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The Right of
Aesthetic Realism to Be Known

 NUMBER 1675.— September 20, 2006
Aesthetic Realism was founded by Eli Siegel in 1941 

Freedom—& Words, Nations, Love

Dear Unknown Friends: 

e are serializing There Are Two Freedoms, the lecture Eli Siegel gave on June 5, 1970. In it he explains what that great thing, freedom, truly is. He shows that if freedom is not the same as accuracy, and not the same as justice, then it's not really freedom: it's messiness, and it's contempt. This fact is in keeping with the principle at the basis of Aesthetic Realism: "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves."

     Freedom is an international matter and also a personal matter. The mistakes people make about freedom in their lives are multitudinous, and the ensuing pain is huge. I'll comment on one mistake, in the field of love.

Freedom & Love

e want to care for someone. We also want to be free. But because a person I'll call Tom does not think freedom is the same as seeing and feeling accurately what other things are—as he's affected by his wife, Dana, he feels he's losing his freedom. Dana makes the same mistake. One result is that each has a way of not listening to what the other is saying. This happens because a good deal of what a person sees as freedom is the ability to wipe out in one's mind what's other than oneself and to feel one is a world unto oneself, apart from and superior to everything else. That is the "freedom" Tom is going for as he thinks of something else while Dana talks to him.

     Also, Tom and Dana, after a year of marriage, are increasingly sarcastic with each other. Underlying the sarcasm is this unarticulated reasoning: "I've given myself over to you in feeling you mean something to me. Now I've got to show that you don't mean so much after all—that I'm free of you because I can sneer at you whenever I please."

     Tom and Dana sometimes get into fights that wear them both out and make them ashamed. What's behind these fights is what's behind warfare between nations: each person has made freedom equivalent to having his or her own way. When Tom and Dana begin their study of Aesthetic Realism, they will learn that wanting to see what another person feels is part of one's own freedom. It's not a giving in; it's not a sacrificing of freedom; it's not a compromise: it's freedom. That's because our deepest desire is to be ourselves through seeing other things justly and beautifully; and to fulfill our deepest desire is to be free.

From Marriage to the Economy

n the present lecture, Mr. Siegel shows that economics won't succeed until it's based on freedom that is the same as justice to every man, woman, and child. Instead, the basis of profit economics has been contempt. And the chief contempt has been the ugly, dishonest assumption that the earth, and the wealth of a nation, should belong much more to some people than to others—that it's somehow right and even useful for some people to have little while various others have a very great deal. This way of economics, Mr. Siegel showed in 1970, would no longer fare well, and it isn't faring well in America today. For example, a New York Times article of August 31 by Steven Greenhouse begins:

Three new opinion polls released yesterday found deep pessimism among American workers, with most saying that wages were not keeping pace with inflation and that workers were worse off in many ways than a generation ago.

     The US economy, like the marriage of Tom and Dana, will succeed when freedom is seen truly: when there is a change from I'm free if I can make less of you and exploit you to I'm free if I'm just to you.

     In the part of the lecture printed here, Mr. Siegel speaks about two matters that are affecting the US economy enormously today. He discusses the meaning of production, and the fact that American production was beginning to have competition from other nations. He speaks about the Common Market—a predecessor of the European Union.

     A person in 1970 would be shocked to hear: Three decades from now the renowned US auto industry will be in dire straits. People throughout the world (including in America ) will be buying millions of cars made, for instance, in Japan and Korea. Also, foreign competition will have made the mighty American steel industry a minute fraction of what it was. Factories of all kinds will have closed by the thousands across the country. To see "Made in USA" on a garment will be a rarity. And people in 2006 will take for granted that their electronic equipment is made not in America but elsewhere.

     Mr. Siegel however, in 1970, recognized the beginning of what we have now—and saw its importance: production going on elsewhere is one of the largest reasons why economics can no longer succeed on the old, contemptuous basis.

Honesty about Words

There Are Two Freedoms deals with something Mr. Siegel was passionate about always: the need to use words with exactitude. He shows, as he said in another lecture, that "the honesty of the word has a great deal to do with what's going to happen to us." One of the most hurtful fake freedoms is the making free with words: the using of words, not to show what's true, but to hide what's true, present a false picture—that is, lie. I love how Aesthetic Realism sees words. No one cared more for words than Eli Siegel. We see some of that care as he speaks about words and phrases misused in recent history, and now. One is the word free itself.

True Freedom Has to Win

here is, in the 4th canto of Byron's Childe Harold, a famous and fine poetic line about freedom. It is:

Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying.

Byron wrote the line in 1817. He saw that people in European nations wanted to get rid of monarchs, and were having a hard time doing so, because those monarchs with their massive power were trying to stop people from being free. But Byron felt that the desire for true freedom was so strong that even if the people fighting for it were put down again and again, they would win: freedom's banner was "torn, but flying." He wrote in his journal in 1821:

The king-times are fast finishing. There will be blood shed like water, and tears like mist; but the peoples will conquer in the end. I shall not live to see it, but I foresee it.

