Category Archives: geopolitics

Being Mindful of Transgressions

Friends,

The video counterpart for this post can be found here.

A few years back I attended a Vipassana meditation retreat in Cooksville, Ontario. It was a ten-day retreat based on the teachings of S.N. Goenka, and in addition to the long hours of meditation there were also a series of observances each attendee was required to accept. The complete list escapes me, but the most important ones were: no talking, no electronics, no eating of meat, no killing another living creature, no meals after midday and NO STEALING. Quite unexpectedly, this last observance was problematic for me and breaking this guideline led to perhaps my greatest lesson about mindfulness,

It was late February and snowy during the retreat and when entering the meditation hall we would ditch our jackets and boots in the foyer area which would, not surprisingly, get wet and dirty. At one point I was the last one into the hall and since the outer door was ajar and my own boots were a pain to slip on and off, I slipped into someone else’s boots to close the door. Instantly, and very unexpectedly I was overcome with a feeling of guilt; I had just stolen.

Was it temporary theft? Yes, only three to five seconds.

Did it cause any deprivation? No, the owner of the shoes was already in the hall starting his practice.

Was it for a good purpose? Yes, I was closing the door to keep us all warm.

But I knew all of that didn’t matter from a morality perspective.

Now, at this point I want to reiterate that I don’t really buy into morality myself, but I still was troubled because the person who owned the boots likely did. And this transgression, paltry and trifling though it may have been, was still an act of theft.

I brought this up to one of the meditation leaders, Bob at the next day’s optional counseling session. He was shocked when I mentioned I had stolen but as he heard me out he asked if, out in the real world I would have thought twice about slipping on those shoes. I told him “probably not.” According to him, it was a good thing to have happened because it showed that I was starting to think in more mindful terms, looking at the implications of my actions and considering the damage they could do in their ultimate expressions (i.e. larger theft, mugging or the taking of life-giving essentials). For me, it was an important beginning of looking at the things I was doing in my life and extrapolating them out to their logical conclusions and ultimate ends.

I think that very often we glaze over the fact that we let our ends justify our means because the negative means we employ on a day-to-day basis very often seem so trifling and paltry. For example, we would all likely have at least some compunction about taking a life, even if it was for the positive end of saving many. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s called empathy and it’s a good thing. However, our empathy is rarely sensitive or trained enough to consider that even something comparatively benign, say the act of marking up a price so that you can feed your own family, even that is a negative means for an ostensibly positive end. It is causing deprivation to one group to alleviate the deprivation of another. Survival at the expense of others cheapens the lives of all.

I don’t mean to come down on anyone here who has to eke out their survival at the expense of others. If that was my intent, I would be coming down on everyone including myself; such is the nature of our competitive socio-economic system: we are all complicit in instituting deprivation against each other. Nor do I mean to give a scathing indictment of our current scarcity-based socio-economic system; I have done that ad nauseum and I will certainly do so again at certain points in the future. Rather, I simply mean to shed light on the fact that we should be mindful of our actions, no matter how trifling or benign they seem and be aware that if those actions were amplified by orders of magnitude, they just might be more violent and deprivation-causing than we realize.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
Instagram: @dreguan
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Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdwhemiqzc

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My (Current) Favourite Conspiracy Theories

Friends,

Despite how the two may be conflated in the derision and pejorative of the self-appointed guardians of the status quo, I still draw a distinction between conspiracy theory and critical thought. More specifically, I try my hardest to stay grounded in the latter without running away wildly in the realm of the former. That said, conspiracy theories can be fun shit and from time to time I like to put my tinfoil hat on and make bold predictions about current conspiracies and possible future ones.
And for the record, I’m not making any accusations here. Instead I’m acknowledging not simply possibilities, but plausibilities. For the purposes of this post, I’m less concerned with what is provably true and more concerned with what could be true.

The Activism Conspiracy
Look at all of the issues-based groups that are all agitating for change along certain gendered, racial or sexuality lines. Instead of trying to transcend a system which disenfranchises some for the benefit of others they are simply fighting for more without addressing the structural causes of deprivation. To me, this is very reminiscent of divide and conquer and it strikes me as not only plausible but highly likely that certain parties, whether corporate or governmental, might have an interest in infiltrating and radicalizing issues-based groups so as to keep them from working in harmony and addressing underlying problems.

The Identity Conspiracy
Closely related to the Activism Conspiracy, the ID Conspiracy has to do with the notion of “celebrating our differences.” We see this on the macro scale with nationalism and the Olympics, but also, at the micro scale with individuals making identity associations with skin colour, gender, sexuality, regions, schools of thought, etc. This is an inherently divisive practice which might be promoted by the same provocateurs behind the Activism Conspiracy. I think the ultimate end objective of the ID Conspiracy  is to not simply divide people but to make each fractional demographic seek legal ratification as their benchmark of legitimacy. By seeking this ratification and the associated rights and privileges afforded by being part of a legally recognized group, they think they are being empowered but they are really playing by the establishment’s rules.

