Aesthetic Realism Consultant Nancy Huntting

Frances Wright (1795-1852), abolitionist
Frances Wright (1795-1852), abolitionist

Aesthetic Realism Seminar "What Does It Mean to Like People?"
Sept 4, 2003,  at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141 Greene Street, New York, NY 10012

4. Knowing People 

June Margold, who studied science and philosophy at college, was a pretty, soft-spoken young woman, who worked as an assistant to president of an importing firm.  Her manner was gracious and seemingly assured, but she told us that she wanted to overcome her fear of expressing herself. 

We asked her the question that Mr. Siegel asked people in the Aesthetic Realism lessons he gave, "What is the thing you have most against yourself?"

June Margold: Not being understanding of people, or actually I should say, forgiving. 

Consultants:   Do you think that if you were more understanding, you might be, as you say, more forgiving? 

JM: Yes.

C: Do you think there may be a relation between your fear of expressing yourself, and how you see people?

JM: Yes....I haven't always understood people's reaction to what I would say.

C: Do you see people as essentially like you, or different from you? 

JM: That's a difficult question, because I've tried to see people as more like myself, but whether I do or not, I don't know.

C: If you feel people are more different from you, do you also feel they are less good than you?

JM:  Yes, I have felt that.

C: Do you see that, if you're going to express yourself, its going to be to people--but if you see people as not good enough, you're stuck?  What do you think the answer might be?

"To see people as," Miss Margold hesitated, "good enough."

C: To begin with, try to see who people really are. Because you can't just give yourself an order, "I'm now going to see people as good enough."  But are you sure that you're judgment of people is exact?

Ms. Margold said her judgment likely wasn't exact, but she also said she felt she had the real low-down on people, and this included how she saw men.  "I don't like them," she said, "I don't like the way they look at me sometimes." 

C:   Do you think that you, like other women, can feel that you haven't ever been seen right by any man, and at the same time you don't feel you're kind to men in the depths of your mind?

JM: Yes, it's true. 

C: Do you think that you hope to be able to respect yourself for how you see gentlemen? 

JM: Yes.

C: Well, that can be.  We know it's possible.

Sometime later, in an assignment about how she saw people at age 10, she wrote: "I felt I had more control over myself than other people did, especially my parents. [They] fought often, and I didn't want to be like them."  We asked her to write soliloquies of both when they were her age, and try to see what they felt within, their hopes, their fears, what they cared for.  As she did these, she became less bitter and suspicious towards men, and people in general.

To have her see that women and men have the same inward fight, the same depth of ethics, we asked her to read and comment on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which gave her "immense pleasure," she told us.  For instance, she wrote: 

Jane Austen believes in the deeper beauty of people and that this can be brought out....The author shows that sharp, sensible Elizabeth needs criticism herself in order to see her own follies in her judgment of people, be more accurate, and more kind.
5.  When People Learn What It Means to Like People, 
There Will Be Real Democracy in America

Frances Wright lectured in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Cincinnati with "an earnestness and wholesomeness," said one woman who attended, "that made their way to the mind and heart." Thousands came to hear her speak about the need for universal equal education for all children, and what made for poverty and slavery.  A fundamental injustice in economics, she said, caused both slavery in the South and "wage slavery" in the North.  For her honesty, she was slandered in print again and again--including being called a "female monster." 

Frances Wright criticized straight the inequality between rich and poor, saying that it made democracy impossible, and in the 1830s made a proposal truly consonant with our Constitution: 

...that the whole real property of the State--lands, mines, quarries, buildings and capital of every description be declared forever public property (as in the nature of things it is), and administered by the Body Politic for the equal encouragement of all its members.
This is beautiful and just.  Mr. Siegel explained that the central fight in history has been about how the world should be owned--by a few people who have contempt for the rest of humanity, or by all people?  In 1970 he said history had reached the point where economics based on contempt had failed irrevocably, because people the world over are insisting they be seen with respect.

Recently June Margold wrote to us: "I'm so glad [to be thinking] about what it means to know myself, to know other people [and] have them know me.  I feel this is my biggest hope." I agree, and I am sure that when Aesthetic Realism is studied everywhere, the America Frances Wright fought for, where people truly like other people, want to be just to them, will come to be!

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