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…When I Learn to Fly

  1. “I’ll make my way back home when I learn to fly.”
    -Foo Fighters, Learn to Fly

Friends,

I’m coming up on 5 months abroad now, the last three of which have been in Nicaragua, and, seeing as I just returned from a visa renewal trip to Costa Rica, it’s safe to say I don’t have any immediate plans to go back to Canada. I do have plans and intentions but the only person I’ve really opened up to about my intentions is fellow film-maker, Alex Loubert, but even that was a few weeks back and plans have refined since then. So for whomever is interested I’d like to elucidate upon the plans which have been formulating in my head. My intention here is to not only clarify my intent for friends and family, but to give some advance notice to those who may wish to collaborate on the ongoing art project which is my life.

OVERVIEW

Over the next two years I intend to improve myself and broaden my skill-set in order that I may live on the road indefinitely, making money as I need to and not being tethered to the balance of my savings. Also, should I ever return to Canada I want to have a skill-set which will allow me to live on my own terms and not on the indulgence of an employer.
(In the words of Cam’Ron: “Nobody gonna pay you like you pay yourself.”)
Also, and this is of equal import, I wish to improve myself while at the same time seeing as-yet-unseen parts of the world which I have always yearned to see. Perhaps at the end of this excursion I may be ready to put down roots and stay in one place.
No promises though…

WHERE TO BEGIN?…

About a month ago I spent a few days at Momentom Collective, a yoga and circus focused artist residency in San Juan Del Sur co-founded by Gabrielle Buenaciudad and Therese Lowton.

It was an eye-opening stay as I was immersed in a culture of incredibly high-functioning, supportive, positive and open people. Being there really fucked with some obsolete programming I have been holding onto for years; I kinda felt like I was short-circuiting at times as I internalized possibilities for myself which were fundamentally rooted in trusting myself and my intuition. I realized how much I second-guess my inclinations and how much this tendency has stifled me and postponed my full flowering, no homo.
(*On that note, living in Canada, especially near Toronto, with its “progressive” SJW culture, has been degenerative for my psyche, especially when compounded by working in tv/film where I felt pressure to be inoffensive due to the collaborative nature of the industry. I certainly don’t wish to offend anyone but being removed from the industry, the city and the country fills me with a sense of freedom to speak which I ironically haven’t felt since I was in the military. Go figure!).
Since my time there (Momentom) I have made a concerted effort to be trusting of my inclinations and urges and to be deliberate rather than furtive in my overtures.
It’s actually a lot of fun as a big part of it is just saying whatever is on my mind. As a role model I look to Archer and just pretend I have Asperger’s -I say some real funny shit sometimes. Bartending at Surfing Turtle has been great for this because its a license to be deliberate about opening people up and the best way to do that is often brutal, hilarious and honest observation.

But, back to the topic of self-improvement….

My friend Brandon Gowe is fond of saying, “Always have at least three hustles.” There is a lot of truth in this statement, but three is a bare minimum. Right now I:

-Sell jewelry (Occasional)
-Get paid to teach yoga (Occasional)
-Chop a dime here and there (Occasional and illegal)

As you can see my bare minimum three hustles need work. Here is what I intend to do….

NICARAGUA

I have been living in #CarpeDiemEcoProject helping my good friend, Ghislain Beauchamp build the eco-resort he has been dreaming of opening for years. We get closer and closer to completion every week and things are quickening now with large-scale construction projects commencing this week which will see the camp overrun with local contractors and carpenters as well as the usual group of volunteers building with cob.
However, the reality is that it’s getting late in the season and he has floated the idea of closing the place down for the year as soon as mid-May as opposed to June as in previous years. So, using that as a rough timeline I’ve begun to plan life after CDEP.
As mentioned, I’ve been working part-time at #SurfingTurtleLodge and I’m enjoying it immensely, so I’ve naturally thought about switching to full-time. That idea certainly has some lustre and I’m not 100% against it because it would be great hostel-work experience which will be valuable for the next two years (more on that soon), but right now I feel pulled in a different direction.

