Transcript of the Video Address
By Helga Zepp-LaRouche
To the Schiller Celebration
Presented at the November 7, 2015 Schillerfest Music Evening in Manhattan
Hello! Let me send greetings to your conference, on the very beautiful occasion of Schiller's birthday, a birthday which we celebrate since the foundation of the Schiller Institute, every year in many countries around the globe.
Now, I want to speak to you about some of his works, which many of you probably know, but which I think is of really the highest relevance right now, namely about what Schiller develops in the Aesthetical Letters. As you know, he wrote these letters dealing with the aesthetical education of man in the context of the failed French Revolution, because he was asking, "Why is it that a great moment found such a little people?" And, he came to the conclusion: the objective possibility for change was there, but the subjective, the moral condition, was lacking.
Now, if that was true for Schiller's time, I think it is all the more true for our time, and not only for Europe, but also for the United States. A couple of days ago, the New York Times had this unbelievable article, which reported about a study, according to which the death rate of middle-age Americans, white Americans, between the ages of 40 and 50 years old, is increasing 10% for the average, and 22% for the poor.
Now, 40 to 50 years is not an age at which you should die; these are the best years! So, what has happened? Well, the reason of this cause of death is drug addiction, drug abuse, alcohol, and suicide. Now, if you look at the circumstances otherwise in the United States, you have a rapidly sinking living standard for a large part of the population; people have to work longer hours—they have almost no leisure time. The permanent wars, which the United States has been involved in since the Bush Sr. administration, and then the two Bush Jr. administrations, and now Obama, have meant that many families are torn apart; the fathers are going on several tours to Iraq, Afghanistan, and so forth, coming back with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many times, the families don't survive that.
Sixty percent of the people in New York alone, are either on the poverty line, or below — 60%. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that there is a drug epidemic in the United States, where for example, one in ten people in Baltimore is a heroin user.
Then, low interest rates, zero interest rate, is eating away the savings of many people who are saving for their pensions. You have the police violence, due to the fact that the police have been militarized. You have the Black-on-Black violence, school shootings; the homicide rate is going up continuously. And then you have the barbaric drone-killings, conducted by the United States abroad.
So, just to highlight a couple of these things, it means that the United States is really in a Dark Age, and nobody can deny that. So how do we change this?
How can we change this nightmare? And I think that what Schiller has developed in the Aesthetical Letters, is today as much the method for getting people out of it, as it was in his time. He said, where do you find the venue; where should the change come from? It cannot come from the state, because it is the state itself, which is the cause of evil in its present form; and the state would have to be re-established first, on more noble principles, if the state was supposed to change this.
"Reason itself," he says, "will select the most noble fighter, and supply him or her with divine weapons." And then he says, how is it that in modern times, with all the knowledge and all the technology, that we are still barbarians? There must be something in the mind of people, in the character of human beings, which prevents the direct reception of truth. And, therefore he says, "sapere aude", "be courageous enough to be wise," and he mentions the ancient myth that the goddess of wisdom came to Earth already in full armament, and her first action was a warrior-like deed.
Now, most people are so much under the burden of taking care of their livelihoods, that they don't want, and cannot take the additional burden to think. And, therefore, they have an inclination to take the opinion from some group to which they belong, be it the church, the priest, the club, their peers, the media, or any other group. To have wisdom, and to love wisdom, one already has to be wise to appreciate it.
So, therefore, the question is: how does one find a way to the mind? And Schiller says, "You have to find it through the heart." And, therefore, he came to the conclusion that the development of what in German is called Empfindungsvermögen, "the sensuous comprehension of the world"—the ability of the totality of emotions and intellect, to absorb the world and improve it—that that development is the most important task of our time.
He says, "All improvement in the political realm, therefore, can only come through the ennoblement of the character of the individual. But, how can this occur, when the state is in such a barbaric condition?" And Schiller gives, for some, the surprising answer, "It can only happen through beautiful art. Because, Classical art and science are the only two areas which have an immunity against the arbitrariness of the despot.
"The despot, the tyrant, can outlaw art, but he can't rule in it. The artist can be the son of his time, but he should not be its product. The artist must take the ideals from a better, more noble period. But, how does the artist protect himself from the influences of his time? By despising its judgment."
"He has to take the highest ideals, but not the basic imperatives; and not present them as basic imperatives, but to present them in a playful way." He says, "the only way how you can eliminate rawness in the behavior, is you have to take it out of leisure time and out of the entertainment. And slowly, then the rawness will also be banned from the convictions. Rawness will be overcome through beauty in art. But, it has to be a notion of beauty which is not derived from experience, but beauty must be defined as a notion by reason through the abstraction of reason. You have to come to the conclusion that if man is supposed to be worthy of man, of the dignity of mankind, beauty must be seen as an absolute necessary condition of humanity. Beauty in art belongs both to the realm of reason, if it's defined in this way, and to the world of the senses, because it reconciles both. It ennobles our senses, and develops them up to the level of reason so that there is no contradiction anymore."
In the Introduction of The Bride of Messina, which is a play by Schiller, he says that the experience of great art invokes in the mind of the audience a power, a power which sets him really free and not just for the moment. It sets him internally free; a power that does not go away after the performance is over, because it sets free the divine characteristics in the human being, the inner-directedness, the self-guiding, that ability to think and be creative for yourself, without group-think.
If the United States is to be saved from its present condition of barbarism, then only through a Renaissance movement inspiring the population through the beauty of great art, only that can accomplish it. And, as Schiller says, "Truth and Beauty will be received by the more noble souls in society, and then from there, spread in milder rays throughout the whole population."
So therefore: "Dare to be wise," and join us.