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My (Current) Favourite Conspiracy Theories

Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Rock Of Ages" Press Conference

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

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

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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“What Did We Expect?”

Friends,

Apologies in advance if this post seems insensitive, but today I heard that the Ferguson grand jury opted not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 killing of Mike Brown. Last week, in anticipation of this decision, the Missouri governor opted to call in the national guard to deal with possible rioting. It turns out he was right to expect rioting as the city is currently burning.
Before going further I want to state for the record that I hope this demonstration of justifiable anger peters out with as little violence as possible and before heavy-handed state action is undertaken against people resulting in more needless death.
Notice I used the word justifiable there? The anger is justifiable but it is very misplaced and contingent upon an unrealistic expectation; namely that the criminal justice system is or at least should be fair.
There is a parable that comes to mind about an old man who makes the same joke over and over again in front of an audience and they laugh a little less each time. When the laughter subsides completely after the nth telling of the joke, he asks them why, “if they don’t laugh repeatedly for the same joke, do they cry repeatedly for the same tragedy?” I think the truth here is that as many times as we have seen this drama play out again and again, little to no action has been taken to mitigate structural violence, or the institutionalized racism which rises from it.
Speaking more broadly here about the state’s use of violence against its citizenry regardless of skin colour, do we really expect a different outcome than state-sanctioned murder when we have an impoverished and shamed lower class being supervised by an armed constabulary working to preserve the status quo? And, after seeing many of their fellow officers get off after using excessive and/or deadly force, are police officers really even scared to kill an unarmed man any more?
But I digress because this wasn’t meant to be an indictment of the police (we all know how well that would go), but rather a piece of critical advice to those outraged over the verdict: “What did you expect?” We’ve all seen this happen before and we knew it would happen again. So why do you maintain a steadfast devotion to a system that repeatedly lets you down and disappoints ad infinitum?
Personally, looking at things in the broadest sense, I don’t want Darren Wilson to go to jail for killing Mike Brown, but that is only because I think the incarceration paradigm is one of the most barbaric institutions we still have, second perhaps only to war. It makes people more violent and does little or nothing to rehabilitate. And, seeing as Darren Wilson is first and foremost a fellow human being, I don’t want to see him suffer. That said, I can see how the apparent double standard might be, shall we say, irksome?
But again, to those bothered by his lack of culpability I say, what did you expect? And more importantly, what are YOU gonna do differently this time around? We’ve all seen that impotent outbursts of anger like riots are just playing by the establishment’s rules: they start off strong and hopeful of effecting some kind of meaningful change or retribution, but before you know it they have fizzled out because people can no longer sustain that level of righteous indignation (It’s exhausting being angry all the time, trust me). Even worse, the violence justifies, nay, begs for more state heavy-handedness. And what do we think that will lead to? HINT: It won’t lead to more unarmed citizens NOT getting shot by police.
Bottom line: if we really feel raw about this type of impunity for agents of the state (read: cops), we need to withdraw support from the state rather than naively expecting it to police and govern itself in a way that will be fair to us. The minute we allow any matter to be taken up by the state’s courts we can’t reasonably expect a result that won’t be in accordance with state interests. And seeing as the police are agents of the state, is it unreasonable to assume that finding them guilty of murder just might not be in the state’s best interest?
Am I veering into the conspiratorial? Perhaps. But the way I see it, questioning any official narrative or official explanation these days is viewed as conspiratorial. So if I’m not dabbling in that territory I’m just not thinking critically enough.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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One Night as an Illegal Alien

Friends,

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

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Happy like a Mexican who just evaded border patrol!

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

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

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

Anyone =/= Everyone

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

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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

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Privilege & Mystification

Friends,

Of late I have noticed a disturbing trend in discussions where parties invoke privilege as a trump card which has the power to nullify the arguments of any person who doesn’t meet a certain criteria of disenfranchised pedigree.

“Here we go, another bitter men’s rights/white rights advocate.”

Sure, if you want to look at things reductively like that then so be it, but know that you are part of the problem I am trying to draw attention to.

