Francisco Goya, the Social Revolutionist


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:00 p.m. EDT, 4 February 2014

Portana, Vicente Lopez (1772-1850) - 1826 The Painter Francisco Goya (Prado, Madrid)

As a writer and an artist, I find that paintings, drawings and photos, often evoke immediate, visceral and sustained reactions that words, though equally powerful, take much longer to effect. That is why I include paintings, drawings and videos in my posts.

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), known simply as Goya, was an innovative Spanish painter and etcher. He was also an incredibly committed and brave political and social commentator and critic.

His body of work primarily focused on the gross excesses of the Catholic Church, the sadistic cruelty and violence of The Spanish Inquisition, and the excesses of the Spanish Aristocracy. His critique of the latter often required finesse because his benefactors were members of the aristocracy.

In the post titled the "Politics of Abnegation", I used his painting titled, "Saturn Devours His Sons", as the point of debarkation for my perspective on the current state of disparity between the wealthy and the "middle class", "working class", "working poor", or "proletariat".

The gruesome imagery portrayed in this painting, evokes not only futility, but the depths of depravity and the lengths to which some individuals in positions of power go to maintain their status quo, and to prevent change, equality, or justice.

I particularly admire Goya, because unlike in America, where the illusion of freedom of speech is promulgated, Goya's lived in Spain under a very repressive religious regime protected by the Monarchy. Outspoken opinions and criticisms if overheard by the wrong individual could and did result in an immediate trial before the Court of Inquisition, usually culminating in a verdict of death by some of the most barbarous torture devices employed by sadistic inquisitors.

This makes Goya's commitment to seek, speak, print and paint the truth even more remarkable. His bravery is evidenced, not so much by the biopic movie Goya's Ghost, as in the body of work he left for us to review. The same excesses that he pilloried, though unique to his epoch and religious persuasion, are nonetheless similar to the gross injustices perpetrated by corporations against people all over the world today.

Greed and avarice, constant companions and an apparent weakness of man, have taken the populace hostage in 21st Century America. Barely one hundred and fifty years later, it is hard to believe that the figures ridiculed in this early 20th Century satiric cartoon, do not depict our "masters of the universe" or more recently The Wolf of Wall Street. Neutralized and impotent, we watch with horror, as the top 1% wage wars around the world, in our name, for their economic gain.

Robber Barons

There are many political essayists, commentators and journalists, who on a daily basis publicize, highlight and decry the injustices perpetrated by the few against the many. In equal number media conglomerates employ a cadre of "talking heads" to justify or at least minimize the gross excesses, depraved indifference, and moral turpitude of these would be kings and queens.

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Published: 4 February 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

I am, like so many other Americans, greatly disappointed with the disparity between the ideals espoused fifty-years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson, in his May 22, 1964 speech, "The Great Society"; and the precarious economic and social condition in which today most Americans find themselves.

Just as Johnson's speech promoted the ideals of change and egalitarianism, many American's hoped the current Obama administration would be able, in a few short years, to change the course of an American history built upon a foundation of inequity.

America's dichotomous history was constructed upon the ideals of freedom from indefinite indentured servitude and from religious tolerance; unless one was a member of the indigenous Indian peoples who lived in America prior to European settlement or was an African slave transported to the States to work the plantations.

The economic gains realized under this slavery systems remained in place, through constitutional force with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. An amendment that declared blacks be counted as 3/5 of a man, to ensure equal representation in the Congress for the Northern and Southern landed gentry, who were the Senators and Congressmen.

And thus it continued, as each newly immigrated people were fed into the system, their lack of sophistication, education, and knowledge of Capitalism, enabled their immediate and easy exploitation. Hence, the Industrial Revolution, which worked almost as well as slave labor until, someone read, believed, and put into practice that which was promised by the Constitution.

Unions were formed, reforms were mandated and instituted, but like an ever shifting plane, wherein only the architects know the rules of the game, as quickly as the underclass made gains, these newly afforded freedoms, were quickly transformed into softer, less obvious chains.

The Robber Barons of the late 19th Century have with seeming impunity, been reincarnated in 21st Century Wall Street Bankers, Corporate Executives, and Insurance Titans. Whereas in the late 19th Century it was the Industrialists who oppressed the populace, today we have amorphous corporations that have been allowed to conglomerate into reified global entities. Entities entirely free of responsibility or restraint, not subject to government intervention or political coercion, nor compelled by any state's or country's legislation.

These ills which afflict our society will not be solved quickly or easily; but we must never give up hope, nor despair in the face of such pervasive injustice. Though it seems in every generation, we pay for the sins of our fathers, it is up to the prophets, artisans, martyrs, and revolutionaries, to hold the torch and light up the dark places of society's heart.

Unto each is allotted strength and wisdom sufficient to their task. Mine is writing, Goya's was painting, and each person reading this is similarly gifted and has the tools and the destiny to make a difference. We must remember, today we may not feel it, but tomorrow we or someone we know will be impacted.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. was quoted as saying, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I hope this post and Goya's paintings inspire you to explore how you can make a difference.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias