Category Archives: discussion

Limiting Beliefs as the Pillars of Human Civilization

Friends,

Recently, I had a conversation with my friend and colleague, Peter Mazzucco about the USMC’s “40% Rule.” The rule itself has interesting implications for will-power, but it also gave me pause to think back and reflect on something which had occurred to me months back then I was on the road shooting my upcoming adventure-documentary, Just Might Be Ok. I was somewhere in Mexico sitting on a rock taking a mid-day water break from walking. I had done 30 km already and was fairly impressed with myself. I reflected on how I had prepared for this undertaking: several full days every week spent in the late-summer heat walking the Hamilton region. My feet had toughened, my endurance had gone up, and the muscles in my legs, hips and lower back had developed to accommodate these new weight demands. But did these factors actually enable me to walk 30+ km every day encumbered with gear, or was I always able to perform this feat and I simply needed to convince myself that I could (with training and gains).

I found it to be an interesting question with wild implications. First and foremost, if a proverbial “97 lb. weakling” who never worked out walked into a gym with a deeply enough held belief that he could lift 400 lbs., could he?  On the other side of the spectrum, is the professional body-builder able to lift the 400 lb. weight because he has increased his muscle tissue and bone density through his workouts or have those physical changes simply had the desired effect of convincing him that he could lift the 400 lb. weight?

henry-ford-think-quote-mood

What we’re really talking about here is the relation of thought/belief to reality. At this moment, there is a Playstation controller on the table in front of me. In theory, if I have a deeply enough held belief that I can’t lift the controller or if I have some fear-based aversion to touching it, it’s not getting lifted, regardless of how much I have worked out. On the back end, isn’t that the same as not being able to lift it?

Ability has at least as much to do with mentality as it does with outward physical appearance and musculature. However, our mentality shapes us and so those with strong mentalities, disciplined mentalities, typically have bodies which reflect this. This too, could be seen as an indication of the relationship between thought and reality.

When discussing this idea further with my roommate, Kelton, he broadened the question by asking if the 97 lb. man could use levers and pulleys and other such machines to perform the lifting feat. I figured that that still counts as exerting one’s will upon reality and so I said sure. When you think about it, this is how society works: We can’t do something; “fly” for example, so we build machines like planes which allow us to do just that and see our will imposed upon the world around us. But this also made me think of another aspect and nuance of the question: We have laws and regulations governing aviation, what if we had laws and regulations prohibiting the use of levers and pulleys? Well, in absolute terms, the 97 lb. man could contravene the law and still lift the 400 lbs., but assuming he came up in the authoritarian public school system and our society more broadly, he would likely have a deep-seated fear-based aversion to using prohibited machinery. Again, on the back end, this is the exact same as not being able to lift the 400 lbs.

I would go further in fact to say that all laws and their corollary rights fundamentally serve as limiters of possibility. They limit what we believe we are capable of. I used to look rights and laws as opposite ends of a continuum, both flowing from a central point (the state/authority/power), the former protecting the individual and the latter protecting the collective, and always in a constant state of tension. There is truth to this view, but within the context of limiting beliefs I began to conceive of a new conceptual model for our relationship to rights and laws.  Imagine that same central point (the state), but it is above us and it projects beams downward and outward to envelope us in an upside down funnel shape. These beams are rights and laws, and while they are touted as guarantors of freedom, they actually act as bars caging us into the activities and potentials the state has dictated to be acceptable.

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Every law and right is in fact a micro-aggression which limits our possibility. Even the most well-wrought, agreeable laws, against killing perhaps, even these still limit our conception of what is possible for us in this world.

It’s at this point where the unimaginative might derisively retort, “So are you saying that we should get rid of all laws, you anarchist?” -as if such a proposition is completely ludicrous. I think the abolition of laws and rights is a desirable state to get to but it is a state we can’t discuss without talking about other societal changes which are beyond the scope of this post.

For now, it is simply important to recognize that every new law, rule, right, guarantee, statute, and stipulation is coercive. Recognize that you have been conditioned to be afraid of force being used against you for contravention of the laws. Recognize that a law against stealing means that there are consequences for stealing, it doesn’t mean that you can’t steal.

