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Twisted Pleasure

Friends,

I pulled an all-nighter last night on my sister’s couch and my nocturnal time was occupied by the usual wikipedia safaris, listening to comedy routines and reading articles on Cracked.com.  There was another thing that occupied an hour of my time though, and that was watching nature documentaries on youtube.

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Last night I focused on lions on the serengeti.

I don’t know why but I felt an overpowering urge to watch a lion run down animals, the more helpless the better, and tear their shit apart. Luckily for me there is no shortage of such videos on the tubes (although sometimes they try and get cute and cut away right as the lion is pouncing only to cut back when the lions are already eating…what the point of this is, I don’t pretend to know).
All in all I saw a baby elephant, a baby girafffe and a newborn wildebeest (replete with amniotic fluid) get their shit wrecked.  Great Job!
Still, as I watched I c0uldn’t help but be vaguely aware of a sense of shame for enjoying watching such violence.  I began wondering what separated watching footage like this from watching say…a snuff movie?

8MM 2
Well, my reaction for one.

But seriously, I don’t go in for explanations like, “well animals aren’t people.”  Bitch, animals suffer and feel pain too.  They’re probably more similar to us than we would care to admit so where does the moral line draw when it comes to one animal preying on another versus one human being killing another?
You could make the case that if its for educational purposes it’s okay.  Like if you are watching videos or viewing photos of a horrible massacre to write a paper, or if a jury must watch grisly rape and murder videos to help them reach a verdict.  The only problem is that this has been seized upon by people busted with caches of child pornography, I was just doing research.
Similarly, claims of artistic merit have also been used to justify one’s predilection for looking at grisly or otherwise inappropriate images.

angels_1541195i
It’s not perverted, its art.

I think the problem and incredulity from the general public comes from the fact that we are really having the wrong conversation here: Instead of forcing the artist, the snuff film connoisseur or the casual nature documentary enthusiast to justify their interest (or throwing them in jail), we should instead be asking why  that interest is there and acknowledging that the only difference between the three parties is the legal status of their interests, because arguments regarding morality are so much wasted air.  We like to distance ourselves from those on the wrong side of the law, especially when their crime carries a taboo sexual or violent taint, but I think if you dig deep enough you will find that interests in viewing lions killing gazelles, a group of guys gang-banging a single girl, torture porn movies, snuff films, and other exploitative materials showing (broadly speaking) one party doing violence to another, all stem from a common causality which binds us together at an uncomfortable  level.
Thankfully, my perversion has been deemed not only legal, but educational, so I can to continue on being a twisted fuck with impunity.
“Not guilty, y’all got to feel me!”

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

 

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Demystifying Rape

Note: I have had this mostly written for a few weeks now but life happened and I never finished it.  There are a few women I have discussed this topic with who have expressed interest in reading my “male” perspective (lol) when I’d like to think of it more as a human perspective.  For the record I don’t bear any malice toward anyone trying to help a disenfranchised group, I just want to spread awareness that we are all a disenfranchised group.  And even if some of the things I write here piss my feminist friends off, please note that it was written with love and serious deliberation.  Special thanks to my relatively new friend, Lauren with whom I had my first serious conversation today.  Our exchange served as the impetus to finish this off.  Hopefully there will be many more mutually beneficial discussions in the future.  Who knows, maybe some longboarding too 🙂


“I despise rapists.  For me you’re somewhere between a cockroach and that white stuff that accumulates at the corner of your mouth when you’re really thirsty.”

-Cyrus Grissom, Con Air
 
“What’s worse than rape!?”
-WO Paul Brenner, The General’s Daughter

“There are no negro problems or Polish problems or Jewish problems or Greek problems or women’s problems.  There are HUMAN PROBLEMS.”
-Jacque Fresco, Larry King Interview, 1974
 

