Tag Archives: army

Handling Things the Mature Way

My Friends,
   I have a real problem with being overly argumentative.  I am in fact horrible at conveying messages to a crowds which are not predisposed to liking what I have to say.  This is a real problem for me because I think I have some good shit to say.  At the very least I have some less cancerous shit to say than some people I know, all things being relative.  The most glaring manifestation of this argumentativeness and poor communication is my tendency to get embroiled in Facebook threads which devolve into flame wars real quick.  Its not because I hate the person, or so much that I object so much to their initial comments or posts (well, sometimes its that), but very often its how people rationalize their opinions when challenged (and I use rationalize in the loosest sense possible).  I think it bothers me when people don’t do thought experiments with their opinions, extrapolating premises out to the nth degree to see if they still hold water, or attempting to rationalize these ideas within a larger global picture.  And when you try and have a discussion with someone who is in a box like this, their truncated frames of reference and ideologies invariably lead to misgivings and resentment.

   So yeah, this cognitive dissonance is a very real problem for me, someone who operates on the foundational premise that that the more logical argument should prevail.  But in a slow, stubborn way I am becoming more and more aware that such arguments shant prevail if one is sufficiently determined not to be swayed

“Traditional sentiment is constantly in conflict with emergent knowledge” -Peter Joseph, “Defining Peace”

I don’t want to pull punches because if I can’t be brutally honest here then I can’t be honest anywhere, so I will say that as of late most of the head-butting I have been doing has been with buddies of mine from the army who post some super-moto, gung-ho shit, jingoistic tripe about Canadian pride, or bellyaching about how veterans don’t get enough respect.  I can’t stand shit like this but then I can’t stand a lot of things.  Interestingly though I see myself in the position of being able to call them out on their bullshit while being able to take their main bullet out of the chamber with regard to a rebuttal: “Yeah, well why don’t you try doing a tour of duty and then come say that.”
   Lol, been there done that and I’m still calling you out.  And just when I think that my street cred might actually mean something to them and that they might take my point of view seriously because I have gone through what they have gone through, they find some other ad hominem attack to go with which invalidates my points of view in their eyes.  Its very frustrating, but its a lesson which more or less jives with my view that you should consider the message absent the messenger; frankly I wouldn’t want someone to consider my views simply because I have shared a certain struggle with them, or because I have a certain credential in their eyes.  This type of selective attention seems to be the primary way in which we go about things today and its effects are mostly negative.  Don’t get me wrong, credentials have importance in many regards, but they should only serve as the cherry on top of a soundly-reasoned hypothesis-sundae, not the sundae itself.
   So anyway, I have as usual gone on a tangent.  My intent here is not to do a critique of the way knowledge is done (I find I do that far too often as it is), but to explain the way I am handling the inane bullshit and drivel I frequently encounter on the Facebooks.
   But first, a brief outline of the things which either cause me to comment rashly, face-palm hard, or ask myself, “Why am I friends with this person?”  
1. Super gung-ho army shit, jingoistic fervor and the aforementioned bellyaching that veterans don’t get respect.  While I do believe that the state entity is entirely responsible for taking care of any wounded (phsysically or mentally) solider and his family, I am more talking about this idea that John Q. Public doesn’t give a fuck about the military.  I am not sure where this comes from; maybe some people saw a disenfranchised Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump and feel his pain a little too acutely, but I can say that in 9 years of service I never had anyone say a sideways thing to me.  In fact they were all smiles and Hallmark cards, thanking me on the street, telling me how brave I was, etc.  I can’t speak for other countries but at least here where I’m at, the veteran is more or less revered.
2. People who post the most pathetic and desperate aspects of their daily lives for….I don’t know, pity maybe?  This shit gets old but there’s not really much you can say to someone who is complaining about how sick they are all the time, how exhausted they are, how much their kids cost, how tight money is, etc…  These are touchy subjects and unlike people with dumb opinions I don’t see any glimmer of hope with regard to helping these people come around.  As such, I never really comment on these posts, I just kind of cringe to myself.
3. People who make too much of politics.  Perhaps this one baffles me more than it should.  After all, I voted in the last federal election.  But hey, we all do stupid things when we’re young.  I get that it takes time for some people to realize that non-participation is the best route to meaningful change, and not established processes like voting, and many others never realize this at all, but knowing this still has not afforded me the patience I should have.  When someone posts something about how the Liberals are really shitting the bed and how the Conservatives would handle things better I will typically ask the poster something like “Do you think who’s in office really matters?” assuming that like me, they will look back to the chain of contrived causality which leads to a partisan system,  various offices and of course the media circus which ostensibly handles things with the highest journalistic integrity (wink wink).  But no, they take my question at face value and respond, “Of course it matters….”
4. Championing minority rights, a particular disease’s cure or the plight of a small nation by advocating the use of established, in-the-box resolution methods and not considering the root cause which lead to these problems.   With regard to minority rights, I think helping the black man is great, but if you try to help the black man by trying to help the black man you’re only going to piss off the white man, the brown man and the yellow man.  There are no minority problems, there are human problems.  We gotta start implementing solutions that help everyone and this might mean trying some new things and abandoning others.  This same logic applies to curing diseases.  I think a lot of people don’t really know how disease and addiction are fomented and thus believe there is a way to handle each related problem on a case by case basis.  Or even trying to “help” a country without giving it the means to help itself.  All of our solutions are not solutions at all, but ways of stroking ourselves to make us think we aren’t part of the problem.
   So anyhow, these are just a few of my favourite things.  And my master plan to avoid the frustration and rage that comes from being subjected to these inane ramblings every time I log onto the Facebooks?
   Unsubscribe.  This shouldn’t be that revolutionary to me because I have indeed directed friends of mine to unsubscribe from me when they complained of how their own news-feeds were full of updates whatever flame war I was embroiled in.  But I can actually feel waves of relief over me when I do this.  Its so satisfying to scroll through your news-feed and repeatedly lament the absence of a dislike or downvote button.  
   To be clear I haven’t unfriended these people as in most…all cases I still like them.  I just don’t wanna hear their stupid, tired, unrationalized bullshit every time I log on.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
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Monday Night Martinis

