This T-shirt is an artistic rendering of the 18th century movement called The Enlightenment, and features the last great thinker of that time period, German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804). One of the most revered and controversial figures of The Enlightenment, Kant argued that a person’s actions should be guided by their own sense of reason and not by the influence of state machines like government or the church.
Here we see Kant behind the wheel of a Citroen DS 51, which met with its own share of criticism when it was unveiled in 1955. Featuring front wheel disc brakes and a revolutionary hydropneumatic suspension system, drivers could change a flat tire without the need of a jack. Like Kant’s ideas, the DS was decades ahead of its time, and its sales were moderate in a shaky post-WWII economy.
Directly to the right of Kant we see Progress, giving him an approving “thumbs up”, or perhaps hoping to hitch a ride to the world of tomorrow! With the influence of the church weakened to a feeble grasp, the industrial revolution was free to continue unfettered, allowing for such advances as radio and the telephone (both included in the illustration).
Shown crumpling under the front left wheel of Kant’s DS is Simpler Times, who died with a cup ’n ball game in one hand and a pinwheel in the other. Portrayed as a beaver wearing a traditional feathered headband, this character is also meant to represent The Plight of The Native American, who was hit especially hard by the advances of the 18th and 19th centuries. Sometimes lovingly referred to as “history’s D students” by anthropologists, the natives that Columbus encountered in 1492 had yet to invent the wheel.
About to meet the same fate are the twin brothers Contemplation and Sentimentality, necessary casualties of any great human advance. Kant’s expression of terror is quite true to life: In his autumn years Kant adopted a stance towards his teachings similar to that of Victor Frankenstein towards his creature. Kant was horrified by The Enlightenment’s impact upon the natural world, but was by then quite powerless to stop it.
In the background we find Our Generation: Inseparably linked to technology and the artificial, this little robot finds the greatest enjoyment in the simplest of things. He feels that, as a result of some cosmic error and through no fault of his own, he was born in the wrong century.
(Please note that this design is available in larger scale in my profile and that it is rife with historical inaccuracies and creative liberties.)