HONDURAS

Pursuant to my goal of improving myself through a broader skill-set I have set the intention of heading north to Utila, Honduras and doing a divemaster certification. Apparently it can be done for about $1000 USD and it would be a pliable skill anywhere I went in the world with a coastline. Also, Utila is a paradise chock full of reefs, whale sharks and beautiful people. Being in Central America you hear a lot of grape-vine talk about hot places to go and this is one such place which is thankfully something of a hidden gem still. As a bonus, when I mentioned it to Ghislain, a dive instructor who had lived and worked there 5 years ago, he mentioned he was thinking of going back in May for a visit. This would be amazing as I would have a knowledgeable and experienced travel companion and good friend to roll with. Fingers crossed!

POST-HONDURAS

The next for-sure mark to hit after Honduras and divemaster cert would be North Africa. Timeline-wise I’m thinking I would like to get there by late 2017 or early 2018. My intention is primarily to see the Sahara and roughly re-create Santiago’s journey from “THE ALCHEMIST,” but there’s flex on start/end points and route.

To begin with, how to get there? Well, right now the most appealing option is to hop on a yacht in the Caribbean and work as crew to get across the Atlantic. That would be dope and satisfy a longing to do a trans-oceanic voyage. Ideally I would like to end up in Spain where I would begin my Alchemist journey in Andalucia, possibly after hiking the Camino de Santiago in the north (Lukazs, Tom, let’s do this!!).

Another way I might make my way to Spain would be less direct -heading to Mexico, then up the Baja California, through Cali, Oregon, Washington and BC finally seeing the Pacific Northwest that has enchanted me for so long and possibly working as a weed trimmer there if its the right time of year -As far as trimming goes, it’s great coin, but I’m more interested in doing it for the experience before everything becomes legal. In any event, once I got back to Canada I would finally hitch-hike across Canada like I’ve been intending to for years, stopping briefly in Ontario before jumping off to Spain to begin aforementioned Trans-Saharan Caravan.

#NOTHINGISWRITTEN (NORTH AFRICA)

I’m gonna immerse myself in the desert and just get consumed by the wasteland. But I’m also gonna take my time with it, working at hostels, doing workaways, woofing if possible, learning the language and making my way incrementally across the northern part of the African continent to the pyramids. If possible I would like to do more apprenticeships with jewelers, learning local styles and improving my skill-set. In Morocco, my first country after Spain, I intend to head to the Atlantic coast there and check out the fledgling aurf scene and see if my divemaster cert could be put to use.
In the desert itself I wanna go to an oasis soooooo bad. Oases have always enchanted me so I’m gonna live in one.
For the record, I am quite frightened of possible run-ins with extremist groups like ISIS but I figure I’m gonna be more of a curiosity to them than anything. I have joked that maybe they’ll kidnap and force me to make jewelry for them which would be kinda dope, but I was only half-joking: I wanna find out for myself who’s out there instead of just believing the news. Maybe I’ll write an ethnography.
If it turns out they do want to execute me I’ll try and see the humor in it and laugh on the way to my execution -it’s the only victory we can truly have in life.
This whole African excursion is gonna be gully and by the time I get to Egypt I will be ready to begin the next phase: INDIA.

PSYCH! SAUDI ARABIA…MAYBE…

I wanna see the Arabian desert because for me it represents a wasteland more inaccessible and dangerous than that of Northern Africa. Seriously, going there scares me not because of the harsh conditions but because of the strict observance of Islamic law. If they catch you slippin’, well….. Let’s just say there’s nothing scarier than an establishment that will kill you with impunity for perceived transgressions and all the while believe they are acting righteously *cough* police *cough*…
No guarantees on this one but it’s definitely a possibility.

