Monthly Archives: June 2012

Logical Disgreement/Beyond Good and Evil

My Friends,
   I was listening to an interview on youtube today and the interviewee, Peter Joseph said something which resonated with me, which I then tweeted:

Probably should have hashtagged his name as a reference

He was talking about the challenges he receives from others based on the views of societal design which he espouses through the Zeitgeist Movement.  After a certain point in a discussion, people who are too steadfast (read: religious/zealous) in their traditional worldviews invariably get offended and uncomfortable and in the worst cases become belligerent.  In any event they become irrational, clinging to outlooks and pre-conceptions which are provably mistaken.  Without commenting on the views which Peter Joseph espouses which can be found here here here and here, I want to comment on the broader notion of disagreement. We tend to think that there is merit to all points of view, or at least that everyone has a right to their opinion, and insofar as that means people should not be forcibly coerced to think a certain way or harassed for their views this is true.  But do all points of view truly have merit?  Does a racist’s hatred for someone’s skin colour have merit?  Does a misogynist contribute to the discussion when he mistreats women?  
  And of course, were Hitler’s views defensible?

   What we are left with from this simple thought experiment is a very clear picture that there are right positions and wrong positions (notice I am not saying good and evil cause there is no such thing), or at least positions which are more right or wrong than others, a continuum as it were.  But if there is indeed a right-wrong continuum, why settle for being simply righter than someone like Hitler, who is very clearly wrong?  That’s hardly a challenge, and with that very clear picture of what “wrong” looks like, we get comfortable in a worldview which supports our immediate comfort, not challenging ourselves and our outlooks to see if they can be refined and brought closer to the ultimate right, or at least what we know of right.  We kind of just sit there content knowing that we’re not as wrong as the Paul Bernardos, Luka Magnottas, Slobodan Milosevics, etc. which are paraded in front of us so that we have a very clear image of wrong.  

About 1:28 is where Tony expounds upon this point
I think this is where most people fall (fail), at least in my experience.  They know (or think) they are lightyears away from murderers, drug addicts and white slave traders, so they feel that by corollary they are right without ever giving it critical thought.  But do you think that with your “right” worldview you could say, win a debate against Hitler?  Do you think you could argue Trotsky or Marx into a corner?  And while most people in our society likely support his views on some level, could you, if tasked to, hold your end in a discussion with free-market champion, Milton Friedman?  I doubt many could, yet these same people KNOW that (at least in the case of the commies and the nazis) that they are in the right.
   Now what I AM NOT SAYING is that people should work on their rhetoric so they can appear smarter than the person they are discussing with.  Nor am I saying that they should raise their voice in order to bolster themselves against an opponent with more clout and the support of the audience.
The truth does not need to be supplemented with force.  Lies do.  In fact there are books and articles about how to be a good liar but none about how to tell the truth.  
The truth kinda just speaks for itself.

What I AM SAYING is that…well let me just post a recent tweet, also a quotation from Mr. Joseph:
I actually hadn’t tweeted this yesterday or the day before like I meant to so I just tweeted it now (avec le petit hashtag).  Hopefully noone calls me out for fabricating evidence when needed.