My Friends,
   As I sit here getting more and more intoxicated, I find myself looking at old files on my computer to see if I can’t delete anything unnecessary.  I started with my catch-all “untitled folder” and I stumbled upon an .pages file entiled “08 Jan 2009 Mass Cas Statement.”  This file was the statement I was asked to write and submit by my commanding officer after a mass casualty event took place near the forward operating base I was stationed at in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2009.  I hadn’t read it in about three years and it was sobering in a way that I needed after all so much libations on a school night.
   I’m ready to share it, but I will qualify it by saying that if the text seems unemotional it is a reflection of the lack of emotion I felt during the event itself.

On 8 January 2009 I, Cpl. (My Name),  (My Service Number) was witness to and was involved in a mass casualty incident occurring in and around FOB Hutal in the Maywand district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan.  The following is my recollection of the events as they occurred.
At approximately 16:30 I had finished working out and was exiting the gym when a large explosion was heard.  Unsure of whether or not it was a controlled demolition, I observed for a few seconds until it became apparent that it was not in fact a controlled explosion.  This was indicated by American soldiers running to their vehicles and donning their FFO.  Lt. John Southen and I ran back from the gym and donned our FFO and made our way to the wall at the rear of our compound to defend the FOB.  The lieutenant instructed me to start the RG-31 and man the machine-gun.  A few minutes later the gun was ready and I was scanning my arcs.  It was at this point that the ANP started bringing in casualties from the village surrounding the FOB.  It quickly became apparent that there were more casualties than the on-site medics could adequately provide care for.  That being the case, MCpl. Ric Chiu and I were tasked to assist the American medics, being that both us are TCCC qualified.  It was approximately 16:50 when we began assisting the medics.  
The first casualty I assisted after donning my gloves was a local national.  Three Americans were trying to stop his bleeding while also removing his clothing.  Having shears, I helped remove his clothing and then upon instruction from an American medic applied Quickclot to the back of the casualty’s left leg just above the heel where there was a large amount of flesh and bone missing.  I handed off the Quickclot to one of the American medics who needed it at the top of the of the casualty’s body.  Then I was asked if I had a tourniquet.  When I pulled one out I was instructed to place it on the casualty’s right leg as he had blood loss below the knee. However another caregiver had already placed a tourniquet on the leg and had begun to tighten it so I ceased my application.  That casualty being adequately cared for I moved on to see who else needed assistance.  I moved around between casualties for a few minutes providing equipment to the first-aid givers as they needed it and then running back to the Canadian compound to retrieve more stretchers as they were needed.  
I assisted the caregivers of one casualty (Afghan) who had burns as well as lacerations and was evidently in a great deal of pain.  I held his legs in place while they were bandaged where bleeding and also helped to remove his clothing.  When he was bandaged I covered him with a blanket and moved on to then next casualty.  Many of the initial casualties were at this point ready to be put on the chopper when it arrived but we were running out of blankets to cover them with so I applied my solar blanket to one casualty who was nearly naked and shivering.  At about this time Lt. Southen came to the scene and asked how he could help so I asked if he could scrounge some blankets.  He managed to find several and none of the treated casualties were, to my recollection, left uncovered after that point.
I am not sure at what times each individual casualty load came in but I do remember checking my watch at 17:03 after I heard over our PRR’s that choppers had taken off from Camp Bastion at 17:01.  But several more casualties did show up prior to that chopper’s arrival and a many of them were children.  The first one I remember treating was a child I helped off of the ANP truck.  The child was quite conscious and told the interpreter that he was injured on his left thigh.  We laid him on a stretcher and I began removing his clothing.  I saw a puncture wound on the front of his thigh which, although deep, was not squirting blood so I began to assess other parts of his body to look for other injuries.  The child started protesting in Pashtun and the interpreter translated that the child was trying to say that that was the only place he was injured.  The child seemed quite lucid and alert so I proceeded to bandage up his wound using an Israeli dressing over a standard field dressing.  I was assisted in this by two Americans; one held the leg as I bandaged it and the other retrieved the first aid equipment I needed.  When the casualty’s leg was bandaged I attempted to look for other bleeding but the casualty assured me in Pashtun that he was fine and gave me the thumbs-up.  Again, in light of his wakefulness and alertness I judged he was fine and moved on to others whom I judged could use more help.  A lot of the help provided consisted of providing occupied caregivers equipment and assistance as needed but I began to notice things were getting cluttered with bodies strewn about haphazardly.  So I got Lt. Southen, MCpl. Chiu and an interpreter who was nearby and us four moved stable casualties to a position where they were out of the way and well-covered.  As well, I noticed there were treated casualties lying on the ground scant feet from unoccupied stretchers so I got some of the interpreters to help me by explaining to the casualties how we were going to manoeuvre them onto the stretchers.  This was done by turning the casualties onto their sides, placing the stretchers behind them and rolling the casualties onto them.  
As the choppers began to show up I told the interpreters to tell the casualties we were going to cover their heads so they would not get pelted by rocks when the Chinooks landed.  As the choppers landed I assisted in bearing the stretchers.  For my part, I helped carry three casualties over.  Earlier on however, we had received word that another load of casualties, primarily women and children was on its way into the FOB.  We were waiting for them to arrive for a time but it became clear that they weren’t about to show up.  
After the casualty-laden Chinooks left, two blackhawks landed and I noticed that the Americans had formed into two facing columns.  I realized this was probably their final salute to their comrades who had perished that day so MCpl. Chiu and I stood at attention with the Americans as the deceased were loaded onto the Blackhawks.  
After that procession MCpl. Chiu, Cpl. Yull, Cpl. Begin and I offered to help the medics clean up.  However, not long after that MCpl. Chiu and I were called back to the Canadian compound by Lt. Southen to defend the wall.  I relieved Cpl. Czop and was stationed at the wall for only about ten minutes before we were stood down.  We were stood down at approximately 18:50. 
The American medics were quite vocal in their gratitude for the Canadian assistance in treating the casualties.  

