Monthly Archives: October 2017

‘Nosediving’ I: Life Imitating Art in China

“I’ll just follow my nose…”
-Toucan Sam

Friends,

In my recent efforts to get caught up on the program Black Mirror, I yesterday watched the first episode from season 3, entitled “Nosedive.” In this episode, the protagonist, Lacie lives in a world where everyone is constantly rated by each other on a 5 star scale. One’s rating at any given point is an aggregated average, with 5-star ratings from “high-4s” bringing one’s average higher than 5-star

ratings from 3.5s and lower. Lacie averages a respectable 4.2 at the episode’s beginning but to achieve a 4.5 and receive the benefits such a ranking holds (financial, social and professional) she takes a gamble and enters the high-stakes game of upward mobility at the elite level. Things quickly unravel for her as circumstances beyond her control coupled with some “average-dropping” faux-pas’ cause her to drop just below 4.2 and lose that ranking’s necessary benefits. This leads to an emotional outburst and profanity (a positive no-no in the perfectionist world of social media lifestyle cultivation) which gets her harshly penalized until her average is so low that she throws away all pretension and goes thermonuclear at the very social event that she gambled would bring her 4.5dom.

The whole episode seems as if it’s going to be a sobering parable about hubris and the dangers of superficiality, but late in the episode  Lacie has a chance encounter with a formerly high-4 woman happily reduced to 1-dom and we start to see that maybe letting go is the path to salvation and the moral of the episode. The final scene in a jail cell where Lacie (at an abysmal sub-1 average) trades barbs with a fellow inmate only confirms this moral.


She seems happier cussing out this black man than at any other point in the episode….RACIST!!

And it’s a good moral. It smacks of Voltaire’s timeless bit of wisdom, “Man is free the moment he wishes to be.”

I pondered this moral and it’s implications for me and where I’m at. I realized a few years ago that cultivating a squeaky-clean image online was not possible for me, nor desirable, as it would psychologically limit me in the future when I wanted to say some real shit.

Or perhaps more accurately, recognizing that a social media presence is a digital monument, if I built one based on omission and SFW opinions, I would be unwilling to topple it down the road (with risque points of view), it being a monument after all and something I would have, at that hypothetical future-point, invested much time and effort into creating.

No, better to speak my piece, polarizing as it may be, and let the chips fall where they may.

Enter the universe (or invasive data-mining), which, in it’s infinite wisdom, has been known to conspire: Logging onto the Facebooks this morning I saw that a friend posted an article from Wired entitled, “Big Data Meets Big Brother: China Moves to Rate it’s Citizens.

 

That’s right, China is moving to implement citizen ratings based on stringent governmental standards by 2020. I would suggest you read the article for Rachel Botsman’s in-depth analysis of the implications, but essentially people will qualify for better services and greater privileges based on how high their rating is. Furthermore, and much more insidiously, those considered “untrustworthy” (Naturally, China is framing it as a trust-scale more than a conformity-scale) will not only have a lack of privileges, but be a threat to their circle of friends, as one person’s degree of “fuck-uppery” will reflect poorly on anyone who deigns to associate with them, threatening even the ostensibly “trust-worthy” with loss of privileges.


“China, YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD!”

It’s like in Full Metal Jacket when Pyle keeps fucking up and so Hartman decides to punish the rest of the platoon, alienating him from everyone and causing them to beat the shit out of him, in what was (impressively) arguably the most disturbing scene in any Kubrick film. Punishments against bystanders for indulging and tolerating undesirables is a fundamentally malicious policy because it goes against beautiful and humanistic ideals such as “Love thy Neighbour” and “Do Unto Others…”

I’m not so naive to believe that this is a China-problem, nor that people-rating hasn’t already manifested there and here in the west. In a way, I’m all for it; I’ve worked hard to be a good traveler and earn a good reputation on CouchSurfing for example, and that reputation (rightly) gains me the trust of new hosts in new places a lot quicker and more easily. The logic is simple: Don’t be a shithead; Don’t get treated like a shithead. Simple! I, much like Ms. Botsman believe reputation to be the once and future currency of the world -good enough for proto-human tribes, good enough for the post-scarcity economy we’re moving toward.

