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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

3

images

2

communism-vs-capitalism-575x250

Presentation1

125177754

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:

125177754

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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Aging Like Wine

“I feel I owe you an apology.  We have a rule: Never free a mind once it reaches a certain age.  It’s dangerous and the mind has trouble letting go.”
-Morpheus, The Matrix


“…mothafuckas who thought their ass would age like wine.  If you mean it turns to vinegar, it does.  If you mean it gets better with age, it don’t”
-Marcellus Wallace, Pulp Fiction

My Friends,
   A few weeks ago I had a get-together which I meant to write about mainly because I was ashamed of how I conducted myself.  My alcohol tolerance is a lot lower than it used to be and I was sillier than expected off three glasses of scotch.
   But that’s not what I’m ashamed of. Rather, in my drunken state I got into a discussion with two acquaintances of mine about the sad state of the world.  This is a conversation I have undertaken with one of these two when sober and we argued about it then.  So while drunk and with no filter for my words or control of my volume it was bound to be an exciting and mutually respectful discourse.

  Without getting into specifics, I was advocating sweeping global change and a complete rejection of the monetary-market system we live in, citing the extreme poverty which not only exists but is getting worse every day.  My acquaintances (I’m not sure if they were drunk or sober) rejected what I had to say, and maintained that things work as they must.  So what I am ashamed of is how I responded to their round rejection of new ideas; I got louder, used profanity and called their intelligence into question.  Over the following two days I apologized to them both via text message for any disrespect I showed them.
   Now I wasn’t looking for any kind of return apology (and frankly I hate mutual apologies because when two grown men allow themselves to be vulnerable simultaneously it has to end in gushing, hugging or other such faggotry), but it wasn’t exactly like I flew into a rage simply because we didn’t see eye to eye.  In fact, I was provoked, and at the time I wasn’t in possession of the faculties to take it in stride.
   See these acquaintances are, like most people, very much invested in the system we live in, and to their credit they have done well enough to support families.  I’m happy for them and I wish them continued success, but their success puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to looking at things in new ways.

They perceive any new idea or dramatic overturning of the status quo as a threat the comfortable existence they have eked out for themselves.  So instead they rejected my ideas on a few different grounds.
   
“Look at all my money, though.”
   First and foremost I was told about how as first-generation immigrants they didn’t have the things I had as a kid (not realizing the irony of using a negative excess of the system like immigrant poverty as an argument for the system I suppose) but simply through hard work and without the benefit of an education they had made lots of money and could afford a comfortable lifestyle.
Someone said this to The Riddler once.  Batman later had to save that person.

When someone doesn’t even understand where money comes from or how its made, I find they say things like this.  The logic is, essentially, “If I have money, things must be working well enough.”  Its like finding a seat in musical chairs and thinking, “See, everyone can get a chair if they try.”  This logic reminds of a very minor line from a skit on DMX’s album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot:
“You ain’t never rich in this world”

We would all do well to remember this.
Human Nature
  Next I was told how the change I described could never be because people are naturally greedy accumulators.  This is simple misanthropy masquerading as fact, and it is a symptom of our lifelong conditioning to believe the very worst about our fellow man.  But there is no such thing as human nature, just human behaviour which is a response to the stimuli received throughout life.  People are like dogs; treat them wretchedly and they’ll behave wretchedly.  Nurture and properly socialize them and they’ll probably be okay.  Teach them that they’re only as good as the amount of money in their wallets while bombarding them with advertisements encouraging them to consume and you end up with what we have today.
“I Used to Think Like That When I Was Your Age”
   Yet still, up to this point, I wasn’t even mad.
And I even got a picture to prove it.

But then Acquaintance A joked to Acquaintance B that he used to think like me and that one day I would grow out of it.  Now I happen to know for a fact that Acquaintance A has never thought like me in his life.  And what Acquaintance A doesn’t realize is that I am not suffering from youthful communistic fervor.  In fact, I eschew all political platforms.
Seriously, check my facebook, bro.

Instead, I was advocating a “Resource-Based Economy” (Start at 1:13), something neither of these two acquaintances had ever heard of, so I really don’t see how they could have graduated past my level of thinking.  
   But even though I knew his claim was bullshit, I was galled beyond measure to see that he really believed what he was saying: He somehow actually believed that his greater number of years living in this madhouse of a world and his blithe acceptance of the status quo had made him expert in some way that I was not  
Imagine spending your whole life here and thinking it somehow gave you some unique insight on how a ‘sane’ world should work.
I get where this comes from; the old have few advantages over the young, the only one worth mention being wisdom.  But simply existing for a bunch of years does not give you wisdom, and when someone tells me that I, an individual who has been to more places and seen more shit than they have, will grow out of something, I can’t help but feel a little indignant.  
   And this is pretty much where I lost my shit and came out guns blazing; I cited my life experiences, my travels, my military experience in places they had just read about, my actual inquiry into the matters we were discussing, and of course my post-secondary education.  I also added that I paid for that last item out of my own pocket because it seemed like that’s all they respected.  It was kinda of like ripping a huge fart in public; it felt good to let it out but it alienated the people around me.
   But really, there is just no polite way to say “I ain’t lookin at you dudes, I’m lookin past you,” (especially when drunk) so I don’t know that I could have defended my position without being adversarial.  I just feel that I really needed to disabuse them of this notion that age alone grants some special insight because its a big part of the problem with the way the world is.  
   And if these acquaintances ever did in fact think the way I do now, what happened?  I understand a certain degree of necessary conformity to get by in this world, but why lose that edge, that passion to see things get better?
“I mean, what happened?…Did your balls drop off?…Hmm?…”

   I know that I shouldn’t be so hard on others because I am by no means the living embodiment of the change I want to see.  However, I can’t stand resignation in the face of problems.  And I can’t stand the avoidance of discomforting thoughts.  But mostly, I can’t stand how age weakens your most noble convictions and strengthens you most base ones.
   Still, I meant every word of my apology.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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