That’s the sort of 0-to-100 moment which is characteristic of my experiences overseas.  Shit is pretty chill until its not.  Now did I have the most extreme and traumatic of experiences?  No, and thankfully not.  Still, my commander saw fit to submit my statement and MCpl Chiu’s statement to higher along with his own observations.  The practical outcome of this initiative on my commander’s part was that MCpl Chiu and I were awarded “Chief of Defence Staff Commendations.”  In spite of my misgivings about war, it was/is an honour to have been recognized for life-saving efforts.  Nevertheless, I am humbled by the fact that there are those who have been pushed farther than I was and received no recognition at all.  
   Again, in spite of any misgivings I may have regarding modern warfare and the reasons it is fought, I am awed by the stories of unrecognized valour which I have heard.  May these stories keep being told, even if it only among the forces.  
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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The Story So Far…

One day maybe…

My Friends,
   Most of you know that “blog” is short for “web log,” and the word “log,” to me, implies two things: First, a regularity in entries, and Second, a personal aspect, or subject matter dealing with the writer’s own life.  My blog has been somewhat deficient in both of these regards as of late.  Here’s why…
   With regard to regularity and the recording of my daily life events, I find that little has happened as of late which merits a full blog entry.  To be sure, there have been certain notable occurrences as of late, but none which can’t be adequately summarized and explored in a twitter post or two (@dreguan).  Other than these chance occurrences, all I have been up to lately is submitting (lamentably) the past few months to wage-slavery.  This sort of base existence does not really lend itself to anecdotes worthy of relating, but its a necessary evil for the time being.  The irony is that while I was travelling I had all the stories in the world to tell and often no computer.  Now I have all the internets I could want and a rather uneventful existence.  Such is life.
   Another reason I have not been reporting on my own life actually springs out of my wage-slavery circumstance: faced with the abominable boredom of doing work fit for automation for 8 hours a day, I have turned to listening to documentaries while I work to both educate and entertain myself while I pass the time.  This has had something of a re-honing effect on my (justifiably) grim outlook on the world, which took a turn for the rosier when I was traipsing about the world meeting all sorts of wonderful people and fellow kindred spirits.  Learning more about the inherent problems with our system while at the same time once again faced with the reality that every hour I was travelling took several hours of work to finance, I can’t help but be a little bitter about how the world works and hanker for some real change.  I feel this has influenced my recent writing to the extent that it has moved the focus away from me and more to the problems I see in the world and their manifestation in my life.
   However, there is one aspect of my life which is developing slowly and also warrants mention here.  It is my potential transfer to the air force.  Family and friends are constantly asking me about the progress of said transfer and it is an uncomfortable topic for me because there are only so many inventive ways I can say “no answer yet.”  But I will set the record straight no because it is something I am loathe to discuss and that in itself makes it worth discussing.
   I first applied to transfer from the army reserve to the air force as a pilot back in June 2010.  I was anticipating a quick process where I would go and be tested for suitability, receive either a positive or negative answer, and go from there, knowing that even if I didn’t get in at least I made the attempt to achieve something I had been thinking about for years.  From the beginning it got complicated as I was soon told that I would have to wait until the following April (2011) when the next transfer intake started because I had missed the 2010 intake.  Patiently I waited.
   Come April 2011 I waited a week.  Then 2.  Then 4.  Then 6.  At this point I finally started sending emails and realized with dismay that my point of contact no longer held his position and that someone else had taken over.  After getting in touch with this person I was informed that my application had not been picked up for the 2011 intake and that I would have to wait until the following April (2012) to see if I got picked up then.  I should remind you that at this point I still wasn’t even waiting for a position as a pilot, but simply for a chance to go in for a 3-day selection process to see if they would start training me as a pilot or not (a training process which I could still ultimately fail out of).
   I took this news on the chin for two reasons: One, I had, from the beginning (June 2010) prepared myself for a potentially long wait; years if need be.  Second, it occurred to me that the transfer centre, with their constant suggestions that they could cancel my application if I wished whenever I emailed them impatiently about the status of my transfer, might drag this process out on purpose for the sake of weeding out those candidates for selection who were not serious about the commitment.

