Yvy Truong

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. – Oscar Wilde

A Note on Silencing the Past

From reading Silencing the Past from Trouillot… I can’t help but feel a bit nervous about all the things in history that we don’t know about and the things that we might perhaps never know about. One question – and I can’t remember specifically what the question was, but the gist of it was why and how those in power (be it kings, queens, royals, leaders, etc.,) alter the past in attempts to make themselves look better in the future. That makes me nervous for some reason because I think why people would try to alter the past to make themselves look better for the future is because, I think we all fear death and we all want to be remembered once we do die. And I sometimes think that whatever we attempt to do is out of the fear of being forgotten.

On another note, I raised a question on the role of social media in the role of history. Since we are actively involved in history and the way we are involved has certainly changed (for example: facebook, twitter, pinterest, tumblr, this blog, wordpress blogs, etc.,)… could it possibly detrimental? Not to discredit social media, I believe that we get to be involved in current events more so than before where information was limited and where information was restricted. I believe we have access to a fuller picture and where we are allowed to form our opinions rather than have major networks to form out opinions and I much rather this than having out view restricted with limited lenses. But I don’t want to give social media too much credit either. Yes, the way information travels is much faster than how it did before, but with that said, the speed of false information travels rapidly as well. What I worry about is that we might trust it more and not view it as sceptically as we should.


I think I’ll end this post with a little poem…

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


A Few Notes on Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality

I’ve been so behind on my blog posts, it’s terrible! This is a draft I had from last week but I never got around to publishing it. Terrible, I know!

Thinking back on Friday’s seminar there was a question that I found interesting and I’m still thinking about it here and there. The question was, why does inequality exist, how does it exist within today’s context, what can we do about inequality, and can we be equal?

And I’m thinking and thinking and thinking and… Why are we unequal? Well Rousseau believes in society there are two types of inequality, one being biological (some people are born more strong, more fast, more etc., etc., than others), and social (discrepancies between people through class structure, ownership of property, etc., etc.,). And I believe in Rousseau’s Discourse he focuses more on he social aspect of Inequality. Through repeated interaction we began to compare ourselves to one another, realizing we were lacking in some way or form and when we began owning property, we saw the “Have’s” and “Have-Nots”. However, prior to that there was marginal “in between” stage (the part right between Savage man and Nascent man) where people living together were happy because they did not yet compare themselves (Nascent Society, where Rousseau talks about it almost as the Golden Age of Humanity).  Then right after came the downfall which led to ownership, slavery, government, etc., etc.,


So how does it exist within today’s context? In a lot of different ways. There are disparities within our own country, on a global scale, etc., etc., and as terrible as it may sound, I don’t think that those disparities can fully disappear. Granted, there are things that we are actively involved in to close that gap (and that gap surely has grown quite a bit), and I think it’s good how we are actively involved in those efforts, but I think there will always be this level of inequality (and I believe I am talking more in an economic sense though not to undermine that there are social inequalities as well). And I say this because I want to look at the history of Russia during the communist revolution. If we look at communist as the ideology that the state was involved with the modes of production and that people were essentially equal, there was still a lot of inequality and furthermore, the equality that people were under… Well, it was quite poor. So might I then address how we see “equality” . . . I think when we think about equality in theory (and will a little added roses tinted glasses), we see a version of it where there is more than enough and people are happy and full and satisfied. But if we look at the attempts of equality through practice then the image is entirely different. Sure, you can say people were equal (to some extent), but they were equal on the lowest bar. So when I think we want to achieve equality, I don’t think we want to be equal, I think we want more (again, in an economic sense and less so on social equality).


