Breaking Bad’s Philosophy

UnknownEasily one of the best shows in television history, Breaking Bad owns up to its ingenuity through its complex philosophy. The great thing about Breaking Bad is that the characterizations, plot lines, and themes are delicately planned out and are designed to create questions for the audience. We constantly question Walt’s motives and ask ourselves if what he is doing is just. I will be using David Koepsell and Robert Arp’s Breaking Bad and Philosophy to help explain the intricate morals, cumulative transformations, and real-life translations.

Walter White starts out as  a high-school chemistry teacher living with his wife, a son with cerebral palsy, a soon-to-arrive daughter, and overwhelming pecuniary problems. Having left a successful company and settling instead as a teacher, Walt is left dissatisfied. Uxorious and unable to do what he wants, Mr. White’s life is dictated by those around him. He is a man of reason, but he lacks assertiveness and is disparaged by his ambitious DEA brother-in-law Hank. Here we have an excellent setup for the plot. Walter White is a nerdy chemist who cannot stand up for himself. What makes Walt’s characterization so powerful is its shock factor. By going from a very reserved teacher and interim car washer to a devious drug producer, the viewers get interested in Walt’s character. We do not expect this sudden transformation, which makes it all the more interesting.

Speaking of transformations, what is this whole Heisenberg persona about? Faced with cancer and a sudden realization of death, Walter White is detached from his conformed life. No longer concerned with living in accordance with the rules and authorities, Walt is able to choose his own life. Knowing he going to die one way or another, Walter is freed from his shackles to live the life he never had. Walter joins the meth business after observing Hank bust an operation. The large sums of money persuade Walt to produce meth to provide for his family when he is gone. Walt’s complicity in murder and drug distribution leads him to create Heisenberg. It can be argued whether Heisenberg is an alter ego or Walter himself. When he becomes Heisenberg, he is transcending his own morals, becoming Nietzsche’s Superman. At the same time, Heisenberg’s ruthlessness and spontaneity start to take over Walt’s personal life. We watch this rise to power in his everyday actions. Paradoxically, the cancer that limits Walt’s life subsequently opens up new more possibilities. Walt’s motives slowly change from providing money to being in control. Instead of thinking about the present, Walt starts to see life in the bigger picture. Our former chemistry teacher knows death is imminent, so he decides to do something about it. Walt’s carpe diem attitude leads him to do as he pleases without fear. Walter White no longer has to deal with the consequences of his actions, for Heisenberg has it all under control. There is a sort of connection we feel to Walter White. Trapped by the pressures of society and money, we can relate to Walt’s change of heart. A perfectly normal man is corrupted by the problems of our daily lives. When he dawns the black hat, Walt enjoys taking part in the illegal drug business, and it gives him a new meaning in life. Walt is creating a life worth living.

But while Walter is having fun blowing up cars and buildings in the name of his family, are his actions justifiable? Let us start off by examining his motives. Walter constantly tells his wife that everything he does is for her and the kids, and it is true for the most part. Cut short by cancer, Walt’s life is now dedicated to preparing his family for when he is gone. He arrives at the conclusion that he must acquire $737,000. What choice does Walt have? In the first season, Walt pridefully rejects his friend Elliott’s offer to pay for his treatment. Right here Walt could have avoided his life of crime. As soon as he declined the boon, he was destined to break bad. So, is selling meth to pay for his family’s future morally right? Yes and no. While Walter is not killing anyone, he is making the means to do so. Providing people with dangerous drugs is certainly bad, yet Walt is only making it. He and Gale Boetticher reason that people will get meth no matter what, but by creating pure meth, it is right. It is the user’s choice whether or not to do meth, so Walt is not responsible. Therefore, Walt has a sustainable source of money for his family. All the while junkies are dying because of him. But according to utilitarian principles, there is a contradiction: what is best for the people is best for virtue. There is a demand for meth, which, if supplied, will make them happy. On the other hand, people die from it, too.