   So I began the process of waiting another year.  In that time, I started this blog, had an awesome summer and did some globe-trotting in the fall/winter.  Fortunately, I arrived back from my travels scant weeks before receiving an email in mid-January saying that I should make sure all of my annual fitness-testing for the military was up-to-date, as I should expect an opportunity to attend selection during the 2012 intake cycle.  I diligently set forth setting appointments and booking interviews.  I did my fitness test in Hamilton in late February then later that week went to the brigade clinic in London for my initial medical assessment + hearing test and basic vision test.  The following week (early March) I went to Orangeville (a pain in the ass with no car) to do my blood work, electro-cardiogram and chest x-ray.  I also had to do a pulmonary function (PFT) test, but since that was by appointment only I made plans to come back into Orangeville for that on March 24th. 

   Leading up to March 24th I completed both my comprehensive vision test with an opthamologist and my interview (it is an employment transfer after all).  With the successful passing of the PFT on the 24th of March, I figured nothing really sat between me and the selection I had waited for for so long.
   Wrong again.
   Since I had been so on top of my game and had finished all of my preliminary testing before April 1st  I informed the transfer centre that they could expect the results of all my testing within a week or two and waited, content that I would get an answer soon.  When I finally did hear from anyone, it was a Captain Taylor who had received my file and was waiting for the flight surgeon to sign off on my medical results before scheduling me for a selection serial.  I got in touch with the physician’s assistant in London who had done my physical exam and asked if he had received my medical results from my family doctor and passed them on to the flight surgeon.  He had received them and they hadn’t yet been passed on.  I was told to keep waiting.  Sometime not too long thereafter he got back to me informing me that the rules had changed as of March 4th, and the initial medical assessment he had performed with me was now supposed to be done by the clinic in Toronto not London.  He said that since I had done mine before the regulation had changed he would see if he could get my results validated.
   I waited a week and called back.  He was still looking into it.  8 days later (last Tuesday) I decided that it made better sense to just redo the portion that was no longer valid rather than waiting for an exception that may never come.  I informed the physician’s assistant about this and he suggested a doctor.
   I went to to look for this doctor in the Toronto base directory and couldn’t find him.  So I emailed the PA back asking for more information on how to contact him.  The PA simply responded that I should call the London clinic as that’s where the doctor worked out of.  This seemed weird to me as the PA had earlier told me that the testing now had to be done in Toronto.  That was Wednesday, and I called several times that afternoon, and throughout the day on Thursday trying to get a hold of either the PA or the doctor in question, but neither were diligent about returning calls.  Finally, this past Friday morning I got a hold of an Officer Cadet who informed me that the actual new instruction was that all medical assessments for potential pilots had to be performed by contracted doctors, not PA’s which explained why the PA had referred me to a Dr. in his clinic in London.
   That all sorted out, I asked the OCDT to schedule me in for a re-assessment ASAP.  The earliest date she had was 25 July 2012.  Unacceptable.  And I let her know as much.  Politely.
   My problem with this date was not so much waiting 2 and a half more months, but losing any priority I might have for selection this year and having to wait until the following intake year to go for selection.  She understood my plight and said that if she didn’t call me back later that day to call her Monday morning.
   Come Monday (yesterday for those keeping track) she called me and said the doctor could squeeze me in that day at 13:00.  Now it was 9:30, I was in Oakville at work and I didn’t have a car.  I had no idea what Via and Greyhound schedules were like and plus I was ya know, at work.  I told her I would call her back.  After an abortive attempt to borrow a friend’s car I reasoned that since I was trying to get there on army business I was justified to use an army vehicle.  I called the quartermaster who controls the vehicles for the regiment to see if I could borrow a truck.  She was not around.  Then I called my friend Lloyd (who works with the QM) on his cell phone to see if he could issue me a truck.  As it rang I remembered that his wife was a couple of days overdue with her baby and that he might be at home celebrating the birth of his new boy or girl, and totally uninterested in my never-ending missions to get a chance to fail selection for the air force.  I thought I heard someone pick up the phone then the line went dead.  If he had hung up on me it was probably deserved, after all it was 9:30 am, he was on leave (which I found out later) and I could have woken up the baby.  On trying the quartermaster again I got a hold of the private who works for her and who was the only person manning the office that day.  Rather serendipitously, he had just learned how to issue a vehicle for the day.  What a co-inky-dink; I needed a vehicle for the day.  After checking my credentials via computer database he agreed to set me up with a truck.. I promptly left work and took the train to Hamilton where I picked up the truck and started heading to London.
   I made it there at 12:40 (20 Minutes early) and then waited an hour and a half before the doctor was ready to see me.  But then, waiting an hour beats waiting til July 25th so I really couldn’t complain.  We redid the portion which had to be redone by a doctor (motor skills, eye and ear check, strength test, etc…) and I was struck by how much less comprehensive these exams were than the ones initially done by the PA.
   During the appt. the doctor asked me if I had had a urine test.  I wasn’t sure if I had.  Certainly my family doctor’s office would have performed that test when they were doing my blood work, right?  Wrong.  In fact the necessary urine test had never been requisitioned and was now outstanding.  As well doctor informed me that I needed an ECG.  With relief I told him that I had already done that test.  He informed me that I had done an Electro Cardiogram, not an Echo Cardiogram, which I still required.
   So that’s kind of where I stand now, waiting to do two more tests that I should have been made aware of back in January/February.  The piss test is a walk-in, but seeing as I am going to have to miss work to do the Echo Cardiogram I might as well see when the military schedules it and do the piss test the same day.  You know, get two birds stoned at once.
   If this seems like a long read, imagine how I feel having to basically recite this same series of events every time someone asks me innocuously, “Hey, what’s going on with the air force?”  Its actually kind of fucking with me because I feel like people have been asking me that for years now and I never have an answer which shows much progress, and it seems (to me at least) that this betrays some sort of lack of diligence on my part.
   Ultimately, I can’t let what I think people’s expectations of me are mess with my head, but there is also a more practical inconvenience to all of this waiting: For the last few months since I have returned I have felt somewhat in limbo; Do I set out in earnest applying for the advertising jobs I want knowing that I could be gone if I get picked up by the air force, or do I wait and see how it pans out during selection before I take any definitive action in that regard?  As much as I gripe on work in general, I am glad that I have a long-term employer in the mean-time who can accommodate my unpredictable schedule and who keeps me on staff knowing I might be gone in the middle of busy season.
   The most troubling aspect about the limbo I find myself in right now is that I do have a relationship which the possible acceptance into the air force has large implications for.  In winter/spring 2011 we had discussed moving in together and were both really into the idea but I decided against it because I wanted to see where I was with my air force transfer (if I got picked up I would be heading out west and I didn’t want her to be alone).  Obviously the transfer didn’t pan out that year.  So this year, even after the military contacted me in January telling me to get ready to be called for selection, we decided to get a place together (which we just moved into last week) and deal with whatever my transfer might mean for us as it comes.  At this point, whether I got picked up or not I mostly want an answer so I can know whether or not to get too comfortable where I’m at.
   It seems I have little difficulty recounting stories of my triumphs, and even my losses become fair game for recounting after the initial sting has worn off.  But I find it difficult to deal with obstacles I currently face and continue to face because the possibility of failure, or conversely the lack of any progress whatsoever bothers me so.  It feels good to be able to get this off my chest.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Thug Luv

