Monthly Archives: September 2012

Seeing my Privates

“Our technology has exceeded our humanity”
-Albert Einstein

My Friends,
   A friend of mine posted this link last night about a currently unavailable app called Girls Around Me. The writer of the blog/review recounts telling a group of friends about an app which allowed someone to find people with public facebook profiles in a certain geographic radius.  These didn’t have to be people on a friend’s list, but anyone who had logged onto facebook from their iphone, basically allowing the user to see facebook users nearby and view their profiles, though it could be set to locate boys, girls or both.  Predictably, the boys of the group thought it was funny while the girl’s thought it was invasive and upsetting.  The rationale for the female apprehension was that a guy could find a cute girl at a bar, look at her pics to see what kind of drinks she likes, what some of her interests are and where she is at a certain moment so that he could go intercept her and come off as Mr. Right, either through slick conversation of liberally applied “frosty margaritas.”
   By the article’s end, the writer describes how his friends, males included, were all uneasy about the invasiveness of the app, and describes how its main function in his eyes was to hammer home the importance of being aware of your facebook privacy settings, and online privacy in general.  I don’t take issue with this conclusion, and the company which created the app maintains that people could always have adjusted their privacy settings.  Rather what I take issue with is the knee-jerk reaction to this technology because it is misdirected, as I find most indignation typically is.
   The girls in the article took issue with Apple and Facebook for allowing this app to be created and sold, and of course with the potential rapists and stalkers who would undoubtedly try and use it to rape and stalk more efficiently.  Because if there is anything the ambitious rape/stalker values it is maximizing his preying to prowling ratio.

Possible Tagline: “Girls Around Me: The industry leader in streamlining raping and stalking operations”
…or perhaps…
“Girls Around Me: Rape Solutions for the Modern Predator”

   In the case of the FB/Apple rage and the uproar which ultimately caused the app to be shut down: is this really the answer?  App censorship?  Making something illegal or removing it entirely is not the proper way to deal with a problem but that logic seems to dominate any thinking about problem resolution.  If we ban enough potentially offensive (or actually offensive) things, will the ne’er-do-wells among us, constantly biding their time waiting to pounce, finally get the message that we don’t appreciate the threat they pose and leave us alone?  Of course not.  When has a law or a ban or a removal of something ever stopped or curtailed undesired behaviours and interests?  But clamoring for new rules is a lot easier than taking time to think critically and address causes I suppose.
   With regard to the so-called “stalkers and rapists” whom this app served as an enabler for, I have to ask: has this app really been that much of a boon?, and do they even really exist?  Now I don’t mean to downplay the problem of rape and obsessive behaviours like stalking, and I am not claiming anything like the stats being overblown because I don’t know the stats and frankly even one incident is too many.  But still, do these people really exist?  I don’t question the possibility that given a certain sequence of events, moods, and opportunities that rapes can happen.  But when people talk about rapists and other criminals like them, their rhetoric always seems to allude to a shadowy group which is constantly watchful in alleys outside of clubs, waiting for an unescorted girl in a miniskirt and wobbly with booze to swoop in on.

First rule of ‘Rape Club’…

Certainly to such a group as this, Girls Around Me would be a boon, revolutionizing the rape game by allowing the predator a menu of sorts, but I question the very existence of this secretive cabal of rapists and stalkers.
   Now remember who is saying this: I am someone who has no problem believing that there are certain powers which pull strings behind the curtains and who are the true controllers of the world we think our “democratically elected” leaders run, however I can’t co-sign the prospect that there are rapists everywhere among us**, and certainly I can’t co-sign the idea that they are legion.
   Well, one exception comes to mind…
   When I hear criticisms of this technology, I see fear that is not unfounded but misdirected.  People are so worried about the implications of technology that they will still use anyway because it is actually amazing and has the potential to be incredibly useful if everyone completely opened their privacy settings.  But we can’t because we have reason to fear being completely open with strangers: why?
   Again we come back to “why,” my oft-asked favourite question.  Why should we be afraid of other people?  Like I said, the fear, though overblown, is not unfounded.  Why might someone use this or any technology to hurt us?
   To those like me who fear institutions more than their fellow man: why would you be afraid of an organization or government using this or any social media to spy on you or data-mine you?  Why would they want to data-mine and spy in the first place?
   In my head it is clear that these potential misappropriations of technology in no way reflect poorly on the technology or its creator, but rather on the system which puts us at odds with each other to the point where we would use potentially beneficial creations as weapons.  If you think about it, all technologies are neutral, yet they get blamed for misuse and the violence which is integral to the system which applies them.
   Think I’m full of shit?  Mebbe, but let me quickly demonstrate how any technology can be hijacked for violent purposes:

1. Toothbrush

   What’s more wholesome and beneficial than a toothbrush?  It conjures up images of young children learning hygiene and taking charge of their dental health.  But to some, this revolutionary technology has far more sinister applications:

“Late night I hear toothbrushes scrapin’ on the floor/
Niggaz gettin’ they shanks just in case the war/
pop off!..”
-Snoop Dogg Lion, Murder Was The Case

2. Pencil

   Arguably one of the greatest pieces of technology ever created.  Allows us to solidify ideas on paper and gives us something to chew on when stumped.  But it can be repurposed…

“…My little homey Baby-Boo took a pencil in his neck/
And he probly won’t make it to see 22/
I put that on my mama, ‘Imma ride for you Baby-Boo’…”
-Snoop Lion, Murder Was The Case

3. Fire
   I don’t think anyone needs me to post a picture of fire nor tell of how it allowed us to cook food, smelt metal and power early machines.  Without saying it is more useful than pencils have been, it has certainly been more fundamental to our early development.  However, it too has been repurposed for negative uses:
I suppose we should ban fire now?

4. Rocketry
It can be either this:
Saturn V Rocket, the kind that sent to the astronauts to the moon

Or this:
Trident II Nuclear Missile

Any questions?

***
   I hope these examples make it clear that technology is in and of itself benign.  Certainly some might be inherently dangerous, such as nuclear technologies, but they are not by themselves malicious or violent.  It takes an aberrant and poorly socialized human being (or human species) to look at something and decide, hey instead of using that for the good of all I think I’ll use it to kill…
…or rape, as the case may be.

Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
**In a certain manner of speaking, I think there actually are rapists everywhere among us. Perhaps more than even the most paranoid father of virginal young daughters might think.  For I think most anyone can rape or commit a violent act given the right (wrong) circumstances.  It is folly when people, in shock from stories of a horrible crime, ask, “How could someone do that to another human being?,” or even worse when they maintain, “I could never do something like that.”  
   Well, no one is born evil (evil doesn’t even exist) or born a rapist, much less conceived that way.  So the factors which contributed to their aberrant behaviour must be environmental, which means that anyone can be susceptible to becoming a predator or violent if certain conditions are met.  When we are told as kids that we “can be anything,” there is actually a lot more truth there than we realize.

   

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under technology, tzm

Ugly People

There is a saying: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  That’s a bunch of bullshit and we all know it. If that were the case there wouldn’t be websites like uglypeople.com and there would be no cosmetic surgery industry.  We should stop deluding ourselves with the idea that ugly doesn’t exist so that we can address why it does.

My Friends,
   I was working at a trade show this past weekend and it proved something to me which I have suspected for a very long time:  This life takes its toll in some very unexpected ways.
   First, a thought experiment: Imagine someone widely regarded as pretty.  Say Brad Pitt:

At his prettiest in Thelma & Louise if you ask me

Now I would argue that Brad Pitt is physically attractive because he has gentle features, all his teeth, a chiselled physique and eyes that twinkle like Paul Newman’s when he smiles  
No Homo