You can do anything. Convince yourself of this. Believe it at an experiential level, and begin to undo a lifetime of limiting programming.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Whitey’s Goin’ to Mars

I can’t pay no doctor bills,
But whitey’s on the moon.
10 years from now I’ll be payin’ still
While whitey’s on the moon.”
-Gill Scott Heron, Angel Dust

Friends,

Yesterday I decided to take a relaxing bath and listen to a 70s funk classics playlist. I don’t know too much funk but I liked the genre a lot in theory and principle because I know how extensively it influenced modern hip-hop, especially the aptly named “G-Funk” sub-genre. I was enjoying the playlist quite a bit, but it was the above song by Gill Scott Heron which really caught my attention, specifically the beat poetry portion at the end where he scathingly yet humorously criticizes the establishment for having a space program when people (black folk) in inner-cities are starving. It made me think a lot about the Jenga metaphor I used to use frequently to describe our social progress in the current paradigm: Essentially, we tend to try and build higher and higher with new innovations and achievements without broadening our base for more stability. This leads to a certain precariousness and imbalance where people are dying on the street in Karachi and they’re trying to create black holes at CERN -its kind of absurd that these two realities are existing on the same planet simultaneously.
To take the metaphor further, imagine we built a broader base for our Jenga tower, analagous to say, making sure everyone was fed and sheltered and educated, how much higher could we then ultimately build?

Jenga
Fuck it! Let’s toss time travel in there as well!

I don’t know, it just seems to me that there wold be more minds to advance our civilization ultimately further if we didn’t have a good many of them struggling to procure their next meal.

Buuuuut, I’m not here to talk about this metaphor as I have discussed it at length in older posts. Instead I want to talk about what “whitey” means when Gill Scott Heron says it.

So Who is Whitey?

This is really the question isn’t it, as its a bit of a polarizing moniker. I certainly don’t feel like whitey, nor would I wager do most of my light-skinned friends. So a question then: Would Heron’s sentiments have been different if there had been a black man on the Apollo 11 mission?
Perhaps, perhaps not. But this is the problem with framing activism and criticisms of the system along racial lines; it’s relatively simple for a established powers to deflect allegations of racism by “uplifting” a minority to a position of superficial primacy as an overt demonstration of how fair and egalitarian the system is. We saw the same thing when Obama got elected. Yes, black Americans got their black president so racism is over right? Tell that to Trayvon, Sandra Bland, Sean Bell, and countless others.

“I have much more in common with most working and middle-class white people than I do with most rich black and Latino people. As much as racism bleeds America, we need to understand that classism is the real issue.  Many off us are in the same boat and its sinking, while these bougie motherfuckers ride on a luxury liner. And as long as we keep fighting over kicking people out of the little boat we’re all in, we’re miss an opportunity to gain a better standard of living as a whole.
-Immortal Technique, The Poverty of Philosophy

George Carlin once observed that he felt the civil rights advancements made in the 60s were an accommodation, and I tend to agree with this sentiment. Nothing really changed beyond perhaps perceptions. Instead the system merely “contracted and expanded” to accommodate and placate a critical mass of people with grievances.

So does that make Obama et al. “token blacks”? No. I don’t think it does. There are enough dark-skinned people in positions of power to effectively refute allegations of racial barriers in the context of a debate. But the fact that there are “positions of power” is perhaps what is the real issue, and the one which Gill Scott Heron was reaching for in his spoken word. Whitey can really be decoded as the powerful. Black people, Asians, Aborigines can all be whitey because whitey is a class construct more than a racial one, and I think that people are starting to realize this.

As a progressive (and I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this blog) you may probably get irked by white people who scream “REVERSE-RACISM” when they feel marginalized by the advocacy of another race. You may feel like they are being petty and overly sensitive. However, the existence of these opposing voices indicates more than just intransigence and privilege; it reveals that things are tough all over.  Racial bigotry notwithstanding, everyone is in a survival struggle of some sort -this is in fact an unspoken assumption of our scarcity-based economics system. It’s a system that emulates the animal kingdom in its ruthlessness and dispassion. So when I as a white man hear a black man complaining that he should have a job instead of me, it’s analagous to if I were I were a gazelle and a wildebeest being eaten by a lion was like, “Not fair, you should be eating more gazelles!”

Fuck that! I’d be like, “Motherfuck you and every wildebeest who looks like you.” -Facetious or not, I basically just explained racism.

IT’S A ZERO-SUM GAME, PEOPLE, and just because the gazelles have typically been able to elude lions better than the wildebeests in this particular corner of the Savannah (the Wesstern world) doesn’t mean they don’t taste just as good. In fact, whitey in this example would be all of the gazelles, wildebeests, boars, etc. who were fast enough to evade the lions and/or make deals with the lions by selling out their fellows. So let us not lose sight of the fact that if we are gazelles, our problem is not wildebeests, or vice versa. Our problem is what it has always been: LIONS. Or more accurately, scarcity and the survival anxieties it foments.