The premise of privilege is that the straight, white, non-handicapped male…

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Pictured Here

…is the most heard from, listened to, demographic in the Western World and as such, he should shut up and give everyone else a chance to talk. Failing that, he should at least say things that don’t exacerbate the disenfranchisement of various minorities. At face value, this seems like an appreciably good idea; certainly I know a lot of people, many of whom are straight/white/male, who say shit that is limited by their own experiential biases and who don’t really try and empathize with those outside of their demographic. Could these people benefit from saying a little less? Well, yes of course, as much as anyone could, but I guess I’m dissatisfied with how this idea of privilege manifests on the back end.

You see by definition it takes someone without privilege or with less privilege to arbitrate what those with (more) privilege are tastefully allowed to say (because someone with privilege couldn’t possibly empathize with a fellow human being). And since the arbiters of what is PC/appropriate/sensitive are fallible human beings as well, there is far too much temptation to abuse the trump card that is privilege and thus void all the arguments of the person they are engaging with, no matter how logical those arguments, on the grounds of artificial constructs. This allows people to hold on to ideas past the point of reason simply because challenging said ideas becomes unpopular. It’s like an unlimited credit card for an intellectual materialist and frankly, it’s a little disingenuous.

Also, there is an explicit element of mystification in how I have seen the concept of privilege handled. Since as a straight, white, male (an identity which for the record I try to avoid claiming for myself because it separates me from other human beings) I simply “don’t get it,” and thus I am forced to rely on a priest-caste of “less-privileged” groups to reveal some arcane truth to me like in one of the great mystery religions. But like a Scientologist who has shelled out thousands of dollars and spent years of his life in study only to finally have the anti-climactic gospel (ALEINS! [sic.]) revealed to him, the truth is simple. Disappointingly so.

As a student of history (like, as in an actual degree holder…which is great in case I ever run out of TP), not only do I not deny atrocities and hardships faced by women, non-whites, etc. but I also try and view them in a broader sense as outgrowths of various socio-economic systems which were conducive to violence. And what was the common denominator in all socio-economic systems which predated our own? Scarcity, or at least the ever-present looming threat of it.  Shit son, you don’t even gotta have an edumucation to see that; we have no record of a time when there was ever a universal, perpetual abundance for all. And in the current socio-economic model is it really so different? I’m not really a statistics guy, but its something like a billion people don’t have access to clean water and 3.5 billion (or half the world’s pop.) is living in poverty. So yeah, scarcity is still alive and kicking.

But what does economics have to do with privilege? Well, as I have maintained in the past, racial, sexual and gender and differences serve as convenient dotted lines to cut along when you want to divide people and consolidate power by creating an “other” to unite against in conditions of scarcity. Power consolidation, which is a required aspect of the gaming strategy integral to surviving in the competitive economy which rose up in conditions of scarcity, underlies all so-called “atrocities” which have been since painted with a thick veneer or racism, sexism, jingoism and others.

“War is merely the continuation of politics by other means”
-Carl von Clausewitz

“Politics is merely the continuation of economics by other means.”
-Michael C. Ruppert

And herein lies my biggest problem with the concept of privilege; in no way does it address the structural mechanisms which cause and exacerbate the historical violence which has been done to under-privileged groups. Rather, the privilege argument assumes scarcity as a pre-condition of existence and simply demands more for the historically maligned which necessarily equates to less for the historical “maligners.” An apt metaphor would be fighting for more scraps from the table rather than trying to create a seat at the table for all.

And I’m not even gonna get into the fact that in Eastern Europe, Russia and the United States, there are straight white males, ostensibly members of the privileged class, who are either starving or food insecure. We clearly need a solution which is inclusive of all people, rather than just assumes, “hey you look like an oppressor so surely you must be doing ok.”

Of course there is a caveat to what I am saying, and it is those situations where gender, race & sexuality expertise is completely valid. Example, this May I will be portraying a gay male drag queen in a web series. Great! I hope I yield a performance which the gay drag community approves of. But what the actual fuck do I know about being a drag queen? Not a damn thing. So I will be looking to find a drag queen to hang out with, and study from prior to the shoot. I acknowledge that this gay male drag queen is probably expert on the topic of being a drag queen, but I don’t think he will necessarily be more or less expert than me on the human experience based simply on his historically under-privileged sexuality. Nor will he, by virtue of the fact that he likes men and dresses like women have a grasp of the structural causes of violence inherent in our socio-economic system unless he has devoted some thought and study to it.