Walter is responsible for many deaths for that matter. Overall, Walter is responsible for anywhere from 30 to 200 deaths. About ten of them were direct and the rest were indirect. Let us examine how justified these murders were. The first two deaths of Emilio and Krazy-8 were intentional. In a position of certain death, Walter acted in self-defense when he killed the former with phosphine gas at the threat of gunpoint. Krazy-8 is a bit more complex, though. Kept prisoner, is can be argued that Walt’s choking and killing the drug dealer was out of self-defense. Murder alone is immoral, but it can be said from a utilitarian viewpoint that it was acceptable. Think about it: both victims were drug dealers who have certainly killed before. By killing the both of them, Walt has potentially prevented future drug deals and murders. Several of Gus’ bodyguards were killed by gunshot and two dealers were run over by Walt. The first two are inexcusable as they are pure cold-blooded murder. The last, however, must be considered carefully. Walt killed the two dealers in order to save his partner Jesse from being shot. Jesse and Walter are very close so it is understandable why he would do such a thing. Yet then again, Walt did get out of the car and shoot one of the guys point blank. Some of the deaths were not as direct. Gale Boetticher was Walt’s former lab assistant before he was gunned down by Jesse. In this case, Gale was innocent and had no need to be expended. Walt ordered the hit, and in doing so, made Jesse a killer. Prior, Jesse had a (somewhat) clean record. Like his merciless employer Gus, Walt used Jesse as a mere instrument. Here, the blame is on Walt. Jane, Jesse’s late girlfriend, died from choking on her vomit; however, Walter could have easily prevented it. After accidentally pushing the drugged out girl on her back, she started to choke, and Walter just stood by and did nothing about it. Again, this could go both ways. This event could have been avoided had Jane done the responsible thing and not taken heroine. Conversely, Walter White could have intervened and saved her from dying. This one is up to you to decide. As a result of Jane’s death, her father, a now grieving air traffic controller, mindlessly crashed two planes. About 167 people died as a result. Walt inadvertently caused a chain of events leading to this, but it is a long stretch. Gus, Hector Salamanca, and Tyrus’ deaths were orchestrated by both Walt and Hector. While Mr. White supplied the bomb and came up with the idea, it was also Hector’s decision to go through with it or not. Both of them were under the threat of Gustavo Fring, so it was a dual effort. Here we have the same logic as Emilio and Krazy-8. Gus was a sociopath and he definitely deserved to die. Killing him freed Walt and his family from death and prevented further damage.

 

For further reading: Breaking Bad and Philosophy by David R. Koepsell and Robert Arp (2012)

Advertisements

Conformity, Identity, Expertise, and A Bad Case of Stripes

Unknown-1.jpegIn elementary school I remember reading a book called A Bad Case of Stripes. I am not entirely sure how the thought got to me, but upon reviewing the book, I found that there were some very profound and contemporary themes woven throughout the plot and characterization. Whether it was David Shannon’s intention or not, his book is secretly teaching children about philosophy and psychology when they read it without even knowing. So today I will be discussing and analyzing the subjects of conformity and peer-pressure, identity and existentialism, and construct of specialty.

Camilla Cream is your average student. While I am not certain whether she is in middle school or not, I will go ahead and make the assumption that she is. Camilla likes lima beans but her friends do not. The first mistake Camilla makes is conforming to her friends’ standards. Because her friends find beans repulsive, Camilla finds she must too. Middle school is a very vulnerable time. As G. Stanley Hall theorized, adolescence is a required period of time in which a child transitions from a child to an adult. During this time, individuals are malleable and easily influenced by others. Camilla thus wants to “belong” with her friends, even if it means giving up her favorite thing. The power of peer-pressure is not to be underestimated, for adolescents such as Camilla, like sheep, will blindly follow.

Camilla’s uncertainty is shown when metaphorical stripes cover Camilla’s skin head to toe. When she goes to school, Camilla finds herself the victim of countless verbal disparagements. Kids begin to shout out different colors and patterns mockingly. Bullying is a horrible thing and Camilla is left to deal with it. As the children cry out, Camilla finds her skin changing with each comment. Different patterns appear spontaneously, a metaphor demonstrating the effects of social pressuring. These patterns and stripes represent the literal patterns of society. Since she is predisposed to suggestion, she does as she is told and conforms further to the ever-increasing patterns.