Scarcity will kill us. Fear of it will have us kill each other.

So Whitey’s Goin’ to Mars Now?…

It seems so. It’s funny, as a kid I was fascinated by space and the cosmos and my explorer spirit made me want to be a part of this new and exciting frontier. Buuuttt, something isn’t quite right about it. It doesn’t seem righteous to me. We haven’t figured out our shit here on Earth and we’re going to other planets.?Seems a little reckless.
Also, it scares me that certain “nation-states” will be going there and carving up the Martian landscape, declaring ownership and restricting access to future visitors.
And finally on a more philosophical slant, are we really the best representatives to go out into the universe and start colonizing other worlds? This human species has great potential but we are currently so fucked up and troubled that we aren’t really poised to make a splash as upwardly mobile galactic up-and-comers when we make the definitive move of colonizing another planet. We’re like the out-of-shape, obnoxious, combative, and smug debutante at the ball. Who would fuck us, let alone marry us?

Something Conclusive-Sounding….

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago. Since then, in just the last few days actually, two black men have been killed by cops in the US and a black sniper retaliated by killing 5 white cops and injuring more in Dallas. Racism, or at least its perception, is alive and well and its very tempting to reduce these instances and countless others to racism alone. But there’s something of an awakening happening. Mycah Xavier Johnson, the aforementioned sniper, specifically targeted police. He allegedly preferred to kill white cops but his primary focus was on their “cop-ness” and not their whiteness which means he recognized it was the status-quo protectors who were the devils he had to bring it to. He understood that his enemy was the lion and not the gazelle.
Now I gotta qualify this train of thought by saying I don’t believe in “enemies”, much less the use of violence, but I want to make the controversial point that Johnson’s anger was at least aimed in the right direction. Pun intended.

Police are the gazelles, wildebeests and boars that have made deals with the lion and sell out their fellow herbivores. They have thus effectively become predators in their own right and their intentions BUT they are neither as noble or evil as we would like to believe. They are simply trying to ensure their survival. However the existence of this constabulary class with a monopoly on force and legal authorization to kill you if they deem it necessary should bother you at a deep, existential level. Every cop is an iron fist and many don’t even have the decency to glove themselves in velvet. They are our brothers and sisters in an absolute sense, but as long as they are the enforcement arm of an establishment which seeks to keep you pliant, dependent and obedient, they can not be trusted.

This didn’t start out as a rant about cops but rather a discussion of racism vs classism.

Its’s funny how senseless violence can change things so dramatically.

Best,
-Andre

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“Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Bridges…”

Friends,

A lot of you didn’t know me back in 2012. It was a rough year for me and something of an awakening process. I was becoming aware of just how profoundly screwed up society is at a fundamental level, predicated as it is on the maintenance of artificial and unnecessary scarcity to maintain high levels of profit and a dependent, compliant workforce….but I digress. The upshot was that I was very argumentative both IRL and OL.

It was bad.

The benefit of such dissatisfaction is that it spurred my creativity and caused me to blog quite prolifically, albeit angrily, and I was never at a loss for what to rant about.

Fast forward four years and I am a much happier dude. My convictions haven’t changed, but I realize that rather than smashing my face against the keyboard to spur along the change I want to see, it’s better for me to become a living example of what I’d like to see. As such, I never get into heated arguments in-person anymore and only occasionally online, and even in those latter cases I am not so emotionally invested because I realize that if either party is saying anything truthful it will sink in and take root over time. Trying to FORCE someone to see your POV is like screaming at a seedling to make it grow faster.

******

So why this pre-amble? Well, a few weeks ago I had a cathartic relapse which even now, a month and a half later with a clear head, I struggle to feel remorse for. A (former) friend and colleague of mine went on a militant SJW rant basically declaring war on anyone who made off-color comments around her. I find such righteous indignation and vitriol on behalf of ostensibly progressive ideals ironic and all-too-common. I suppose the basic underlying premise is that the best remedy for misanthropy in the world is a great big helping of misanthropy. Who the fuck knows?

In any event, I wish I’d screen-capped the whole conversation (FORESHADOWING ALERT: She deleted fucking everything and unfriended me, cause ya know, that’s how adults roll) cause it was a pretty terrific example of…well, something. Not sure. But I laughed.

It basically unfolded with me calmly and respectfully explaining that when I read her post it made me want to spout off some horrible shit for a laugh then have a solid eight hours of sleep while she racked her brain putting together a thousand word diatribe of hatred which I would ultimately never read. I softly suggested that she might sway more people with calm and sober discussion. Naturally I was accused of tone-policing, which I guess is a new buzzword which means “suggesting that people don’t scream at you like assholes.”