However, China is bastardizing the noble concept of reputation by taking two of it’s ugliest permutations, credit ratings (a mechanism to further deprive the already deprived) and people reviewing (a “legitimate” way to smear someone via apps like Peeple), and combining them into an ugly abomination with the power to bestow privilege and convenience to the worthy and mete out suffering to the unworthy based on pre-established standards which are reflective of the state institution’s survival needs rather than the ability of citizens to co-exist with each other. And if that wasn’t already enough, those afflicted with “unworthiness” carry a memetic contagion of sorts, alienating them from worthy members of society who may help to, at the very least, rehabilitate them, even though they may have done nothing worse than question policy.

In this last regard, China is almost creating a prison without walls, which might not be so bad if this state-sanctioned social smearing was implemented as an alternative to physical incarceration (even though the ‘bar for entry’ seems to be much lower), but there has been no apparent mention of this, so its essentially just a way to lock up more citizens and scare many more into falling in line.

Well-played, China. The magnificence of your bastardry apparently knows no bounds.

My knee-jerk reaction to this article was predictably fear and anxiety. I’m not a violent criminal but it seems ‘crimes’ we all engage such as out-spokenness may one day land us in hot water as state-ratings become normalized and global. From a strictly amoral and Machiavellian perspective, it does seem to be a viable way to conserve and consolidate power and only someone with a complete lack of imagination or an interest in seeing this system propagate could deny it will be implemented in the western world if the China test-case proves successful.

Again, what was most paralyzing about the worry I felt  was that I realized one day having an opinion that was considered unpopular could hurt those I care about. If I had to dissociate from my father for example, or worse, if he decided to dissociate from me because I was too much of a liability… Well, how could I fault him for that?

But in that moment of panic I realized that I was just feeling, I wasn’t thinking. The former has a place to be sure, but sometimes we have to be pragmatic and logical. Whenever I am seized by existential anxiety I go over my escape plan. The details of it change over time but points 1 and 2 are pretty much always the same:

ANDRE’S SUPER-SECRET, ‘DON’T TELL THE GOVERNMENT’, ESCAPE PLAN

  1. If shit gets too bad I can always kill myself and then my problems on this material plane are over.
  2. I can always focus on my breathing and the present moment.
  3.  Refer back to points 1 and 2 as needed until such time as a better solution presents itself.

You could maybe argue that the order of 1 and 2 could be switched, but they’re just a starting point and as important as their actual viability as solutions to the problem of life, they serve the purpose of reassuring me while I formulate other strategies.

Those strategies I will elaborate on in my next post which will be a follow-up to this one.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Mental Gender and The Kybalion

Friends,

This past January I fell in with a hippie named Timmie somewhere west of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert, a few scant kilometres north of the Mexican border and on the fringes of the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation. We were living in what amounted to a desert suburb -giant plots of land, hundreds of acres each, connected by endless desert track. Maverick bovines mingled with their branded counterparts, and save for the fences which partitioned each ranch/plot of land, the only features which dotted the horizon were the farmhouses, existing kilometres upon kilometres from each other.


We spent our days mountain climbing and smoking metric shitloads of dope…
…rather idyllic…

Add to this isolation the natural desolation of the desert, the alien appearance of the saguaros, the evidence of coyotes ferrying illegals over the same routes we walked mere hours earlier, the omnipresence of the border patrol, the unseen eyes of the minutemen, the looming threat of danger from nearby neighbours who’d tried to rob Timmie, and most importantly the raw spiritual power of the reservation land we were on, and it all amounted to an exciting and interesting place to do drugs.


The remote watering hole on the reservation where we’d take Timmie’s sick dog, Oshe every day, read and allow our peace and harmony to attract wild horses.

And do drugs we did. Well, weed and mushrooms anyway.

I should qualify that: We smoked weed everyday, several times a day and it was even more of a trip because Timmie was one of those guys who could see the matrix; he was always making connections between words, acronyms and numbers and well….everything. As well, he had the gravitas of a wise Indian shaman and so there was something hypnotic about hearing him deconstruct reality…

But with regard to the mushrooms, we only did one trip: 9.5 grams of Amanita Muscarias (which I recorded and edited down to an 8-minute youtube video).
It was a powerful trip spiritually and we did a multi-day preparation for it which included a simple, nourishing diet, meditation and discourse, and reading aloud from The Kybalion. For those unfamiliar with this text I encourage you to read the wikipedia entry on it, but in brief it is the distilled teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, the greatest of all the alchemists, and it posits that there are 7 Hermetic Principles, which it then expounds upon. They are:

I. The Principle of MENTALISM
II. The Principle of CORRESPONDENCE
III. The Principle of VIBRATION
IV. The Principle of POLARITY
V. The Principle of RHYTHM
VI. The Principle of CAUSE AND EFFECT
VII. The Principle of GENDER