My Friends,
I would like to talk about rape.  I think it is an interesting topic because it incites a lot of violent invective and really lays bare our antiquated values regarding the commodity-status of female sexuality.  Mostly, I think it is misunderstood because like so many things in our society, it is reduced to a self-contained problem with people arguing various causes without an understanding of causality itself.
I guess the best place to start would be right in the thick of it, with the hotly contested issue of whether certain women invite rape by their demanour, clothing, etc…  My simple answer to this would be “no,” but I think it is more complex than that simple response.  To say that a woman stands a greater chance of getting raped because she is wearing a short skirt makes her the prime cause (which she isn’t) and also negates a few important factors such as where she is, time of day, how many people are around and very significantly, the disposition of nearby males.*  I’m sure there are more factors but these few are the ones that occur off the top of my head.  When we look at a single occurrence of rape, indeed any single occurrence of anything anywhere, we are faced with the reality that it is a product of many factors working together in unison, and each of those factors have a traceable causal origin as well.  This illuminates two things for us: first of all it is very difficult to rightly say that one factor is the cause of anything; and second, we too may be subject to factors beyond our control which may lead us to do things which we might not normally do.  This can be an uncomfortable thought for some people because noone wants to think they are capable of “evil.”**
Dr. Richard C. Lewontin makes a very clear distinction between causes and agents in his series of lectures called Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA.  I will borrow his example of asbestos, which he points out has been wrongly called the cause of certain cancers.  We find that when we leave the existing industrial mechanisms in place and simply ban a substance, industry is only too eager to greenlight a new, untested, potentially carcinogenic substance which has not yet been regulated.  If the workplace cancers persist from other carcinogens, can asbestos really be said to be the cause of workplace cancer? No, rather it is an agent or factor in the causal chain which can at most contribute to an outcome.  To call an inanimate object a cause is to fetishize it and endow it with a malice that simply isn’t there.
Similarly, to call sexy clothes on a woman the cause of rape does not take into account the larger causal mechanisms which lead to interpersonal violence, and again fetishizes the inanimate skirt,  If you want any more proof that neither asbestos or sexy clothes are causes in and of themselves, consider all the cases of cancer and all the cases of rape:

Have all the cases of cancer involved asbestos exposure?  Certainly not.

Have all the cases of rape involved sexy clothes?  I don’t know the stats, but again I feel confident saying “no.”

Simply removing a causal agent will not eradicate an outcome.
But here’s the rub: while we can’t say that asbestos is the cause of cancer, we can say that certain types of cancer will not occur without exposure to asbestos.  Similarly, we can say that certain rapes would not have happened absent provocative clothing.  Please note that this is not the same as naming sexy clothes the cause of rape, nor is it excusing the rapist.***  I hope this distinction is clear because very often we get confused about causes and causal agents/factors.  I know I have written about this distinction before but it bears repeating.  Funnily enough, you often see the rudiments of causal thinking expressed in the arguments of firearms advocates who say, “guns being banned would not reduce violence, only (maybe) school shootings.  This is correct in the same way that saying, “banning asbestos reduces asbestos-related cancer, but does not eradicate cancer,” is correct.  In all these cases, whether we are talking about banning guns, regulating asbestos, or dressing more modestly so as to avoid rape, we are not actually dealing with the causes, but the agents.

So, Regarding Rape, What Are the Causes?

   I don’t know.  But I have an idea.  This line of reasoning might sound familiar to anyone who has dabbled in my blog before so bear with me.  We must look at rape in the broader context of interpersonal violence.  It’s really tempting to look at it as somehow separate and removed from other forms of violence, but in reality, its not special.#  There are no “special” forms of violence: If I murder a black man it is violence.  However, if I murder him while wearing a white hood and screaming “Nigger!” it is still the same violence.  Certainly it is more salacious and might sell a few more papers but ultimately the violence has been done either way regardless if our different skin tones factored into the equation.  Now, notwithstanding the fact that men can also be raped, women are the primary victims of rape just like it is generally visible minorities who are the primary victims of hate crimes.  And while these added layers of selection and profiling again make the story more salacious, we should not lose sight of the fact that when you reduce these things down to their essential parts they are still violence, no more or less offensive than one white male being violent toward another white male.

Violence is violence.

