Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life

Troy, New York
April 9, 2001

World should be owned by people living in it 

In recent months, there have been more and more articles documenting the shameful, growing existence of hunger across our nation, and the dependence of families on soup kitchens and food pantries. 

As a native of Syracuse and a fellow human being, I was deeply affected to read online in the Herald-Journal of Jan. 8, the article "Need for Food Is Up In CNY and Nationwide," by Frank Brieaddy. He reports that "the demand for food has grown in a way never imagined by the people who launched pantry operations two decades ago." 

It is an outrage, and a national disgrace, that an American man, Arthur Johnson--who stands for many others--after a lifetime of hard work and no longer being able to work "has nothing but a bare apartment--not a stick of furniture, not even a stove or refrigerator," and has to search out food in an area pantry, where the amount he receives is regulated. I respect the persons working to have food gets to the people who need it, but a person should not have to endure indignities in order to secure basic human rights to which every person is entitled. 

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 by the United Nations, and signed by the U.S., Article 25 states: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care." 

I want New Yorkers and people throughout our nation to know what Eli Siegel, economist, historian, and founder of the education Aesthetic Realism, explained: The only reason there is hunger and poverty in our country is because of contempt for people that is at the basis of our American economy, the profit system. He defined contempt as "the addition to self through the lessening of something else." 

In our unjust economy, the profits made from the work of some people--many paid as little as possible--go into the pockets of others--owners and stockholders, who did not earn them. That is why certain people are extraordinarily wealthy and others who work two or three jobs don't make enough money to afford even the most basic human needs. Said Siegel: "Only contempt could permit a man to make money from the work of another--as man has done these hundreds of years." That is why some families have to agonize between feeding their children breakfast or skipping it so they will be able to pay their rent. 

"While any child needs something he hasn't got," Siegel stated, "the profit system is a failure." It is rather clear that an economy that is truly successful has to benefit all of the American people. 

In the international journal, The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, Ellen Reiss, with logic and passionate feeling, describes the accurate, just relation of our abundant American earth to its citizens: 

    As corn is in a Kansas field in summer, with the sun hot on it; as Texas earth is rich with oil; as glowing oranges of California grow and people pick them with aching fingers and get so little for their labor--to whom should these belong? A little child in Harlem is going to bed hungry while somewhere in America there are cows ready with milk that won't get to that child. And the child wants that milk and deserves it. That child is, with her fellow citizens, the rightful owner of that Kansas corn and Texas oil and those California oranges.
For our economy to ensure the well-being of all men, women, and children, this beautiful, ethical question first asked by Siegel needs to be answered honestly by people everywhere--in businesses, in homes, and in government offices: "What does a person deserve by being alive?" 

This crucial question is the basis for the powerful public service film on homelessness and hunger titled "What Does a Person Deserve?" produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Ken Kimmelman. It was featured at the Washington, D.C. summit of the National Coalition for the Homeless and is now being aired on television stations throughout the U.S. and abroad. The film ends with these important, kind sentences by Mr. Siegel: 

The world should be owned by the people living in it...All persons should be seen as living in a world truly theirs (Self and World, Definition Press, 1981).
The way Aesthetic Realism sees economics is so needed, practical, and beautiful. To learn more, contact the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141 Greene St., NY, NY; (212) 777-4490;

Lynette Abel is a freelance writer, and a consultations coordinator at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.


Housing: A Basic Human Right
"What Does a Person Deserve" by award winning filmmaker Ken Kimmelman

Articles about current issues explained by Aesthetic Realism
Aesthetic Realism Seminars
Reports of Aesthetic Realism classes taught by Eli Siegel
The aesthetic relation of art and life, described by Aesthetic Realism
Links about Aesthetic Realism and related resources

Lynette Abel