But what I really wanted to get to for this blog post was about what I mentioned in my last blog post. I mentioned a little bit about the movie Midnight In Paris. If you don’t know what that movie is, it’s a film directed by Woody Allen a few years back about this guy named Gil Pender. He’s dissatisfied with his present life, romanticizes the past (wanting to go back to the 1920’s in Paris, the “Golden Age”), and he actually does go back to the 20’s where he meets Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and a love interest, Adriana. Well, some other crazy shinnanigans happens and Gil realizes that the present is the best time to live, that we look at the past so nostalgically because “[the present is] a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying”… Okay, well that was a terrible movie summary. I suggest everyone to watch the movie because I did not do the movie justice with that summary. I think that Rousseau is a bit like Gil though. He longs for a past because he thinks it was better and people were better and the climate was better. But the trouble with that (and it’s mentioned in the movie) that if the past becomes our present, we’ll start longing for another past. And it’s true, we might never be satisfied, and I’ll admit, sometimes I’m not and I fear that I might not feel like how I think I should feel… But right now is the only time I know.

Life might not be the party we had hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance.

A Note on Two Texts: Leviathan and Discourse on Inequality

I still want to talk about Leviathan a little bit because from my last blog post, I think I missed the mark on Hobbes! I still don’t understand him but I’m still trying.

So from what I heard, last seminar (the one that I missed), the group talked about …

1) Why Hobbes thought monarchy was the best for of government


2) If today’s society is much like a Hobbesian sovereignty (as it can also be a democracy)


With number one, why Hobbes thought monarchy was the best way to go, I think I want to look at it more in a historical context (if you can say that). I think Hobbes doesn’t like democracy for the same reason Plato didn’t like democracy. From what I know, democracy was dramatically different than how we practice democracy today. We have proportional representation whereas before it was the practice of oratory. Plato (from what I believe and remember), feared that whoever spoke well everyone would agree and follow them. That worries me and I can see how that would worry everyone else. However, I do not know how democracy was practised during Hobbes time, so maybe I missed the mark again.

And if todays society is much like a Hobbesian sovereignty… Hm, I think I would have to understand Hobbes a but more but if from what I do know, I can see how it can be fitting. Speaking specifically of Canada, I think everyone more or less, have common values and we have a certain identity that we like to uphold. Though we aren’t all exactly the same and we are trying to live our own lives and whatnot, we are nevertheless Canadians and try to fit in the stereotype… Does that make sense?

But enough about Hobbes!

I thought Discourse on Inequality was nice to read and I guess that is what is so appealing about Rousseau. The way he writes is miles away from Leviathan (though they were written in different times). To add, during the time of the Enlightenment, reading wasn’t mean for everyone. It was meant for the scholars and the educated and not for the everyday person (then after the Enlightenment came the Early Romantics and Romantics), so the way Rousseau writes really does feel a lot more… Refreshing. But I will admit, I don’t agree with him. I find that he’s too nostalgic for an age he didn’t see. Actually, during lecture I was reminded of the movie Midnight In Paris.


I think I’ll make another blog post explaining more on what I mean later today

Leviathan and Whatever Else

Woops, i’m a little late to the blogging party!


Well, I can’t say I agree with Hobbes but granted, what I think he is trying to do is interesting.

So what is he trying to do? Well for one, there is a point that if lets say, I’m disputing with you about… What is just. I have a definition of what justice means and you have a different view on what it is and therefore, if we’re disputing on something that we both have a different interpretation of, we really aren’t disputing at all.


I understand what Hobbes is doing in terms of giving us a dictionary. He’s doing it (I think) in attempts to reform the mind. Like Crawford said in lecture, it’s almost as if he is trying to reform the bible and the origin of man. And if he is successful of reforming the way we think, and if we abide by that, it opens the potential for absolute power. If we all thought the same way, did the same things, etc., etc., etc., then why not live under absolute power? If everyone and everything were the same, wouldn’t that be peaceful?

But that’s not the way humans are. We can’t all be the same because we just can’t accept that. Even if we are, we try to find things that distinguishes us.


But then here is my question:

Lets say that we start from the very beginning. The whole world, the universe, the stars, and whatever whatnots. Lets say we start from a blank slate and for some weird unexplainable reason we go along with everything Hobbes is saying and we abide by his definitions. Would that be possible to sustain peace?