“If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed.  The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness” 
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

My Friends,
   A few days back I became embroiled in a lively lunchtime discussion centered around the Canadian government’s plan to renovate some Canadian prisons.  My fellow co-workers were indignant about footing the bill, as taxpayers, for the plush accommodation the prisoners in said jails were to be receiving (bigger cells, world-class gym, wi-fi, etc…*).  One co-worker even said “put them in a dungeon,” though he later retracted this statement as the conversation developed.  Naturally I chimed in as I feel very strongly about prison, what its purpose should be and how that purpose should be achieved.
   First of all, I reject any argument for prisons being segregated from the population.  What a great world it would be indeed if we could just sweep our problems under the rug and forget about them.  Concepts like the Lunar penal colony and inter-dimensional penitentiary make for great fiction but what they amount to in practice are horrors like Siberian gulags.  No, that simply wouldn’t do; prisons should be located centrally and serve as a constant reminder that there is something not quite right about the world we live in as it makes monsters out of men.
   Second, and related to the first point, any argument for greater austerity in the lives of prisoners related to the costs of housing them should be refuted.  Prisoners are once again, our collective burden and a group we must deal with if we live in a system which creates them.
   With these two points made, I feel that the purpose of prisons can be discussed.  The purpose as I see it should be rehabilitation, not punishment.  Now its hard to rehabilitate people who commit crimes for money (over 90% of inmates) because they will always need money and the system is set up in such a way that there often is not access to decent-paying jobs in low-income areas.

Save for the army

As well, with a criminal record they will be even less likely to get a decent job, exacerbating the problem.  No matter how good any prison rehabilitation program is, it is failure if the convict, released back into the toxic environment which made them resort to crime, relapses into their old ways. To come down on these individuals who have been so obviously fucked over by the system and who will get fucked over again, seems to be kind of a cruel joke, and I don’t think their rehabilitation can truly take place without sweeping structural change which would render crime for money obsolete.
   So the only criminals left would then be the actual sickos; people who enjoy doing bad things to others regardless of the payoff.  In my unqualified view these people have been poorly socialized and there is evidence which indicates that in most cases these people have been subjected to severe abuse throughout their lives, especially as children.
   In either case, whether sicko or criminal for pay, the approach to the stated goal of rehabilitation seems clear.  One is not rehabilitated by being locked away in poor conditions and deprived of human dignity.  Nor are they rehabilitated by being either held in solitary or immersed in a general population which has been just as poorly socialized.  It seems clear to me that these measures only serve to aggravate maladjustment and make better criminals.
   In a perfect world there would be no crime.
   In a slightly less perfect world, maladjusted/poorly socialized individuals would be be accepted into communities of people who live harmoniously with each other.  There they could learn that they don’t need to hurt other people to get ahead and they wouldn’t have to fear for their own safety.  This has been tried with notable success by the Israelis when they decided to send criminals to kibbutzim for rehabilitation.
   The problem with this solution is that most people don’t want to live among criminals.  We have been so individualized in our culture that we feel little kinship with or affinity to our fellow man, much less those whom society deems criminals.  So we instead make them live in prisons.  Well ok, but assuming we still want to rehabilitate these people (and that is the operative assumption here) we can’t really nickel & dime them on amenities.  A prison sentence should be a period of growth, positive growth.