*******On a related note, I swore in front of my dad once when I was a kid and he “tone-policed” me upside the head. I think we really water down the meaning of the word when we apply it all willy-nilly like she did, but I digress because as an adult who knows how to speak to people respectfully I have little chance of people telling me to modulate my tone so I really don’t have a vested stake in what constitutes tone-policing.

In any event, my gentle suggestions must have smelled like blood in the water to the lurking wolves…sharks….w/e, and they pounced. All of a sudden they were lighting me up left, right and center for being against the cause of human progress (I guess), telling me I had no right to tell aggrieved groups how they should talk, and jumping to my former friend’s defense, a defense which for the record was wholly unnecessary because up that point I had been nothing but civil.

Here’s where I made my only mistake: I remained calm and explained respectfully that I hadn’t told anybody what they had to do, only how they could more effectively reach me, and I suspect, many others. This was only perceived as further weakness and I was roasted for my level-headedness. I decided to just pull out of the conversation and let jackasses be jackasses. Even this was seen weakness:

Male SJW: “Oh what? No response? Is that cause a straight white male chimed in or because I’m right? Or are those two things the same to you?”

Me: “Actually its because I’m jerking off to pictures of the holocaust so can you fuck off while I get this nut?”

The beauty of this line was that they immediately realized that I no longer gave a fuck how I was perceived by them.

Me: “Oh what, no response? Is it because you have a problem with the extermination of millions or because you have a problem with the sexual gratification of a straight, white male? Or are those two things the same to you.”

You ever watch an MMA fight and one fighter gets punched square in the jaw and for the rest of the fight he’s just clinging to consciousness trying not to get hit instead of hitting? It was like that, and I’m not ashamed to say that I relished seeing these paper tigers fold. I had even endured so much abuse up to that point that I was like, “Fuck it; I’ll double down!”

Me: “Male SJW I bet you’re the kind of guy who apologizes to a girl after having sex with her. You fucking cuck!” (lol, “cuck” is one of my new favourite words)

Female SJW (Friend of OP): “I bet Male SJW only apologizes to women he has sex with for making them come too much.” (I wish I made this up but the twat actually said this. I don’t think I could cringe harder if my mom walked in on me masturbating and offered to help).

Me: “Relax Male SJW; just cause she’s jumping to your defense to show solidarity doesn’t mean she’s interested in sleeping with you.”

I don’t remember much of the details beyond these lines, but I remember how I felt when I decided that I didn’t care what these people thought of me. I felt FREE. I felt POWERFUL. And I felt UNENCUMBERED.

For the record I don’t advocate aggression for its own sake but when you are dealing with people of low-intelligence they won’t respect you unless you display some. Thankfully, I deal mostly with people of higher intelligence so I very often feel like my life is similar to floating on a cloud made of whimsy and good humor. But every once in a while a dumb motherfucker doesn’t appreciate such good-natured detachment and so I gotta flex nuts. C’est la vie. And I’m not even saying that these people are low-intelligence in any absolute terms, I’m simply saying that within the context and circumstances we conversed in they bore all the earmarks and behaviours of low-intelligence bullies and so I had to treat them like the retards they were being in order to shut them up.

But what does this whole encounter point to more broadly? Well, I wanna not give a fuck and I am actively working toward that level of serenity and enlightenment. It’s something of a process but I feel I am making good progress. The last four months of traveling have actually been very good for me in that regard because removed from the toxic, politically correct climate of where I live, I have been able to find my own voice and speak more freely with less care of repercussions. As well, coming into my own as a film-maker is helpful because not only does it allow me to tell the stories I want to tell, it also makes me less dependent upon others for work than I was when solely an actor. Let’s face it, actors though they may have the coveted autonomy of a self-employed contractor, are still dependent upon others for work, and these others may have feelings and get offended by realness.

Ultimately though, I don’t want to box myself in, whether career-wise or life-wise. I look back on old posts from like 2008 and cringe at the dumb, reckless shit I used to say but at the same time I smile at how little I gave a fuck. I wanna get back to that zero fucks level but this time be informed with the better taste and judgement I have accumulated over the subsequent years.

Some people may see this as a regression. Fuck them! Their path isn’t mine and what they eat doesn’t make me shit. I have attained a level of freedom, mobility and financial security that is the culmination of years of work, ongoing discipline and a reflection of righteous values. And the benchmark for how successful I am is how happy I am. So how happy am I?

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Note: “Shake ya Ass,” while a great tune is not actually on this playlist. I just happened to be listening to it causelike I said; great tune.
Note 2: I welcome suggestions for songs to add to this list.

