Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Existentialism in Trainspotting: As a philosophy, existentialism is purposefully ambiguous. It seeks to emphasize the primacy of individual choice, and that, through choice, individuals can either add or subtract meaning in their lives. External forces acting on individuals are important, but an individual's existence ultimately cannot be defined by them. Thus, if individuals are the final determinants of giving their lives meaning, then they ought to scrutinize deeply their choices. Yet there are elements of transience and permanence in existential philosophy that manifest themselves lucidly in the industrialized world. These elements are certainly present in the hobby of trainspotting. For example, when a train passes a trainspotter, there is a unique self-reflective response that occurs in which the trainspotter realizes the transient nature of his existence on Earth. But through the use of a camera, the trainspotter is able to create an aura of permanence from his particular vantage point. So whereas the train represents the impersonal passing of time, the trainspotter signifies the personal supplier of meaning to the event. And at bottom, existential philosophy is only meaningful if one takes it personally.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
1 9 6 8: If there was one year in the twentieth century that historians could designate as the most tumultuous, 1968 was it. Aside from the societal impact of World War I & II (and their immediate aftermaths) on the twentieth century, 1968 represented the apex of a worldwide counterculture movement. This movement generated both liberal outbursts and conservative backlashes in domestic politics (RFK assassination/Chicago Seven/Nixon election), racial integration (MLK Jr. assassination/Fair Housing Act), labor rights (French student strikes), liberation theology (Medellín Conference/Humanae Vitae), foreign immigration (Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech), and guerrilla warfare (Tet Offensive). It also signified the early unraveling of Soviet-style communism in Second and Third World countries, and likewise, Western efforts to contain it. For example, when Alexander Dubček became the Premier of Czechoslovakia in January 1968, he attempted to reform the communist regime (Prague Spring) by relaxing state control in socio-political areas like economic planning, speech censorship, administrative authority, and intrastate travel. These reforms ultimately elicited disdain from the Soviet Union, as it would later invade Czechoslovakia in August 1968 with help from its Warsaw Pact comrades.