These principles don’t seem profound in and of themselves; indeed any pop-scientist who’s ‘liked’ IFLScience on Facebook could probably give you a tenable breakdown of vibration and cause & effect at the very least. However, it is when all seven principles are taken in conjunction that their synergy and implications manifest. It’s all very interesting and their are certainly more in-depth analyses of each specific principle to be had out there if you don’t have an interest (yet) in reading the entire book, but herein I just want to explain the fascinating revelations of chapter fourteen, which deals with MENTAL GENDER.
Mental Gender (MG) might be best explained as an elaboration on the previous chapter’s discussion on principle #7: the complementary masculine and feminine principles/energies/aspects in all of creation. Indeed, the book goes to great lengths to explain how in any act of creation, from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the universe itself, there is always a masculine energy/will which then imposes itself upon/inspires a feminine energy/womb. The masculine impresses itself upon the feminine and the feminine receives impressions -BAM! Creation!
I’ve found a handy conceptual tool to imagine this is that the feminine might be considered the energy (or matter at lower levels of vibration) and the masculine might be considered the vibration itself, determining what form the matter/energy exists as.
So why break gender down further into mental gender? Well, refer to the first principle, Mentalism, and it’s assertion that “All is Mind.” Everything is a creation of the mind, and if every creation is a culmination of masculine meeting feminine, then these two principles, mentalism and gender, share a very interesting connection.

Now allow me to digress a moment: when I left Timmie and Arizona to go to Carpe Diem Eco Project in Nicaragua, I met a traveler named Ryan my first night. He had achieved a high-level of mastery at life and so I listened when he spoke. He left the next day but one thing he said which made a deep (masculine) impression on the (feminine) womb of my mind was this: “I AM is the most powerful phrase in the universe.” While I didn’t understand fully why at the time, I knew it to be true, and so I incorporated this phrase into daily affirmations.

Fast forward to months later, and me finally finishing The Kybalion and wouldn’t you know, the phrase I AM is explicitly discussed and now better understood.

Why?

Well first we must separate I AM into its constituent parts and descriptions:

I is the statement of being. The masculine will which is cultivated through discipline, effort and focus. It must be cultivated.
AM is the statement of becoming. The womb or creative space where our ‘ME’ is created through the impressions we receive. It exists (without any need for cultivation) as primordial chaos which seeks order (I) for the act of creation.

The AM will be impregnated by/create with the strongest I (or Is) it receives impressions from. Since many are derelict in their duty of cultivating a strong I or will in their lifetimes, one strong I, whether from a mentally stronger human being or larger, more influential organization can impregnate the AM space of many, while the I of many individuals simply atrophies and languishes. (I don’t think I need to go into the parallels this realization has on our physical plane, but female sexual selection comes readily to mind, even if masculine and feminine are not specifically male and female.)
It is therefore incumbent upon us to take the time and effort to cultivate our I so that we can create our own reality as opposed to existing in the reality of another.

THINK ‘I AM’ > SPEAK ‘I AM’ > DO

Order yearns for chaos and chaos yearns for order, but chaos is a harsh and choosy mistress, so do the mental work of cultivating a strong I through meditation and reflection, speak a strong I in the direction your will is pointing and then manifest that reality through acting in accord with mind and voice.

I suppose this last bit is as much of a reminder for myself as it is advice to any of you xo

For a full downloadable pdf of the Kybalion: http://www.hermetics.org/pdf/kybalion.pdf

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

 

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Migrant Crisis

Friends,

It’s been a lukewarm minute since I last posted here. Beyond indolence, there was a practical difficulty in that I didn’t have a computer and I absolutely abhor typing with my thumbs.

But no need to labour my absence. Here I am. Back in Canada of all places after 10 months on the road which saw me a tear a righteous strip up and down Arizona with my thumb, have a 4-month, beachfront war of the roses with my ex in Nicaragua, and then spend a similar amount of time in Utila, Honduras getting my divemaster certification (also having my first threesome).

And now I’m back in Canada. Not for long though -in 6 days I’ll be flying to Berlin to move in with my Frau, Anna, whom I met in Honduras. I’m excited to move to Berlin because it will be an opportunity to immerse myself among a critical mass of high-functioning people and see how it affects me.