That’s right: I actually have a whole playlist devoted to those times where I sit and reflect on how awesome life has been so far…UNHAPPY PEOPLE DON’T DO THAT!! So solipsistic as it may seem, that’s all I need to know to know that I am on a righteous path.

So in closing I am going to keep testing my own courage to say what’s on my mind and when someone calls me on it I am going to endeavour not to be fazed (I may even snap back) because my fear of other’s perceptions is and has been the great limiter and inhibitor of my adult life.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
#justmightbeok @dreguan

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To My Unborn Child…

“…’til that day, lil’ homie.”

Friends,

For the last few years my grandparents have been pestering me about when I’m gonna settle down and have a family and kids. Usually I’m evasive and don’t get drawn into the conversation, laughing it off. Or sometimes if I’m in a sassy mood, I’ll threaten to go out that minute and get some random chick pregnant. This often earns me an unamused look from my grandmother. But more and more I do try and dig deep I tell them about how there are plans I have and things I want to do that don’t involve looking after someone else -at least for the time being.

Now this last approach is typically my attempt to be honest and open up, but it is usually met with disapproval and conjecture, and what I realize now is that I wasn’t being completely honest with them.

So over the last two weekends while visiting both sets of grandparents* I decided to really open up about my train of thought, my reasoning, my loneliness and my profound regret so that they would understand it was more than a simple matter of not having my shit together at 30.

I started in both situations by referencing how they had expressed numerous times their sincerest hopes that I would thrive in the entertainment industry. They want me to get the proverbial “big break” and see me on TV. I confirmed that this was in fact what they wanted for me. They said “yes.” From there I pointed out that shoots often require me to travel for extended periods of time and leave behind loved ones. I expressed how not only would this be hard for a romantic partner but especially hard for a parent, the typically low pay of a non-union actor notwithstanding.

A contemplative “Hmmmmm…” was all I got.

I was making headway. It was time to unleash the big guns.

“You see how happy and energetic and carefree I am now?” I said, “Well that’s because I live a relatively carefree existence. I don’t have to work a lot and I can devote a lot of my time to my passions, my craft and my health. Well, if I had someone else to look out for I would have to devote a third or (more likely) more of my time to a job I don’t love just so I could provide for them. Not only would this take up valuable time I should be spending with that little human being, but it would make me grumpy, tired, miserable and unappreciative during my hours with them. I might snap at them in anger or frustration, yell at them or worse.”

With both sets of grandparents, both sides European immigrants who had to work their asses off when they came to Canada, this sentiment really struck a chord. Especially in the case of my maternal grandfather who came over from Italy. He opened up about how hard it was for him working shifts and only seeing my mother and uncles occasionally during the week. It was upsetting to hear, but worse to see the sadness on his face.

I went on.

“I also don’t want to raise my child in a culture where fear is the norm and people turn their back on you; it’s unnatural. I like the idea of a strong community or village where everyone is extended family whether blood or not. A place where my kid will be loved and protected by the whole community, not isolated from his neighbours and taught to be fearful of other people.”

This notion got mostly contemplative silence, but in both cases I think I saw my grandparents thinking back to their early lives in Italy and Portugal respectively, when they lived in small villages where everyone knew everyone and everyone knew everyone else’s business. Times were hard but they suffered together. And when their was bread to break, they broke it together. Contrast that to our current culture of individuation, celebrity and isolation, where people walk by a guy on the street as if he is a poor decorating choice on the part of city planners. That simply will not do. My child will endure hardship, we all will**, but I don’t want to bring him into a culture where he will endure it alone or have to step on others to win.

And I think this is where my profound regret comes from: I know what a kickass dad I could be right now, as I am now, full of life, love and energy. Part of me really wants to realize that, but I also know that in this world, in this culture, I would have to give up the things that make me good father material in order to provide for my child.

It’s disgusting and I am offended that its gone on this long, but the same exploitative socio-economic system we live in that forces recent mothers back to work when they should be bonding with their child during the crucial early years is the same system that makes it imprudent and irresponsible of me to engage in the divine act of creation. This is an affront to my very existence on this planet and just one reason why I have broken faith with their current establishment, only engaging with it as much as necessary.

So, will my grandparents bother me about having kids again? Who knows? Maybe. Probably. But I’m glad I gave them insight into where I was coming from and helped them see that I was at least looking at their regrets and trying to learn from them.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

*I actually have four sets of grandparents, because my parents divorced and remarried when I was young so I got four sides to my family….#swag. But in this case I visited my dad’s parents last weekend and my mom’s parents this weekend.