INDIA

I have been teaching yoga for a while, and I’ve been practicing it for years, but I have yet to get certified and thus learn much of the associated theory. Certification will also lend more credibility to me when I apply to various hostels and hospitality locations looking for work. And really, what better place than India to learn yoga? There are many great places here in Central America to get certified and I will certainly broaden my yoga skill-set over time here, but remember, an important part of these next two years is seeing places I haven’t seen. So as well as getting my cert I am going to see India , feast like a king and maybe buy a monkey. Who knows!?

SOUTH-EAST ASIA

Finally, I will make my way to SE Asia. You know, it’s a wonder I haven’t been here yet. For some people it’s their first exposure to backpacking, but even after more than ten years of excursions its uncharted territory for me. As far as self-improvement goes, all along the trip I will be developing my massage skill and reiki aptitude, and here in SE Asia I feel like I could really develop my Thai massage skill-set. Beyond that I’m not sure what I want from this place (food), but I know I gotta see it as it will (mostly) wrap up all my loose ends of bucket list places to see.

EPILOGUE

I’m not sure who I will be when this is all said and done and if I will be ready to buy property and build something of my own, or if I’ll want to come back to Canada or if I’ll want to pursue trips to Patagonia, the Peruvian desert, Antarctica, Eastern Europe, etc. (The bucket list never actually ends) I can literally do anything I want to do. My biggest challenge is aiming high.

So if you don’t know now you know, nigga(s)!

EPI-EPILOGUE

I owe special recognition to two very important people in my life who have precipitated a great desire for growth within me.

First would be Ghislain -meeting him and visiting his project last year was a very serendipitous experience for me and he embodies qualities that I aspire to embody myself. He is a skilled, positive, hard-working, dynamic individual comfortable with himself as a man and as a member of a community. It is by the strength of his will that the culture of CDEP is what it is. I admire the dude and feel honored to count him among my friends.

Second would be Marijo Lariviere. She is one of the most talented people I know whose ability to thrive anywhere in the world with her skill-set has inspired me greatly in my current path. Whether it’s yoga instruction, hair-dressing, jewelry-making, etc… She has so many valuable practical skills that it really made me reflect on what I bring to the table, what I could offer others (manual labor, carry a gun), and realize that I could do better. She made me aspire to improve myself if only to be of greater service to the people around me.

In closing I want to say I can be better than I am. I don’t say that with self-denigration or regret but with optimism, love for myself, and excitement to see the man I am evolving into.

I hope you enjoy the show too.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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A Unified Worldview vs. A Dualistic One

Friends,

The video counterpart for this post can be found here.

There is a prevalent myth in the Western  world about “celebrating diversity.” It is a noble idea in theory but I argue that in practice it leads to problems. You see, by celebrating diversity we have to presuppose separation and difference. And certainly, to look around the world it’s very easy to view things and people as individuated and self-contained, rather than seeing them as all part of the same global process. To quote Jacque Fresco, “You don’t see the plug up our asses,” so it’s very easy to forget that we’re all connected to something larger.

This illusion of separation is particularly deceiving in the world of opinion, viewpoint, ideology and religion. Everyone espouses and subscribes to their own ideas in these fields and if they are polite and well-mannered they will profess to have respect for all different ideas, opinions and worldviews. But what does that really mean? Well, for starters, by respecting different viewpoints there is an acknowledgement of difference in the first place which means that there is an implicit recognition of superiority in one’s own viewpoint. After all, if someone didn’t think their own viewpoint was the best, they wouldn’t subscribe to it, yes? So not only do we see superficial separation based on nothing more than a different estimation of reality, but we see other worldviews instantly as inferior in spite of our best and noblest intentions. Again, if these other worldviews were as good as ours, we would subscribe to them instead.

What we need to do is stop looking at different view points as separate end-points and view them as all part of the same emergent process of finding truth. Some people’s outlooks represent a closer approximation to reality perhaps than others, but as different as viewpoints may be, they are all part of the same beautiful search for truth that we are all engaging in. That is the benchmark and common denominator in all discourse and exchanges of ideas.