The next point I’d like to make about today’s society is the idea that all doctors and specialists nowadays are seen as all-knowing and expertly qualified. Recently this idea has become more widespread. Doctors like to act as though they know everything and subsequently know what is best. Camilla’s doctor, Mr. Bumble, is unable to identify Camilla’s condition, so he calls in several “professionals.” These stereotypical scientists decked out in white coats begin to study Camilla. Each of the four doctors confirms his inability to discern her problem. Doctors can easily give the wrong diagnosis, as shown here, and most of the time they do not in fact know what is best. Instead of examining subjectively, they automatically make objective observations. Dr. Bumble then calls in two “experts.” Whatever makes these two so qualified surely does not show. Also, another problem with today’s society is how we treat and see people with disorders and disabilities. Since the 18th century, we have looked down on and treated people with problems like experiments and animals. The two experts poke and prod at Camilla, trying to find some clues. After, the two claim they will have the results in later, but really, they are just as ignorant as the doctors.

After many vain attempts, Camilla and her poor parents are confident she will never be the same. So many have tried yet so many have failed. But one person manages to successfully get Camilla to be herself again. The old lady who claims to know how to get Camilla back is symbolic, almost archetypal. If we look at Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes, we can easily identify this woman as your stereotypical wise senior. Old people are commonly characterized as being wise with age. When the old lady sees Camilla, she says somewhere along the lines of, “This is the worst case of stripes I’ve seen.” In my opinion, I am inferring that this old lady too has been a victim of conformity and has dealt with others. She reaffirms the potency of conformity, and again, the stripes represent social patterns. Now the old lady can be interpreted in many different ways. She could represent Camilla’s conscious or she could be that one friend that truly knows what is best for us. Either way, the old lady’s cure is… lima beans.

At first, Camilla is reluctant to eat the beans. She remembers how her friends reacted, so she responds with how much she despises lima beans. The old lady starts towards the door, obviously defeated, when Camilla admits that she really does like lima beans. It was part of the old lady’s plan, of course. She knew why Camilla wanted to feel like she belonged. Those seemingly insignificant lima beans are what makes Camilla Camilla. By giving up lima beans, Camilla is almost giving up on herself, on her identity. The old lady recognizes this. These lima beans are a symbol of who we are and what we value. What the book is basically saying is, as soon as you surrender your values to someone else, you become their slave in a sense. We are no longer in control. We subjugate ourselves to the herd — as Nietzsche would say — and we lose who we are as individuals. The existential part is evident now: Both Nietzsche and Kierkegaard argued against the group and always sided with the individual, and I agree. Camilla should not care about what the others think; Camilla should be herself. However, middle school is a tough time, and so I cannot blame her. One thing Camilla should never forget is the inscription at the Oracle of Delphi: Know thyself.

 

For further reading: A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon (2007)
The Psychology Book by DK (2012)
Teaching Children Philosophy

Metaphysics, Morality, and If I Stay

images.jpegFor English class I was assigned the book If I Stay by Gayle Forman. It may be surprising to know that this had been at my request. I had specifically requested to read this book for several reasons. Go ahead and classify it as “girly” or “mawkish” as you wish; this book, I knew, beneath all of its teen romance, had a very deep and touching meaning. Upon first sight it fascinated me. There are some themes in this book that I feel were very insightful and thought-provoking, so here is my analysis of If I Stay (spoilers ahead).

Here is a very brief synopsis: Mia Hall is put into a coma after she and her family get into a car accident. Whether Mia decides to stay with the living or join her dearly departed parents and brother is up to her. The course of the novel documents her thoughts and how she chooses to deal with her life or death dilemma. A majority of the story consists of Mia reminiscing about her family, best friend, and boyfriend, and how everything will be affected by her decision.

