Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The Existentialist War

In a book review, Carlin Romano discusses, through the lens of George Cotkin's book Existential America, how we out existential the French in our liberation of Iraq.

"American existentialists, Cotkin wrote, shared some of the traditional anxiety and dread of European existentialism, but they did not "contentedly wallow in such despair." Instead, they often emphasized "the upside of existential freedom: the freeing from the shackles of tradition, the possibility of a more authentic existence, and the headiness that comes with the freedom to create and be creative."

In short, they bypassed what Cotkin describes very nicely in his conclusion as "the dead-end turn of existentialism" - nihilism. Summing up, Cotkin offers a kind of salute to what we might call 21st-century existentialism, American style: "To write, to act, to create, and to rebel after a century of totalitarianism and mass destruction, and in the face of new challenges, is to engage in existential transcendence, to erect a sculpture of human possibility, albeit out of the ashes of despair."

Let's do it.