To put it in a phrase: The dualistic eye looks at other viewpoints and thinks. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even though they are wrong and I am right.” The unified eye looks at other viewpoints and thinks, “Everyone is formulating all these wacky ideas, just trying their hardest to figure out life –just like me!

We have to acknowledge that we as individuals (and by extension, as societies) have never been 100% percent, empirically right about anything. All we have are approximations of reality which, if we are lucky, are moving closer and closer to truth as we refine our methods and keep inquiring.

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

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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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Why The Olympics Suck

“Nationalism is an infantile disease; it is the measles of mankind.”
-Albert Einstein

My Friends,
   Forgive me if I blaspheme by denouncing that most highly-esteemed of international sporting events, but this has been a long time coming.  The Olympics are a sad statement of where we are at as a species, and fraught with hypocrisy, divisiveness and tribalism.  Before I begin, I wish to make clear that I don’t take issue with sport itself.  Quite the contrary; athleticism and physical performance are virtues to me and those who achieve great feats deserve recognition.
   No, my qualm is with all the bullshit which the Olympics, but also other international sporting events such as the World Cup, heap onto the pure competition of sport.  This criticism extends also to a lesser extent to professional, intra-national sport, such as NFL, NHL, NBA, etc.  All of these sporting events help to make up what is referred to as The Spectacle, a concept explained by Guy Debord and The Situationist International during the 1950s and 60s, which I have alluded to in previous entries but which merits re-defining here.  Quite simply:

The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living.

Clear? No? Okay, well it is a complicated concept but it has to do with the reification of illusion and how that illusion is taken as superior to reality.  Allow me to explain to you what the spectacle means to me aka MY OWN PERSONAL TAKE.
   Aside from the practical concern of how the spectacular images we see in mainstream media everyday serve to distract us from the real doings of the powerful behind closed doors, there are more, let’s say abstract concerns when the public puts its stock into illusion instead of reality.  And while these latter, abstract concerns might indeed be of a less pressing nature in the short-term, over a longer time-span they have a sublime influence on our disposition and lives.

Let me break this into examples.

Practical Outcome of the Spectacle:
   Everyone has at least a cursory familiarity with the sensationalized deaths of Whitney Houston, Trayvon Martin, MIchael Jackson, etc.  Furthermore they are appalled by various scandals like ORNGE and others where many thousands or sometimes millions of dollars are embezzled or otherwise misappropriated.
   Yet at the same time, perhaps because of such spectacular distractions, few are aware that the Canadian taxpayers alone pay $160 million per day to cover the interest of borrowing all of our money into existence from commercial banks.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but very little of your tax dollars goes toward infrastructure.

To me, this is us being blinded by the spectacle of corruption while being uninterested in the reality of corruption
In contrast:
Abstract Outcomes of the Spectacle:
   We are made to identify with and become rabidly defensive of certain manufactured notions and images.  Often this is presented as duality (i.e. Republican vs. Democrats) but for the purposes of this post it can be related to organized sport.  In this realm, there are not two, but many manufactured sides, factions and alignments to choose from.  On the intra-national level there’s stupidity…
…like this…

…which is actually indoctrinated and fomented from a very young age.***

Silly inter-city rivalries are just that, silly.  But when you take into account that some of the most bitter rivalries are between two teams from the same city (i.e. Inter-MIlan vs AC Milan) you start to wonder why cities are going to war with themselves.
   Once you take things international however, as in the case of the World Cup or Euro Cup, things get proper retarded.  I don’t know about you but I hate seeing this shit come World Cup/Euro Cup:


This sort of mindless devotion to a nation-state and its pride/honour brings me to the Olympics, the subject of this post.  Why do we feel the need to heap so much extra shit on the competition of Olympic athletes?  Why do I need a tale of the tape to amp up my emotions so that I can properly appreciate some long-shot athlete from whereverthefuck-istan’s performance in some obscure so-called sport which actually evolved from primitive tribal rituals?
   Well probably because I wouldn’t give a fuck about that sport, athlete and country if the network didn’t appeal to my emotions.  In fact, if the competition in question was not so inextricably intertwined with my emotions (and really, the outcome of my life) due to the heart-wrenching five-minute TV-spot on this athlete’s courage and dedication which I just endured, I might realize that its just a sport and not terribly important to me.
   Well we can’t have people just tuning out otherwise advertisers wouldn’t pay for air-time.  So we’re gonna make you care about these countries the same way we make you want to go to war with them during the lulls between Olympiads, by appealing to the honour neurosis.
   It is really easy to do this.

