Aesthetic Realism, Founded by Eli Siegel,
Provides a New Perspective for Anthropology & Socio

Anthro TECH Site of the Month Award
A Novel Against Racism  
By Arnold Perey
Chapter 2. The Attack Arising from Contempt 
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,   
    Disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage;   
    Then lend the eye a terrible aspect.   
                 —William Shakespeare, King Henry the Fifth
    It is necessary to see that while the contempt which is in every one of us may make ordinary life more painful than it should be, this contempt is also the main cause of wars.   
               —Eli Siegel, "What Caused the Wars,"    
                  The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, # 165 
        We come to the day when Gwe was still an infant in his pandanus-leaf blanket, snug within his mother’s big net bag, as the big bag rocked from a low branch of a tree in the garden she was weeding. In a few hours—after nightfall—five days’ walk from Gwe’s mother’s home, what was called by the Australian press the Ketta-bora Disaster would take place.  

     That year, white men had first come to Ketta-bora in the high mountains. They brought black policemen. One was Sergeant Samai who had once been a favorite child, a darling child, of Hurari: a village on stilts extending into the Pacific Ocean near Port Moresby.  

     The sergeant took choice Ketta-bora land to grow his crops. He thought the Ketta-bora people were ignorant and primitive. To himself he called them wild pigs. To make them obey he would punch a man’s nose so blood came out. He would beat a man with a club. To impress them with his extraordinary power he and armed police constables called for a pig at Ketta-bora villages in the bush, and he, with one shot of his World War I rifle, would kill it instantly. The roar of wonder and fear from many men would please him immensely. Once he killed a Ketta-bora man with a blow from his rifle butt. The sergeant and some of his constables were having a superb contempt for the men of Ketta-bora who had seen no weapon but a bone knife, wooden arrow, and fighting pick tipped with the nail of a cassowary.  

     There were a dozen police, dressed in blue, transported into bush country from their coastal homes. What were their jobs officially? Keep the peace, mediate with natives, provide the force to back up the two white patrol officers in their conflict-settling mission and their mineral-sampling1; count the census and keep the men in their lines. They had power over the smaller men of the mountains whom the women knew as father, brother, and husband.   

     The patrol officers and police put the men to work. The men made roads, an airstrip, built a patrol post, and planes flew in and out of it with mail, materials, wages, more police.  

     Women, married and unmarried, were dazzled by the large officers of the law who possessed stunning blue clothing and who had razors, silver shillings, knives and steel axes rather than stone. Directed by the white men, these police bought hundreds of arrows from the men, thus disarming them. And the girls had power in their fashion over these big men, who, however, wouldn’t marry them. Women and land: the dozen or so police had these. And their bosses, the two white officers, had the police and power. And one of the white officers took, as mistress, a married woman of Ketta-bora.2  

     Drunk with conceit, unbalanced by contempt, these government men, both white and black, felt they were born to superiority.  

     When told to line up for the census (every few months the government kept track of who was living where and with whom) the diminutive Ketta-bora warriors would grind their teeth in fury and stand in orderly lines with folded arms. The bigger-bodied foreigners would say: "You’re not strong, you’re just little children."   

     The men did what they were told and made secret plans. One night in 1952, after a ceremony to make themselves hard and cold like pythons, they attacked the police and white men, and were victorious.3  

     As Gwe snuggled on the lap of his mother in the family house, late at night, and pursed his lips to suckle milk, the men rose up against the invaders. The last mortal thing two white patrol officers saw was over forty black warriors painted in red, yellow and blue, who had run silently into their sleeping quarters. One officer was the youthful pride of a family dealing in wool; the other was the pride of a seller of vegetables. Stone axes and bone knives were used, thighbones of cassowaries honed to a point and gripped by the knurl, to effect executions by Ketta-bora law, upon the officers and their police: ravishers of women, killers of men, and arrogant thieves of land.  

     Sergeant Samai, who 30 years before swam in the lucent water of the Papuan Gulf between the posts of his father’s elevated house, with the women laughing as his two little feet flashed like fish, who had loved and won a beautiful woman of Hurari and sang to her on the sand in the evening, on that last night of his life saw black eyes flash triumphantly into his own as a bone knife pressed between his ribs. It went through a lung, and into his heart, which stopped beating. His spirit went to his ancestors in the dark world below. His wife, later, mourned for him in Hurari.  