Even someone who has been sentenced to life in prison or death should be able to improve themselves every day until their demise.
   Without getting too specific, the broad categories of things which I feel contribute to rehabilitation/remedial socialization would be comfortable (not decadent) accommodations, access to fitness facilities, access to education, and lots of interaction with people outside the system.  Remember the goal here is not punishment but rehabilitation, but even if you do believe that there should be a punishment component remember that the prisoner is still without their liberty.
  I should mention that I lack a psychology degree and I have no formal training in rehabilitation.  I have spent no time in prisons** and friends of mine in law enforcement and corrections would probably disregard my ideas as idealistic and naive, citing the gravity of the crimes of the inmates.  What I do have is personal experience though.  And while I realize that you can’t extrapolate personal experience into general rules, it strikes me that people in similar situations would be inclined to make similar choices.  For example, I have been been destitute, desperate and hopeless (albeit by choice) while hitch-hiking and travelling.  These emotions tend to make you do things you would not normally do: strike yappy animals, steal, and run from police.  I have done all of these things on the road, and except for that last one I am ashamed of these actions.
   These experiences taught me that the wretched are prone to wretched behaviour.  My whole stance on prisons is predicated on this idea and this is why I don’t believe in punishment so much as an earnest effort by the state to reform its wayward citizens.
   Now of course the alternative viewpoint is that some people are just bad.  Natural born killers as it were.

This is an ironic title for the film when you realize that both main characters were severely abused from childhood.

I refute this type of dangerous thinking because it is a bedfellow of psuedo-sciences like phrenology and eugenics.  Furthermore, attributing crime to genetics/heritage is a cop-out because it allows us to glaze over structural problems which cause crime and need fixing.  Such problems have no easy solution, so it is far easier to blame the individual.  I think that anyone who hasn’t felt wretchedness and the cavalier attitude toward morality which it engenders can not really understand how good people can do wrong.
   Basically I think we all have a capacity for evil which can be brought out by poor circumstances and a lack of socialization.  If jail is to remedy criminal behaviour (which I believe it should) it must address the causes of the crime and supply the education/skills, interaction, meaningful relationships, and positive expectations the criminal has been lacking in their life.
   It is much easier to preach about my beliefs however than it is to act, so I am going to look into volunteering for Corrections Services Canada so that what I write is not just so many meaningless words.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
   

*Try as I might I could not find the article dealing with these renovations and as such my knowledge about the specifics is lacking.  As well, they might not be getting wi-fi in Canadian prisons, as that might have been brought up when European prisons were introduced into the conversation.


**I have a actually spent a little time in Sarpoza prison in Kandahar City, Afghanistan during a tour of duty.  I was not permitted to tour the cell blocks though unless I left my rifle with security.  I was unwilling to do so.  

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Fast Times in Beirut

My Friends,
   Allow me if you will to recap the events, thoughts and reflections of the last few days in a neat & tidy manner, organized under headings.

Take a Pimp to Work Day
   The other day I accompanied my host here in Lebanon, Imad, to work.  I requested this ride-along with him and it was partly interest in his job but also a desire to perhaps help him out some during the day in return for the hospitality shown to me by he and his wife.  The job in question is structural engineer/waterproofing consultant, and my interest stemmed from the fact that I hope to invest my ill-gotten hard-earned financial gains on a crib sometime in the near future (because that’s what adults apparently do) and waterproofing seems like one of those things I should know about.  As it runs out, theres not much help a holder of a history degree can provide to an engineer on a jobsite, but there is plenty of help a young whippersnapper can provide to an older gentlemen who recently had knee-surgery: And so it was, the greatest help I was able to provide was doing the monkey-work of lifitng heavy pails of waterproofing compound and loading the car with stuff to take to jobsites.

Pictured: Me moving “Pails of Water-Proofing Compound.”
Also Pictured: One of the mustachioed A-rabs so common in this part of the world

   I have a healthy respect for manual labour; not just because its difficult, but because its the purest form of work there is.  Still, I find that it is just about the only work I do and I should really endeavour to find employment which utilizes my (considerable) mental faculties.

Police State
   Everywhere you go in Beirut there are military and police personnel standing guard, conducting traffic or trying to look threatening on the street.

Certified Bad Motherf#%kers

   Now since both the coppers and military wear camo so it can be hard to distinguish who is who, but I think the general rule is that the woodland coloured camo (read: green) denotes miltary, while the white, grey and black, urban/arctic camo denotes police force.  It is s a funny choice for the latter because even in an urban environment, the police would be better served by desert camo seeing as its still a sandswept (as opposed to snowswept) urban landscape in the Middle East.  And while one could raise the point that the police dont want to be camoflaged, but to remain visible, I would offer the rebuttal: “Why opt for a camoflage-themed pattern in the first place?”  I find the ridiculousness of the police unifroms mitigate my distaste for an excessive police presence only slightly: While they are comical to watch, their uniforms do stand out to the point that I notice them when I would much rather not.
   With regard to the military (at least as numerous as the police in the city), their saving grace is that their unifrom color actually makes a semblance of sense (the aforementioned woodland green).  My qualm with the military however, aside from their excessive presence, relates to their weapon discipline.  Now being in the Canadian military, I am reluctant to poke fun at the quality/limitations of the equipment that another army has; a Canadian soldier knows better than anyone that it is no reflection of the soldier who uses it.  So I don’t fault the Lebanese military personnel for wielding, variously, AK-47s, M-16s, or frequently no rifle at all, but their lack of control over the direction of their muzzles chafes me.  Frequently, the guns are pointed upward, towards crowds, passersby and in other unsafe directions, and this is exacerbated by the fact that every time I walk within a few feet of one of these guys I look at their rifles only to see that they are readied and on safe
   For those who are not in the know, safe is not as safe as it sounds, for the moving parts are all coiled up ready to fire and could do so if the firearm was violently jarred or dropped.  Given the deteriorated state of repair most of these weapons seem to be in, I wouldn’t consider it outside the realm of possibility that the interior parts are worn down to the point where this violent jarring need not be very violent at all.  This makes me feel incredibly safe as I walk by a bunch of soldiers who have carelessly leaned their readied weapons on a roadblock because they were simply too heavy.  Ironic that the biggest threat to my safety thus far in this conflict-ridden part of the world is the legitimate government forces. 