**The next fifty years and beyond are gonna be a very interesting and unprecedented time in human history. There is a will be lots of shifts happening. I’m cautiously optimistic.

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Shitting All Over Democracy

Friends,

The video counterpart of this post can be found here.

A few years back, while living in the Maywand District of Kandahar, Afghanistan, I noticed that there were two Western contrivances we tried to force upon the locals: Democracy and the toilet. You probably had at least a passing awareness that we installed a “democratic” government there, but you probably weren’t too familiar with the implementation of toilets because it really only happened on army bases.

So what’s the common thread here? Well, both inventions are things we take for granted in the west. They are ubiquitous and we see them as somehow empirical and eternal. So ingrained are these ideas for example, that many have a knee-jerk reaction to shitting via squatting the same way they have a knee-jerk reaction to ideas like dictatorship. Does this make sense?

I don’t think so. From an evolutionary perspective, shitting while squatting is much more the normal state of affairs and it is still practiced widely around the world, so any aversion to it is actually aberrant. Ditto for democracy. We are born into family units where the rules aren’t voted on. We are told what to do. So whence cometh democracy?
Also, with regards to democracy, we live in a natural world with very clear physical rules like gravity, scarcity and other constants which really don’t change based on popular opinion.  So again, whence cometh democracy?

Pretending that toilets or democracy are in any way the natural state of affairs, rather than Western contrivances and fancies, is myopic self-delusion.

In a beautiful action illustrating this point, my interpreters in Maywand unwittingly showed me  the folly of trying to shoe-horn Western practices into other parts of the world.

The interpreters, Afghan natives, were accustomed to squatting while shitting. There was no place to squat and shit on the base and they couldn’t leave the base due to safety concerns so they had to use the porta-potties located on-site.

Porta_potty_Seat.jpg1856A5EC-1851-49A8-A9A43FBD4779870A.jpgLargerIn case you don’t know what a porta-potty looks like.

And they did, but in a decidedly Afghan way: they would stand on the seat and try to shit through the hole. Admirable effort and best intentions notwithstanding, more often than not, they would shit all over the seat. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was actually a profound metaphor for the folly of trying to shoe-horn democracy and other Western ideals onto a people unaccustomed to them.
Now for the record I have no especial esteem for democracy, as I alluded to earlier; nature is a dictatorship and its laws are absolute as opposed to relative. But, assuming democracy did have some especial merit, that doesn’t mean that the world is just gonna accept it any more than they accept the toilet.

So we shouldn’t be surprised when things like toilets and democracy, things which we have, if you think about it, been conditioned to accept as normalcy for our entire lives, don’t catch on like wildfire when transplanted elsewhere. Or if they get shit on so to speak.

We don’t have a monopoly on the right way to do things and we would do well to remember that.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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“He Who Laughs Last Probably Died Laughing”

Friends,

An army friend of mine once related a story to me when we were in Afghanistan about a game he used to play in university lectures called, “Bait the Jew.” The premise of the game was simple: in class discussions he would say deliberately inflammatory things which would rile the Jewish students, particularly those with Zionist sympathies. He would then have a laugh at their expense. I cringed at this and felt kind of embarrassed for him but it was one of those situations you find yourself in all-too-often in the military where you gotta let some repugnant shit slide because for better or worse, this dude has my back when shit hits the fan.

But if you think about it, Bait the Jew is emblematic of how humor is generally done these days: inflammatory remarks are levied at various demographics (with various degrees of cleverness) and the “injured” party’s reaction only increases the mirth of those who see the humor in it. Sometimes, the injured party’s reaction is relatively benign (legal recourse, appeals to the government or similar jests in kind), but sometimes it’s pretty severe:

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I’m gonna go ahead and say exactly what’s on my mind here: Some people are VERY happy about the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Why?

Well, to me, I think it validated a lot of pent-up xenophobia and and Islamophobia and it certainly made a fair number of self-described atheists pretty euphoric. There is a definite under-current of these emotions in the wake of the attacks and a jubilation which some are hard-pressed to contain. It goes deeper than the validation of prejudice though. Some, like certain military friends of mine, have a vested financial interest in war because (at least in the Canadian military) there’s lots of delicious tax-free money to be made fighting commies/Nazis/insurgents. But there’s also the awards, honours, medals and respect that come from service overseas.

military-humor-soldier-russia-listen-here-noob-memeYou basically get some new bling to keep your uniform frosty.

