Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable and the Philosophy of Aesthetic Realism
This universal ethical question needs
to be discussed honestly and deeply
by everyone, regardless of culture, for social
justice and personal kindness to prevail:
“What does a person deserve by being alive?”
Asked by Eli Siegel, founder of the philosophy
Aesthetic Realism, this question provides
us with an indispensable means for opposing
the contempt that is the fundamental cause
of injustice. Contempt Mr. Siegel defined
as “the disposition in every person to think
we will be for ourselves by making less
of the outside world.” And its pervasive effects
cannot be underestimated. Every person
has a fight between the desire for contempt
and the desire to respect people and the world.
Contempt is very ordinary, it is present
in everyday life. For instance when one person
doesn't listen to another; or when we see
someone in the street and think, “I wouldn’t
be caught dead wearing shoes like that.”
But when it predominates on a national scale,
the results of making less are disastrous.
In the caste system of India, contempt
is institutionalized, as this article explains.
It is related to caste-like institutions
world-wide, including racism in my own
country, the United States; and to the global
horrors of economic injustice.
The novel Untouchable, by Mulk Raj Anand,
illustrates, from beginning to end, the hurtful
manifestation of contempt in the caste system.
The time period of the novel is the 1930s,
but its truth continues today; and Anand shows
in a young man named Bakha the pain of the Untouchable: unjustly despised
and unjustly impoverished.
The author of this article learned through
his study of Aesthetic Realism that making
himself “superior” by disparaging
other people, including women and people
of other ethnicities, made him despise himself
and hurt every relationship he wanted to have.
And this is representative of what contempt
does to persons having it, everywhere.
He changed, as he studied in Aesthetic Realism
classes what a person deserves from me
and how to have good will, the one opposition
to contempt. He learned good will is not flimsy
or weak, it has a scientifi basis and definition:
it is “the desire to have something else stronger
and more beautiful, for this desire makes
oneself stronger and more beautiful.”
People need, and want, good will in place
of endemic contempt in Europe, Asia, America.
There is a powerful, international desire
in people today for a just world.
Aesthetic Realism is the education that meets
that desire and can make for a world that
is fair to all people. That is why it is urgently
necessary for persons to study its principles.
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