On top of that I have heard him in interviews and when he is not coming off as lovably, charmingly bewildered, he does seem very coherent and affable.  And as if that weren’t enough, I’m sure he smells good too.  These non-visible cues tend to add to his physical appeal and I would argue that this holds true for all physically attractive people.
   However, working at a trade show all weekend I saw lots of people who fell short of the Brad Pitt standard of physical beauty (imagine that!).  On the whole it was an average looking bunch, but there were many incredibly ugly, disfigured, wretched people who came by and more often than not their behaviours, whether obnoxious, creepy, inappropriate, spiteful or aggressive, matched their appearance.  Now I say this with no malice, for I love my fellow man, but it occurred to me that these folks were living portraits of what this life can do to people.  
   Science has shown us that from a behavioural perspective, people are shaped by their environments.  It has been posited, and I would agree, that behaviours are a reaction or adaptation to one’s environment.  This is not to say that there is no genetic component, but the genes simply determine a range of possible behaviours while the environment dictates where a person falls in that range.  The best analogy I have heard is that human beings are like computers: the genes are the equivalent to hardware and the environment is the programming.  
10 years of running a bad program called “Crystal Meth”

   I guess I never stopped to think deeply about the ramifications of this principle on physical appearance, but if you think about it, the way someone looks is both a product of their genes and their environment.  If they did not have the genes to look at a certain way, lets say morbidly obese, they could not possibly look that way.  But just because they have the genes to look a certain way, again morbidly obese, does not mean they are going to look that way if their environment doesn’t reinforce that predisposition (i.e. exercise, proper nutrition, etc.).  In the above before & after picture, the woman obviously has the genes to look both ways, but her post-meth appearance was by no means pre-determined by genetics.  Rather it was a possibility which became reality due to environmental factors.  
   On a sadder note (yes, sadder than meth addiction), look at this little girl.
Not only is she going to be physically ugly for her whole life (scientifically provable based on the labels pointing out her defects), but she is going to be so very wretchedly so due to environmental factors imposed upon her by the indiscretions of another.  For she suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, meaning her mother drank while pregnant with her.*  Often we think of life beginning the moment you are born, but we forget that the newborn has already been developing in its own unique environment for the previous nine months.**  
   So when I saw so many sloppy, ugly, slouchy, slack-jawed fucks this weekend (again, said with no malice, but ironically love), I couldn’t help but wonder how much of their appearance was a direct result of bad programming or environmental factors.  And of course, to what extent, if any, are these environmental factors a result of socio-economic status?  
   Now before you protest what you think I might be getting at here, watch this video:
Now I axe you: do you think the majority of people in that video were from relatively high or relatively low income brackets?  I would hazard a guess that they were mostly po-folk from shit-kicker American towns reduced to poverty after the mill/plant/factory closed down.  
   Now I am not saying that the people I dealt with this weekend were as wretched as the Wal-mart all-stars (thankfully I saw no butt-crack), but many tended toward these appearances (obese, unkempt, misshapen) and behaviours (general apathy toward outward appearance, rolling around on scooters).  And while I believe it is wrong to judge someone based on socio-economic standing, the affluent and the downtrodden are by and large very easy to pick out.  The wealthier, or at least comfortable have a certain carriage and deportment which is reflected in their attitudes, behaviours and appearances.  This is not to say that they always behave better; on the contrary, they can quite often be insufferable assholes and preening douchebags, not to mention misshapen and physically ugly.  However, in my experience they tend to carry themselves with a confidence and deportment that poorer types lack.  I can only attribute this to some sense of self-worth that they have, although I don’t pretend to know where they derive this sense of self-worth from.
   On the contrary, more poorer types in my experience tend to behave more erratically, being often unpredictable and squirrelly, not carrying themselves so much with confidence, but with a mixture anxiety, fear, desperation, or even malicious cockiness.  To me, these seem like symptoms of someone with little sense of self-worth.

I’ll just leave this here…

I don’t pretend to know why their sense of self-worth is so low though.

   Of course there are exceptions to these observations, and I find it fascinating and encouraging to see someone of modest means who carries themselves with dignity.  Again, I don’t pretend to know where their sense of self-worth comes from, but I do know where it doesn’t come from: their bank-account, for we already established that this person is not affluent.

