Steven Weiner, Computer Specialist and Aesthetic Realism associate, writes:
The title of this issue—“To Whom Should America Belong?”—is the most urgent and beautiful question of our nation. Described here—amid wide, deep, historical perspective—is the large cause of the assault on the voting rights of millions of Americans. There is nothing the citizens of our land need more to understand than what is in the compelling new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known!
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
In What Was Going On, the important 1975 lecture we are serializing, Eli Siegel discusses an article in the bicentennial issue of Fortune magazine. The article’s author is describing what he considers the atmosphere, the changed ways of seeing, and the future of the America of then. Though Mr. Siegel values the article, he disagrees with it centrally, fundamentally. And discussing it, he is explaining so much that we, of today, need to know.
As I have described: five years earlier Mr. Siegel began to show, in his Goodbye Profit System lectures, that a way of economics based on contempt no longer worked, and never would again. For thousands of years, economics had been impelled by the profit motive, by the seeing and using of people not with the purpose of being just to them, but with the purpose of financially aggrandizing oneself through their labor and needs. He showed that now, while persons with power might force profit-motivated economics to limp along for some additional decades, its condition was terminal. Ethics, he showed, is a force working through history, and we’ve reached the point at which the only way economics can succeed is by having a basis that is justice to every man, woman, and child.
So in 1975 Mr. Siegel is looking at an article in as big a proponent of the profit system as any: Fortune magazine. He is commenting in a leisurely, immediate, humorous way, with that beautiful oneness of scholarship and kindness that was always his. Throughout the lecture he comments on a matter mentioned often in the article: institutions. Mr. Siegel explains what an institution is: “something present in a country or in the world in a recurrent way.” And he mentions many, including one I’ll speak about here: he says, in 1975, “The elective system, or elections, is seen as an institution. And that is in question now.”
The Individual & the General
This principle of Aesthetic Realism is true of any time, place, person, subject: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” Opposites you’ll see Mr. Siegel speaking about in the part of his lecture published here are the individual and the general, each person and all people, oneself and the whole nation. These opposites have to do with every aspect of America, including elections.
The idea behind elections, behind casting a ballot in a democracy, is: “I am one person, myself; but I have to do with something larger, more general, more inclusive—my city, county, state, my whole country. Each of those inclusive entities stands for me, is of me, and I stand for it as much as any other person does. I have the right to say what should happen to it.”
The history of suffrage (in America and elsewhere) is a long history. It has always been about whether the vote should be had only by certain people—or by more—and more—and more. I’m not dealing closely with that history now. But every time the electorate was expanded, every time a new group of people was permitted to vote, it came through a battle that was intense. This battle about voting has always been based on a mainly unspoken question, which Mr. Siegel saw as the most important question for humanity: Who should own the nation, the world?
For instance, there was a long battle to do away with property qualifications: only people who owned property, or a certain amount of money, had been legally permitted to vote. There was the fight about whether women should be allowed to vote. And there has certainly been the long, vicious effort to stop Black people from voting. The effort to restrict the voting of citizens—whether through laws or intimidation or making it difficult to cast a ballot—the attempt to suppress the vote has always come from the contemptuous feeling The nation should belong only to some people, not all.
Americans need to be clear about this: the right to vote, and the battle about it, is not about political parties; it’s about To whom does this nation belong? That question includes, To whom should the opportunities, advantages, wealth of this nation belong?
At the heart of these questions are the opposites Mr. Siegel speaks of here: the individual, each particular person, and the general, the nation as a whole. They are opposites which, by the very nature of reality, are demanding to be seen as one….Read more