Also excited to see mein frau -she’s teaching me to speak the German

But how does it feel to be back? Like shit honestly. Everything is falling apart at the seams. I feel unhealthy, depressed, angry, repressed and apprehensive. I don’t wanna be in this fuckin’ country. If I don’t hate it I feel hatred toward it. I didn’t want to come back and it’s only because Canada is kinda on the way to Germany that I decided to stop here.

It hasn’t all been bad of course. For starters I get to see family and friends which is always lovely. Particularly I was fortunate in that my two-week window back here happened to coincide with my cousin Sarah’s wedding


Smaller in stature; Larger in retardation

And of course, I got to see my grandmother, Sheila who has been struggling with cancer for the better part of my absence. After seeing her briefly at the wedding this past Saturday (her first foray out of the hospital since being admitted months ago), I again saw her at the hospital the next day. and we talked and joked in a very familiar way, almost oblivious to the sterile surroundings. As we left, I lingered behind to say what I understood might be my final good-bye to her.
We spoke some more and then I grabbed her hand and smiled -it wasn’t an affected smile trying to fight back tears or hide hurt, but rather a large and genuine smile as one soul may give to another as they part ways after a brief (30 year) and benevolent time together.
She said to me, “I guess this is good-bye for a long time.”
“Yes,” I responded, immediately aware that she was talking about more than just my upcoming departure to Germania.
At that she gave me a kiss and told me to take it with me. After one final squeeze I backed away from her still smiling, feeling more closure and peace than anyone in my position might reasonably expect to feel. She’s right, it is good-bye for a “long time,” but I’l see her again, either in this life or the next.

***********

The upshot of all this is that I’m ready to be on my way. As I mentioned above, I don’t feel healthy here. Three years ago was the last winter I spent in Canada and my health suffered drastically, partly as a result of the lack of light and probably partly as an indirect result of depression induced by coming out of a major break-up. From what I understand, Berlin’s weather is more comparable to southern Ontario’s weather than it is to Latin America’s and so this gives me pause.
As well as my concern for my own health, I know that in winter people tend to clam up, stay indoors and generally not be as open. I tend shine brightest in the sun and from what I can tell I have more power to uplift those around me in said circumstances. Bearing that in mind I will have to make extra efforts to engage and interact, rather than resign myself to wintry isolation.
I’m scared though.

Another thing that troubles me about being in Canada is the politically-correct culture. It has in the last few years had such a deleterious effect on me and my confidence as a man that repeated excursions to the developing world became a must; Say what you will about Central America and it’s problems with violence and machismo, but at least you can call something what it is without people complaining that you’re being offensive.
This PC culture, or perhaps more accurately this Socially-Sanctioned Self-Delusion, has indeed fallen to the periphery of my awareness in my absence from Canada, but it never quite disappeared as I was always plugged into social media. However, coming back here, even for a brief few weeks I’m sickened by the atrophied spirit of people.
Is it the weather getting people down? Perhaps.
Is it my own projections bringing me down? Likely that too.
Still, there is a resignation that people have to their own inability to say the things they’re inclined to say and act the way they’re inclined to act. I say “inclined” instead of “want” because I get the sense that people have convinced themselves they don’t want to speak truth. I recognize this behaviour because I suffer from it too and I’m trying to recover so perhaps I’m more sensitive to it. Yet even catching snippets of SNL and Seth Meyers I am reminded constantly that ostensible taboos are framed as “I can’t say _____” rather than “If I say ____ there will be consequences.” The latter is true but the former becomes a limiting belief and it’s a limiting belief that is pushed forcefully on the masses. This is perhaps what I object to most: the snarky voice of progressive western culture saying “You can’t do/say that!”
Don’t ever believe anyone when they tell you that you can’t do something -they are misguided devils trying to limit the godliness within you insofar as it finds expression through your voice and hands.
Normally it wouldn’t be too much of a problem cause I’m only here for two weeks, but I’m moving to Berlin which from what I understand is a very “progressive” city, and unfortunately the experiences I’ve had show me that progressiveness often goes hand in hand with repression. So in the same way I’ll have to double my efforts to keep my energy up, I’ll have to double my efforts to speak my own truth. My first order of business will be getting a job chopping vegetables -I need a few weeks of some mundane labour to process all the experiences and info I’ve been gathering over the last two years and I think prep work in a kitchen is the route I’ll go.

Winter is coming. My watch has just begun. But if there is any silver lining, it’s that I understand Germany is quite amenable to unskilled fighting-age males with darker complexions.


This is the face I’ll endeavor to face this new challenge and all new challenges with.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

#MigrantCrisis

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