Medals are a status symbol in the military and the worthiness of your career is (unofficially) related to the size of your rack of medals. In the context of being in the military, it’s considered a more or less objective indicator of whether or not someone is a good soldier. Sure, a guy may be an insubordinate, racist drunkard, but look at all his medals. Also, there is an unspoken resentment against superior officers who presume to command subordinates with more operational experience, and thus more medals, than them. So in my estimation, a lot of war-mongering has to do with guys who want to legitimize their careers and authority, while at the same time becoming one of the highly decorated veterans they vaunt.

I’ll defer to Bill Hicks here:

billPortraitWhat kind of people are these with such low self-esteem that they need a war to feel better about themselves? May I suggest, instead of a war to feel better about yourself, perhaps … sit-ups? Maybe a fruit cup? Eight glasses of water a day?

I was one of these guys when I got into the army. I saw dudes who had deployed to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cyprus, the Golan Heights and when they’d rock their medals on parades I wanted my own taste of that. Well, I got it. And, surprise surprise, all of that admiration and veneration from the younger generation didn’t mean all that much when I finally had it.

How far do you have to go down that road before you see where it leads?

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But I digress here because I didn’t set out to write a scathing indictment of the military mindset wherein a solider validates himself, his existence and his career through violent campaigns and occupations which leave people dead, orphaned, bereaved and embittered.

Rather I was writing about humour and the way it is done. This hits a little close to home for me because as of late I have been trying my hand at stand up comedy so I find myself very much concerned with what is funny and what is not. Now at the outset, let me be clear: I am not above laughing at crude, insensitive, racist, sexist, etc. jokes. I’d like to qualify that by saying that I only laugh at them if they are clever, good-natured and well-wrought but that would be lying. I’ve laughed at the worst of the worst and will continue to do so provided I find the joke in question funny.

Now I think many of us would agree that if I, as a white male, went around making racist jokes about blacks, saying the word nigger all willy-nilly and advertising bigotry, the people who were the butt of my jokes would have a legitimate qualm and reason to not find them funny. If things were taken a step further and I got my ass kicked by the injured parties, a lot of people would probably be like, “Well he got what he deserved.”

Now notwithstanding the fact that there are orders of magnitude of difference between the shit-kicking I deserve and a shoot-out in the streets, can we at least acknowledge that a similar dynamic is at play here?

1)Someone makes a joke at another party’s expense
2)The second party is offended by the joke
3)To vindicate their bruised honor, the injured party does (decidedly less whimsical) violence against the jokester (and anyone else unfortunate enough to be nearby)

Some of you may say that I have abstracted the Charlie Hebdo massacre too much to make it congruent with my hypothetical black joke scenario, but I maintain that this is an important mental exercise which helps us to recognize common kernels of causality. So yes, while there are worlds of differences between the CH massacre and me getting my ass tuned up by a bunch of hypothetical aggrieved African-Americans (Canadians???), there is a similar dynamic of vindication here.

Or how about this: A lot of people here in the west think it’s stupid for Muslims to freak out over pictures of the Prophet Mohammed, BUT GOD HELP YOU IF YOU DON”T STAND FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AT A HOCKEY GAME!!!

Yes, cause that makes infinitely more sense.

Or a lot of people might hate on (again) Muslims for those honor killings we hear so much about, but I would posit that “vindication of the national honour” (i.e. “honor killing” on a massive scale) is the main mobilizing premise used to dupe scared people into joining the war effort in the wake of some (usually trifling or made-up) initial provocation.

Don’t get me wrong I am no apologist for Islamic violence, but I recognize that it’s pretty presumptuous for us to poo-poo them for their violence when we cumulatively as “the West” are perhaps the greatest purveyors of direct violence (war), indirect violence (proxy wars) and war profiteering that have ever existed.

***************
But again I need to digress, because this is neither meant to be a scathing indictment of Western foreign policy.

So what is funny and what is worth killing someone over? I think the answer to both is, “It’s all relative.” Furthermore, there is a degree of overlap, so some hilarious shit might get someone killed.

batmano
He who laughs last, probably died laughing.”

I recognize doing stand-up that a joke which I find funny might get my ass kicked if it offends someone, and whether popular opinion is with me or against me depends on a number of factors: The disposition of the general public, whether I am part of the privileged class, whether the subject of my ridicule is a downtrodden minority and last but not least, the prejudices of the general public. Let’s face it, if Charlie Hebdo cartoonists saw some humour in making cartoons at the expense of rape victims and a bunch of feminist extremists IRL pwned (killed) them, there would be a lot of people of the mindset of, “Well, that’s what you get for talking shit.” But since the indignant transgressors were Muslims, the attitude seems to be “Fuck them and their feelings!