If you really wanted to effectively refute Hitler, the commies or the laissez-faire capitalist types, you would have to know their failings.  Instead most people would fall back on criticisms of evil, which on top of being completely irrelevant, are qualitative.  After all, Hitler didn’t think he was evil.  He probably genuinely hated Jews and saw them as a legit threat.  And based on his eugenics program he probably had more than a passing interest in science or psuedoscience.  Yet most even today with so much knowledge at our fingertips would still not have the chops to explain to Hitler why a eugenics program is retarded and furthermore why the “Juden” were not responsible for the Weimar republic and the Treaty of Versailles.  Could you do it?  I think I could.
   However, would Hitler accept my argument?  It would make sense but it would put a visible crack in his theories which is where all his power rested.  In a very tangible way he would associate being proven wrong with failure and the loss of power because all of his power was predicated on mistaken assumptions.  So Hitler would instead get angry, stick to illogical/provably wrong assertions, resort to name-calling, question my intellectual background, question my life experience, then tell me to go back to my Macbook and have an espresso at Starbucks with all my hippie friends.  
   Interestingly enough this sort of close-minded response is similar to what I get from a lot of people on Facebook when I discuss with them.*  Typically I question deeply-held convictions which have little to no relevance and it basically stirs up lots of shit.  When asked to rationalize obsolete perspectives it invariably ties back to their own life observations rather than scientific ones.  Life observations are unreliable of course because we have been scientifically proven to see what we’re looking for.
   Even when someone does manage to keep their composure and elect to refute what I am saying with logic, it is typically no more than name-dropping something/someone to do with science, pretending to agree with misinterpretations of parts of what I am saying, and then using extreme examples and figurative language to illustrate the ultimate outcome of their own bastardized perceptions of what I am saying.  It can be frustrating.
   Now it may sound like I think I have all the answers, but I most certainly do not, nor do I think I do.  Instead I have one advantage which most people lack by choice: I hold NOTHING sacred.  I question everything.  There are no givens, there are no upward limits of what is possible, there is no human nature.  All of these convenient assumptions and others which allow most to go on day to day in ignorance of the ultimate outcomes of their actions are up for debate.  And what I find more than anything is NOT that I have the answers, but that the people who hold on to their sets of assumptions don’t.  
   All you have to do is ask “why?”
   Why is the worst question but also the best question and if you have ever asked it to someone in authority you have probably been disappointed by the answer.  This habit of unsatisfactorily answering this most important of questions is learned early on by people and carried on throughout most of their lives.  And if you follow the why ladder you will find one of three outcomes 1) An answer, if they know what they are talking about.  2) “I don’t know,” if they are honest enough to admit they don’t know what they are talking about, or 3) Anger.
Now I want to reiterate that I don’t profess to have all the answers.  I simply try not to hold onto a premise past its usefulness (It is bitterly ironic that in a culture of such disposability we are unwilling to repair or replace our beliefs).  I think everyone should adopt this practice of critical thinking, as that is infinitely more important than what particular belief you happen to hold.  But criticism must start at the self and the premises you hold and that is a hard pill to swallow.  If I were to make up an itemized list of practices to embrace off the top of my head it would be something like this:
1) Question EVERYTHING!  Question the motherfucking ground you stand on if need be.  If you don’t know the answer to the question go learn it.  If you do know it, seek different perspectives.  Yes, I know 16 & Pregnant is on but this is more important
2) Find the Truth that makes you squirm.  So you found an explanation? Fanstastic! And it tells you that everything is in good working order and that things are operating as they should?  Well, if thats the case how do you reconcile it with crime & poverty statistics and 1 Billion+ starving people on the planet?  What about your own poverty?  Sure, life may seem grand when you have an iPhone 4 and 60″ plasma but could it be better?  The answer is invariably yes.  When you start looking at reasons why it isn’t and those reasons make you uncomfortable you are on the right track.  
Note: If the answers you find in your quest for truth equate to “Pack your sunglasses cause the future is looking bright” then they probably aren’t taking a lot of things into consideration.
3) Look at the broader picture and attempt to find root causes.  All too often we deal with issues in a reductive and individualistic sense.  We would attempt to deal with air pollution by dealing with industrial emissions for example.  First off, this negates the fact that there are other causes of air pollution and that even the emissions themselves are not causes of pollution, simply agents of the cause.  The cause would likely be irresponsible industrial practices.  Irresponsible industrial practices would then be relegated from cause to agent when the broader question of “what causes irresponsible industrial practices?”  Similar to a “why ladder” is a “cause ladder.”  Climb it til you find that squirmy truth.
The answers are simple if you are honest and reject false concepts like good and evil.  
4) False dualities.  There is a position beyond a and b.  Far too often we get labelled by people as this or that for expressing an opinion which is contrary to what theirs is or simply for asking a question.  This whole idea that “if you’re not one, you’re the other” is a detrimental oversimplification and it hinders the pursuit of truth by attaching to people a set of beliefs that they don’t necessarily hold.  Also, it is a way of attacking someone with an unpopular label without refuting their argument. 
“He’s a heretic/communist/liberal/muslim/fascist/etc!”

4B) As an unofficial side-rule don’t waste your brain following politics.  I did mention that I do have lots of FB debates but they are never about politics, except if I am explaining why the political system is useless, ineffectual and insulting.  Neither party is right cause they are not trained to be right.  They are institutionalized entities out for self-preservation even if it means catering to the financial interests who hold their purse-strings.  Those campaigns and conventions don’t buy themselves you know.  For a more practical analogy, asking me what I thought about Barack Obama’s or Stephen Harper’s last proposed legislation is like asking me what I thought about Justin Bieber’s new song.  Does it matter? 
Seriously, politics is about as useful as a cock-flavoured lollipop.  Stop getting excited and/or angry about new legislation and stop voting, you’re just letting them think they matter.

