Monthly Archives: January 2014

Truth in Jest/Solemn Deceit

Friends,

There is a saying about jesters being able to speak “truth to power,” which comes from a tradition of nobility keeping jesters/fools around to say the shit that all of their peers wouldn’t. Being fools, they weren’t expected to be tactful or genteel. On the contrary, they were expected to be abrasive and severe when spittin’ that realness. In my view, this tradition persists today in a more contemporary incarnation, The Comedian. Comedians today often get their yuks from criticizing the individuals, power structures and taken for granted customs and institutions that no else thinks to or is brave enough to.

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But the comedian of today faces the same problem of the jester of yore: the jester was a fool, and it strikes me as quite likely that many, his master included, didn’t always take his white-hot kernel of truth to heart. Doug Stanhope has a hilarious bit about this exact point as it pertains to modern comedians which I highly suggest you watch!!! (Start at 52:20)

DougThat link again, cause you should really watch it.

But what of the aforementioned peers, those other nobles of good breeding and refinement who knew better than to speak the brazen truth to people’s faces and instead mastered the arts of diplomacy, small talk and niceties? I would posit that this tradition carries on today in the world of politics. Politicians and statesmen are the noblemen of modern times, and while they are not landed gentry per se, they still run the land and the serfs/people on it.

So from this (admittedly generalized) perspective we have an historical precedent for what we (okay, I) see going on today: Namely, the people we should be taking the most seriously are those who are laughed at and taken lightly, while we hang on every word politician’s say, knowing full well as they are speaking to us that every word is a lie, calculated to convey as little as possible and obfuscate the actual workings of the state entity. However, due to the longevity of said entity and also the various political parties, we tend to view their words as somehow being more important and worth rallying behind.

Instead, we gotta rally behind the words that actually have meaning (not necessarily the people who say them) and start laughing off and then forgetting the words that sound pretty but don’t actually say anything.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Deconstructing the Abortion Debate

Friends,

Tomorrow I will be shooting a short film where I will play an eccentric drug dealer who counts among his hobbies protesting abortion clinics.  I’ve been a little bit apprehensive about this role because I am going to portray the character as a lovable rogue and his predilection for said protest might be decoded as misogyny which would be discordant with the type of character I am trying to cultivate. And while this project was originally intended to be the pilot for a series, it may very well end up being a one-shot which means I might not get a chance to explore the character’s motivations further than the one-page script. So, my challenge has been looking at my dialogue and plot arc and trying to figure out a way to illustrate that my strong feelings regarding abortion aren’t strong feelings at all but rather borne out of a desire to be a shit-disturber who may very well protest pro-lifers the next week.

So we’re clear, my difficulty is with how I will cultivate a happy-go-lucky character who makes sense to me.

However, thinking about my misgivings regarding the portrayal has led me to question the cause of those misgivings. Certainly from a young age my mother, a self-identifying feminist, always told me I was pro-choice and encouraged me to voice that position whenever my (Catholic) school would hold fundraisers for various pro-life organizations. It was an interesting challenge as a child to make pro-life posters for school (marked assignments) which didn’t betray the convictions I held dear due to my mother’s influence. Perhaps my first exercise in diplomatic, political writing.

Pro-Choice
However, I don’t want to give the impression that I saw no logic in the pro-choice position and that I was only parroting my mother’s position. In truth I saw then and still do see the merits of the position, but only within the current temporal context of our socio-economic system. After all, having a child is an explicitly social and economic undertaking and it often precludes other social and economic goals. Therefore, the decision about whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is very often (if not always) a social one and, tragically, an economic one.

Pro-Life
So where does that leave pro-life? Well, in my estimation, those who maintain a strict, unwavering pro-life position espouse a wonderful, idealistic outlook that is not tied to the world we actually live in.  I don’t think they are wrong  in any absolute sense, but that is mainly because I don’t put much stock in concepts like right and wrong. Rather I think they look at the folly of doing harm in an immediate way (abortion) in the hopes of preventing greater harm (social or economic) at a later time.  In other words, they don’t think the ends justify the means, and I have a lot of sympathy for this position. After all, how many pilots on bombing runs would cease to pull the trigger if they focused on the immediate act of murder they were about to commit rather than the vague, amorphous ideal (freedom, democracy, etc.) which they were fighting for in the long-term? We live in a culture that is obsessed with the notion that the ends justify the means, when instead our means should…must justify our ends* if we want to progress as a species.

The Conflict
So which side of the debate do you subscribe to?  Both sound awesome! After all, I love life and I love choice, but unfortunately I can only pick one. After all, if the laws are in favour of pro-life and abortions are banned, then the pro-choice camp is gonna say that the rights of women are being infringed upon. On the other hand, if the laws are in favour of pro-choice and abortions are legalized, the pro-life camp is gonna complain that the rights of fetuses are being infringed upon. So to me its simply a case of rights vs. laws. But here’s the thing: so-called rights can be taken away by any entity which exerts force or power over you while so-called laws will be broken by anyone with a will to do so, so in reality pro-life vs. pro-choice equates to “imaginary privilege” vs. “imaginary constraint” on the back end

Ultimately I’d like to see no fetus aborted because I think it is an act of violence but we don’t live in that world yet; there is still economic disparity which makes raising a child an imposing undertaking, there are career aspirations which would be threatened by having a child, and there is a lack of information about contraception in many parts of the world. Many pregnancies are going to be unwanted and summarily dealt with. However, before we presume to pass judgement of any human being for their perceived transgressions in our eyes, we should remember the maxim, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Or, more plainly, if you don’t like women having abortions, stop supporting a socio-economic system of inherent corruption, scarcity, and systemic disadvantage which leads a woman to have to make that most difficult of choices.

Don’t get too bogged down in the polarizing abortion debate because there is a truth that unites us all and mitigates such squabbles.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*For more on this idea, check out “The Rules of Chaos” by Stephen Vizinczey

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