I don’t think so.

If there is anything I want to believe about humanity, it is that we’re struggling, we’ve had a lot of victories, but damn have we fallen as well. And we’ve got a long way to go.

And that whole thing about the law of nature being chaos? I don’t think there is any other alternative.


Give me a utopia – give anyone a utopia and they will find something wrong about it.

Hobbes, dude, you’re not really thinking, man. This isn’t going to bode well with humans. Like, I know what you’re trying to do but… No. And I’m saying no just to show you how unattainable this whole things is. Like… People don’t want to be the same and peace on Earth, yeah that sounds nice, but maybe in the next world.

The Master and Margarita and Other Nonsensical Thoughts

Okay, bare with me because I’m very sleepy right now and I’m trying here, okay? And we all know that if I can’t get all my thoughts in one post I’ll make another post like I usually do  hahahaha

So today in Lecture, Miranda Burgess asked a question which really got my mind running, and I can’t remember the exact question but it was along the lines of: “In which ways does Bulgakov’s The Master and Maragrita respond to Stalinist Russia?”

“… if there is no God, then, one may ask, who governs human life and, in general, the whole order of things of earth?”

“Man governs it himself”

“Pardon me, but in order to govern one needs, after all, to have a precise plan for a certain, at least somewhat decent, length of time. Allow me to ask you, then, how can man govern, if he is not only deprived of the opportunity of making a plan for at least some ridiculously short period – well, say, a thousand years – but cannot even vouch for his own tomorrow? And in fact, imagine that you for some instance, start governing, giving orders to others and yourself, generally so to speak, acquire a taste for it, and suddenly you get . . . lung cancer . . . yes, cancer . . . and so your governing is over! You are no longer interested in anyone’s fate but your own. Your family starts lying to you. Feeling that something is wrong, you rush to learned doctors, then to quacks, and sometimes to fortune-tellers as well. Like the first, so the second and third are completely senseless as you understand. And it all ends tragically: a man who still recently thought he was governing something, suddenly winds up lying motionless in a wooden box, and the people around him, seeing that the man lying there is no longer good for anything, burn him in an oven . . . ” (Bulgakov, 13-14)


I really like this passage because there is lots to think about and be mindful of. First, concerning with the question as to how this passage might respond to Stalinist Russia, it poses the question of who governs us? Do we govern ourselves individually, do we have one person governing many others, or do we have a small group of people governing over the rest of the people? It’s an interesting question because during the time in Russia, like Miranda mentioned, that everyone around you could report what you do, where do you go, who you talk to, etc., etc.,

It also makes me think about the amount of control we have in our lives and what our role is. Perhaps we are subjects to fate or we could be subjects to a fate which someone else imposes on to us.

If I can remember correctly from History 12, the role of the Church and religion was lessened because Stalin wanted the focus to be less of fate and religion, and more of duty to ones country. And by Stalin being constantly involved in the public sphere, Stalin became almost like a comforting figure for fate. He replaced God.

So now I have to address this comment, does God govern us? Or does Man?

And in the case of Stalin, is he God or Man?

Now, I know this sounds ridiculous by question if Stalin is God but if we access Stalin’s role in Russia, it seems as if he is more than a political figure. He plays a larger role in which he is responsible to the well being and the future of the state.

But okay, how about this, what if we decide that Stalin is just a Man? And by following the passage in The Master and Margarita, could it then be concluded that, since Stalin is a Man, he could neither successfully govern himself nor Russia.

I’m too tired to write anything else but I think I will conclude with this poem.

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Doctor Faustus and Other Nonsensical Thoughts, An Edit

If you’re anything like me, actually seeing the play on the stage makes understanding the text very helpful. Here is the full play of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus performed at the Globe Theatre.