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Also, they are doing violence through separation simply by defining themselves as different from other human beings who they are fundamentally the same as.

The “Conspiracy Theory” Conspiracy Theory
This insidious conspiracy happens when extreme, paranoid objections to a certain practices are inserted into related discussion to marginalize legitimate objections. We see this one at work when people talk about flouride in the water. Paranoid types love to talk about how Hitler put sodium flouride into the water in concentration camps to make people docile. We’re also told that flouride calcifies (flouridifies???) our pineal gland or “third eye,” preventing us from achieving enlightenment, and so on. What is not so commonly discussed is how sodium flouride is simply an industrial waste product which crafty businessmen have sold as tooth-protecting snake-oil to municipalities (probably with bribes) so they could turn a profit from their waste product rather than paying for costly disposal. To deal with objections to the municipalities buying poison, interested groups flood the internet with fringe articles about NWO flouride conspiracies so that anyone with a legitimate objection is immediately lumped into the conspiracy camp.
We see this at play with chemtrails too. Nobody is talking about how plane exhaust is horribly polluting the upper atmosphere because the conversation is so skewed in the direction of what harmful carcinogens and morgellons– causing chemicals are being deliberately released as part of some “Satanic New World Order Depopulation Agenda.” And who is skewing the conversation in these extreme paranoid directions? Well that is really the heart of this particular theory, isn’t it?

The Russell Brand Conspiracy Theory
This one hurts me the most to talk about cause I love that Russell Brand has been so outspoken as of late. The Trews is great and I find myself agreeing with just about everything he says but more importantly, agreeing with how he arrived at those conclusions. He may not have all of the answers but he has shown time and again that he is not afraid to ask the right questions. He has the charisma of a great leader, the eloquence of a great orator and the humor and humility of a real human being. He makes no apologies for his shortcomings and actually acknowledges them and is very open about his past struggles with drugs and current struggles with narcissism and all of the trappings of fame. I listen to him and I feel like someone else gets me and that maybe, just maybe, everything will be ok.
So, bearing that in mind, imagine how I would feel if tomorrow morning I woke up and #RussellBrandRapesYoungBoys was trending?

"Rock Of Ages" Press Conference

I would be devastated and honestly probably a little embarrassed, which seems like a petty emotion given the fact that little boys are being allegedly raped. But then I have posted a lot of his videos, and now like Peter denying he knew Jesus to the Roman soldiers I would try and distance myself from the alleged pedophile rapist. The conversation about Russell Brand would be less about the merit of what he was saying and more about who he was raping and how criminally underage they were. All the great ideas he has talked about would almost be taboo because to mention anything that even smelled like an idea he posited would be to support the rape of children.
I hope I’m wrong about this and that it never happens, but defaming figureheads is a powerful tactic to stymie a movement; look at what happened to Wikileaks after Julian Assange was charged with sexual assault; the conversation ceased to be about malfeasance in Iraq and became about the character of the founder. Fuck, the allegations wouldn’t even have to be true, as anyone who disagreed with what Brand said would cling to the notion that he was a pedophile even if he was cleared. It’s an ugly business, slander is. But it happens. I hope it doesn’t though…

I hope you enjoyed my predictions and maybe some day I’ll be vindicated by being proven right. But I really hope not :-S

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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One Night as an Illegal Alien

Friends,

This past weekend, Toronto hosted World Pride 2014 and good times were had by all (except for the drunk, gay couple yelling at each other on Church & Gerrard on Sunday night). If you fancied yourself too cool for a free street festival/concert with nudity and instead had money just burning a hole in your pocket however, you might have instead attended BUD LIGHT DIGITAL DREAMS, as I did on Saturday.
Now I don’t want to badmouth the event; there were some  impressive stages and great music. However, shit got derailed before you even entered the venue by virtue of the arduous set of hoops to jump through that was the admissions process. In brief, if you purchased a ticket online, you had to print off a confirmation which you then had to show at one booth in order to get your ticket, which you then had to take to another booth to get your BRACELET, which carried with it admission privileges and concession stand access.
Foolishly thinking that the $100+ we paid for our tickets* went in part to ensure a smooth, well-oiled in-clearance, we showed up at 5pm expecting to pick up our tickets within a half hour and go from there.
Two hours later and we had moved a few feet.
It was at this point that my friend, Shane suggested I go take a break from the line-up, which I did. I walked for a bit along some eight-foot high fences until I came to a park and laid under a tree planning my next move. Nothing came to me, and it occurred to me that with Shane’s phone dying and me being gone for so long I should probably get back tot he line-up lest they make it in without me.
But I saw a curious thing as walked back along the eight-foot fences: a stretch of about 100m with no security or police officers patrolling it. Then another curious-er thing: drunk people with only the most rudimentary of climbing skill hopping the fence.
Well, I wasn’t drunk and I climb regularly so I really had no excuse not to hop the fence (I had paid money for a ticket after all). So I found myself being put to a decision for all my chips: I either balked and shambled regretfully back to my spot in line to wait with all the other human livestock or risk getting arrested at 29 for sneaking into an all-ages (well 16+ anyhow) concert.
I think we know what choice I made:

photo (2)
Happy like a Mexican who just evaded border patrol!