To Be Contuvre…

~Random Tangent – Read at Your Own Peril~
   To this last point, there is a Spanish word, Hidalgo, which I am rather enchanted by.  Its actual historical context doesn’t impress me so much, but its literary context, that of a nobleman who has lost all his wealth but still retains the privileges of his class, well I rather like that.  For what more important privilege of nobility is there than knowing your worth; knowing that you are better? Not better than other people mind you, but better than the value society places on you based on your material wealth.  This is the most important knowledge.  A nobleman can be broke, destitute, emaciated and starving but he could still go somewhere and make a demand with the full expectation that it will be fulfilled. He had knowledge of self and that can’t be taken away once it is learned.  The problem is that many don’t ever learn knowledge of self in the first place; they either learn some religious malarky like “original sin” which implies they carry someone else’s sin which they must atone for, or they are just subjected to a society which reenforces subordination to legitimized forms of authority no matter what (don’t question your parents, always co-operate with police, etc.).  This teaches people that they are less than  a human being, they are simply subjects in a pecking order.  So instead of rooting their self-worth in the very fact that they exist, they tie it to fluid and changeable things like money, the opinions of others, etc…  Things, in other words, which can ultimately be lost or taken by others.  This process of acquiring financial means, social capital or other fluid things for the sake of moving up in society’s pecking order is colloquially called “getting ahead.”  So many are caught up in this game when they should be trying to figure out how to get free instead.

Contuvre…  

   When people who root their sense of self-worth in wealth and status which they do not have, I believe they are wont to treat themselves poorly (poor nutrition, deliberately poisoning themselves with alcohol and other drugs, poor posture).  They are worthless in their own eyes when compared to others who have done so much better by the standard which they judge themselves by.  This contributes to a less physically attractive person both superficially (slouched, vacant look in the eyes, slack-jawed) and in the long-term, as certain prolonged diets, vices and lifestyle choices will have irreversible and detrimental effects on a person’s physical beauty (see above photos of crystal-meth addict).
   So back to Brad Pitt, just imagine that he hadn’t had the particular upbringing he had and he had instead ended up as a lower-class worker or homeless person.  He would cease to be the pretty boy we all know and secretly (if you’re a dude) have a crush on.  He would likely be some long-haired, leathery-faced, fat American chain-smoker riding around in a rascal at the Springfield Wal-Mart.
   Conversely, when you look at the so-called ugly people from the Wal-Mart video, or just the ones you see in everyday life, imagine the wasted potential for hotness that their genes might carry but which has been squandered from perhaps as early as their time in utero when their mother may have drank or done drugs, to their childhood where they were perhaps malnourished and not taught their true worth as human beings, all the way up to adulthood where their bad habits intensified due to the ingrained belief that they don’t deserve any better than what they have and society’s persistent reinforcement of this idea.  This wasted potential for hotness is the unsung casualty in discussions about social change.  I truly believe that the further stratified our society becomes and the greater the amount of poor people becomes, the more the average physical attractiveness of the population will go down and the lower the overall number of 5/10s and above will be.  If this doesn’t instill a sense of urgency in you as to the importance of changing the world for the better, you should check your pulse cause you might be dead.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

*By calling the little girl with FASD ugly, I am not trying to be malicious, but honest.  One of the worst distortions of truth is soft, politically correct language because it turns some unfortunate human being’s real problem into some statistician’s quantified abstraction.  We must be precise in language and call things what they are, lest we trivialize the problems of others.  As is often the case, George Carlin had something to say about this:

