IS THE BEGINNING
the days since the revelations of the horrific abuses of Iraqi "detainees"
at Abu Ghraib prison, a question often asked is: "How could this have happened?"
Some say that the worst tendencies are brought out of people in a military
environment. This may be so, but if the worst possibilities didn't exist
before military life, they could not be aroused. It is imperative that
the American people understand what in the human mind made for these atrocities
so that they never happen again.
has provided that understanding in the philosophy he founded, Aesthetic Realism. The most hurtful drive in people is the desire for contempt,
defined as: "the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means
of self-increase as one sees it." Contempt is as ordinary as making fun
in one's mind, ridiculing, for instance, how another may dress or talk.
And, contempt is also the cause of all coldness, unfeelingness; the cruelty
one person can inflict on another. In his book James and the Children,
Mr. Siegel wrote: "As soon as you have contempt, as soon as you don't want
to see another person as having the fullness that you have, you can rob
that person, hurt that person, kill that person. These three come out of
the insufficient awareness of another person or another thing."
along with a desire to be useful to people, I also worried about how angry
and mean I could be. In an Aesthetic Realism class, Mr. Siegel said to
me: "While we go for having contempt for a person, we feel bad if we succeed.
To be fair to a person, you say to yourself that it's best for me to be
fair." Learning where I had contempt, and what it means to be fair to the
world and people changed my life, enabled me honestly to respect myself.
I know personally and gratefully, that a woman who respects herself because
she's hoping to see people fairly would not contemptuously build herself
up by humiliating and tormenting others.
study of what it means honestly to respect the world and people is the
tested means to prevent the egregious cruelty we saw so recently. To learn
more, I urge every reader to visit the Aesthetic Realism Foundation's website