However, by hanging out with him a curious thing might happen: empathy.

MIND = BLOWN

Sure he’s just a hypothetical drag queen now and as such pretty hard to relate to, but as I get to know him a little better I’ll see commonality and similarity I never saw before and see him as more like me than a cursory, superficial glance might have indicated. Any constructed line drawn between his gayness and my straightness would dissolve and be seen for what it always was; an artificial boundary.

Enter privilege.

The privilege argument seeks to formalize boundaries and identities which only serve to obfuscate the truth about how similar we all are. By accepting identification as a member of a disenfranchised group, an individual accepts ownership of resentment and the honor neurosis, and is primed to become indignant due to perceived offences from those not identifiable as part of THEIR tribe.

“The things you own end up owning you.”  -Tyler Durden, Fight Club

To me it’s simple: relinquish ownership of cultural, racial, and gender legacies which carry with them resentment that you don’t need in your life. It’s baggage you don’t need, like the hoarders on the reality tripe I don’t watch. If you must identify, choose an identity that is inclusive of all peoples. Personally, I opt to identify as a human being,** but certainly there are other identifiers which would function just as adequately.

Ultimately, it’s the othering we need to get away from; the othering that makes us clamor for retributive punishment for a transgressor, the othering that makes us cheer when we hear a “bad guy” got killed, the othering that makes brother kill brother in a civil war. Guess what?; they’re ALL ‘CIVIL’ WARS.

To be clear, I don’t deny that certain segments of the population have had a harder go at life than others, but I can’t co-sign issuing redress along the same bigoted lines that were used as avenues of disenfranchisement. Maybe that’s my privilege talking, but the handy thing my privilege has afforded me is that I don’t see any groups as my enemy. Rather we’re all brothers and sisters, human beings, living souls.

Let’s start acting like it.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*As a rule, I am against sensitivity and other people’s threshold for being offended being the limiter of what can be said.
Obviously this isn’t a license to be a complete dick and say things simply to offend, but if there is a point to be made, make it. Just be willing to stand by it and defend it, remaining open to the possibility that you might have to recant, modify or alter that point if new evidence is presented.

**I realize that this identification will prove to be limited once the ALEINS make first contact. Also, the film, Earthlings makes a compelling case for why identifying as a human being even at this point in time might be a little reductive, given all the different forms of life on this planet.

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Dox Populi

“Don’t say words you’re gonna regret, Don’t let the fire rush to your head …
I am the eye in the sky, lookin’ at you I can read your mind. I am the maker of rules, dealing with fools”
Sirius/Eye in the Sky, Alan Parsons Project

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Dox(verb) To obtain one’s sensitive personal information online and then make it public for all to see.

Friends,

With all of the fuss made in the past year over the (unsurprising) revelations that the NSA is spying on us all, many have (predictably) embraced one of two postures: The first is a protectionist one which resents this intrusion and tries to fight it through legislation promoting privacy, secure encryption for emails and text messages, etc. Of this position, I think the prospect of keeping secrets a secret in a world which is becoming more and more globally integrated is a fool’s gambit, and I don’t think too much of laws because I don’t think you can legislate morality.
The second, more passive of the two postures is that of indifference, apathy and resignation. This latter posture is the one which says, “Well, if you’re not guilty you’ve got nothing to hide.”

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I’ve never understood this line of reasoning because if you take it to its logical extreme, it basically says, “Well if you don’t have any contraband hidden in your colon, you shouldn’t be averse to thorough anal probing.” In my view, this line of reasoning is simply a symptom of being too afraid to challenge the status quo (or state power in this case). Conversely, the former position places itself in direct opposition to said status quo/state power, a stance which though admirable in its courage and defiance is ineffective in addressing the underlying structural problems and only leads to polarization. Yet as different as these two positions seem, what is the common causality? I would posit that the common denominator in both cases is fear. In the first case, where you have people fighting back against governmental surveillance, the fear serves as an impetus to irrational action (namely, fighting) and in the latter case, fear leads to passivity and rationalizations. But whence cometh this fear? I think that is the important question to answer if we want to deal with it. Well personally, I’m reminded of a bible story where some villagers are gonna stone an adultress to death, and Jesus says, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

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Jesus was a wellspring of wisdom if ever there was one.