1. Isolate some sort of widely-held group identity touchstone.  (Nationality in the case of the Olympics)
2. Show lots of people running around with flags having a good time interspersed with footage of athletic excellence
3. Have some monotonous, unsexy voice spout some SUPERSRSLY (sic.) drivel about national pride, “this time we’re giving our all,” showing our pride, etc…
4. MAKE IT EXPLICITLY CLEAR THAT WE ARE RALLYING FOR PEACE AND NOT WAR….this time.  This can be done by saying some contradiction like, “We are all united by our mutual competition and irreconcilable differences.”  It doesn’t make any logical sense but it allows the poison of nationalism to be administered while still sounding ostensibly peaceful.
5. Have a word or slogan which can be (SPECTACLE ALERT) reified into something more real and tangible in spite of the term’s inherent ambiguity

I’ll just leave this here…

6. ????
7. PROFIT!!

   Now watch how this plays out in teh real world…

CTV ain’t no fool.  If you watch carefully they checked all the boxes:
1. Canada
2. Entire Video
3. Entire Video
4. 0:46
5. Entire Video

Believe.  That’s some heavy shit right there.  Belief in general is like a sacred burial ground in most people’s minds which you better not disturb.  Specifically, it is the burial ground where rational thought is laid to rest.
Belief in fact makes a virtue of not thinking, so I can see the appeal of this promotion.  For the record, I’m no different.  I remember getting caught up in another company’s (far superior) “believe” campaign a few years back:
London 2012 ain’t shit when it comes to heartstring manipulation

Halo 3’s “Believe” campaign was masterful in my opinion, every bit as good as the game itself.  Particularly heart-wrenching were the faux-interviews with veterans of the Human-Covenant war where they recounted the horrors they experienced.  It actually got me misty-eyed more than once.
   Now you might think that its stupid of me to get so emotionally caught up in a video game and at the same time criticize the emotion heaped onto the Olympics, but lets examine that shall we?  I at no point mistake the Halo 3 campaign for real life.  There is a rich back-story to the game and these TV spots play with my emotions the same way a piece of literature might.  But its fiction, it knows its fiction, I know its fiction, it does not masquerade as real life and it makes no apologies for being fiction.
   When you look at the CTV Olympiad fucktardation in contrast, you see that a fiction is being created and passed off as real life.  There is nothing “real” about the Olympics beyond athletic competition.  All of the national pride, honour and posturing is filler and I would argue that its damaging because it leads to needless rivalries and resentment between so-called nation-states which are nothing more than arbitrary lines drawn on a map and rarely reflective of actual regional affinities in the broadest sense.
   Look at Afghanistan for example: Afghan nationalism is a bad joke because there is no Afghan nation, just ethnic groups with varying degrees of power and size, more or less shoe-horned into a weirdly shaped bit of geography in South Central Asia.  The most dominant ethnic group, the Pashto could conceivably become their own nation if they wanted but I remember being emphatically told not to use the term Pashtunistan (“land of the Pashto”) in front of Afghan people because it would incite fierce nationalistic emotions and opinions which the invented nationality (Afghan) simply could not.
   Are we immune to this kind of fabricated nationality in North America?  Absolutely not.  Say there was an Olympic competition between an American from Buffalo, NY (108 km from me) and a Canadian from Whitehorse, Yukon (5218 km from me), I could, as a nationalistic Canadian, be reasonably expected to cheer for the guy from the Yukon even though I have never been there and share no regional affiliation with him, rather than the guy who lives a life more or less like mine an hour away.  Such is the “logic” of nationalistic fervour.  
   If you want more proof of how contrived and pointless national affiliations are, ask Xerxes about how his million-strong, multi-ethnic Persian army fared against a couple of Spartans.
On second thought, don’t ask, don’t tell…ZING!

