The Immoral Seduction of Beauty (on the Margins of a Poem by Zbigniew Herbert)
Is evil ugly? Can we trust beauty to be good? Oppressed by a system of ugly lies and brutal violence, one is tempted to believe this. But what of the “potato-faced boys” and “very ugly girls”? If we condemn them as emissaries of evil, do we not ourselves become bearers of another wickedness, possibly even more malevolent? And yet, if the seduction of beauty may be immoral, how can we trust it to guide us toward truth?
Konstanty Gebert is an author, journalist, lecturer, and political activist based in Poland. In 1976 he graduated from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warsaw. He was a prominent figure in the democratic opposition in the 1970s and 1980s and cofounder of the unofficial Jewish Flying University (1979), the Polish Council of Christians and Jews (1980), and a trade union of the employees in academia, technology, and education that merged with Solidarnosc (1980). After the government imposed martial law, he wrote and published articles for various underground publications under the pseudonym Dawid Warszawski. Gebert also served as a war correspondent in Bosnia for Gazeta Wyborcza. His articles have appeared in a variety of national periodicals and foreign media. He has written numerous books, including a first-hand account of the Polish Round Table negotiations of 1989 as well as books on French policy toward Poland, on the Yugoslav wars, the wars of Israel, Torah commentary, and postwar Polish Jewry. Gebert is the founder of Midrasz, the first Polish-language Jewish periodical in postcommunist Poland, and regularly lectures in Poland, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and the U.S.