One aspect of the book that really made me think was how Mia, the narrator, was able to reflect in a sort of ghost-like state. The mind-body problem comes up here. It is explained in the book that while Mia’s physical body is lying in a hospital bed receiving treatment, her soul (or spirit) — if you will — is able to freely roam outside of the body. Though she cannot interact with anything, e.g. walls and doors, she can walk around and examine her surroundings. This is not scientifically correct, for it is obviously for narrative purposes. Throughout the book Mia tries to wake herself up, thinking that maybe she can just wake up and be done with the nightmare. If dualism is correct and her body is merely an agent for her all-powerful mind or spirit, then perhaps Mia has successfully separated her mind from her corporeal manifestation. Another interesting concept the book introduces is this idea that perhaps Mia, not the medical expertise, is truly responsible for what happens. A nurse comments that Mia is in control, that Mia can decide at any time. At some point Mia considers this further. Did her parents decide? Did her brother? If so, they chose to stop resisting. She brings up a more general question, one which really captured my interest. Does everyone who is dying have a choice? You may automatically respond with a firm no, I mean after all, if everyone had the choice to live or die, wouldn’t they still be here? This brings up further discussion. At this point, we are under the pretense that Mia could, at any time, decide to stay. Would that mean that she just instantly wakes up? It is not until the end of the book that I was able to answer this very question which ravaged my mind.

Towards the middle and end of the book, Mia faces numerous events that make her question whether it is worth living. Deep consideration and what I believe to be nihilism leads Mia to believe that life is simply not worth returning to. There is a small spark of Schopenhauer’s pessimism peeking out here. With her little brother Teddy gone with her parents and her relationship with Adam in shambles, Mia begins to think of leaving behind her life. It is not as simple as it seems: make a decision and accept your fate. A teenager with a promising musical career ahead of her and a loving boyfriend who happens to be a rising pop star, Mia still has something to hold onto. Part of what make this novel so amazing is its intense moral battle. Her grandparents share  a touching moment with Mia in the hospital. I am man enough to admit that my eyes teared up when it came to a conversation between an unconscious Mia and her grandpa. Full of tears, Gramps tells Mia that whatever she chooses is okay. If she decides to leave them, to join her parents, he understands. While he wants her to stay, he realizes it is up to her. Mia acknowledges this and notes a sense of relief. Further, when a distraught Adam (her boyfriend) talks to Mia, he begs her to stay. Without her, he is miserable. Part of Mia wants to ignore Adam, as he will make her decision harder; Mia is tormented by guilt. She feels selfish wanting to be with her parents. Kim, Mia’s best friend, attempts to convince Mia to stay as well. Kim reassures Mia that, while her family has passed away, she still has family. Mia’s relatives huddle in the lobby outside. Memories of good times with her family resurface, and Mia starts seeing things in a new light. In these simple times surrounded by loved ones, she tells herself, “This is what happiness feels like” (Forman 225). Sure, her life will never be the same and she will never be able to get what she lost back, but the future has more to bring; there is still family waiting for Mia on the other side. Us readers are convinced Mia has chosen to leave our world, but we now see in this epiphany that Mia has come to her senses.

Finally, Mia has something to live for. These memories of taking care of her little brother and joking with her parents still live on. As you can see, the plot is not some straight path. Mia is struggling with one of the toughest obstacles in the world. Her emotions. Her morals. Herself. The book is no longer a question of what, rather it is now about why. In the end, when Mia tries to communicate with Adam, she thinks maybe if she puts her soul back into her body she will awaken again. It does not work. It is only when the pleas of her boyfriend, the doubts of her best friend, the encouragement of her family, and the music that makes Mia feel alive that Mia awakens from her coma. Her first experience is that of her holding Adam’s hand in a sentimental ending.

The Scientific Revolution

Unknown.jpegIn the wake of the Renaissance, studies of the world such as astronomy, medicine, and biology began to be observed and tested by personages of science. During a time when religious affairs took precedence in life, several figures of science opened our eyes to how the world worked, uncovered new mysteries, and disabused the speculations from previous times.   