5) Rethink/Relearn what you “know” about people.  The debate about so called human nature has unfortunately been reduced to another false duality, nature vs nurture.  If you don’t believe in one then it must be the other.  Of course the truth is more complex than this, and assumptions about man in a state of nature as a greedy,profit-maximizing, hoarder (which only serves to legitimize the current paradigm we live in btw) are completely untenable given the level of knowledge we have.  I personally think this is the most important conversation to have because what we think about human beings and their nature ultimately frames our conceptions of what is possible for the world.  So if we assume that man is a the aforementioned greedy, profiteering hoarder since his inception, then society would necessarily have to be, well as shitty as it is today.  But is he?  Go learn about it.
6) BEING PROVEN WRONG IS NOT FAILURE.  This is hard and it often takes me at least a few minutes to (grudgingly) admit that I was mistaken about something.  It sucks when you go and fact check something you said and realize you spoke more than what you knew when you should have said “I don’t know.”  But admit when you are mistaken and move on.  Remember though, unless you are a hate-monger who has mobilized millions of angry people based on your lies and rhetoric, the admission of error will probably not be your total and utter downfall.  In fact, it will be liberating.  Trust me on this.  I have been wrong about so much and there is a certain joy that comes from laughing at how stupid you used to be because it is a measure of how far you have come.  
   I think that’s all I got as far as suggestions but I will share with you two quotations from Ayn Rand.  Though I care nothing for her theories on economics, she had some incisive observations about right and wrong.  I will share two:
“There is no such thing as a contradiction.  If you find there is a contradiction, check your premises, one of them is mistaken.”

“People who argue that things are not black and white are really saying, ‘I am unwilling to be wholly right, please don’t judge me as wholly wrong.'”**

   To tie things back to my original tweet, there is no logical disagreement.  If there is a disagreement, someone is espousing a mistaken view, or misinterpreting a correct one.  If it is a failure of communication between two parties who essentially agree then it is not a logical disagreement.
ADDENDUM 27 June 2012
   On thing I forgot to mention when I wrote this post was perhaps my major stumbling which I need to work on: I must work to communicate myself more effectively.  Basically its easy to explain things to people if you can get them to drop their religiously-held pre-conceived notions, but if you can’t get them to that point you might as well shout a brick wall.  Whether it is my cocksure attitude, my intellectual words, or simply the people I endeavour to discuss with, I have had limited success in getting through to people.  I can understand this, I often deal with people who have profited greatly from the paradigm we live in.  I by comparison have not profited as much and it still took me many years to come to terms with certain realities.  So if even someone like me, who really suspected something was not quote right since I was a kid, can take years to come to grips with the distortion of natural law we are living in then I can only imagine how much harder it would be for someone totally content.  Still with respect to this hindrance of attachment to the current paradigm, I must work to inform others without coming off like a preachy Jeremiah who alienates people who who need to be eased into new ideas.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

*Not a direct violation of Godwin’s Law, because I could have used Friedman, Trotsky or Marx instead of Hitler and still made the same point.  
**The original quotation used the terms good and evil which I have already expressed my disdain for.  The substitution of right and wrong is applicable and more apt for this post.

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Monday Night Martinis

My Friends,
   As I sit here getting more and more intoxicated, I find myself looking at old files on my computer to see if I can’t delete anything unnecessary.  I started with my catch-all “untitled folder” and I stumbled upon an .pages file entiled “08 Jan 2009 Mass Cas Statement.”  This file was the statement I was asked to write and submit by my commanding officer after a mass casualty event took place near the forward operating base I was stationed at in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2009.  I hadn’t read it in about three years and it was sobering in a way that I needed after all so much libations on a school night.
   I’m ready to share it, but I will qualify it by saying that if the text seems unemotional it is a reflection of the lack of emotion I felt during the event itself.

