Miriam Weiss   Writer & Aesthetic Realism Associate

Remembering Hiroshima
by Miriam Weiss & Joseph Spetly

It is now 69 years after the Atomic Bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, instantly destroying that city and ultimately killing over 140,000 of its inhabitants.  On a recent trip to Japan we visited Hiroshima and were overwhelmed as we stepped off the streetcar and saw the Atomic Bomb Dome, the one surviving structure from the blast, rising up in ruins before us.  We had enormous feeling, simply as human beings, very much as Americans whose leaders made the decision to drop the bomb, but most importantly as two people who know that what can make for such inhumanity has been understood and must be known.

Eli Siegel, the great American historian and founder of Aesthetic Realism, explained that all injustice arises from contempt, "the addition to self through the lessening of something else."  Contempt is the feeling in every person that we are more important as we look down on someone or something, and it takes hundreds of everyday forms.  It is in a sarcastic remark, it goes on as one person doesn't fully listen when someone else is talking.  It's in the feeling that our family, our team, our taste, our skin color is better than another's just because it is ours.  This ordinary contempt taken far enough, Mr. Siegel showed, can lead to the greatest human cruelty.  He wrote: 

As soon as you have contempt, as soon as you don't want to see another person as having the fulness that you have, you can rob that person, hurt that person, kill that person. 

Before bombs are dropped or any weapons used, we have seen that people can quietly obliterate the existence of other people in their minds, see the feelings of those others as not mattering.  At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum visitors can witness the devastating consequences of this contempt when it is backed up by military technology and so importantly too, can feel the inescapable reality of the victims of the bomb.  One heartrending example is a metal lunchbox containing the charred remains of a schoolboy's lunch, consisting of barley that he proudly grew in his own garden plot. 

The museum valuably documents the many events that led up to the decision to drop an atomic bomb on a civilian population, and also has this important statement titled "Lessons of History":

Japan...with colonization policies and wars of aggression inflicted incalculable and irreversible harm on the peoples of many countries.  We must reflect on war and the causes of war, not just nuclear weapons.  We must learn the lessons of history, that we may learn to identify and avoid the paths that lead to war. 

Contempt clearly is not confined to one people or one nation.  It is the ugliest thing in humankind.  It was behind the Japanese wars of aggression and Nazi atrocities which it was absolutely necessary to wage war to stop.  It is also the central cause of all the injustice in the world right now so many decades later.  The one way to avoid the paths that lead to war and to rid the planet of nuclear weapons at last is to fight contempt wherever it may be. In our own study of Aesthetic Realism, as we each saw with particulars how the contempt we had for people hurt us, stunted our minds, made us cruel, we came to see that it didn't represent us.  We were able to criticize it in ourselves and affirm our respect for people and the world, which we learned is the deepest desire a human being has. 

As people commemorate the tragic events of August, 6, 1945, it is urgent that what Eli Siegel states in his historic essay "What Caused the Wars," published in issue #165 of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, be studied worldwide by government officials and ordinary citizens alike:

Unless man has contempt for what is not lovely in himself; unless he has a true joy in defeating what is not lovely in himself, wars will go on. The next war has to be against ugliness in self.  And the greatest ugliness in self is the seeing of contempt as personal achievement.  Contempt must be had for contempt before squabbles grow less, terror diminishes.  Respect for what is real must be seen as the great success of man. 

The people of the world, including the men, women and children whose lives were lost in Hiroshima, deserve nothing less. 


Miriam Weiss and Joseph Spetly are husband and wife.  They reside in New York City where they study in the professional classes for Aesthetic Realism consultants and associates taught by the Chairman of Education, Ellen Reiss. To learn more about the study of Aesthetic Realism, visit www.aestheticrealism.org

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