Back in the day, anyone you asked would erroneously tell you the Earth was the center of the universe. The Egyptian-Roman astronomer Claudius Ptolemy of the first century AD is responsible for spreading this misconception. Though a visionary figure for his time, many of Ptolemy’s ideas were off, and it was only until 1514 when Nicolaus Copernicus proposed heliocentrism. Copernicus, a Polish astronomer, found flaws in Ptolemy’s confounding equations. Nicolaus said that the Sun was the center of the universe and that the Earth among other planets circled it. Greek astronomist Aristarchus actually wrote this theory long before Copernicus, but it was not as effectual. A follower of the heliocentric theory, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for speaking against the church. Giordano was likely the first to think and elaborate on the theory that the universe is infinite, and furthermore, there were infinite planets and solar systems out there. Unlike Bruno, Copernicus, who held a position in the church at the time, kept quiet and made sure his ideas were not convicted of heresy. The Copernican system was not flawless, though, for more than 30 years later, Johannes Kepler would revise his predecessor’s notion. While he recognized the Sun as the center, he correctly noted that planets moved in ovular ellipses, not circles. Kepler was a student to Tycho Brahe, a notable Danish astronomer who interestingly lost his nose in a duel. Another great mind of astronomy was Galileo. Many incorrectly credit the Italian with creating the telescope, but no, he tweaked it instead. Galileo used the telescope to confirm the Sun’s importance and also identify the moons of Jupiter! Unfortunately, his notoriety spread to the church. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Medicine and biology are closely related. Not only do they have health in common, but they were also key movements in the Scientific Revolution. The only understanding of how the human body worked in Medieval times was supplied by the Greek Hippocrates and Roman Claudius Galen. These two started to focus more on the human body and not on the divine. Some of their ideas were highly regarded in their day and even today to an extent. For example, the Hippocratic Oath is still accepted by doctors. Galen proposed that four “humors” or liquids in the body translated to a patient’s health, both physically and emotionally. According to Galen, an overabundance or lack of the following resulted in illness: blood, phlegm, and yellow and black bile. Anatomists at the time of the Renaissance came to the conclusion that neither of the two doctors had ever actually studied the human body in depth. Disgusting and weird as it was, it was not rare for corpses to be stolen and be studied. Leonardo da Vinci and Andreas Vesalius did it. The latter updated many of Galen’s ideas and improved our understanding of the body. Further down the line, Hieronymus Fabricius and William Harvey discovered the circulatory system. Together, their research explained that blood flowed throughout the body. In the 1660’s, Robert Hooke used Antonie Leeuwenhoek’s revolutionary microscope to change the way we saw our world. Things invisible to the naked eye could now be seen. Cells were discovered as a result.

The last foci of the Scientific Revolution were the mathematics and logic that governed the world. Four of the most influential scientists in this time were Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, René Descartes, and Francis Bacon. Sir Francis Bacon was an Englishman most known for creating the scientific method. A logical man, Bacon created a method of experimentation that was based upon a hypothesis in which studies were conducted to prove or disprove. His deductive reasoning built upon Aristotle’s inductive reasoning, furthering his observations. Also, Francis Bacon urged others to examine the natural world to learn how it works. Because of his work, naturalism became dominant to supernatural phenomena. Bacon’s ideas and scientific method lit the way for other scientists. French mathematician and philosopher René Descartes had other methods of understanding the world. Like Bacon, Descartes believed in rationalism, stating that we can only know about our world by using logic and not by using our senses. Because he was a skeptic, he doubted the existence of everything — except himself. His famous “I think, therefore I am” preaches his philosophy. He also made many advances in mathematics such as Cartesian coordinates. Gottfried Leibniz was a great thinker and mathematician like his friend, Sir Isaac Newton. Leibniz’s work in math led to the development of functions and the creation of calculus — with the aid of Newton. He expressed very optimistic views, boldly declaring that we lived in “the best of all possible worlds.” Gottfried also said that God created everything perfect and translates our decisions. Most influential out of the tetrarchy of scientists is Isaac Newton. When we hear of Isaac Newton, we think of gravity. The Law of Universal Gravity asserts that a force propels objects toward a center of mass. After watching an apple fall, Newton developed his theory. Galileo used this to explain how the solar system was held and even used it to prove that objects fall at the same speed. Isaac said that the world is in perpetual movement and explained that everything is moving at all times. Newton also experimented with light. The seven colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet — all came together to create white light. If put through a prism, they dispersed into different hues. Sir Isaac Newton used this to create a color wheel.

