|Troy, New York
April 9, 2001
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.
BY LYNETTE ABEL
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
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; www.AestheticRealism.org.
Abel is a freelance writer, and a consultations coordinator at the Aesthetic