After watching the play I really have to say that I can’t help but scoff a little at Doctor Faustus (and I think a lot of people would agree). From my earlier blog post I mentioned how there are many stories that surround knowledge and the pursuit of it but in Fautus’ case, I found that the reason he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange of knowledge. . .  Very . . . . Unmotivated. Just all of a sudden he’s bored and wants to obtain all the knowledge there is in the world and he does nothing with it. So perhaps the problem isn’t knowledge itself but what one does with knowledge obtained. The first scene is Faustus in his study and he’s just… Sittin’ there being all unsatisfied and grumpy. . . And sure he’s a scholar and whatnot, but maybe if he got off his damn butt and applied his knowledge he’d be. . . . Useful.


Damn, if I was God, I’d send him to Hell too.

Doctor Faustus and Other Nonsensical Thoughts

God is a comedian. Life is the best running joke and Death is the punchline.


This blog post is a bit overdue and unfortunately I haven’t come to a clear stance on the play yet, but I guess I’ll write a small little blurb on what’s been on my mind when thinking about Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. If anything, I’ll make two other post about Doctor Faustus later (ha-ha)

I already mentioned it in seminar on Wednesday but when reading Doctor Faustus I couldn’t help but think about Adam, Eve, Prometheus, Doctor Frankenstein and all the other stories that surround the idea of knowledge. What all these stories have in common is that one, people must pursue knowledge, and two, when pursuing knowledge, there are consequences.

But what is knowledge? Is knowledge a fixed amount or does it have its limitations? Is it boundless? Is there something in existence that is beyond what the human mind can comprehend?

I like to think that Faustus is depicted as an idiot because he sells his soul to the devil for the exchange of knowledge and he ends up making stupid like jokes and pranks. But does that mean that it’s foolish to think that we can obtain this pure form of knowledge?

Well, I’m sure Socrates thinks so. In Gorgias, Socrates mentions that he does not know everything and that makes him wise. Faustus believes he knows everything and that makes him a little punk.


I’ll probably make another post later once I get my mind in some sort of order.

Antigone’s Claim and Other Nonsensical Thoughts, A Second Edit

Okay, so maybe I’m not quite done here. I blame the coffee I had earlier.


I have to study for my Anthropology midterm but nope, not right now. Why? Because Antigone is why.


To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about Antigone. I can’t hate her but I can’t like her. I can’t define her but I can’t deny her existence. Even the play itself, I feel absolutely nothing for it. I don’t hate it, I don’t like it, but neither do I deny it’s substance.

To be or not to be.
To be is to think.
To think is to be.
To do is to be.
To be is to do.

Which is it?

Be nothing. It’s easier.


I don’t know what to make of Antigone… If I choose one opinion then I betray the existence of another opinion which undoubtedly has some truth in it. If I focus on one aspect of the play then I betray other aspects that are just as important and vital. Is Sophocles saying that we must choose or that we cannot choose for there are no options? (Choice being a very vague word here) But even so, there are parts in Antigone’s where choices are present… Right? Are we subjected to fate or is there free will?

There are two ways I’m starting to see the play as well:

One, being that the reader itself is being pulled into ambiguity and the readers responsibility is to make sense of it (almost how we are born into the world and it is up to us to make sense of it. It is up to us to live. Tuum Est – it is yours. Ha-ha.)

Two, being that when we first read the play, we can make sense of it and form our opinion but those opinions are not based on a solid foundation therefore it is less easily defined. Surly I had an opinion when I first read the text but the more I think about it, nothing makes sense and very little has substance or truth.


The Gods are mocking me right now.

Antigone’s Claim and Other Nonsensical Thoughts, An Edit

Someone help me, I can’t stop thinking about Antigone and Antigone’s Claim. I can’t seem to put everything on one post because once I publish something, another thing pops up.


Damn you, Sophocles. Damn you.


Right now I’m thinking about Sophocles’s intention when writing the play, because I think if I figure that out (or make some sense of it), I’ll understand the play as a whole. But here’s the thing: philosophers are cheeky bastards.