The basic implication is that everyone has done a little dirt, that is, everyone has some secrets that they don’t want others to know about and presumably punish them for, and it is the possibility of these secrets being exposed which makes people fearful. For the purposes of the point I’m trying to make, we’re gonna more or less accept this as axiomatic. So in a weird way, I actually agree when passive types and surveillance apologists make arguments to the effect of “innocent people” not fearing observation, but only with the caveat that there are no “innocent” people. Truly, in this socio-economic paradigm everyone has something to lose through the loss of privacy. Everyone has something they can be embarrassed by, blackmailed with, fired for, or in extreme cases, arrested or killed for.  So we value our privacy and even pride ourselves on our ability to keep secrets and be secretive (i.e. “Your secret’s safe with me.”)

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

But here’s the inconsistency: I assume that most people reading this, and really anyone clamoring for greater personal privacy, would also desire greater corporate and governmental transparency and accountability. And while that is a justifiable desire borne of prevalent corporate malfeasance, there is a marked hypocrisy in wanting to bury and protect your own secrets while at the same time wanting to dig up and expose those of others. But this hypocrisy isn’t incidental; it is integral to our competitive socio-economic system.

So let’s game it out: say the NSA has the complete record of everyone’s electronic communications, all 7 or so billion of us. What happens then? Would they then go and publish it all, making every digital secret public domain and thus free for everyone to access?

Sadly no. In the same way DeBeers only releases a fraction of their total diamonds in order to keep the price up, the NSA (or whomever) would have to be choosy about what secrets to release and who to expose, because in their own way, secrets have a value which can be measured, like all commodities, in terms of scarcity and abundance. If everyone’s secrets were exposed, we would literally figuratively be adrift in an ocean of knowledge about who’s fucking whom, who’s cheating on their taxes, who’s got what STI, credit card numbers ad nauseum, who’s selling drugs, who’s receiving what drugs for which psychological ailment, who watches what kind of bizarre/outlandish/illegal pornography etc. The power of our secrets to hurt us would be diminished by the knowledge of how common our greatest vices actually are. We would truly see that we all live in proverbial glass houses and perhaps we would stop casting proverbial stones at others, recognizing them as more similar to us than we would currently admit.

But like I said, whomever controls the secrets controls the access to secrets, and will only expose those who are troublesome and need to be discredited. And compared to the whole of humanity, the number of people outed and exposed will be miniscule, but it will be enough to scare everyone else and keep them in line.

Unless we decide not to be afraid.

You see, when I was a kid I tried to blackmail my sister, Tarah into doing the dishes for me by threatening to tell on her for putting a steel pot in a microwave. I played it up as a big deal, telling her how she could have burnt the house down and people could have died, and I even fabricated a story of how my Mom caught my other sister, Tanya doing the same thing and she got smacked for it (I was a kid and kids are retarded, sadistic assholes). Tarah got so scared that she was in tears and was ready to do the dishes for me. But of course, my mother probably wouldn’t have cared, seeing as it was an accident, and my little sister need not have been afraid. Knowing her mistake didn’t actually give me any power over her; it was only her fear of reprisals that gave me any power over her. I think this is an incredibly apt example of how we are controlled through our fear of consequences. Any reprisals she would have faced were nothing compared to the nightmare scenario she had concocted in her brain, and I think this holds true for most, if not all cases of blackmail.*

What’s that you say? My tale of childhood blackmail was small potatoes compared to real blackmail that could cost people careers, spouses, money and/or freedom. Well, I would argue that fear is in the eye of the beholder, and that the fear a scared child has of a beating is just as palpable and real as the fear an adult feels when facing “grown-up” repercussions. In the long run, if they value freedom, it is better for both the adult and the child to take their proverbial lumps and not live under someone else’s thumb. Or do like Dave Letterman and fuck ’em on national TV.

dave letter
This is how you handle fear

Realistically though is everyone gonna face their fear of public embarrassment like Dave? Probably not. Did he have a lot to lose? Most certainly. But at the same time I think its safe to say that his indiscretions were relatively benign. Its not like he was fucking little boys or anything. But whatever your particular vice or indiscretion, as soon as you claim it you take the bullet that can hurt you out of the chamber.