Shit was Iiiight!! Sure, I was a little bummed out that Shane was still waiting in line but we’re good enough buddies that I knew he wouldn’t begrudge me for doing something wacky and irrational; I learned that from him after all.
Now I was set: I had two bottles of water in my cargoes (ALWAYS…WEAR…CARGOES), one remaining “party favour” and enough money to get me by at any concert…OH SHIT!; I didn’t have a bracelet. 100 bucks in my wallet and I couldn’t spend a dime of it, except perhaps in the black market (drugs). For to engage vendors without a bracelet, would be like trying to engage an employer without a SIN/SSN: Best case scenario they tell you to fuck off; worst-case scenario that call the authorities on you.
And what of the authorities? Well, failure to present a bracelet in that microcosm of society would be akin to not presenting any ID or proof of citizenship in the real world. Incarceration and/or deportation (ejection from the venue). Hell, even an injury that sent me to the paramedics would get me ID’d as an illegal and I would face the long dick of justice after my recovery.
So I did what any stateless/illegal alien would do: Kept my hands in my pockets and did my dirt on the DL.
After an initial two hours of fighting my way to the front of the mainstage I got a hankering to look for my brother who was managing the Bacardi tent. And while I never found that dude, it did give me cause to explore the grounds. During my exploration, I distinctly remember my heart skipping a beat when I saw choke-point where people en route to other parts of the venue were getting a little congested. Whence cometh this heart-skippery? Well, it occurred to me that much like the draconian mobility restrictions placed on Chinese and Soviet people in the past, the authorities might be checking bracelets before allowing access to other areas.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case, and neither my mobility nor my access to water was hampered due to plentiful hydration stations which had no bracelet checks either.
At my most jaded point in the evening it occurred to me that, short of waiting in line till my balls fell past my knees, all of my citizenship bracelet problems could simply be solved with lots of money; whether that meant bribing vendors to look the other way or going through official routes, like for example leaving the venue and spending egregious amounts for a VIP pass which would allow me to bypass the line-up at customs the admissions tent. Is that an overly cynical perspective? Maybe, but I’ll refer you to the homie Shawn Carter, for an interesting perspective on the matter:

“Everything’s for sale,
I got five passports; I’m never goin to jail.”
-Jay-Z, Otis

The reality is that money solves most problems** and since anyone can, in theory, get enough money to solve all of their worldly problems, everyone should do so. But here’s the problem:

Anyone =/= Everyone

Unless you’re one of the monied few like Jigga, you’re often S.O.L. when it comes to quick and expedient access to goods, accommodations and as I found out this Saturday, a bit of Earth to shake my ass on.
I’ll leave you with a final thought: Have you ever trespassed or been somewhere you weren’t supposed to be doing something you weren’t supposed to do? It was exciting wasn’t it? That excitement wears off however, when the care you must take not to get discovered interferes with your day-to-day life. Sadly, this is the predicament of what I conservatively estimate to be millions of people on the planet who are forced to live an illicit life because someone or some agency has presumed to tell them that they could not be somewhere that they desired to be anyway.
We really need to reflect on our sad tendency to deny poor people’s*** access to parts of our planet that are, in reality part of our shared heritage as human beings.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*We paid $140 for one-day passes on Kijiji at the last minute
**It is actually people who solve most problems, but most of them “hop for cash, bitch!” (sic.)
***We’re all “poor” people on some level=> “You ain’t never rich in this world.” –It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, DMX

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“One Fish, Two Fish, Putin, Obama” – A Study in Imposed Dualities

Friends,

Something occurred to me last night as I was getting ready for bed. Let me explain it in a roundabout way, my preferred method of explanation: You see, I have been following the buildup to World War III for about a year now, and before the US was making overtures toward attacking Syria in an attempt to goad Iran into conflict, it was stroking itself to the idea of attacking Iran directly.

iran-wants-war

While that more direct route was being considered, Russia and China had already made statements to the effect of, “We will fight you if you attack Iran,” “You fuck with Iran and you fuck with us.”  These sentiments from the once and current Communist blocs have not really changed too much even though the US is considering a more meandering route to Iran.  Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very vocal about condemning Obama, and, in light of these criticisms of American war-mongering and his harbouring of Edward Snowden, he has gotten a weird sort of good guy image makeover in the view of the West.

ggp
(To be clear, I made this image to illustrate my point)

This heel/face turn has been helped along by the letter (incorrectly attributed to Putin) “From Russia With Love,” which was written in the Russian President’s voice and has been making the viral rounds.