   I think we should recognize the Olympics for what it is; a necessary evil.  It is so far one of the few stages for excellent athletes to test their skills against their peers across the globe without paying out of their own pocket to facilitate these meet-ups.  Unfortunately we must deal with all the other bullshit that goes along with it if we are to enjoy the athleticism of pure sport.  By other bullshit I mean primarily advertisements from sponsors looking to bolster their market-share, and advertisements from the home nation’s government trying to reinforce its sovereignty by piggy-backing on the achievements of the athletes who live under its fictional jurisdiction.
“LOOK!! A guy who resides in the artificial construct known as ‘Canada’ just won a gold medal, the highest award in a similarly artificial construct known as ‘The Olympics.’  By virtue of his achievement you are now proud to be Canadian.”
…And we all were

No thanks.
   The next time you see a spectacular Olympic performance from a so-called “rival country” and you are forced to grudgingly admit that they deserve the medal, remember a few things:
1. The country does not deserve the medal, the athlete(s) does
2. You personally have no rivals in a sport you are not competing in.  You are a spectator.
3. You are not giving up your respect to a member of a rival nation, but to a fellow human being.  
Enjoy your spectacle!
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
***I purposefully abstained from mentioning the riots in Vancouver after the Canucks lost the cup to the Bruins because to simply view that as a sports riot is reductive.  But that is a story for another day.

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How to Win the Game of Thrones

My Friends,
   After many positive recommendations I have relented and begun to watch Game of Thrones.  It is a pretty sick show to be sure, and it is probably the first show I have watched since The Wire in which I find myself actually caring about the characters.

Sorry Peggy, but  your trailblazing path to the top of the male-dominated world of 1960s advertising doesn’t make you that interesting to me.