Loading_a_Revolver
This is actually a picture of someone putting a bullet IN a chamber but since its a snapshot it works. #themagicofstilllife

So while I wait for everyone to reject fear and voluntarily out themselves, thus nullifying the power of spying, what would I like to see happen? Well, the prevailing mentalities among the “spied upon” seem to be either trying to legislate privacy, or blithely accepting greater surveillance and by extension, isolation. But what if we the public were to be “wikileaked?”

Imagine if you will, one day you woke up to discover that some industrious group of hackers hacked the NSA’s database where they store everything they know about your masturbation habits and everyone else’s, then took this information and uploaded to the ether for anyone to download off Pirate Bay?

Or it could be an NSA insider. Fuck, we already had Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, so at this point there’s a precedent.

It would be like in Fight Club when they blow up all the credit card company buildings, essentially leveling the playing field by starting everyone back at zero. Noone would be able to leverage anything on you cause there would be so much shit that we’d stop caring. Secrets would cease to be like diamonds, valuable as they are for their artificial scarcity, and instead become like air: free and abundant and taken for granted.

I’ll leave you with an observation from Orwell’s classic, 1984. Everyone in that book might as well have been committing thoughtcrime, because even if they weren’t they would eventually have a moment of weakness and frustration and get reported on by their neighbours or directly observed by the Party. They were all chafing under the oppressive weight of the Ingsoc monolith and while they likely all harbored subversive thoughts, they all looked around and saw other people smiling blithely (as a survival mechanism) and thus felt isolated among fellow dissidents. And this is what a party interested in power counts on; people feeling ashamed and thus isolated from fellows who share the same human traits and frustrations they do. We may not be ready yet to come forward with all of our own sins, but we can get the ball rolling by judging, ostracizing and condemning less, and doing our part to create a more open world where people with secrets, vices, and other problems don’t need to shoulder the triple burdens of shame, isolation, and fear of exposure.

DOX THE WORLD!

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*On a poetic note, after I had gotten her to agree to do the dishes for me, my mother, who had told me to do them, entered the kitchen and asked why there weren’t done. I couldn’t say, “Oh because I spent the last fifteen minutes trying to blackmail Tarah into doing it.” Nor could I say that Tarah had voluntarily agreed to do it, because then she would become curious and my sister would crack under her questioning exposing the whole sordid affair. So I told her I was about to do them, and thankfully it didn’t occur to my sister to come clean and out me as a blackmailing coward. This just shows that while the blackmailer benefits from the threat of exposing partial truth, they abhor the full disclosure of the whole situation and their dirty role in it. This is why complete truth, and complete disclosure should be sought.

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Truth in Jest/Solemn Deceit

Friends,

There is a saying about jesters being able to speak “truth to power,” which comes from a tradition of nobility keeping jesters/fools around to say the shit that all of their peers wouldn’t. Being fools, they weren’t expected to be tactful or genteel. On the contrary, they were expected to be abrasive and severe when spittin’ that realness. In my view, this tradition persists today in a more contemporary incarnation, The Comedian. Comedians today often get their yuks from criticizing the individuals, power structures and taken for granted customs and institutions that no else thinks to or is brave enough to.

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But the comedian of today faces the same problem of the jester of yore: the jester was a fool, and it strikes me as quite likely that many, his master included, didn’t always take his white-hot kernel of truth to heart. Doug Stanhope has a hilarious bit about this exact point as it pertains to modern comedians which I highly suggest you watch!!! (Start at 52:20)

DougThat link again, cause you should really watch it.

But what of the aforementioned peers, those other nobles of good breeding and refinement who knew better than to speak the brazen truth to people’s faces and instead mastered the arts of diplomacy, small talk and niceties? I would posit that this tradition carries on today in the world of politics. Politicians and statesmen are the noblemen of modern times, and while they are not landed gentry per se, they still run the land and the serfs/people on it.