 

For further reading: 1001 Ideas that Changed the Way we Think by Robert Arp (2013)
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World History by Timothy C. Hall (2008)
History: The Definitive Visual Guide by Adam Hart-Davis (2007)
Medieval and Early Modern Times by Jackson J. Spielvogel
Essentials of Philosophy by James Mannion (2006)
The Psychology Book by Nigel Benson (2012)
Atlas of World History by Alison Rattle

We Are Our Choices

“We are our choices,” said the 20th-century existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. The delivery of this famous line has a truly profound effect on one’s life.

Personally, I owe my passion for philosophy to this quote, for it served as inspiration for my initial essay on the subject. One thing that fans of Sartre note is his concise yet moving eloquence. In my opinion, the strongest quotes are those that the short and universal axioms. In just four words, the French philosopher sums up the existentialist message: Choose your own life. Every decision we make is made by us alone and adds to our character and specifically to who we are. Where we go in life is based on our choices. These very choices shape our futures.

And as the Roman stoic Seneca the Younger said, “You are your choices.”

The Avenger’s Internal Civil War

Unknown.jpegRecently I have made it my mission to find either a philosophy or a psychology behind any book, television show, or movie I come across. Marvel’s recent Captain America: Civil War is no exception. Behind all the non-stop action of constant explosions and unearthly punches I pieced together my own deconstruction of the characters’ ethics and mental processes. The civil war faced by these superheroes goes beyond even their powers, for their supernatural strengths are no match for the most complex and powerful weapon–the human mind (Spoilers ahead)!

Let us begin with the titular character, Captain America. The Avengers are given the option of either signing the Sokovia Accords and surrendering their freedom, or going rogue and continuing their missions to save the world. Steve Rogers immediately refuses to sign the act, arguing that the Avenger’s purpose is to aid the world whenever they need it. By being commissioned by the government, they are communicating a loss of power and their ability to make choices. According to the captain, the heroes should be able to do whatever they want whenever they please. Whether this is selfish or justifiable is hard to say. Captain America stands for freedom in the home of the free. Where others want to have control, he says no. In this way, he is a vigilante, as said by the secretary of state. However, later on in the movie when Captain America protects his wanted friend Bucky (the winter soldier) his motives can be questioned. Sheltering a man who–although brainwashed–has killed countless innocents from the government is not a good idea. Further, this man you call your friend has killed the parents of your billionaire friend is a little concerning. Again, is this act justifiable? Most likely no, in my opinion. Perhaps Rogers is right about keeping his freedom, but abetting a criminal who you know should not be alive is a bit outlandish. Despite their long past, Captain America feels it is his duty to save his friend from the world that is trying so desperately to kill him. Furthermore, his actions are constantly manipulated by his dogged resistance. Nearly killing several superheroes, beating the sense out of Iron Man, and causing mass destruction all for the sake of his assassin friend, Bucky.

Captain America is not the only one guilty of wanton destruction. His main opposition, the proponents of the Accords, namely Tony Stark, are just as disillusioned. Tony learns from a despondent mother that her son was killed by the Avengers during the Sokovian incident. This could be considered a turning point in Stark’s decisions. That guilt in addition to his ego leads him to believe that it would be better to be under the government’s control. He has a point: the Avenger’s are dangerous, and preventing further worldwide destruction would make more people happy… and alive. While Iron Man may be right in this way, his ego and determination make him a volatile opponent. Tony Stark suffers from a cognitive dissonance that would inevitably lead to his duel with the captain and winter soldier. Stark admits his ignorance and joins Roger’s mission to save Bucky. When he learns that his parents were murdered by the brainwashed Bucky, Stark snaps. He knows that Bucky did not mean it and that someone else is behind it, but he is too consumed by anger and rage that he ultimately chooses to betray the two. In a vicious battle, Iron Man blasts the winter soldier’s arm off and mercilessly beats Captain America around. Unfortunately for Stark, for it is human nature, anger leads to blindness. Just when he is about to blast Bucky for good, the captain utilizes Tony’s weak point and is able to prevent him from making a mistake.

