Reprinted from the Carolina Peacemaker, June 18, 1998, Greensboro, North Carolina

“What Does a Person Deserve By Being a Person?”

by Nancy Huntting

Statistics from the study titled “Hunger, 1997: The Faces and Facts” were released recently by Second Harvest,  the nation’s largest charitable food program, that 26 million Americans received emergency food from them and their affiliate organizations last year. The study reports that 38% were children under age 18—almost 8 million children. I am very grateful and respect the work of organizations like Second Harvest—but it is a horrible, shameful fact that in our bountiful land so many millions of men, women, and children are forced to be hungry, to worry about getting enough food to eat!

Thirty-nine percent of these households had one working adult whose income still was not enough to feed his or her family—”My husband works,” said a mother of two quoted in the study, “but at the end of the month we just run out of money. I wouldn’t know what to do if it weren’t for the food pantry.” An employed nurse and single mother said, “I never thought I’d be in this situation ….Requiring emergency food assistance in today’s blossoming environment is one thing that the public doesn’t understand.”

Despite the fact that each day we hear reports on how well our economy is doing, the truth is America’s economy is not blossoming. It was just last year they couldn’t keep out of the news the massive layoffs, huge increases in temporary workers, loss of benefits, uncounted business failures, emergency bailouts and mergers. I want your readers to know what I learned, which explains the reason for this continuing economic anguish, causing parents such terrible despair and the small bodies of children described in this report to hurt each day from hunger — and what will have this unbearably cruel situation truly change.

Eli Siegel asked, “What does a person deserve by being a person?”

The great American educator Eli Siegel, founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism, explained beginning in 1970 in a series of historic lectures that the profit system—in which a few people own privately and make profit from what all people need—has failed and will never recover because it is based on contempt for people. He asked then this urgent ethical question, “What does a person deserve by being a person?,” and he wrote: “There will be no economic recovery in the world until economics itself, the making of money, the having of jobs, becomes ethical; is based on good will rather than on the ill will which has been predominant for centuries” [Goodbye Profit System: Update,Definition Press, NY].

Mr. Siegel defined contempt as “the addition to self through the lessening of something else,” and he showed that the desire for contempt is the most hurtful thing in every human being. The food our country can produce so abundantly—the wheat, the milk, the vegetables, the fruit—does not get to nourish the bodies of millions of people who need it simply because someone must make profit from it. And the people who do the work—drive the tractors, harvest the grain, milk the cows—are not getting what they deserve, either, because large corporations, CEOs and stockholders, take the profit which their labor produces, and there is increasing anguish in America from farm foreclosures.

“To whom should America’s wealth go?”

What America needs is described with beautiful honesty and feeling by Ellen Reiss, Chairman of Education of Aesthetic Realism, in the international journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known—this is from issue #1212, “The Ethics of Poetry or the Pain of Children”:

Poor … means something: for a person to come home worn out from long work day after day, and look into the face of his child and feel, “I can’t give you the food you would like and need” — is shocking, though it has gone on for hundreds of years….In America now, there is a certain amount of money, a certain amount of wealth. To whom should that wealth go? Should it go to the people of America, including the children, so these children can walk with pleasure and sweet dignity on America’s earth and have America’s food and possibilities nourish them? Or should the wealth of America go to some few people who have more than enough already?…If the American people had to vote on whether 1) a few people should make profit at the price of millions of children being poor; or 2) millions of children should not be poor—each should get the good things of this world into which he was born just as nakedly and hopingly as anyone else—at the price of big profits not going to certain individuals, the American people would vote for the second. Economics, Mr. Siegel showed, is ethics. And the American people are hungry for an ethically owned America.

I passionately agree! Only when the wealth of America goes to every child and every person in America, Mr. Siegel showed, will our economy be efficient and flourish. That crucial question he first asked in 1970 must be asked and answered honestly by everyone, including all elected officials: “What does a person deserve by being a person?”

I am unboundedly grateful to Aesthetic Realism that my contempt was described and kindly criticized, and I was able to change from a narrow, selfish person to one who cares about what other people deserve — and is ever so much happier for it! Persons on the press and in the media have viciously boycotted this needed education for over five decades out of fury they cannot be superior to Aesthetic Realism’s intellectual scope and grandeur and the integrity of its founder, Eli Siegel. But I am very glad to say that despite this brutal boycott, Aesthetic Realism  is becoming known in America. I urge people to call or write for information from the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141 Greene Street, New York, NY 10012, 212-777-4490 — and you can also visit the website at

Nancy Huntting is an Aesthetic Realism consultant living in New York City where she is on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation. She has written and spoken extensively on how the principles of Aesthetic Realism explain the questions of women, past and present.

On Aesthetic Realism, British Journal of Aesthetics