**One of the important qualifiers for what constitutes life, or more accurately what constitutes an organism is that it has an environment which it affects and is affected by.  In the case of the fetus, its mother’s womb counts as this environment which in my mind pretty much galvanizes the position of the Pro-Life camp that life begins at conception.  However, this realization in my mind does not soundly resolve the abortion debate because if we are arguing the baby’s right to life we must also argue the mother’s right to security of person, which should be just as inviolate.
   I think the oft-overlooked position in the abortion debate is ameliorating the factors which lead to unwanted pregnancy and the desire to abort at a fundamental, root cause level.  Giving out condoms and lectures about safe sex apparently have not resolved matters.  A discussion about abortion is something that merits some attention and I may get to it at a later date but I wanted to clarify that although I believe life provably begins at conception, I don’t think it soundly decides the abortion issue.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Mission

My Friends,
   I am working in Toronto this weekend east of downtown.  Its actually an easy job: show up in the east end for 8am, set up some stuff for an hour or so, come back at 1pm and tear it down.  Then the day is mine.  However, it is the period between set-up and tear-down I am most looking forward to because I will be in the neighbourhood of a seriously sweet nerd-shop which I visited back in the summer on another job.  To clarify, when I say nerd-shop I mean a place that sells comic books, cards, collectibles, sculptures and most importantly, toys.  As you might recall from my recent post, “The Curious Case of Andre Guantanamo” (23 July 2012) I have in the last few months been on an action-figure binge after recognizing that even though I am ostensibly an adult I still have immature tastes and I should nurture these tastes.  Anyhow, this particular shop made it into a tweet a while back when I sat mulling over which action figure to buy while there.

RotJ Luke, ESB Han, or WW2 Captain America.  I opted for the Cap under the advisement of the clerk.

These three figures were only a sampling of the many figures at the store from both the retro Star Wars line and the Marvel Universe line, my two current favourites.  So needless to say I am excited to go back.  When you factor in that I could also potentially visit the Silver Snail on the other side of the downtown core while in the city, well it occurred to me that there would be a veritable feast of toys to choose from this weekend.
   And therein lay the problem; nurturing a massive toy boner,

Pictured: Another Kind of Toy Boner

I got so worked up about the smorgasbord of action figures I would get to choose from that I prematurely decided to go looking for some toys on the way back from picking up the gear for the weekend from the company’s warehouse in Mississauga.  Chatting with one of the workers there (a fellow nerd) I learned of Gotham Central on Dixie Rd.,  not 5km from my current position.  I asked him to clarify if they had the toy lines I was looking for and he confirmed it.  So I went and checked it out, and while it was a good shop he oversold it a little and it turns out they didn’t carry much in the way of what I was looking for.
   But this was ok, as I had only learned about this place at the last minute and my actual plan had been to hit the Toys R’ Us on Hurontario and the Wal-Mart on Hwy 5 and Trafalgar on the way back to Hamilton; a somewhat roundabout way to get home but planned with maximum toy exposure in mind.  So I hit the TRU and was mostly disappointed.  They really had nothing too much in the way of either preferred toy line.  Dejected I decided to make my way to Wal-Mart but I did notice two shelves of Marvel Universe 2-packs.  The two which caught my eye were… 
…Black Costume Spider-Man & Dr. Doom…

…and Old-School Wolverine & She-Hulk.

Now right off the bat I have to say that I have no special affinity for Dr. Doom or She-Hulk.  I just wasn’t raised on them I guess.  That said I couldn’t really justify buying either set when I would be paying twice the price for a character I didn’t want.  But even more than this, I had a close look at the knee joints of Spider-Man and Wolverine and they looked a little fucky so I decided that discretion would have to be the better part of valor and I proceeded to Oakville and the Wal-Mart there.
   Utter disappointment awaited me here as the only thing they had in the way of Star Wars figures was the shit that no one wanted,
Quinlan Vos anyone?…Anyone?

and for the Marvel figures all they had was toys from the Spider-Man movie.  I gave these a quick once-over to see if any struck my fancy but there were like ten variations of Spider-Man (i.e. Hydro-Jet Spider-Man, Rocket-Boost Spider-Man, Chunneling Spider-Man, etc.) and they all sucked.
   Moving right along, I headed west across Dundas into Burlington where there was another Wal-Mart on Appleby Line.  Again I was presented with the same disappointing array of toys and out of desperation turned again to the Spider-Man movie line.  There was in this case one action figure who caught my eye: 
“Symbiote Strike Spider-Man”