On 8 January 2009 I, Cpl. (My Name),  (My Service Number) was witness to and was involved in a mass casualty incident occurring in and around FOB Hutal in the Maywand district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan.  The following is my recollection of the events as they occurred.
At approximately 16:30 I had finished working out and was exiting the gym when a large explosion was heard.  Unsure of whether or not it was a controlled demolition, I observed for a few seconds until it became apparent that it was not in fact a controlled explosion.  This was indicated by American soldiers running to their vehicles and donning their FFO.  Lt. John Southen and I ran back from the gym and donned our FFO and made our way to the wall at the rear of our compound to defend the FOB.  The lieutenant instructed me to start the RG-31 and man the machine-gun.  A few minutes later the gun was ready and I was scanning my arcs.  It was at this point that the ANP started bringing in casualties from the village surrounding the FOB.  It quickly became apparent that there were more casualties than the on-site medics could adequately provide care for.  That being the case, MCpl. Ric Chiu and I were tasked to assist the American medics, being that both us are TCCC qualified.  It was approximately 16:50 when we began assisting the medics.  
The first casualty I assisted after donning my gloves was a local national.  Three Americans were trying to stop his bleeding while also removing his clothing.  Having shears, I helped remove his clothing and then upon instruction from an American medic applied Quickclot to the back of the casualty’s left leg just above the heel where there was a large amount of flesh and bone missing.  I handed off the Quickclot to one of the American medics who needed it at the top of the of the casualty’s body.  Then I was asked if I had a tourniquet.  When I pulled one out I was instructed to place it on the casualty’s right leg as he had blood loss below the knee. However another caregiver had already placed a tourniquet on the leg and had begun to tighten it so I ceased my application.  That casualty being adequately cared for I moved on to see who else needed assistance.  I moved around between casualties for a few minutes providing equipment to the first-aid givers as they needed it and then running back to the Canadian compound to retrieve more stretchers as they were needed.  
I assisted the caregivers of one casualty (Afghan) who had burns as well as lacerations and was evidently in a great deal of pain.  I held his legs in place while they were bandaged where bleeding and also helped to remove his clothing.  When he was bandaged I covered him with a blanket and moved on to then next casualty.  Many of the initial casualties were at this point ready to be put on the chopper when it arrived but we were running out of blankets to cover them with so I applied my solar blanket to one casualty who was nearly naked and shivering.  At about this time Lt. Southen came to the scene and asked how he could help so I asked if he could scrounge some blankets.  He managed to find several and none of the treated casualties were, to my recollection, left uncovered after that point.
I am not sure at what times each individual casualty load came in but I do remember checking my watch at 17:03 after I heard over our PRR’s that choppers had taken off from Camp Bastion at 17:01.  But several more casualties did show up prior to that chopper’s arrival and a many of them were children.  The first one I remember treating was a child I helped off of the ANP truck.  The child was quite conscious and told the interpreter that he was injured on his left thigh.  We laid him on a stretcher and I began removing his clothing.  I saw a puncture wound on the front of his thigh which, although deep, was not squirting blood so I began to assess other parts of his body to look for other injuries.  The child started protesting in Pashtun and the interpreter translated that the child was trying to say that that was the only place he was injured.  The child seemed quite lucid and alert so I proceeded to bandage up his wound using an Israeli dressing over a standard field dressing.  I was assisted in this by two Americans; one held the leg as I bandaged it and the other retrieved the first aid equipment I needed.  When the casualty’s leg was bandaged I attempted to look for other bleeding but the casualty assured me in Pashtun that he was fine and gave me the thumbs-up.  Again, in light of his wakefulness and alertness I judged he was fine and moved on to others whom I judged could use more help.  A lot of the help provided consisted of providing occupied caregivers equipment and assistance as needed but I began to notice things were getting cluttered with bodies strewn about haphazardly.  So I got Lt. Southen, MCpl. Chiu and an interpreter who was nearby and us four moved stable casualties to a position where they were out of the way and well-covered.  As well, I noticed there were treated casualties lying on the ground scant feet from unoccupied stretchers so I got some of the interpreters to help me by explaining to the casualties how we were going to manoeuvre them onto the stretchers.  This was done by turning the casualties onto their sides, placing the stretchers behind them and rolling the casualties onto them.  
As the choppers began to show up I told the interpreters to tell the casualties we were going to cover their heads so they would not get pelted by rocks when the Chinooks landed.  As the choppers landed I assisted in bearing the stretchers.  For my part, I helped carry three casualties over.  Earlier on however, we had received word that another load of casualties, primarily women and children was on its way into the FOB.  We were waiting for them to arrive for a time but it became clear that they weren’t about to show up.  
After the casualty-laden Chinooks left, two blackhawks landed and I noticed that the Americans had formed into two facing columns.  I realized this was probably their final salute to their comrades who had perished that day so MCpl. Chiu and I stood at attention with the Americans as the deceased were loaded onto the Blackhawks.  
After that procession MCpl. Chiu, Cpl. Yull, Cpl. Begin and I offered to help the medics clean up.  However, not long after that MCpl. Chiu and I were called back to the Canadian compound by Lt. Southen to defend the wall.  I relieved Cpl. Czop and was stationed at the wall for only about ten minutes before we were stood down.  We were stood down at approximately 18:50. 
The American medics were quite vocal in their gratitude for the Canadian assistance in treating the casualties.  