     After this was done, the men of Ketta-bora cut trees and began dragging them across the airstrip to prevent government planes from flying in from the coast and landing. With bamboo knives, then, they cut the police and patrol officers in little pieces, butchering them like pigs, cooked them in an earth oven, and late in the morning ate them with taro. Here was the supreme contempt for the enemy. This meat they were eating had just a few hours before been thinking, feeling, hoping human beings just as they were themselves.  

     The government radio at Ketta-bora did not respond to inquiries from headquarters in Kiriwinoo. The Administration guessed what might have happened and sent a small plane to observe from the air, and what the pilot saw confirmed their suspicion. A punitive expedition, well armed, was sent by river boat and then by foot, up the Sepik and through the foothills, into the central mountain region. They dragged those trees from the airstrip, cleaned it up, radioed for help. In three hours one plane after another landed with police who bundled into them all the men, women and children they could catch for a trip to the coast and jail. The killers were tried in court and sentenced to death.  

     One of the children, Wogeo, learned Tok Pisin, eventually became an interpreter, then a police lieutenant himself, and years later would cheat Gwe at cards at the patrol post in Oksapmin.  

     It was into this atmosphere of mutual contempt, fear, and fury between black and white that Gwe was born. And Gwe would tell his anthropologist friend Alan what he heard of Ketta-bora, in years to come.  

     It would have been so simple for the white men to have asked, "Why, O men of Ketta-bora, do you feel so angry at us that you grind your teeth and glare?"   

     The men they jailed did not want to do this thing: they had to become, in a ceremony, like serpents to do so. They were men who thought, felt, and hoped just as the white men and the police did. The men they jailed, and thought savages, were using horror to rid themselves of the horror that invaded them. And they too desired the victory of contempt.  

     "Contempt for what is different from ourselves is an insane principle of great moment in history," writes Eli Siegel; and the only solution is to see others with the same depth and fulness we want to be seen with ourselves. The beginning sameness we all have in common must be studied to defeat the insane principle of contempt.   

1Copper ore was found. This find resulted in vast environmental destruction by mining in the Mountain Ok area.   

2Some details in this chapter are based on Barry Craig's account of the murders at Telefolmin, 1953 (Barry Craig and David Hyndman, editors, Children of Afek: Tradition and Change among the Mountain-Ok of Central New Guinea, University of Sydney: 1990).   

3In a personal communication, George Morren of Rutgers University told me of this ceremony among the Mianmin people where he conducted research.   

4See Glossary, Tok Pisin. 
image of book cover

Gwe Is Born   
The Attack  
Five Years Later
Alan Comes to New Guinea  
Equality & Difference 
A Story of Famine


You can order this book directly from Waverly Place Press, or from Google Books or


See: Aesthetic Realism: A New Perspective for Anthropology & Sociology
About Arnold Perey
Aesthetic Realism Foundation
Aesthetic Realism Online Library
Aesthetic Realism Consultations
The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method
What People Say: Links to Aesthetic Realism Resources
Barbara Allen: Aesthetic Realism Consultant, FlutistBarbara Allen: Aesthetic Realism Consultant, Flutist
John Singer Sargent's Madame X, an Aesthetic Realism Discussion
Friends of Aesthetic Realism--Countering the Lies

Anti-Racism Resources:

See articles by writers whom I esteem. Writing by Ellen Reiss, the Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, includes her "Difference and Sameness: The Human Question" and "Racism Can End."

Nancy Huntting is represented by her "On Racism & How to End It".

See Capt. Allan Michael's "It Is In Contempt That the Root of Racism Lies" and Alice Bernstein's book, Aesthetic Realism and the Answer to Racism.

Articles by New York teachers who demonstrate how the standard curriculum, K-12, can be used to encourage kindness and oppose racism include: "Prejudice Changes to Respect" and "Students Learn, Prejudice Is Defeated!"

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Copyright © 2004-2017 by Arnold Perey