My interest in this figure stemmed solely from the fact that I am a fan of the Venom character and this was Spider-Man wearing the symbiotic black suit before Eddie Brock got it.  But I am a discerning shopper who does not simply buy something flashy if it has no utility.  Thankfully we live in an age of iphones and tech-savvy nerds like me who do things like post toy reviews on Youtube.  I watched this review while standing in the aisle,
and decided to pass on this figure on account of his poor articulation and poseability.  You laugh at my thoroughness, but this is actually the second time I have checked out a review for a toy on the fly.  The first time was about a week back when I was trying to decide between Master Chief from Halo 4 and a Dark Knight Rises Batman:
As you can see, I also consulted the Twitters

I made up my mind to get Batman after watching a review of the figure which allayed my fears of poor articulation and poseability.  In fact the figure turned out to not only be incredibly detailed but very poseable…
as you can see here.

   So I left Wal-Mart still empty-handed, disheartened and resolved to head home.  But like a spiteful harpy bringing deceitful promises of wonderful toys, I saw another TRU as I pulled out of the Wal-Mart plaza.  I suppose they had built it just recently and I hadn’t as such been able to work it into my original plans.   Was it worth checking out?
Worth dying for…
Worth killing for…
Worth making an illegal U-turn for.  
   FAILURE!  This TRU actually had some of exactly what I was l looking for, but its failing was that it didn’t have all of exactly what I was looking for.  I couldn’t believe it: I had checked out five stores across Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington and none carried any of the good toys I wanted, and when they did carry something good it was never the character I wanted or it was bundled with some garbage.  Perhaps this is a testament to my pickiness.  But I like what I like.  And if my woman makes fun of me for spending so much time searching and being picky, I will be forced to remind her that it was the same pickiness and discernment which led me to choose her.  Smooth right?
   Still I think I learned that if you’re excited about something, like I am about tomorrow’s happy toy hunting in Toronto, you shouldn’t cheapen it with little teases at the local toy emporium.  It’s like knowing your going to have some freaky, guilt-inducing sex and getting so stoked about it that you get horny and relent to watching some missionary porn.  What’s the sense in that?  Honestly; why not just wait?
   Anyhow, I didn’t quite get my proverbial “toy nut” today so if I don’t find something incredibly sick tomorrow I run a serious risk of catching the collector’s equivalent of blue-balls.  
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Three Kings


“I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who”
-Rudyard Kipling, The Elephant Child
My Friends,
   With all due respect to Mr. Kipling I have found that there are three (3) questions which rank as being of primary importance in the world we live in.  These questions are sadly not asked frequently enough, and if they were asked more, answered honestly, and then the answers acted upon, we would live in a very different world indeed.  So, without further ado, let’s begin.
Why?
Watch 1:00 to 1:30

   The most frequently asked of these infrequently-asked questions, why is actually a prime example of a question almost universally not being answered satisfactorily and honestly.  Many Some of you may recall that I am fond of this question and especially the formulation of what I call a “why ladder” (“Logical Disgreement/Beyond Good and Evil,” 26 June 2012), where you essentially keep asking “why?” until the person either a) communicates the answer (root cause) if they know it, b) gives an answer of “I don’t know” if they legitimately don’t know and are honest about it, or c) anger.  I mistakenly assumed when I wrote that post that these were the only three outcomes when constructing a why ladder, but there is actually a fourth: circular reasoning.