So yeah, it seems like Vladimir Putin is a pretty cool guy.

But if that’s the case, then why do I not feel right about singing his praises and vaunting him as the last bastion against American imperial expansion?

Well for starters lets rhyme off the superficial reasons for mistrusting Putin:

1) He’s former KGB

Putin_KGB

2) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with feminist activists, Pussy Riot.

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3) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with gay rights activists.

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4) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with Chechens.

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Hmmm, all these factors combined certainly make me reconsider my earlier statement that Putin is a pretty cool guy, but they don’t really account for my incredulity with regard to his good guy image.  I think my mistrust has more to do with IMPOSED DUALITIES.

Imposed Dualities
Do you ever notice that most of the choices you are presented with come down to two main options?  And while often these choices are only distinguished from each other by the most superficial of differences, people will still make great judgments about you and your character based on which of the two you choose.
Let’s review some of these dualities:

Evil vs. Good

Dark vs. Light

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2

communism-vs-capitalism-575x250

Presentation1

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It’s no accident that both sides of any of these choices are broadly similar and superficial differences are emphasized to create the illusion of diversity.  A good example would be how many video game retailers will have retailer exclusive DLC for games pre-ordered from them.  In the game Batman: Arkham City for example, you could get various costumes for Batman depending on where you pre-ordered your game. Voila; diversity of choice!

new-batman-arkham-city-bonus-costumes-revealed-earth-one-the-animated-series-batman-beyond-and-more

This is what freedom of choice looks like.

I have a hunch that its also no coincidence that red and blue are used extensively for the purposes of distinguishing broadly similar factions/parties from one another.  I am no colour psychologist though, so I’m not exactly sure what this denotes.

However, I want to draw attention to the last red vs. blue duality I included:

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Most people probably recognized this as denoting the rivalry between the American Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.  These two parties have often been accused of being broadly similar in recent years,

demopublican

yet they manage to keep the veneer of differentiation though head-butting on issues like women’s rights, gay rights, fighting insurgency, etc.  However, since they are both essentially fed by the same hands,

The Most Dangerous Kind of Politician

there are necessarily proverbial  hands that both parties won’t bite.   This is not to say its a grand conspiracy where the wealthy elite control the puppets.

demopub

On the contrary, its a rather common and disingenuous conspiracy where parties and politicians recognize where their self-interest lies and make the appropriate choices to maintain their positions of power vis-a-vis campaign funding, airtime and favourable press.

Furthermore, do you notice how any up-and-coming candidate for the presidency (and by association, senate and congress seats) always pledges to undo the wrongs of his predecessor should he be elected?  This angle resonates with those disaffected most with the existing administration while polarizing the incumbent’s base, a base who, though they might not be 100% satisfied with their candidate’s performance when held up to his campaign promises, still prefers to stay the current course rather than make a departure

So how does this relate to Putin?

Well, someone’s gotta be the bad guy and someone’s gotta be the good.  That is, someone’s gotta be red and someone’s gotta be blue.

If you think about it, in spite of his newfound popularity, Putin is not so different from Obama: He criticizes Obama for his handling of the Snowden affair while openly admitting that he would have prosecuted a similar Russian whistle-blower for treason. You might recognize this position as the broad similarity I mentioned earlier when talking about imposed dualities and intra-national politics.  It seems that broadly similar imposed dualities exist at the international/global level of politics as well.

sdg

“It’s not about the one I like more, its about picking the one I hate least.”  (Paraphrase)
-Cynical Voters

Putin vs. Obama is the latesst permutation of Obama vs. Bush*, and in each case the appeal of the former is a direct function of how dissimilar they appear to be to the latter and how much the latter is hated.

Soooooo, why waste time waving the flag for either?  Good question!

I quoted Miyamoto Musashi in my last post, “When Truisms Lie,” and I will quote him again here:

“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”

I think if we apply this view of imposed dualities at all levels of politics (global, national, provincial, regional, state, municipal, INTERGALACTIC!!!) we will see it represented faithfully, which to me is a testament to its truth.  And it follows that if we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke and mirrors at one level (say, national politics), then we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke & mirrors at all other levels as well.  In all cases we must look past the obvious conflict which is being presented to us and see who is benefiting no matter which side wins. 

CUI BONO?

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*I realize Obama never ran against Bush but he was touted as being the remedy to two Bush terms and two un-winnable wars.

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