Alliance of Ethics & Art (AEA) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. We are grateful to join with others in the fight against racism,
and to seek solutions based on principles of Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by philosopher Eli Siegel.*
Memphis 2018 -- A Time for Reflection & Action
Striking Sanitation Worker-Memphis Credit: Iris Photo Collective, 1968
On April 4th, the thoughts of people all over the world turned to Memphis where, 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered while fighting racism and economic injustice, fighting for the rights and dignity of poor people and striking sanitation workers. As we honor his legacy, I want everyone to know this great, kind poem by Eli Siegel, founder of the education Aesthetic Realism. It was written after news broke of Dr. King's death in 1968, and was published that year in Mr. Siegel's second volume of poetry, Hail, American Development:
Something Else Should Die:
A Poem with Rhymes
In April 1865
Abraham Lincoln died.
In April 1968
Martin Luther King died.
Their purpose was to have us say,
This poem has affected people deeply during these 50 years, as it appeared in print and online thousands of times; and it has been recited by children and adults in schools, churches, theaters, community centers; and by Elijah E. Cummings, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose 2002 Tribute honoring Eli Siegel's centenary also appeared in the U.S. Congressional Record.
I AM 2018: Union rally Photo Credit: Alice Bernstein
As we reflect on Dr. King's life, we also honor the great Civil Rights struggle against racism, poverty, and inequality, led by hundreds of thousands of courageous women and men who risked their lives in behalf of "equal justice under the law." Their achievements include passage of federal rulings outlawing segregation in public education, housing, employment, and travel.--And, the Voting Rights Act, guaranteed ALL people the right to vote--leading to the election of the largest number of black officials since Reconstruction after the Civil War. Yet, now, early in the 21st century, we are witnessing increasingly vicious attacks and attempts to destroy these ethical victories.
The meaning of "Something Else Should Die" is as urgent now as it was in 1968. The present-day viciousness, I learned from Aesthetic Realism, arises from contempt, the feeling that we will be more by making less of what is not ourselves. It was contempt--the cause of all injustice, including racism--which had people feel they had the right to own other human beings. Later, contempt is what made some people hate desegregation, feel stupidly and cruelly that equal rights for all people made them less.
In Mr. Siegel's note to his poem, he wrote: "Injustice will die only when an individual no longer can feel that individuality is more served by injustice than by justice; by ugliness rather than non-ugliness." Aesthetic Realism is the knowledge that can have people see that our individuality is strengthened, enhanced through respect for the world and people, wanting to be fair to them. It is respect, not contempt, that truly makes us more. (continued at top of column 2)
*The Alliance of Ethics & Art (AEA) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. We are grateful to join with others in the fight against racism, and to seek solutions based on principles of Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by philosopher Eli Siegel: (1) Every person's deepest desire is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis. This desire is the source of education and all the arts and sciences.
(2) The greatest danger of people is to have contempt, "the addition to self through the lessening of something else." All human injustice is caused by contempt — from a child's sarcastic "put down," to lying, bullying, economic exploitation, voter suppression, war. These principles when studied make it possible for racism to end.