   For example, I have this one friend with whom I often discuss matters with and I have realized that trying to communicate ideas with him is an uphill battle.  For whatever reason he doesn’t like to hear new ideas from me even if they are relatively self-evident or backed by science.  I could go on and on about his dated assumptions regarding so-called human nature, his high-esteem for the merits of drudgery, his sophomoric attempts to pass off something he learned in a lecture as the missing link to all human understanding, and of course his insistence that there is a feminist plot to enslave mankind, but that would simply be vindictive and a result of my bitterness about his many successful attempts to stymie my pursuit of logic.  In an effort to overcome his stubborn refusal to admit that I might (from time to time) know what I am talking about, I decided on a different approach; I would ask him questions, mostly “whys,” in an effort to lead him toward finding knowledge on his own.  I unfortunately sorely underestimated his anti-intellectualism, and I realized that he (shrewd asshole that he is), understanding what I was asking him and sensing he knew (unconsciously or otherwise) where I was going with it, would refuse to answer my questions honestly and would respond to subsequent whys with previously given answers.
Example:
Me: Well, you seem to feel that A is a problem, but what caused it? (why?)
Him: Well its cause of B
Me: Okay I see, but why does B exist as such?
Him: Cause of C
Me: Well, what conditions are in place (why?) that give rise to C?
Him: I already told you, its because of B!
   You see what he did there? B is both the cause of and a result of C.  How is this possible?  Well its not, but sadly such circular, self-referential reasoning is far too commonplace.  And whether it is religion, the social system we have, or some other deeply-held belief or value-system which people strongly identify with, everyone has a box in which they can not argue outside of.  For if they did acknowledge that the answer might lie outside of their cognitive comfort-zone it would open them up to the possibility that they might be mistaken about other things as well (God Forbid).  
   This is why I emphasize that these questions must not only be asked, but answered honestly.  After all, do we really think that it is some political party, or union, or criminal, or music genre, or violent video game which is the root cause of all of our problems?  Of course not, yet these irrelevant issues are constantly attacked as if overcoming them will make life better somehow, when in fact they are actually so removed from the life sequence of value as to be less substantial than a popcorn fart.
…a Final Word on “Why”

   For a long time Jeopardy has been my favourite game show.  I find the formula of “questioning answers” instead of answering questions to be an interesting take on the typical trivia format.  And as this post makes clear, I, like Alex Trebek, am a fan of people asking the right questions.  However, I have noticed that the questions contestants respond with are always in the format of, “who is ____?” or “what is _____?, or infrequently, “where is _____?”  I have never to this day seen a contestant answer with “why is _____?”  
   Think about that for a second.
   Now think of what kind of clue could be given to necessitate a response beginning with “why?”
“Why is our socio-economic system such an abysmal failure, Alex?”

Something tells me that such a question wouldn’t serve the purposes of Alex Trebek’s overlords at Sony Corporation.  That actually brings me to my next question…
   For those who don’t read latin, this translates to, “To Whose Benefit?”  This is an oft-unasked question because the answers can frankly be scary.  After all, people don’t want to think that someone benefited from a tragedy or crisis, but it holds true that this is often the case.  Don’t believe me?  Consider the following:
You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” -Rahm Emanuel

“All we need is the right major crisis…” -David Rockefeller

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” -Warren Buffett

“Fortunes are made in recessions” -Anonymous

You see my point I hope.  Even outside of the financial and political realms this is true.  On an interpersonal level, I have been aware for some time that there is no such thing as bad news, just “news” and how you take it and use it is what matters.  For example, if you have a bit of a spat with someone or disappoint them it can rightly be seen as an opportunity to redeem yourself and find yourself in higher esteem than you would if you hadn’t gotten into a bad situation in the first place.
   When it gets scary is when you realize that some person or some organization of great means might actually effect a crisis in order to benefit from it.  This is colloquially called “conspiracy theory” but it is in reality the aforementioned law principle Cui Bono, handed down from the ancient-Roman legal tradition.  
Now its conspiracy … something that should not be even entertained for a minute: that powerful people might get together and have a plan.  Doesn’t happen.  Youre a kook, youre a conspiracy buff!!”
-George Carlin, relevant as always

   I think the truth in this question rests in the fact that regardless of your opinion on orchestrated tragedies, crises, etc., you have to concede that because we live in a competitive system, some person(s) must lose so others can win.  IN EVERY TRANSACTION!  After all, we can’t all be millionaires, right?
   Now go ahead and mull that point over for a sec because I want to make sure you are in agreement with that basic truism of our system before I go on, as my next point is predicated on it.
Seriously, think it over for a sec.  I’ll go watch porn for a few minutes.

