as a young child, listening to my father tell with satisfaction how he had just seen Nazi officers taunt and intimidate our Jewish neighbors. I remember too that I got pleasure feeling, "I'm one of the good people." My regret for ever feeling this pleasure is eternal, as is my gratitude to Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism for explaining it and enabling me to change utterly about it. I learned, and I want all people to know, that the hideous contempt that Hitler and his associates had so brutally, begins with the contempt that can go on quietly in the lives of ordinary people and families everywhere. I am determined that Aesthetic Realism be known all over the world and certainly in Germany, so that horrors like those of Nazism never happen again.
Contempt and the Family
I have learned from Aesthetic Realism that when a person is after contempt, the first casualty is truth. Posner writes that Edda Goering "disputes the overwhelming evidence that [her father] condoned the persecution of Jews." And she says: "My only memories of him are such loving ones, I cannot see him any other way .... I actually expect that most everybody has a favorable opinion of my father, except maybe in America .... He was a good father to me."
Edda Goering's way of seeing truth, like her father's, is explained in this powerful sentence by Eli Siegel: "To be insensible to what is going on outside of oneself is the ambition of a constant part of self" (TRO 134).
Edda Goering is angry that her family no longer has the power and approval it once had. While her circumstances are unusual, what she is doing is actually very ordinary: making her family better than they are in order to feel superior to and hurt by the rest of the world. She doesn't care how her father saw other people as long as he made her important.
In an Aesthetic Realism class, Mr. Siegel asked whether I used my mother to be just to all people, including my husband. I said I didn't think so, and he continued so kindly: "What is true love and what is love in the family ... has not been settled yet .... True care [gets so] mixed up with possession."
And in a class of 1987, which I am very grateful for, Ellen Reiss discussed an article in the New York Times about children of former Nazis who, unlike Edda Goering, are questioning the ethics of their parents. Ellen Reiss said that what they are doing is important not just for Germany but for all people. "We all need to ask ourselves," she said, "should I judge my parents on how they see the whole world or on how they make me important? ... Is the purpose of the family to encourage a person to see the world truly, or to schmooze and say, 'It doesn't matter how you see truth, how you see other people, how fair you are to the world — we have each other and we're cozy together'?"
Edda Goering complains that after the war "the government was terrible .... They didn't even let me keep [my father's] wartime medals. The Americans stole his special baton .... Is that right?" She doesn't express one word of regret about the millions of people who suffered and died under the Nazi regime.
In a class of July 9, 1991, Ellen Reiss spoke about how intense the desire to see oneself as hurt is — in nations and individuals: "It happens that people prefer being hurt to criticizing themselves .... Being hurt allows you to do anything you want, and that is why people love it .... As soon as you feel hurt your ego gets free rein .... It means you have got the right to trample on any fact, kick anything, and be unfair to anyone."
The World Needs Aesthetic Realism
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