     We can say too that no matter how much freedom is lied about, how falsely the word is used, how much people have wanted to call contempt freedom—the real thing is so necessary and so beautiful that people have to keep going after it. In this way too freedom's banner is "torn, but flying." And since Byron's line is true poetry, it has in its structure, its sound, the aesthetic and ethical oneness of opposites that America wants her economy to have: it is free as it bounds exuberantly; and at the same time, with its five beats, it is exact.

ELLEN REISS, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education

Production, Competition, & Words
By Eli Siegel

here has been a great deal of carelessness in the speech of the learned and the high; there has been ever so much careless phrasing. One of the things I like about Samuel Johnson is: when he was asked why he spoke so well, he said, I think every word matters. The way persons, illustrious in political life and elsewhere, use phrases is shameful. And the lie mounts up.

     I'll try to instance what I mean through a rather popular work, published by Ace Books: Retrospect 1965: U.P.I. Pictorial History of 1964.

      Senator Barry Goldwater is mentioned early, in the summary of January. He announced fairly early in 1964 that he felt himself fit for the presidency. And with what has happened since, I guess he was just as fit as anybody else who ran. I didn't believe it then, but I believe it now. Well, this is Senator Goldwater—however, with my willingness to find quality in him I didn't find then, I don't see him as a master of the true word:

Senator Goldwater's first pronouncement of policy as a candidate for the Presidency was that if elected he would threaten to break relations with the Soviet Union unless the Soviets yielded to justified U.S. demands.

     The word here that has been used in a way that is a mess is justified. That word justified has made for so much pain: what we feel is justified is seen as outrageous by another. But Senator Goldwater, like a true candidate, doesn't think of those things. He has his own point of view and that is sufficient. The weltanschauung [world view] is hardly a weltanschauung; it's a Goldwater-anschauung.


n the same summary, we get to a matter which is the simplest thing in economics: production. That is: you go to a field and there's no corn. You go to another field, in New York State, and there are no apples. You go to a lot and there's no house. Production is the art of getting something out of nothing, which other people will buy. It's comparatively simple—it doesn't need all that stock lingo. To produce something is like, really, what a cat may do: you see her without kittens, and lo—she has four. It's very simple. And it's too bad that economic lingo has gone away from this cat-uality.

     At the moment, the matter of the GNP, the gross national product, is crucial. It has gone down; it hasn't increased in the same way it used to. That is very important: how much does a country produce? When you produce something, it means that something which wasn't present three months ago is present. That is the purpose of a factory in Detroit: three hundred Chevrolets have been added to the already hundreds of thousands that exist. At one time there were no Chevrolets; then, after there were some, three hundred were added. In both instances it was production. If you add to the amount already existing, or if you have an amount where there was none at all, there's production. The book has this statement:

The Central Intelligence Agency reported (Jan. 7) that Russia 's economic growth had faltered to 2.5 per cent per year for 1962 and 1963.

That means that while Russia had been increasing its production, its increase in production for the years 1962 and 1963 was only 2.5 percent.

     It was once felt that the only thing the USSR could produce was a speech—that is, it had no more know-how than a crippled tadpole. America could produce cereals and typewriters and adding machines and cars of various kinds and trucks and buildings and elevators and bracelets, but in Russia they had to satisfy themselves with propaganda and vodka. So when it was found out that although the USSR didn't have anything like some of the gowns at Bonwit Teller, it still could put a sleeve together, it was hardly believed, because it was felt there was no incentive whatsoever. How could people produce unless there was the incentive one was familiar with—profit? But the USSR somehow did produce, and people were amazed. In 1920, the Russians produced something like a film. They had a camera—must have stolen it!

     Well, a war in production is going on all over the world. The Peace Corps of the '60s has something to do with it, because once the Peace Corps went to any country in Africa or Latin America , the people there got the idea they could produce something. They became quite technical. Mr. Kennedy in fact thwarted America, because the Peace Corps made every part of the world industry-conscious. That's very dangerous—because we have right now a good deal of competition between American products and products made elsewhere.

     For instance, the Italians, instead of producing paintings, recently have been producing suits. Industry is going on all over the world, while at one time the American manufacturer felt he was pretty supreme. He could tolerate others—Great Britain of course; and France, particularly on cosmetics. Then France began to produce a car, the Renault. Then Sweden—that little car that caused so much of a stir.

Good Will: 3 Examples

1) In trade. An item that has to do with good will is accompanied by a picture:

1/28/64—First shipment of U.S. wheat, bound for Russia, is loaded aboard American-owned ship in Norfolk, Va. Grain is part of $78.5 million cash deal which hinged on use of American ships for transport.