Lastly, we have the Wakandan prince T’Challa, or Black Panther. The prince is left devastated after Bucky allegedly blew up a conference in Vienna, killing his father. Bereaved, the prince dawns his vibranium suit to take his revenge on the assassin. His mind unwittingly succumbs to vengeance and so he seeks justice for the wrongful act. Avenging his father is his only mission, and nothing will get in his way. Eventually, the Black Panther realizes that he has been misled the entire time and that another man had killed his father. Unlike the first two characters, the African prince is able to let things go. In a very enlightening moment, he stealthily approaches the man who killed his dad. Like the wise man he is, he knows that that Zemo’s intentions to destroy the Avengers from the inside comes from a familiar vengeance. Zemo wants revenge on the superheroes that killed his family. Touchingly, T’Challa notes, “Vengeance has consumed you. It’s consuming them [the Avengers]. I’m done letting it consume me.” He retracts his claws and decides not to kill Zemo even he is the very monster that got him into this situation. I found this moment to be very important. The prince demonstrates the ability to control his emotions and realize that things need to take their path. Instead of dwelling on the past, he must move on. If only Iron Man and Captain America could show similar attributes of righteousness.

Islands and Wires

What do islands and peninsulas have in common? Are they both surrounded by water? Well, yes, but they also share the Latin root insula, meaning island. Some common words you come across on the quotidian contain this root without you even knowing!

Peninsula– Land surrounded by water (literally translates to almost island)
Insulate (insulation)- To cover a material for conductivity
Insular- Can either mean, of a person, secluded, or relating to an island

 

Source: http://wordinfo.info/unit/1073/s:aisle

Words of the Day

We encounter words on the quotidian. Every day we see words and use them in our diurnal routine. Fortunately for us English speakers, there is a handful of wonderful words that can be used to describe our days.

For all the morning people out there, we always see the all-too-familiar a.m. This acronym is actually the latin ante meridiem, which translates to “before midday.” Dawn is often the term used to identify the earliest part of the day when the sun shines. Another favorable word for this is antelucan. Again, the latin roots translate to “before light.”

Conversely, night owls are much more comfortable in the p.m. or post meridiem. As you can guess, this means “after noon.” Unfortunately for us curious linguists, there is no clever acronym for f.m. Come twilight, when the sun sets, us verbivores prefer the ominous crepuscular. A great adjective, crepuscular refers to anything occurring during twilight. You know those rays of light that poke through the clouds? Those are crepuscular rays. If you are more of a sleeper then you are the mesonoxian type. Latin for “middle of the night,” mesonoxian is anything at midnight.

The two words I used in the introductory paragraph refer to anything that happens daily. Quotidian, roughly translated, means “every day.” When you say something is quotidian, it happens on a daily basis. Likewise, diurnal relates to the happening of the day. Unlike most of the other words, diurnal comes from the evolved diurnalis, meaning daily. With this daily dose of words, you may now enjoy your days, ante meridiem to mesonoxian!

 

For further reading: The Grand Panjandrum  by J.N. Hook 
Word Drops by Paul Anthony Jones (2015)

The Russian Revolution

UnknownThe whole world was shaken in 1917 when the Russian Revolution transpired. A single moment in history such as this has a profound effect that will echo for generations. For nearly 70 years the Soviet Union ruled Russia with an iron fist. The Russian Revolution led to both years of great difficulty and loss to years of fortitude and success. Unfortunately, the revolution that changed the country from capitalist to communist was inevitable. By ridding Russia of its last czar, the Bolsheviks were able to convert the country to a socialist economy, which then turned into a brief but bloody civil war.

Russia was ruled by a czar, or emperor (short for Caesar), since its golden age of the Kievan Rus. A tight dynastic rule was held over the country in a hereditary line. However, a series of bad decisions weakened their influence and eventually meant they would fall out of favor with the people. Events such as the Russo-Japanese War and World War One resulted in a strong disapproval of the czar. The economy and pride of the people were greatly endangered during these times. Civil rest followed with multiple revolts against the government. Another factor in Nicholas II’s downfall was the monk Rasputin. A close advisor to the emperor and his family, Rasputin was able to manipulate the country from the inside. Many of the people distrusted the mystic and eventually killed him off. It was too late though, for Nicholas then abdicated in 1917. A year later, Nicholas and his family were executed in a barn to prevent further contravention.