One exchange of dialogue has stuck with me for the past couple of days; it is from the scene where Tommy Carcetti tells Alec Trevelyan Little Finger tells Ned Stark, the Hand of the King, that it is gold and not soldiers that wins wars.  
Ned doesn’t always like what Little Finger has to say.
This conversation is spurred by the fact that the king, Richard is unable to exercise control over his wife’s family, the Lannisters, because he (and therefore his realm) is deeply in debt to the supper-rich Tywin Lannister, the head of the family.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown it would seem.
   Using my knowledge of monetary-ism I think I have formulated a way in which Boromir Ned Stark could actually get the king and the realm out from under the thumb of the Lannisters.
   To begin with, in the land of Westeros there is no paper currency but rather gold itself.  So far there has been no indication that there exists goldsmiths who receive deposits of people’s gold and issue receipts payable for gold on demand, which people would then trade instead of gold for simplicity’s sake.  This is how our paper currency evolved and it is a logical step in the development of commerce, but we can’t assume anything.  This is actually an advantage for the land because we can assume that goldsmiths, who would realize that depositors claim their deposited gold infrequently and then issue more receipts than they had the gold to back so they could lend them out with interest, thereby inflating the currency, would simply not exist.  This method of usury called Fractional Reserve Banking (FRB) is what we have today all over the world, and it evolved from the basic fraud of lending more than one has committed by the original goldsmiths.
   No, in Westoro there is simply gold and no smiths.  And while inflation doesn’t seem to be a problem, scarcity indeed does.  So what can the king do about this lack of a finite resource?  Well he can cut his dependence on it and issue a fiat currency, that is currency not backed by anything but faith in the king and his government.  We actually have fiat currencies today but they really don’t alleviate national debts because central banks typically emerge and become the sole lender to the government, trading central bank notes (legal tender) for government treasury bonds.  Governments then owe interest to the central bank for this loan (the interest is of course in excess of the amount of principal generated aka THE ENTIRE MONEY SUPPLY) and are forced to borrow more (with interest of course) to pay off the existing debt.  This is how countries get into debt in the first place and why they will never get out.
   So, back to Westoro, the king and his treasury should issue currency, and not borrow it from a bank like we do today in exchange for government bonds.  Thomas Edison once made the very apt observation that if a government can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar of currency; both have the same value and the latter comes without interest.  
   Now there are two immediate problems with this idea: inflation and acceptance.  With regard to inflation, it is true that flooding the market with a new currency would devalue the existing gold, gold-backed or fiat currency.  So set up an exchange: in the short-term and have the new paper currency redeemable for gold and vice-versa.  Paper money is more convenient than heavy-ass gold and the state would simply be playing the role that the original goldsmiths from our history with one key exception: They would NOT lend out more currency (gold-receipts) than they could back with their gold reserves, or in other words keep a fractional reserve.  You may think this restriction of the money supply is limiting and it is, but its short-term for a transitional process which could happen very quickly if the problem of acceptance is dealt with.
   How do you make someone accept a currency?  Well, in the case of our fiat currency we have faith in our government.  In the case of a gold-backed currency, like this transitional one I propose for Westoro,  people will have faith in the money because it is redeemable for a perpetually scarce and valuable resource.  Still, there may be some intransigent types who simply like the weight and shine of gold and possess such an abundance of it that they could retard the complete transition to paper currency.  Short of a government seizure of gold bullion (like that which was conducted in the United States during the 1930s), there is one more way which this transition could be peacefully effected: Make all taxes payable in the new currency.  People will soon realize that aside from the luxuries of jewelry, it doesn’t make sense to hoard a currency that is now useless for something which everyone needs money for.  
  As the currency circulates and grows in popularity (as it will if its the exclusive means of paying taxes) the gold backing can be removed.  A gold backing would be unnecessary, much like it is today.  This is where the temporary restriction of the money supply (a by-product of backing it with scarce gold) would be lifted.  The only thing determining the size of the money supply would be the how much money was needed.  The treasury could print off more to undertake large public-works projects or the raising of an army, and conversely shrink it when the supply was excessive and inflated.  As long as the king never outsources the printing of money to a private firm or decides to borrow it with interest from a central bank, there should be relative stability in his realm.  As for the gold the treasury received from the exchange, the government could pay off any existing debts which it had already agreed to pay in gold, but the rest could be credited back to the citizens of the seven kingdoms in equal measures as a return from a wise and benevolent government.  (This is not unheard of; even today the citizens of resource-rich regions often get regular sums of money which symbolize their share of the mineral wealth being extracted from their homelands).  The value of this gold would the be relative to how much existed, and while it would not be formally circulated as currency, private transactions could still be conducted for a sum of gold the same way they could theoretically be conducted today.  
   If you were expecting more talk of military strategy and think the title of this entry misleading, I assure you that this issue of currency is more pressing than all the allegiances, hordes and dragons which threaten the balance of power in Westoro.  Whoever controls the money supply in Westoro will prosper and run the show no matter which ambitious lord presumes to usurp the Iron Throne.  If the king controls the money supply through his government treasury he will truly be in charge of his realm and not be beholden to usurers.
   I’m not much for subtlety and nuance so I will come out and say explicitly that this type of monetary policy could alleviate many of our current monetary problems.  It would actually be easier for us because the gold standard has already been abolished.  We would simply have to move from a debt-based fiat currency to a debt-free fiat currency.  A simple matter with minimal upset of the economy as it is now.  There are five simple steps:
1) Issue a new currency, tied to the value of our dollar.  Have the treasury print it, DO NOT borrow it from a central bank or contract a private firm to print it.  Begin circulating it.  
2) To offset inflation, incrementally increase the cash reserve banks must keep on hand.  This would keep the money supply stable.  Right now Canadian banks are not required to keep any reserves on hand.  They could loan out billions for example without a cent in their vault.  If this egregious fraud doesn’t rustle your jimmies, your jimmies may well be un-rustle-able.
3) Make all taxes exclusively payable in the new currency.
4) ????
5) PROFIT!!!
   If it could work for Middle -Earth, Westoro, it could work for us.  I’ll leave you with a quotation to ponder:
“Give me control of a nation’s money-supply and I care not who makes its laws.”
-allegedly uttered by Mayer Amschel Rothschild 
or his son, Nathan Mayer Rothschild
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
For further information about our monetary policy and how to turn money from our master back into our servant as it was originally intended to be, check out the following:
Or, for a more intimate glimpse on the intricacies of the Canadian system,
   