So from this (admittedly generalized) perspective we have an historical precedent for what we (okay, I) see going on today: Namely, the people we should be taking the most seriously are those who are laughed at and taken lightly, while we hang on every word politician’s say, knowing full well as they are speaking to us that every word is a lie, calculated to convey as little as possible and obfuscate the actual workings of the state entity. However, due to the longevity of said entity and also the various political parties, we tend to view their words as somehow being more important and worth rallying behind.

Instead, we gotta rally behind the words that actually have meaning (not necessarily the people who say them) and start laughing off and then forgetting the words that sound pretty but don’t actually say anything.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Deconstructing the Abortion Debate

Friends,

Tomorrow I will be shooting a short film where I will play an eccentric drug dealer who counts among his hobbies protesting abortion clinics.  I’ve been a little bit apprehensive about this role because I am going to portray the character as a lovable rogue and his predilection for said protest might be decoded as misogyny which would be discordant with the type of character I am trying to cultivate. And while this project was originally intended to be the pilot for a series, it may very well end up being a one-shot which means I might not get a chance to explore the character’s motivations further than the one-page script. So, my challenge has been looking at my dialogue and plot arc and trying to figure out a way to illustrate that my strong feelings regarding abortion aren’t strong feelings at all but rather borne out of a desire to be a shit-disturber who may very well protest pro-lifers the next week.

So we’re clear, my difficulty is with how I will cultivate a happy-go-lucky character who makes sense to me.

However, thinking about my misgivings regarding the portrayal has led me to question the cause of those misgivings. Certainly from a young age my mother, a self-identifying feminist, always told me I was pro-choice and encouraged me to voice that position whenever my (Catholic) school would hold fundraisers for various pro-life organizations. It was an interesting challenge as a child to make pro-life posters for school (marked assignments) which didn’t betray the convictions I held dear due to my mother’s influence. Perhaps my first exercise in diplomatic, political writing.

Pro-Choice
However, I don’t want to give the impression that I saw no logic in the pro-choice position and that I was only parroting my mother’s position. In truth I saw then and still do see the merits of the position, but only within the current temporal context of our socio-economic system. After all, having a child is an explicitly social and economic undertaking and it often precludes other social and economic goals. Therefore, the decision about whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is very often (if not always) a social one and, tragically, an economic one.

Pro-Life
So where does that leave pro-life? Well, in my estimation, those who maintain a strict, unwavering pro-life position espouse a wonderful, idealistic outlook that is not tied to the world we actually live in.  I don’t think they are wrong  in any absolute sense, but that is mainly because I don’t put much stock in concepts like right and wrong. Rather I think they look at the folly of doing harm in an immediate way (abortion) in the hopes of preventing greater harm (social or economic) at a later time.  In other words, they don’t think the ends justify the means, and I have a lot of sympathy for this position. After all, how many pilots on bombing runs would cease to pull the trigger if they focused on the immediate act of murder they were about to commit rather than the vague, amorphous ideal (freedom, democracy, etc.) which they were fighting for in the long-term? We live in a culture that is obsessed with the notion that the ends justify the means, when instead our means should…must justify our ends* if we want to progress as a species.

The Conflict
So which side of the debate do you subscribe to?  Both sound awesome! After all, I love life and I love choice, but unfortunately I can only pick one. After all, if the laws are in favour of pro-life and abortions are banned, then the pro-choice camp is gonna say that the rights of women are being infringed upon. On the other hand, if the laws are in favour of pro-choice and abortions are legalized, the pro-life camp is gonna complain that the rights of fetuses are being infringed upon. So to me its simply a case of rights vs. laws. But here’s the thing: so-called rights can be taken away by any entity which exerts force or power over you while so-called laws will be broken by anyone with a will to do so, so in reality pro-life vs. pro-choice equates to “imaginary privilege” vs. “imaginary constraint” on the back end

Ultimately I’d like to see no fetus aborted because I think it is an act of violence but we don’t live in that world yet; there is still economic disparity which makes raising a child an imposing undertaking, there are career aspirations which would be threatened by having a child, and there is a lack of information about contraception in many parts of the world. Many pregnancies are going to be unwanted and summarily dealt with. However, before we presume to pass judgement of any human being for their perceived transgressions in our eyes, we should remember the maxim, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Or, more plainly, if you don’t like women having abortions, stop supporting a socio-economic system of inherent corruption, scarcity, and systemic disadvantage which leads a woman to have to make that most difficult of choices.

