Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Ethics As Possibility," Part 3, and conclusion of an Aesthetic Realism Class given by Eli Siegel; reported on by Michael Palmer

In the final part of this great class, Mr. Siegel showed that what Ibsen was dealing with as drama--the large, ethical battle between telling the truth and lying--was being fought out dramatically in America at that time, October, 1969. He read what he called "an important article" in the Washington Post, titled, "Casual Willingness to Lie, Important Lesson of [Green] Berets" by Joseph Kraft. Our country was in the midst of the brutally ugly, unjust Vietnam war, trying to impose profit economics on the Vietnamese people, who wanted to own their land in a different way. There was growing objection in America to what we were doing, and just five days after this class, on October 15, 1969, many Americans would be taking part in a huge demonstration and march in Washington and elsewhere, called "The Vietnam Moratorium." Mr. Siegel, who was passionate in his opposition to this war from its beginnings, calling it the most unethical war in American history, said of the Kraft article: "Yesterday, a victory against falsity and the lie appeared in the Washington Post--the clearest statement about the lie on which the Vietnam War is based."

About that lie, he asked:

"Is it possible for people honestly to get to a kind of government that is not the same as private enterprise as a way of life? Is it possible or does it all have to be fomented by agitators?....It's gone on and made for more pain than people realize....Korea had to do with this, Cuba, Guatemala, Indonesia. It has a long history based on the lie--that no person would want industry owned in common. "

He read portions of the article about the effort by U.S government officials to cover up the killing in Vietnam by a special elite force of the U-S Army, the "Green Berets." Former Ambassador Robert Komer is quoted as saying about the false report he wrote on the war: "I was asked to show progress. I wasn't asked to show the dark side."

"I use the word lie," said Mr. Siegel. "The lie is a personal thing, but occasionally it's a national means." And with historic perspective, he described the big lie that anything other than profit economics is against democracy....":

I was tremendously moved by what Mr. Siegel said as he concluded this his­toric lecture. He said: "There are possibilities of people wanting to be friendly to other people, thinking really that the skies and the waters and the land have a right to be cared for, and in a deep sense had, owned, by all the people." And he said, of Americans about to state their ethical objection: "October 15th will be a great day because it will be said (in the Moratorium), with Hedda Gabler somewhere present, that we have given too much credence to the lie."

Now in 2004, with Americans increasingly objecting as we see startling and horrendous evidence of lying in various places, the need for Aesthetic Realism and how it sees ethics is more urgent than ever.