What does a person deserve?
By LYNETTE ABEL
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
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
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
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 Central 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 peopleómany paid as little
as possibleógo 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
of the American people.
In the international journal, The
Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic
Reiss, with logic and passionate feeling, describes the accurate, just
relation of our abundant American earth to its citizens:
ďAs 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 laboróto
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.Ē
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 way Aesthetic Realism sees economics
is 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.
Lynette Abel is a freelance writer, and a Consultations Coordinator
at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.