     The American shipping industry has never done so well. That's one of the failures of American industry—the strict shipping industry. Before the wheat went to Russia , the USSR had to agree that it would be taken on American ships. So, that is friendly. The idea of American wheat going to Russia, somehow makes one feel, shall we say, good.

     2) Asked for by a senator. This is an interesting item in the summary of March 1964:

Senator J.W. Fulbright, Democratic Senator from Arkansas and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked the nation (March 25) to "shed 'myths'" and think daringly about such foreign policy problems as Soviet Russia, communist China, Cuba, Panama, and Latin America. He called the Cuba of Fidel Castro a nuisance rather than a menace.

How fairly should we see these countries having a productive system seemingly different from ours?

     3) Demanded by labor. The state of labor is a big thing in any country, whether it's obvious or not. In 1964 something was occurring in England:

120,000 government workers walked off their jobs in Britain's first postal strike in 70 years.

The "Free World"

his is 1964, and that phrase "free world" was used without any attempt at definition. No one knows, still, what the "free world" is. From 1945 on, a certain part of the world had the temerity to call itself the "free world" and to say it so often that people felt the term really meant something. The way the phrase has been used, with greasy, viscous complacency, goes against the idea of freedom that we find in art. Portugal and Spain and Greece, which were dictatorships, belonged to the right wing of the "free world."

     I'll read now from a more sober book. This is by a Harvard Ph.D. in history and former State Department official, Richard P. Stebbins: The United States in World Affairs, 1962 . Stebbins writes:

Other memorable developments of 1962 included the failure of a fresh attempt to halt the arms race by an Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee meeting in Geneva.

     Whenever there has been such a meeting, it is thought that the representatives of the "free world" are virtuous and have good will—all they want is peace and disarmament—while the other side is sinister and though they talk for disarmament they mean nothing of the sort. That's taken for granted; there is no questioning. Here we have insufficient freedom, because freedom without accuracy, without good will, is incompletely freedom. It's just as in painting, where all color is trying to be given definition by line. All expression is looking for precision. Fulness is looking for economy in its manifestation. This is a principle in art. Care is one aspect of expression—just as, in talking, we want to talk with intensity but we'd like to be grammatical if we can be, or at least we'd like to have some accuracy of style.

     So we have: "failure of a fresh attempt to halt the arms race." There is no asking, what do the people of another nation want? What do they think of a nuclear bomb? What do they think of war? What do they want to do?

     Then, another phrase—Mr. Kennedy is being quoted: "'The United States finds it difficult to withdraw when our vital interests are involved.'" What are these "vital interests"?

The Common Market of 1962

he Common Market made for trouble because some nations wanted to come together in Europe and have some economic arrangements of their own:

A protracted and increasingly acrimonious debate on terms for British entry into the Common Market foreshadowed what might be an even more momentous struggle over the future relationship between the Common Market and the United States .

     That there is friction in the free enterprise world is undoubted, because while individuals may oppose something which questions them basically, they can oppose competitors who generally agree with them.


hen you're not sure of your ethics or your notion of freedom, you begin using various words. One of them is the word used here, responsibilities:

International instability and global economic disequilibrium promised the United States no respite from its responsibilities as the world's principal non-Communist power.

     What can happen in the human mind is that a questionable moral or ethical attitude somehow gets changed into a "responsibility."  

Aesthetic Realism is based on these principles, stated by Eli Siegel:

1.  The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.

2.  The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it .... Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.

3.  All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.

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Online Library:  Poetry  |  Essays  |  Lectures  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  Articles in the News  |  TRO  |  Collection  |  Site Map
Ellen Reiss, Commentaries in TRO:
The Mideast  |  Poetry of Eli Siegel  |  Unions
Lord Byron |  Harry Potter  |  Sherlock Holmes
Robert Burns  |  The 'criticism' of John Keats
Racism & Its Solution
Aesthetic Realism Resources:
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Two Biographies of Eli Siegel:
[1] Aesthetic Realism Foundation
[2] Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company Site
Friends of Aesthetic Realism—Countering the Lies
Art and Literature
The Terrain Gallery / Aesthetic Realism Foundation
The Place of Aesthetic Realism in Culture & Literature

Two Teachers Speak on a Class Taught by Ellen Reiss
The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method:
Lesson Plans in Diverse Subjects
Teaching Indian Culture in the United States:
The Aesthetic Realism Method

Further Resources:
Essays and News Pieces about Aesthetic Realism
Photographic Education: the Aesthetic Realism Viewpoint
A New Perspective for Anthropology: The Aesthetic Realism Method
Self-Expression and What Interferes: an Aesthetic Realism Discussion
John Singer Sargent's Madame X, an Aesthetic Realism Discussion

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