I only hammer this point home because I think that when you correctly place rape in the broader context of violence in general you can actually understand how to deal with it a little better.  For rape to happen, indeed for any violence to happen, it has to be reinforced by our society.  Someone (the aggressor) has to be getting something out of it, because our society reinforces competition, segregation, differential advantage, and jockeying for power.  Sure, society teaches us love and fellowship and good citizenship, etc., but it reinforces the aforementioned competitive qualities.
Now my twelfth-grade religion teacher once told us that rape is a crime of power, not sex, and I think there is some truth to that.  Certainly it sheds some light on rape if you, like me, are inclined to view our society as a constant struggle for power and advantage,  I think most, if not all interactions in our society can be reduced to some kind of power struggle, and while that may sound overly cynical and Machiavellian## consider some of the common day-to-day relationships we have:

DOM                           VS.             SUB
Parent                                            Child
Teacher                                        Student
Boss                                               Employee
Client/Customer                     Firm/Business/Agency
Alpha Male                                 Betas
Coach                                            Player
The State                                    The Person

These relationships are just a few of the commonplace, accepted forms of power dynamics (struggles really).  I don’t even want to go into the aberrant romantic relationships where one partner is whipped or, in more extreme situations, scared of their partner.
Moving forward with this assumption of constant power struggles we can see that there are many ways in which to gain the “so-called” upper hand; be physically stronger, be more persuasive, be better looking, have more money, prove someone else wrong, embarrass another, make people laugh.  All of these actions will elevate your status relative to others, and in some cases directly put someone down relative to you.  But the acceptance and social acclaim we feel for these actions make them worthwhile even if someone else has to get punked for us to look good.
Conversely, if we are those individuals that have just gotten punked, or lost face/honour/etc…, there is a desire to want to restore that face or honour.  The feeling of shame is terrible and it is interesting to watch people in a social situation who have been put in this position try and qualify themselves to others and regain the favour of the group.  So powerful can this feeling of shame be that it can actually make people act violently in search of retribution.  (*If you think about it, this whole shaming/retribution cycle was really the driving force behind the Charlie Murphy True Hollywood Story about Rick James).

“He totally just wrote me off like I’m that nigga to steal on”
–Charlie Murphy, recalling the shame Rick James made him feel
 
   Now I’m not pulling all of this outta my ass and backing it up with pop culture references, at least not entirely.  Dr. James Gilligan, a former prison psychiatrist and current lecturer at NYU is renowned for his work during his time as Director of Mental Health for the Massachusetts prison system.  He brought the violence level down to almost zero when he was brought in due to high instances of suicide and interpersonal violence.
“I have spent the last 40 years of my life working the most violent people our society produces; murderers, rapists, and so on, in an attempt to understand what causes this violence.”
-James Gilligan, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward

“The prison inmates I work with have told me repeatedly when I ask them why they have assaulted someone that it was because “he disrespected me.”  The word disrespect is central in the vocabulary, moral values systems and psycho-dynamics of these chronically violent men.  I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed,  and did not represent an attempt to undo this loss of face no matter how severe the punishment.  For we misunderstand these men at our peril if we do not realize they mean it literally when they say they would rather kill or mutilate others [or] be killed, than live without pride, dignity and self-respect.” -James Gilligan, Social Pathology (Quoted by Peter Joseph)

   If I may be so bold as to suggest that the causes of prison violence may also underlie the violence outside of prison, and if furthermore you may be so bold as to accept that proposition, I think we might have a workable hypothesis for what causes all interpersonal violence in the world, not just rape.  And really why should we discriminate when it comes to different degrees of violence IF we can deal with it all in one fell swoop?  That’s a big “if”, but I maintain that it is possible if we stop looking at things in the current piecemeal fashion.  Corny as it may sound, we gotta start thinking holistically, or at the very least stop looking at things within the common frames of reference and applying the same tried and ineffective solutions.
   The problem of rape is not to be addressed by narrowing our focus to rape and rape alone; certainly it will not be solved by the passing of new laws or well-intentioned marketing campaigns 

Frankly, I don’t give a shit about girls because I am not one.  
I do care about my fellow human beings though.