So, should Charlie Hebdo cartoonists have showed some restraint with regard to their jokes about Islam? Absolutely-the-fuck-NOT! We NEED people to push limits and say things that are on their minds even if the group-mind doesn’t deem it politically correct. The fact of the matter is that it takes a lot of guts to say some shit that you know isn’t popular, which incidentally, is why I mostly reserve judgement against the Westboro Baptist Church. Much as I might disagree with their message I have to laud their guts.

And while I think it sucks that people sometimes get killed for speaking their mind, I also think it sucks that we live in a system which necessitates the speaking of one’s mind in the first place.

What do I mean by that? Well, speaking one’s mind (whether that is asking for a raise, telling off a rival, or making an unpopular joke) is a form of asserting oneself and one’s views. But the necessity of self-assertion pre-supposes some marginalization happened as a pre-cursor. So the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists felt they had to assert themselves at the expense of devout Muslims, and the devout, more extremist elements of that group felt they had to re-assert themselves against those who had made light of their faith. Like so many struggles within a competitive socio-economic system, it’s just another case of one group trying to get ahead at the expense of another.

So again, for perhaps the hundredth time, I want to ask, “Shouldn’t we, instead of focusing on the individual acts of violence or insult (the latter being just another form of violence), instead look to transcend the structural mechanisms which pit people against one another in the first place?”

It doesn’t matter whether you identify more with Muslims or the cartoonists, cause while you bicker over who was in the right or wrong, someone is profiting from this whole debacle at the expense of both groups.

France

And what I find incredibly offensive about any new legislation pertaining to surveillance and privacy that will come to pass from this massacre is that it will likely disproportionately target Muslims (at least initially) and also that it flies in the face of the freedom of speech which Charlie Hebdo stood for.

So while we take sides, everyone loses.

Problem => Reaction => Solution

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But I digress, because I didn’t set out to talk about how we are being manipulated and played against each other.
Also, I ran out of clever shit to say.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
Instagram: @dreguan
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The Energy Mosaic

Friends,

I recently watched a documentary entitled Thorium Remix which described how not all nuclear power, nor nuclear reactors, are created equally. Specifically, it talked about how thermal reactors utilizing thorium-rich liquid fuels would be greatly beneficial to us, by not only creating useful isotopes as a by-product, but by being able to run on, use up, and render safe, our current stockpiles of nuclear waste. It really challenged my position that we should  completely abandon nuclear power in favour of a move toward the big 5 alternate sources: geothermal, wind, solar, tidal and wave. Here’s why:

Nuclear reactors are very powerful, with nuclear isotopes having an energy density many orders of magnitude higher than hydrocarbons. We can get A LOT of power from a little bit of fuel, and in the case of Thorium, the supply of fuel is, for all intents and purposes, limitless. Going on the assumption that everything in the documentary is factual and verifiable, we could achieve energy abundance and mitigate a lot of the current problems associated with nuclear reactors. Also, unlike the 5 alternate sources I mentioned, it wouldn’t be location-driven, or limited to use during certain times of the day.

That said, nuclear power does tend to favour centralization which, philosophically I have some trouble with. I think the future of energy (as well as food production and manufacturing) is localization; sources of energy should empower communities and make them independent, rather than make them beholden to a centralized authority. This is the beauty of the 5 technologies I mentioned: they do require space, but because of the difficulties (and redundancy) associated with transporting lots of small amounts of energy to a centralized hub only to redistribute it out to where demand is, we would likely see communities dissociating themselves from centralized hubs altogether.

If you think about it, this is a more natural, robust state of affairs which mimics systems in nature. After all, all the predators in the wild, don’t go to the same central hub to hunt,; things are spread out favoring an equilibrium and dispersion. Localization of energy goes hand in hand with energy diversity, which would make across-the-board power failures implausible, if not impossible. This is truly the way forward with the ultimate end in my view being energy independence at the individual level, with each person producing the energy they need through advanced means.

All that said, in a world of complete energy independence, where might we find use for thorium fission (or even as-yet undiscovered high-energy-yield processes)? Well, aside from the useful isotopes it creates, large-scale power generation would still be useful for public works projects, construction and other things which would suck up more juice than a given population’s cumulative individual energy production.

And this is where I think the mosaic aspect comes into play: there is no one source of energy that will solve all of our problems: some will be better at the personal level, others at the community level, and others still at the regional level of for large-scale projects. We need to stop pretending that one is superior for all applications and instead let the situation determine the technology we use.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
Instagram: @dreguan
Twitter: @dreguan
Youtube: dreguan
Facebook: Andre Guantanamo
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