   Are we all in agreement then?  Do you acknowledge that in a competitive system there has to be a loser for there to be a winner?  Good, because you must then also acknowledge the corollary, that there must be a winner to be a loser.  Think about that: every loss you have ever had has been a gain for someone else, usually a financial one.  Everything you dread, fear, or cower from is dollar signs for someone else.  Car breaks down?  Dollar dollar bills for the auto-service industry.  Loved one dies?  Pay-day for a mortician.  Terrorist attack? Foreign Belligerent? War?…
I’ll just leave this here…*

I really want to make clear that everything bad that happens, whether deliberately brought about or not, is profitable for someone.  When we start asking who benefits, we start to see the world in a much more honest, if sometimes cynical way.  But cynicism is the cult of the weak; a temple for those who feel indignant and impotent.  Much better to empower yourself…
What Would YOU Do?

   You have probably heard of this Jesus guy at some point.  People have in recent years pondered what he would do in any given situation.  We know they were pondering this because they wore cheap bracelets with W.W.J.D. inscribed on them:
I never had one but I think I’ll start bringing it back.

In any event, I don’t think most people would know what Jesus would do.  My respect for the man comes not from the bible but from an interpretation of his acts which I read in a non-violence class I took.  He was actually kind of a badass who seized upon the moral initiative, establishing himself as alpha-dog in social situations and pre-empting violent confrontation…
Well, MOST violent confrontation…

…with the strength of his presence, knowledge of self, and social clout.  But even if you possess my knowledge of the man (a knowledge which rivals that of any biblical scholar), and furthermore a knowledge of what he would do, that still begs the question: What would YOU do?
   Not such an easy answer, is it?  I think in our heads we mythologize Jesus and treat him as kind of a superhero; something unattainable.  In fact, that is missing the point; MY Jesus is the most accessible, down-to-Earth guy ever invented and he lived by a simple code.  Anyone can live up to the Jesus-code because it doesn’t ask more than anyone can give, but it does ask for all they can give.  
   Now I don’t want my admiration for and dick-riding of Jesus to get in the way of the point I am trying to make because nobody has to do what Jesus would do.  However, anyone who poses direct questions to themselves and finds honest answers finds themselves in the unique and lamentable position of no longer being ignorant.  And when you are no longer ignorant, a moral imperative arises, for you can no longer carry on the way you did in ignorance and keep a clean conscience.  When you know a behaviour is harmful or that you are contributing to a problem, it will gnaw at your conscience and peace of mind every time you engage in said behaviour.  We shouldn’t try to suppress this, for it is every fibre of our being telling us to do the right thing. 
   So what would you do?  Sometimes doing the right thing is passive, amounting to little more than abstaining from socially harmful behaviours.  Other times it is much harder, requiring difficult choices and actions.  But following the hard path, whether you want to call it the Jesus-path, the Gandhi-path, the MLK-path, the Zeitgeist-path or whatever, is much more satisfying, even if not rewarding in the superficial sense.  You know it from those times you did right by someone for no reward, or from those times when you intervened and prevented great tragedy from befalling someone.  And whether you call it altruism or enlightened self-interest, there is a feeling you get both from direct action and from making the right long-term choices which is the true meaning of life.  If this sounds preachy, its because it is: unqualified, uncompensated love for another human being is the greatest joy I have yet found. 
   
   ***
   
   I think if we ask honest questions of ourselves, both the first two questions  I posted and others, we come to certain truths rooted in natural law and universal human need.  And when we realize these truths, it is actually more difficult to resist the path of good than it is to follow it.  Let me say in closing that the hardest decisions I have ever arrived at were actually easy choices to make but difficult to follow through with.

Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
*Taken from the facebook group for the army regiment I belong to.


Leave a comment

Filed under zeitgeist