which only serve to perpetuate duality (us vs. them).  No rather than a dualistic perspective (which if you think about it is the foundation of so many of our obsolete societal perspectives -i.e. venus vs. mars, good vs. evil, demo vs. repub, coke vs. pepsi) we need a unified one.  We need to critically examine our society and find the common thread which condemns us all.  We need to have a knowledge of history and historical precedent but also be careful not to let our past & present conceptions shape our future projections.
   Finally I would like to say that we’ve tried approaching rape and female equality from an isolated perspective for long enough.  Frankly, progress has not moved quick enough for my tastes where it has happened at all.  Female voting and the ability to work seemed like victories but were merely accommodations, much like the “victories” blacks got in the southern US during the 1960s and 70s.  In reality, women’s suffrage and women’s lib only served to afford women the same level of servitude afforded only to men up to that point.  I recognize these movements for their temporal importance and their necessity at the time.  But now we can do better – we must do better.

He doesn’t belong to any gender either.


Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

*I wasn’t not sure whether to use the word “male” here or “potential rapist.”  Certainly to think that all males are potential rapists is a shade cynical, but to assume that some males could never rape is naive.  Noone is innately good and noone is innately evil.  This is important to understand.

**I don’t think there is such thing as evil, just right and wrong.  But evil is a good word for to make a point with. (sic.)

***”Excusing” the rapist should be a moot concept if any of this causality jibber-jabber is sinking in.

#The intent here is not to marginalize any victim so lets set a benchmark.  Either no form of violence is special or all forms are special and all the victims are special cases.  I am inclined to think the latter.  Try telling a victim of a crime that their experience isn’t a special case.  Of course it is, even if its just a statistic to you.

##I’ve never used the word, Machiavelli or any of its derivatives in my writing before.  Feels good, man…

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The Revolution Will Be Civilized

My Friends,
   A couple weeks back a friend of mine got me high and made me watch Robocop.

It was my first time seeing the whole thing in one sitting.  Being you know, high and all, I ruminated long and hard on certain mundane parts of the movie, perhaps giving them more scrutiny than had ever been applied to them before.  Principal among such mundane parts was an over-looked aspect of the riot scene.  You know the scene:

Everybody in town is going crazy because the cops just went on strike.  The looters are looting, windows are getting smashed and its basically a big free-for-all.  Funnily enough, the establishing shot for this scene pans to Emil, one of the antagonists…

…kind of just chillin’.

He doesn’t seem to be particularly violent at this point.  Kinda just chillin, drinkin his Jack.  He even shudders in surprise when his reverie is interrupted by some nearby hooligans throwing a mailbox through a window.  To me it almost seemed like he was exhausted by the merry-making and needed a rest.  And I thought this idea could be extrapolated to the whole of a population in revolt.
   People I have spoken with regarding the necessity of laws tend to view them as necessary safeguards against anarchy; basically if we didn’t have them man’s true beastly nature would no longer be kept at bay and he would be brutish and base.
   But does Emil look particularly base and brutish in these pics?  No.  In fact it looks like anarchy has been kicking his ass.  In fact it is only when Red Foreman shows up with fancy new asploeding guns that he gets re-invigorated.

   But I feel that his enthusiasm for this new toy would peter out eventually too and he would just find himself moping around looking for the next new thrill.  And I think this is the point:  there is no lasting appeal to chaos.  So even without rigid, formalized laws we would find a certain equilibrium.  And why not?  After all we existed for about 90% of our hominid existence without laws and we made it here.  Notwithstanding the violence inherent in life in the wild, its not like primitive man was a berserker vandal, killing and raping wantonly.  So why do some people think we “evolved” specimens would falter without imposed rules and regulations?*  
   Lets not forget what laws are for.  They are not to bring order to the chaos that would be an inevitable reality if not for their presence; they are to protect property rights.  End of story.  Laws are an outgrowth of scarcity; they protect the haves from the have-nots.
   So I don’t think it makes sense to fear social collapse if laws were removed; certainly there would be an initial shock of lawlessness but this would be akin to loosening your belt after thanksgiving dinner: its not as if your belly would be bloated and distended forever.  Neither would we kill each other en masse til we were reduced to isolated pockets of survivors scavenging from each other.
   We’ve already built a society** once.  If this one collapsed I’m fairly sure we could do it again, but better.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

*Its interesting to think that we might falter without laws simply because our society, although ostensibly founded on good faith and fellowship, actually reinforces individualism and competition.  Our laws ironically afford us a measure of protection from the violence which our society actually reinforces.