   

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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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Lessons From Star Trek

My Friends,
   This morning while waiting in the doctor’s office I picked up a copy of Maclean’s from this past September.  It was an issue commemorating the ten year anniversary of 9/11.  It profiled the lives of those who had been affected in some way by the incident.  Soldiers, politicians, locals and one Maher Arar.  His case is a few years old and most might be familiar with it, but I had only a cursory knowledge of the details.  I became angry while reading about how this man (a Canadian citizen) endured torture for a year in his native Syria all because he fit the profile of a terrorist (male of Middle Eastern descent who traveled a lot and had a proficiency with computers).  What really got to me was reading about the aftermath of his ordeal; I began to cry when I read how he had returned home a “broken man,” a jumpy and nervous shadow of his former self.  This I think is the real tragedy of the story, and it reminded me of a passage from W.H. Auden’s poem, “On the Shield of Achilles.”

“They were small/
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame/
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride/
And died as men before their bodies died.”

  
   Throughout all of the debates about torture we have had to endure (I find it offensive that its even debated) this point about its after-effects on the victim is noticeably absent (I have my theories why but that’s a story for another day).  When torture is debated, the focus is never about the permanent damage done to the individual, but rather the legal aspects (is torture a violation of human rights?/are terrorists subject to legal protections?) or the strategic aspects (torture does/does not work for gathering information).  All too often the effects on the person are not brought up.  Best case scenario, if you are are deemed to have been wrongully detained and tortured, the adverse effects are simply quantified and monetary compensation is made (p.s. The going rate for extraordinary rendition if you are a Canadian citizen is apparently 10 million dollars and an apology from Stephen Harper).
   I think what irks me most is that around the time that this happened (2002 to 2003), any number of people would have thought it better to be safe than sorry, and would have supported Arar’s detainment and deportation to Syria, even if reluctantly.  In the midst of crisis our better judgment apparently goes out the window and we will cosign all sorts of human rights infringements under the pretense of increasing security.  I think the following clip will explain just how serious an issue this is and how indignant we should all be about the lives that are ruined in the name of “freedom.” 
   A little backstory: in this episode of Star Trek: TNG, a Romulan spy (the Federation is at war with the Romulans) has been exposed and a military tribunal convenes and begins using “insinuation and innuendo” to cast suspicion on everyone.  One young unfortunate, Simon Tarsus has been singled out for lying on his Starfleet application and saying that he had a Vulcan grandparent when he actually had a Romulan grandparent (the two look similar).  Well Captain Picard don’t take no mess, and as he realizes that his ship has become the setting for a deplorable witch-hunt he elucidates upon the ideals that make the Federation what it is.  Enjoy.

  
   Upon reading over what I have just written it seems that I have talked about both paranoia and torture.  While each merit their own discussion I did not feel the need to treat this as two separate entries because I believe the former progresses naturally into the latter, and thus both are related.
   Someday in the future we or one of our allies will be attacked again by alleged terrorists.  There will be suspicion, mistrust and perhaps another futile war.  We would all do well to remember the mistakes made in the aftermath of 9/11 when we seek to vilify a particular group or silently assent to morally repugnant war measures.  I will leave you with Captain Picard’s words as I feel they succinctly encapsulate what I am trying to say:
“The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.”
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

  

  

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