That’s the sort of 0-to-100 moment which is characteristic of my experiences overseas.  Shit is pretty chill until its not.  Now did I have the most extreme and traumatic of experiences?  No, and thankfully not.  Still, my commander saw fit to submit my statement and MCpl Chiu’s statement to higher along with his own observations.  The practical outcome of this initiative on my commander’s part was that MCpl Chiu and I were awarded “Chief of Defence Staff Commendations.”  In spite of my misgivings about war, it was/is an honour to have been recognized for life-saving efforts.  Nevertheless, I am humbled by the fact that there are those who have been pushed farther than I was and received no recognition at all.  
   Again, in spite of any misgivings I may have regarding modern warfare and the reasons it is fought, I am awed by the stories of unrecognized valour which I have heard.  May these stories keep being told, even if it only among the forces.  
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Potent Quotables

My Friends,
   I think everyone out there has a certain quotation (or five) which they like.  A few may even have a quotation which they profess to live by.  Unfortunately, rarely do I find that people go to this extreme; in most cases they may like what a quotation says but find it impractical or inconvenient to live by.  Lofty quotations such as “live every day like its your last,” or “become the change you want to see” become so many empty words because they are not really conducive to day to day survival.  To be clear I don’t fault anyone (including myself) for lapses in their ability to live life by the words they identify strongly with, but I think its important that we keep these words close at hand at all times whether scribbled on a paper in your wallet or posted on your corkboard above your desk.  This way its a constant reminder of how you know you should behave which you will hopefully internalize through constant repetition.
   There are a few quotations which strike a chord with me and some more than others I endeavour to live by.  What follows is a brief list:

“A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought.  There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor” -Victor Hugo

I think Helen Keller actually said this but I like it better from that greatest of internet memes, Courage Wolf.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right” -My Dad
“Become the change you want to see” -Gandhi
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” -George Orwell
Lengthy, but a good read.  Nietzsche interestingly enough.

“The truth is extreme.  To make it moderate is to lie”
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” -Mark Twain
“People who reject black & white morality are really saying, ‘I am unwilling to be wholly good; please don’t judge me as wholly evil.'” -Ayn Rand
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” -J. Krishnamurti
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world while the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” -Bernard Shaw
That’s all I can think of now.  Will compile some more later.  And please, if you know, call me out if I am ever failing to live up to these words.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Structural Dishonesty