**The Egyptologist John Anthony West criticized our society as not civilization but “shiny barbarism.”  Its an interesting point and worth some contemplation.



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You Cut the Crap and I’ll Cut the Crap

My Friends,
   Recently I saw this picture floating around the facebooks:

This bothered me for the obvious reason that it was being thoughtlessly shared by most of my fellow army guys.  This type of gung-ho propaganda is odious to me on the best of days, but something about this particular pic struck me deeper.  I think I have finally figured out what aspect of it bothered me so.
   First, let me ask a couple of questions:

   Have you ever been deployed with the military to a war-zone?
 
   Have you ever attended a post-secondary institution?

Many of you will answer “yes” to one of these questions.  Many will answer “no” to both.  A few will answer “yes” to both.  I count myself among this last group, and thus consider myself well-informed to speak on this picture.
   Basically, my feeling is that I have never been as stressed as I was in the middle of a busy semester.  Even during my very worst times in Afghanistan (which were very mild compared to many others) I never dealt with the all-consuming stress of a full academic workload.  I don’t expect military types with a high-school diploma or less to understand this (although maybe they should understand better than anyone because obviously school was kicking their ass), but the military existence, or at least the “grunt” existence which I am qualified to speak on, is relatively simplistic and stress-free.  Let me illustrate the difference between these two lifestyles so you can better appreciate where I’m coming from.

Stresses of the Student Mid-Semester
-“How am I ever going to get out of this mountain of debt?”
-“I am never going to be able to read all of this assigned reading”
-“I have to stay up and keep refreshing the course-selection screen or I won’t get into this class I need, which means I will be ineligible for a masters, which means I will be homeless on the street”
-“Since my parents are helping me pay for my education they scrutinize all of my marks”
-“If I don’t make a good impression on this professor I won’t get into this program and will end up homeless”
-“I have to buy that book from the bookstore before it is sold out or else I fail and end up homeless”
-“I have to stay up all night and finish this assignment/studying otherwise I will fail and end up homeless on the street.”
-“I have to study, but if I don’t work I can’t make rent and I’m fucked”
-“Wow, I wish I was back at home; this whole being an adult shit sucks”
-“If I don’t pay $XXX by the end of the month I am going to get kicked out of school”

Now let’s contrast that with…

Stresses of the Deployed Soldier
-“I hope me and my friends don’t die or get injured today.”

   Now I realize that there might be other concerns for the soldier, such as an overbearing NCM who insists you shave even though you’re in the fucking desert,

PO-LICE THAT MOO-STACHE!!!”

but provided you go through the motions and make all of your timings, you can otherwise coast through a deployment.  
   “But doesn’t the risk of death/injury trump all of the student’s concerns,” you ask?  Well no, at least not in my opinion.  It may be anecdotal, but I found I was able to adapt rather well to the threat of imminent death.  So were those around me.  And if googling “funny military pictures” is any indication, so are a great many other soldiers.  
   Now if you have read this and understood me to be saying that “war is a cakewalk,” you have misunderstood me completely.  War is a horrible thing which should be entirely abolished and I’m glad I made it through unscathed.  Many did not and they deserve the full support of the government on whose behalf they went to war.*  All I am saying is that war consolidates all of your stresses into the most basic stress of all, survival.  Once consolidated, that stress is much easier to handle, because you actually have a pretty good chance of surviving a NATO tour of duty.
   Similarly I think it is disingenuous of military types to paint other occupations (academics/students in this case) as less prone to stress.  When someone’s whole future very realistically depends on the outcome of one test or the predisposition of the person marking their paper, it is ignorant to say that they don’t know what stress is.
“You don’t man cause you weren’t there…”
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
*Military Minds is a great new site started by a Canadian soldier which offers a support network and spreads awareness of the very real stresses faced by soldiers.

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