Right now I think I’m focusing too much on Antigone and not Sophocles’s intent when writing Antigone. I wish I knew his intentions. Sure, you can say that she acts upon family responsibility but something about it makes me think that she doesn’t really belong to a family any more. She and Ismene are orphans, and even so they are more separated when Antigone disowns Ismene. Perhaps Antigone is acting to retrieve back her family? I think it was mentioned in seminar last week how Antigone wishes to die so she can go back to her family.


And I keep thinking as to why Antigone died. I want to think that she died because she’s just crazy, but the strings that are attached to her makes me think that there has to be more. I’m starting to think that because of the ambiguity that has differentiated her also was the reason she chose death.  Antigone didn’t have anything that would define her as human or made her feel human. I believe that humans have to attach themselves to something to make them feel alive. From Camus,

“Then came human beings; they wanted to cling, but there was nothing to cling to…”


And now if that is the case, that Antigone killed herself because her surroundings did not make any sense, what is it that Sophocles is saying? As humans, do we need to attach ourselves in order to be human and to feel like we are alive? If that is the case, is that why we go to school, make friends, attach meaning to events, go to work, and fall in love? Is it something we choose to do or must we do it to be defined as human?


I think it was also mentioned in lecture that in order to have kinship, it must be active. Events have no meaning unless we place meaning there. Otherwise, we disassociate ourselves from it. It no longer matters.


And now back to the thought about Sophocles’s philosophy which focus more on the individual than society…. If humans individually desire meaning through kinship and events and actively pursue it, than how does that play in society? Does the individual seek their own meaning or do humans merely reflect the wants and desire of society? (does that question make sense?)



Antigone’s Claim and Other Nonsensical Thoughts

Truth be told, I didn’t read all of Antigone’s Claim because I found it quite dry. However, after today’s lecture I think I’ll give it another go (but that means I have to juggle between rereading Antigone for the essay, Antigone’s Claim, and Dr. Faustus).  Perhaps the second time around I’ll be able to get through the text and feel more interested.


So for this, I’ll just go on about not the text itself, but what I learned in lecture.


I found it interesting how Jill Fellows pointed out how when we focus on one aspect of the play, something else falls into ambiguity. I can kind of understand what she means because I remember in the last two seminars we had last week, when we would discuss a certain aspect of the play, something else would fall apart and when we tried to pick up those pieces, something else didn’t make sense. At one point, I would see Antigone as a strong character but at another, I would find her weak. Some things would make sense, but when the conversation progressed into something else, it contradicted what used to make sense.


Am I making sense?


So the structure of the play cannot be clearly pin-pointed, and that idea is reiterated when looking at Antigone as a character. Again, as earlier said in the lecture, Antigone does not fit the role of the woman nor does she fit in the role of a man.


Now this reminds me of two quotations:

“She is not of the human but speaks its language. Prohibited from action, she nevertheless acts, and her act is hardly a simple assimilation to an existing norm.” (Butler, 82)




“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath out notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast of a god” – Aristotle (taken from Robert Crawford’s lecture slides)

Is Antigone apart of society? If a ship is metaphorical to the polis, what part of the ship is she?

From the two passages that I just quoted, it seems as thought Antigone cannot be defined as human and neither is she a part of society. Could that be perhaps the reason why she had to die? That it was essential for her to die because there was no way for her to be defined? She is an island onto herself but is it by nature or is it because of the circumstances?

I’m also looking back on my blog post from last week and I mentioned how Antigone was interesting because Sophocles shows us the struggle between individual wants and needs versus the polis and society. There is no clear answer to what is more triumphant, society or the individual, because remember, Kreon is the state and he is later subjected to a fate just as confusing and bleak as Antigone’s fate once was (before she killed herself)

And now I’m in a tangled mess of thoughts but I have a few questions….

What is it that defines us as human?

What could Antigone have done? What action could she have taken?

Why did Antigone have to die?

Why doesn’t this play make sense?

Am I making sense?

What is life?


And with that, I am very tired now.

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