Driving as a Contact Sport
   In my previous entry, “Be Vewy Qwiet … I’m Hunting Hezbowwah …” (27 November 2011),  I alluded to the haphazard way in which commuters commute in Beirut.  The scooters in particular weave in and out of traffic and I find I am as impressed by their skill/ballsiness as I am hopeful they learn a lesson for driving so recklessly.  Well, last night sitting in the car with my friends here, we were stopped at an intersection in the dark and one such scooter driver came whipping by on our right in the narrow gap between us and the parked cars on that side of the road.  I looked up as I heard a loud crash and saw scooter-pie face-plant on the ground ten feet in front of us.  It turns out the driver of one of the parked cars had opened his door without checking for opportunistic scooterists, and dumb-fuck scooterist (sans a helmet FTR) clipped the corner of the door and was thrown over the handlebars. 
   I quickly jumped out of our car to take control of the scene of the accident collision,

” ‘Accident’ implies noone is at fault.”

figuring that even with my superficial medical knowledge I was probably better equppied to deal with trauma than the general population of a country with 3-hour daily blackouts.  I was right of course, but also wrong as I found out.  I jumped into the scene with a sense of urgency and told one guy to call 911 and told another guy not to move the body of the semi-conscious motorist until we could ascertain that there were no spinal/neck injuries.  The two guys looked at me for a second and almost took me seriously but then were like “no dont worry, he is our friend and he’s fine.”  This made me suspicious because it seemed that the other first responders didnt want the hospital called some reason.  I asked the guy giving me assurances if he had been the guy who opened the car door.  He said he wasn’t and before I could really ascertain what was going on the other responders had picked the guy up by the waist and were dragging his limp body to the sidewalk.  They kind of just held him for a few seconds, feet strewn along the ground and arms dangling, while a deck chair was brought out for him.  They sat him in it and he didn’t seem like he would be receptive to my questions.  So, seeing that he wasn’t bleeding perceptibly and that he seemed to be in caring (even if not skillful) hands, and also reasoning that my help wasn’t wanted, I got back into the car kind of humbled and feeling like I over-reacted to a man’s near-death. 
   My friends in the car didn’t seem to rattled by what happened: Imad assured me that this happened everyday and Lina kept playing with her daughter Jana in the back seat.  So with a bad case of heroes-remorse I kept mostly silent and reflective on the ride home.  I remember thinking though for a brief second while dude was still sprawled grotesquely on the ground while we were still deciding what to do with him, “Look at you! Look at you now you stupid fuck! Not even wearing a helmet. Hopefully you’ve learned your lesson!” Sadly, I am fairly certain he has not. 

   While I have been having a good time here in Lebanon it is about time I peaced out.  I had planned to leave last week, but, good houseguest that I am, my hosts insisted I stay another week.  The problem with staying in one place too long, especially a place with relative comfort and warmth, is that you begin to grow wary of getting back out on the road, when really it is what makes me feel alive.  I figure I will book a flight for Tuesday to Cairo, and spend a brief day there seeing those over-hyped triangles out in the desert before heading North-East to infinity Israel and beyond.  You’ll probably hear from me soon.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Gentlemen at Large

My Friends,
   Today, I had the pleasure of reading “The Man Who Would be King,” by Rudyard Kipling.  It is the story of two friends who sought their fortune by creating an empire for themselves in Northeast Afghanistan during the Victorian era.  It is related to the narrator by the surviving friend, after the whole house of cards of would-be sovereignty has come crashing down.  There’s a very interesting parable about pride goingeth before a fall, women being your downfall, the head that wears the crown being heavy, etc.  What I find interesting was the two friends’ incredibly simple plan to carve out a nation for themselves:

   “We shall go to those parts and say to any king we find … ‘you want to vanquish your foes?’ and we will show him how to drill men; for that we know better than anything else.  Then we will subvert that king and seize his throne and establish a dynasty.”

Indeed, in the estimation of the two friends,

   “…in any place where they fight a man who knows how to drill men can always be a king”

It makes perfect sense; while all armies are in theory bound to some sort of nation or head of state, in practice people are likely to feel a greater sense of loyalty to the tangible authority whom they see every day.  Its why coups tend to be pulled off by senior ranking mlitary officers.

Air force officers for example…
…oh those rascally flyboys.
   When someone turns the combat training of their dependants/vassals/subjects over to someone else, they are implicitly making that someone else a de facto parent or authority.  Who hasn’t seen an army movie where the drill sgt. tells the green recruits something to the effect of “You want your mama?  Too bad; I’m your mama now!”  While (even sarcastically) masquerading as the one who gave them life can itself have a powerful psychological effect on the troops by commanding obedience, a father/son dynamic naturally develops on its own from the master/student one.  It kind of puts into perspective the generous offers of NATO countries to train and mentor third-world (read: Afghan) personnel.  While nominally we are trying to empower fledgling nations by training their armies and police forces, perhaps such mentoring is well-intentioned subversion (to say nothing of the quality of government there and whether or not it should be subverted).
   I am not going to labour this point because it was simply an interesting idea I chanced upon, but I will list a few points worth consideration:

-anyone who who has studied any form of martial art or any variation of that martial art is fiercely loyal to that school or style

“SHOTOKAN KARATE FTW!!”