My Friends,
   I work in a warehouse where we receive refrigerators and stoves from manufacturers, perform quality control on them, attach some standards stickers and company logos to them and then sell them as our own products.  We are the very definition of a middle-man, and sad will be the day when the retailers and manufacturers realize that they could get by without us.  But for the time being we facilitate things well enough to be a profitable business.
   In the last year the decision has been made to re-source a substantial portion of our refrigerator models from a Chinese company called Delware.  Try as I might I can not find the website for these dudes, but I assure you they exist.  Now when I heard that we were going this route I had to ask why; the models to be replaced are high-performing and attractive.  I asked my immediate supervisor a few months back and he explained that the one company we have been buying from (a subsidiary of Whirlpool based out of Brazil) is no longer making that model.  But then he also explained that they have been systematically jacking the price up every year for the last two decades so we wanted to go with something more cost-effective.  So between those two answers I was not really sure what the deal was, though I suspected it had more to do with the latter (cost-savings) than it did with a company discontinuing a reliable and popular product for no apparent reason.
   We received some sample units from Delware and I was struck by how ugly and plain they were.  Now you may think a fridge is a fridge and you would be right, but you would also be surprised about how important the little details are when you deal with them on a day-to-day basis.  Frankly, they looked cheap, and I inquired if they were in fact significantly cheaper.  They, of course, were.  Next I inquired if they were going to sell for the same price as their Whirlpool predecessors.  A resounding “yes!”  I assumed naively that this was simple greed.  I was wrong.  More on that momentarily.
   Mulling it over in my head, it occurred to me that if we were sourcing our products from a Chinese company for significantly less money, there might be some of those … whaddya call ’em??? Oh yeah, Human Rights Violations going on at Delware.  Never one to be subtle, I walked up to the operations manager at the end of the day and asked him point blank about his trip to China where he discovered this company and toured their facility.  I specifically inquired about the working conditions and wages.  He said (seemingly, a little uncomfortably) that conditions were “relatively” good there and that the company had a high turnover rate.  It didn’t click with me what “high turnover rate” meant, even though he said it like three subsequent times as if the fact that people were constantly quitting/getting fired was somehow supposed to assure me that things were copacetic at Delware.  But I trust this dude, so I feigned satisfaction with his words which I didn’t truly understand.  It was only after I did some more mulling on the way home that I realized he had told me nothing and that he was probably just regurgitating lines which the company tour-operator had said to him to pacify his conscience while he was touring the plant.
   High-turnover rate?  The fuck does that even mean?  McDonald’s has a high-turnover rate too and its a shitty job.  In fact all restaurants typically have high turnover rates because a lot of the positions in restaurants are shitty.  In fact, a low turnover rate would typically indicate a better employer, wouldn’t it, as it would indicate a job which people actually want to stay at.  The only positive thing a high turnover rate expresses to me is that technically the job is not slavery, because technically the workers can quit whenever they want.  So the best thing that our operations manager can say about the ethics of our sourcing is that technically its not produced by slave labour?
   Great Job!
   In spite of my misgivings I am just a peon in the company structure so my opinion + two quarters doesn’t add up to a dollar.  I kind of just kept on living my life.  But yesterday while talking with the receptionist during lunch, I heard her say that she wasn’t allowed to tell customers that the fridges are made in China.  I asked, “Well what do you tell them?”  “I tell them that we are the ‘manufacturer on record’,” she responded.  “Diabolical,” I thought.  Then I said as much.  I asked her about situations where a customer pressed her to explain what manufacturer on record meant.  She told me that if any customers were not satisfied with her answers she was supposed to refer them to the owner or ops manager.  I was angry (not surprisingly, as I have a tendency to get irate about injustice) that she would be compelled to perpetuate misinformation.  I realized this deception related back to the price we were selling the units for: Since we were keeping the same prices we had for the previous models, the customers would hopefully not suspect that we were selling them a shittier product from China => Not just greed, but dishonesty as well.  So, if it wasn’t bad enough that we were sourcing product from slighlty-better-than-slavery conditions, now we were denying it outright, or at least putting a glossy veneer of technical language on it.  Manufacturer on Record, my ass!  We’re a warehouse!  We manufacture nothing!
   I was mad for a second, and in that second I thought of the owner of the company.  I thought about everything I didn’t like about him.  This is the kind of guy who spouts off statistics about how the average life expectancy in Canada is increasing and concludes from there that the world must be getting better and better because he can’t see over the fence of his backyard in the rich neighbourhood he lives in.  He’s the kind of guy who will say “no vacations til the end of summer” for employees, but then talk excitedly about his upcoming mid-summer vacation; not out of malice but due to a complete lack of tact.  This is the kind of dude who will micro-manage the fuck out of every aspect of his company and then call a meeting at the end of the day (delaying the departure of employees) to talk about how his “pep-talks” are really having a positive effect on production.  Tis also he who will hold up production so we can do a detailed cleaning of the warehouse so he can give the visiting bankers (who have no interest in the warehouse) a tour of it.  Also, during these bank visits he’ll make anyone with a nice car park in the back so the bank doesn’t get the impression he’s paying anyone too much.  Now apparently he is also the type of guy to unethically source product and then tell his employees to lie to customers about where its from.  His relationship to reality has always been tenuous but now its seems it is will-fully so.
   But like I said, I was only mad at him for a second.   I mean, is it really his fault?
   One thing I have become more and more cognizant of is how this system corrupts people and puts them at odds with others, not just to excel, but simply to survive.  Anything I or anyone else gets is necessarily at the expense of someone else.  In that paradigm how can you blame someone for playing by the established rules, even if that entails outsourcing and a cavalier attitude toward the truth?  Certainly it must be harder to see the flaws in the system too when you’re making a ton of money.  So to call this guy a bad person is not accurate.  For one thing, I think he makes genuine, if misguided, efforts to do right by his employees.  But more importantly, he is playing by the rules we all must play by to some extent.  Whereas I try and extricate myself from this game as much as possible, he revels in it and commits 100% to the deception, to the point where he would deceive others.  Our respective socio-economic standings are the practical outcome of our various commitments to this deception, or lack thereof.
   For his sake, I hope I never have to pick up the phone and speak with a customer who is curious about where their product comes from.  For starters, lying doesn’t sit well with me, and second, I’m not getting paid enough to fib.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

P.S. To be clear, I don’t object to outsourcing on any patriotic grounds.  I don’t think “Buy Canadian” or “Buy American” campaigns are worthwhile because they don’t address structural flaws and they perpetuate xenophobia.  Ultimately it won’t be Chinese or Indian or Malaysian people who take all the jobs but an automated assembly line.  And that’s the way it should be, as menial, repetitive labour, or “monkey-work” as I call it, is simply a stultifying existence which needs automating.  I simply wanted to elucidate upon the dishonesty this system fosters with a practical example.

