Tsirk (1936), Soviets Avoid “Backwardness”

The film Tsirk (1936), though a skillfully crafted story, was without a doubt a propaganda vehicle for the Soviet Union.  The main character Mary appears to be an escapee of an apparently backwards society where she was chased out by an angry mob for having an interracial child. In order to escape from the mob, she jumped on a train where she met what appeared to be a circus actor who took her under his wing.… Read the rest here

Self Help

A. Samuel Smiles was a Scottish author and government reformer. His father died of cholera so his mother had to work very hard to support him and his many siblings. This example set by his mother had a great influence on his life and certainly this book.

C. Published during the Victorian Era in Britain, this book made Smiles quite famous. The book has been called the bible of “mid-Victorian Liberalism.”

L. The language is simple and inspiring.… Read the rest here

Spencer’s Social Progress

Author: Herbert Spencer, English philosopher

Context: 1857, prior to Darwin’s “The Origin of Species”, on the tail-end of the first Industrial Revolution

Language: inquisitive and scholarly; here he asked what social progress really meant and whether it should be redefined

Audience: the intelligent but uninformed, more specifically those interested in philosophy and anthropology

Intent: to direct scholars’ attention to another way of thinking about society and social progress; until this time most were under the impression that social progress meant that societies were improving the standard of living.… Read the rest here

Indefinite Perfection

Condorcet, in his Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, argued that mankind progressed at a continuous rate toward perfection. His philosophy for perfection was guided by his own reason and science. Condorcet was adverse toward religion and believed that reason was the sole basis for man’s ability to progress, become virtuous, and better society. He saw man’s ability to be limitless and unconstrained by nature, and concluded, “that this perfectibility of man is truly indefinite.” He observed that society had gone through many stages and periods of error and false theories regarding the rights of man.… Read the rest here

Science and Religion’s Means to an End

Einstein’s writing on the contradictory nature of science and religion explains the limits of human knowledge and use of the scientific method. He believes that only religion can give us the sense of “ultimate and fundamental ends.” In addition, he adds that this is directly related to the democratic ideals and therefore with the discarding of religion, the democratic spirit is being set aside as well.

The part of this excerpt I found most intriguing was Einstein’s focus on ends and means.… Read the rest here

Things To Come

William Cameron Menzie’s film Things to Come is an adaptation of a novel by HG Wells.  Produced in 1936, this science fiction film explores England’s dystopic future that comes as a result of a devastating war, which is significant in the way that it accurately predicts World War II.  England first experiences a regression to the dark ages, which is followed by a period defined by obsession with progressions of technology.  Authoritarian leaders are in power during each of these eras.… Read the rest here

Progression and Regression in “Things to Come”

 

What do years of war bring? What do years of peace bring? William Cameron Menzies’s film, Things to Come, based on a novel by H.G. Wells, shows these two extremes in a dystopian future. After extended war, the human race reverts back to barbarism and no longer know how to fly planes. After extended peacetime, humans make too much progress, and the object of life is not progress, it is living. Either way, too much regression or too much progression will cause humans to lose sight of what it means to live.… Read the rest here