-Luke Skywalker was warned about straying toward the dark side (i.e. learning from the emperor) in any small measure because then he would be in the emperor’s pocket
-Daniel-san probably would have killed someone had Mr. Miyagi commanded it
-Maximus had a bunch of legions loyal to him in Gladiator who were willing to back him up in a coup
-I just re-watched The Expendables last night and the army of Vilena is pretty much in the pocket of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Eric Roberts throughout the movie after the latter provided them military training 
I think that’ll suffice for examples.  I realize my argument isn’t airtight and that I am drifting between discussing individuals, armies and nations, but hopefully you can see the underlying point I am driving at here.  Often proving your point of view outright is less important than presenting an intriguing idea; the latter presupposes discussion.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

 
   

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To All the Hetero Men

My Friends,
   Has this ever happened to you: You start a new job and conduct yourself respectfully and confidently for the first few weeks.  You are always well turned out and looking your very best, flirting politely with the girls and and joking around with everyone.  Then after a few weeks of this, someone asks you point blank during the middle of your shift if you’re gay…
  Now, far from being an insult, this can still be disconcerting for the straight male who conceives of himself as being a good-natured philanderer and good breeding stock to boot.  When you can only respond with a confused “um, no…,” they may further ask you this incredibly stupid question: “Are you sure?”  If you read between the lines you can see that far from trying to gain clarification on the matter, asking if you’re sure that you’re not gay implies that they feel you are a lying homophobic closet case who is ashamed of his attraction towards men.
   Then it hits you, the whole image you have cultivated for yourself has had the opposite effect it was intended to and everyone is fairly certain that you like…well, whatever it is they think you like (PENIS!).    The reality however, is that you may not have been acting gay.  In the three instances where I was assumed to be a “confirmed bachelor,” the circumstances were all very different.  The first time was a military posting a cadet corps summer camp for kids.  I worked in conjunction with a lot of civilian instructors, and more than a few were openly flamboyantly gay (That’s right, gay and camping with your kids, joke’s on you lol).  This didn’t really confront me none, and I was amicable with most of them (some were just obnoxious jerks and being gay did little to redeem them in my eyes).  Now because I got on well enough with the gays in the immediate circle I worked with, the girls in said immediate circle, maddened by the realization that I was way out of their league, started to invent crazy explanations for why they had no chance with me.  Instead of being honest with themselves that they were ugly, rude and self-centered, they chose to project on me.  I am like 98.3% certain this is what led one of them to ask me, in front of some of the summer camp kids no less, “are you gay?”  I think this first time was the only time I was angered by the question, but more because of the fact that she was undermining me with questions about my sexuality in front of kids I was in charge of.  She could have asked me about what my favourite female breast shape was and I still would have been annoyed.  Its called tact, learn it.
   The second instance was when I was hired as a server at a restaurant where the majority of servers were female and one of the male servers was openly inappropriately disgustingly gay.  When finally someone did approach me and ask me about my sexual preference (as it was so germane to the job-related task I was performing at the time) they were a lot more tactful about it.  When I calmly and amusedly responded that I was not in fact homosex (sic),  they took it upon themselves to reassure me that they never thought I was gay themselves and had been defending my heteroship (sic) the whole time when it had been under attack by the gossip of coworkers.  I thanked her for not allowing them to slander my good name but assured her it was wholly unncessary, as people are gonna think what they’re gonna think.  As I later found out, the aforementioned gay male server had been spreading rumours that I was gay.  I reasoned that it was part of some insidious plot in which, if I heard from enough people that I was gay I might actually start to believe it and put out (Note: you may notice a recurring theme that I strongly believe a person’s desire to get in my pants causes them to act reckless).  This may sound delusional, but it should be mentioned that he offered me at a later date $100 to perform fellatio on me.  Although not tempted, I was flattered, until I heard that he offered some of the teenage boys working in the kitchen $200 for the same service.  “I thought we had something special…”
   The last case is kind of ongoing and probably somewhat my fault.  Its a warehouse I work at during the summer and I suppose because I wear tight wife- beaters, women’s sunglasses (in my defense, they’re fly as hell) and any of the following bandanas,

that I perpetuate an image of fruitiness.  These factors, as well as the fact that I sing along to all the songs on the radio, hitting the necessary high notes, doesn’t jive with their blue collar sensibilities I suppose.  While no one has asked me point blank, some have had their suspicions and they good-naturedly bust my balls about it daily.  For example, when the new payroll chick got hired, a no-nonsense Jamaican lady, my foreman insisted that me and him traipse through the office holding hands  in front of her desk.  I thought it would be a gay old time funny, and we had her convinced I was a batty boy…. a bloodclot batty boy even.  But then, when you do goofy shit like that, you can’t blame people for casting an awkward eye at you.
   At this point I feel that if people don’t question where I stick my penis I am doing something wrong.  After all, I am suspicious of anyone who comes off as completely hetero: the biggest secrets are the best hidden I figure.  In the end though I can’t really be vexed about the assumption that Im gay: most people are just going by the popular conception of homosexuals as good-looking, well-dressed and shameless flirts, and that ain’t a half-bad rep to catch.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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