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My Checkered History With the Undead

My Friends,
   It would seem that the zombie apocalypse is nigh.  Tempted as I was to write an obligatory zombie post about Rudy Eugene’s face-chomping earlier in the week, I decided to take the high road and abstain for a time.  After all, bandwagon-jumping seemed a disingenuous if expedient way to generate page views.  But now that the initial fervor has subsided, I think its appropriate to weigh in.
   I wasn’t always as terrified of zombies as I am now; in fact I spent the first few years of my life in idyllic ignorance of this particular monster’s existence.  But alas, one day while watching Duckula

For those who don’t remember.

…I got my uncle to read the episode’s title screen.  It was The Zombie Awakes.  “Zombie?” I asked, “what’s that?”  He tried to explain that it was a type of monster who shambled around with his hands outstretched, seemingly in a trance, but that didn’t really seem incredibly scary to me.  Nor did the Duckula episode stick out in my mind as particularly traumatic.  Then I saw Thriller
   In retrospect, this greatest of Michael Jackson videos had a sublime effect on my development; the first time I saw it I couldn’t even finish it but I knew right off the bat that I didn’t want to fucks with no zombies.  In a profound way, that video shaped one of my greatest childhood fears: any kind of slow-moving attacker who inexorably walks after me with the foreboding assurance that they will catch me.  Furthermore, it also shaped my typical reactions when in scary situations.
Choreographed dance routine, naturally.

   For a few years thereafter I would always have zombie nightmares in the fall leading up to Halloween because I knew they would be playing Thriller on Muchmusic, and that my father, dick that he is, would be like, “Hey Andre, come here for a minute and check this out…”  Don’t get me wrong, I played that album like mad and I loved the song, especially the Vincent Price voiceovers, but I couldn’t mess with that video.
   However, like many childhood fears, the fear of that video diminished with time and at some point I actually watched it the whole way through.  But by that point I had bigger problems to deal with.  In the late 90s, Capcom decided to dick-punch me in the fear-bone and release Resident Evil.  My friend Greg brought this game over to our house along with his PS1 back during Easter weekend 1997, when he decided he was going to stay over for a few days and rape my psyche.  I felt not only terrified, but betrayed: Greg had always brought cool games and accessories over.  For example, if he hadn’t previously brought over his game genie and code-book I may never have beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game.
 This game was hotfire, although I never did redeem my coupon for free pizza…

Resident Evil was a different matter though.  I spent the weekend hiding behind pillows while he and my older brother played the game and my little sister called me a pussy.  Watch the following video and see if I wasn’t justified:

Given my pre-existing, Michael Jackson-induced trauma, the last thing I needed to see was a deformed, pale, ghoul getting …er, “intimate” with another man.  
   Yet I couldn’t look away.  
   RE also introduced to me the important concept of “zombie outbreak” and a “zombie virus.”  Prior to these notions, my conceptions of zombies were limited to cursed dead people who would only rise from the grave to dance with you if your date ran out of the theatre scared.  
Or perhaps to reach climax behind you while you’re walking like an Egyptian
This made the prospect of the undead all the more plausible because even if you don’t believe in curses, you have to believe in evil conglomerates like RE’s Umbrella Corporation whose hubris will spell our doom.
I don’t know what is more disconcerting, that Umbrella thought they could re-brand themselves with a French name and break that pesky association with the zombie-making ‘T-Virus,” or that they are a subsidiary of L’Oreal?  
Sacre Bleu!!
   I came to the reluctant realization that although zombies scare the crap out of me I have a certain fascination with them.  The next few years I didn’t have much contact with zombies other than RE, which my brother inexplicably decided to buy once we got a PS1.  But toward the end of high school/beginning of university, I saw Shaun of the Dead, Land of the Dead and 28 Days Later in pretty rapid succession relative to my previous isolation.  These were important films which further shaped my fascination with the undead: from SotD I learned that zombies could be hilarious (British ones at least), while from 28DL I learned that zombies might not actually be zombies at all but (again British) victims of an extreme form of rabies which, though it maddens the afflicted, causes no impairment to ground speed and agility.  On the other hand, LotD taught me that Dennis Hopper can truly portray the quintessential dickhead.
Also, zombies could now be Mexican Colombian