What happened next was the seizing of the Russian government by Lenin and his communist Bolshevik party. A temporary governing power called the provisional government took the czar’s place at this time. Having returned from exile, Lenin gathered a large following of working class civilians and led rebellions across the country. Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto greatly assisted Lenin’s popularity. Alexander Kerensky took over as prime minister. He tried to quell the revolutionaries along with the Russian army. With casualties left and right, tension grew between the people and the government. When Lavr Kornilov, general of the army, sent backup to protect the provisional bastions, Kerensky asked for aid. Lenin helped expel the army and subsequently gained more respect. On the other hand, Kerensky and the provisional government weakened. Vladimir Lenin sent to Petrograd to initiate a full-fledged revolution. The head of the operation was Leon Trotsky, who, without spilling any blood, overthrew the government during the October Revolution (October 25). Trotsky and Lenin turned the country into a communist regime. A treaty was signed between Russia and Germany, halting the war in 1918.

While some people were happy with the conversion, others were not too satisfied. The Bolshevik party polarized into the Whites and Reds. Consisting of Ally forces, anti-communists, and other liberalists, the Whites fought to revert the country and drive out the socialist despots. Leon and Vladimir’s armies were stronger and had more resources. As they gained control over more countries, they were able to counter the opposing party’s attacks. This war would decide the fate of Russia. There were numerous enemies of Lenin at the time, including the imminent return of Nicholas II (recall that he was murdered at this point in time to prevent his return). Trotsky’s armies were superior and beat back the opposition, permanently rendering Russia’s status as communist.

 

For further reading: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World History by Timothy Hall (2008)
History the Definitive Visual Guide by Adam-Hart Davis (2007)
Atlas of World History
by Kate Santon

Karl Marx: Communism

imagesThe infamous United Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union, is remembered throughout history for its radical communistic views. But how did a concept so wild and inconceivable for its time manage to become so powerful? In the 19th century, a German socio-economic philosopher and revolutionist by the name of Karl Marx instigated a series of nominal revolutions that would alter Russian and international history for years to come.

Born during the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s, Karl Marx was an intelligent and very hardworking child. Most of his early life was spent working, so it is logical that his ideas would seek to benefit the working class. Having studied Hegel in university, he interpreted Hegel’s message as an inevitable uprising of the working class. Mass production had spread all across the continent. Karl asserted that producers were key to society. In addition to Hegel, Marx was influenced by the arrival of socialism, which searched for a utopian society that gave equal rights to social classes. Capitalist Russia was, in Marx’s mind, scandalous and unjust. It seemed unfair that the bourgeoisie, the middle class, was able to effortlessly make profit from the production of the working proletarians. In this regard, it appeared evident that the proletarians would ultimately overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish a “proletarian dictatorship,” or rule by the working class.

Karl Marx befriended Friedrich Engels, a fellow socio-economist who shared similar views to those of Marx. The two were a perfect pair. Later in Marx’s life when he was low on income, Engels was able to support him. Early on in their partnership, 1848 to be exact, Marx and Engels published The Communist Manifesto. Though there was no fruitful sedition, the philosophical pamphlet managed to ignite several small revolts throughout Europe. Marx’s mission was to replace capitalism with communism. Unlike capitalism, communism is a system in which property and production are owned by the people. Here we can clearly see the influences from socialism. In fact, in addition to communism, a system called Marxism was birthed. At this point, Marx was a highly controversial figure; to some he was a hero fighting for the working class; to others, he was a radical who wanted to ruin industrialization. He was exiled to Britain to avoid further conflict with the government.

Marx’s last years were not as he planned. Financially unstable, he and Engels still wrote books and works on the subject of socialism, but to no immediate success. After joining the International Working Men’s Association in 1864, Marx was able to publish his second driving book Das Kapital. Not much happened afterwards, but another rebellion seven years later in Paris gave Marx more worldwide attention. His praise of the event made him an enemy to many. Unfortunately for Marx, his legacy arrived posthumously. His works, though he never saw them come to life, would change the course of history.

 

For further reading: Essentials of Philosophy by James Mannion (2006)
Philosophy: An Illustrated History of Thought by Tom Jackson (2014)
History: The Definitive Visual Guide by DK (2007)
1001 Ideas that Changed the Way we Think by Robert Arp (2013)