   Now around this time it is significant (I use that term loosely) to mention that I joined the military.  It was here I found out that there is a whole sub-culture of survivalists and gun-nuts praying for the zombie apocalypse, as it would (will) literally be the kind of squeeze-first ask questions last  kind of free-for-all which current gun laws neatly cock-block.  Though I am loathe to admit, I too have rolled this concept over in my head and pondered its relative merits.  To be sure, in order to be the kind of chainsaw-wielding, shotgun-toting, combat-knife-sheathed-in-boot, leather-jacketed, Road Warrior-esque badass I’d like to think that I would be, I would probably have to dump some dead weight which I currently call “family” or “friends.”  Even Max had to lose his family before he earned the appellation “Mad.
Family is a no-no, but dogs are legit
   In any event, whether rolling as part of some kind of group or as a one-man wolf-pack, I WOULD NOT, under any circumstances attempt to engage the zombies as part of a military formation.  Intuitively, you would think that trained killers with a limitless supply of ammo, strict orders to terminate with extreme prejudice and a fortified position would fare pretty well during World War Z.  However, if the zombie media I have watched has taught me anything, its that the army gets wiped out pretty quick.  No, I would stand a better chance either as a solo badass or as part of a group which included a pregnant woman, a few kids, a quadriplegic, a kid with aspergers, a senior prone to wandering off, a hippie chick asking why we can’t make peace with the zombies instead of killing them, and/or a recently-bitten friend whom I can’t bring myself to kill.  These companions, though all seemingly useless and detrimental to the cause of survival, would, after being saved by me and my boomstick several times, manifest some kind of hidden skill of limited usefulness which would assist me during a particular difficulty I would have overcome anyway, only to never manifest this skill again because I would be careful not to get in that particular circumstance again.  Nevertheless, I would see  past their apparent weaknesses and learn that everyone has something to offer.  
Carol: “Rick, I took this grenade out of your pocket when I did your laundry and stole it so that I could give it back to you and look like a hero when we would inevitably need to break through bulletproof glass to escape the decontamination process at the Centre for Disease Control.”
Rick: “Carol, all this time I thought you were a slow, unskilled, not-that-hot, menopausal woman with no reproductive value to repopulate the Earth with.  But now I see that you have the power to steal things and them give them back at opportune times.  Also, the power to do laundry.
This kind of Real World ensemble typically fares quite well in the zombie wasteland.
   This of course brings me to The Walking Dead…

From L to R: zombie-bait, exception to “no killing humans” rule, Asian Michael Cera, bullet magnet, too emotionally conflicted and pregnant to be an asset, leader by virtue of uniform, moral authority, and of course “I put down my own sister so now I am badass”
…which I started last week and got through today.  That’s something like eighteen zombie-filled hours in one week for someone who, in spite of professed fascination, is terrified of these things.   Now take this zombie saturation and add to it the fruitcake mailing body parts to the Conservatives, my man Rudy goin cray in Miami, and the fact that its 2012 so the world is supposed to be ending and all, and its not hard to see that yesterday morning I wasn’t feeling too confident in my abilities not to get bitten by something.  The sky was grey and overcast; quite foreboding really.  I was hearing constant sirens and saw all types of emergency vehicles rushing around my neighbourhood (fire, ambulance and coppers).  Then, while walking to the bus stop I saw a special police forensics van from the nearby city of Kitchener hauling ass down my street.  Something was amiss it seemed, and in my hungover state I put the clues together in perhaps not the most logical way: 
“Well obviously there are people dropping like flies due to bite-related attacks.  The police here have brought in their counterparts from other cities to see if the attacks match the string of attacks going on in other places and I of course don’t have a gun.”  -Me, spider-sense tingling; common sense not so much
   Nevertheless I pressed on to the bus stop and when I entered I surveyed my fellow passengers, to see if any bore the tell-tale signs of infection.  They seemed alright but the elderly lady I sat beside appeared very weak and frail.  This was perhaps attributable to her being elderly and all, but in my fucked-up mind-state I assumed she was in the late stages of extreme fever which preceded death and re-animation after an infection.  I would simply wait ’til she expired and then bonk her on the head so she could have some dignity and all.  However, as I sat absorbed in my thoughts of helping the world by braining an old lady, she moved or something and her arm grazed my leg and I nearly shit myself.  The shock of this movement on her part (no understatement, I actually jumped) not only necessitated new underoos but also cleared my head and I decided to stop being such a fucktard.  Made it to the farmer’s market and back without a single bite.
   Now that I am done The Walking Dead at least until the new season this fall, I imagine my paranoia will subside.  And provided there are no more instances of naked cannibals needing to be extricated from their victims with gunshots to the head, I imagine that North America’s zombie paranoia will see a similar denoument in the coming weeks.  
   However, if these attacks continue and you want to be part of the rag-tag group of misfits who survives the zombie apocalypse, load your gat, make your peace with Raptor-Jesus and shout me a holler.  
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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