Don’t get too bogged down in the polarizing abortion debate because there is a truth that unites us all and mitigates such squabbles.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*For more on this idea, check out “The Rules of Chaos” by Stephen Vizinczey

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Hitting Home

Friends,

I find it difficult to give a shit about things that I can’t relate to, but sometimes my give-a-shit is stimulated in the most unexpected ways.

Bears & Turtles Teach me About Climate Change

As a product of the 80’s, I’ve heard about “global warming”/climate change for most of my life.  For example, the “greenhouse effect” was something I first remember reading about at around age six or seven.

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I actually read about it in this book so I knew it was a serious issue.

But even though my childhood heroes, the turtles mentioned such problems, they never seemed more than a background concern for me.

Then, at some point I saw a picture similar to this one:

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The polar bear has been, for as long as I can remember my favourite animal, and this emaciated, sickly-looking bear is one of the casualties of loss of habitat due to human activities.  Suddenly the importance of our actions crystallized for me.  And whether or not you put stock in concepts like climate change, global warming, etc., I want to illustrate that a picture like this one is what made such concepts real and tangible for me.

Jesus the Smoove Mack-Daddy

In September 2009 I resumed my university career after a three-year hiatus which included a stint in Afghanistan.  I wouldn’t say that the experience made me cynical, but I recognized a need for organized violence in the world as a reality of life.  When doing my course selection for that returning year I decided to take Theory and Practice of Non-Violence for giggles and to see what it was all about.  I found the readings and the lessons interesting but I just relegated it to the area of my brain reserved for fanciful notions like unicorns and the female anal orgasm.

Fast forward to late in the semester and I was still puzzling over what to write about for my final paper.  The idea of arguing for the necessity of violence in the world had fallen flat when I ran it by the prof and I wasn’t really sure what to do.  As I sat reading one of the class’ weekly readings, an idea started percolating.  The reading was a modern interpretation of Jesus’ actions and showed how he was the paragon of non-violence, but what it read like to me  was a guide on how to be an alpha male.  To me it smacked of pick-up literature,

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and Jesus was painted to be a master of social dynamics.  Something clicked in my head and I began to see the wisdom of non-violence, especially when viewed as just being cool and not being a dick.  I hadn’t completely accepted it as an ethos, but it had taken root in my head in this much more palatable permutation.

The Point of All This

There is a saying about leading horses to water but not being able to make them drink.  There is merit to this saying but I think it begs the question, “Why isn’t the horse drinking?”  Well, why didn’t I accept certain propositions until after their merit was seen in a more personal, relateable light?  Personally, I am fond of saying that “While it is the listeners duty to understand, it is the speaker’s duty to be understood.” The upshot is that whether you are talking or listening, the onus of understanding is always on you.

I guess I bring this us because I used to beat people over the head with (my) truth.  And while my convictions have remained the same I find that I am much more effective at communicating now because I realize how long even the most evident and truthful ideas can take to be accepted and take root.

Rest assured though that no matter how long it takes, the truth will always take root.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

ADDENDUM: I think there is a point here about the importance for a unified view of the planet.  We so often tend to try and remedy the injustices to disenfranchised groups through piecemeal actions which inevitably disenfranchise other groups. Whether you think its right or not, there is a very real feeling of alienation among males suspicious of feminism, among whites suspicious of affirmative action,  etc. As a result, people take on a tribalistic mentality and only care for those immediately around them or who are of a similar demographic (I think this is ultimately a problem of scarcity, but that’s another discussion). Taking a unified view and viewing ourselves as one species would make the imperative of treating each other well really hit home and force us to question a scarcity-based system which forces us to get ahead at the expense of our fellow human beings.

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…When Their Pride’s In Question

“Nggaz’ll rather die when their pride’s in question.”
Trife da God, Dogs of War (by: Ghostface Killah)

Friends,

Recently I wrote a post called “My Top 9 Rap Lyrics” where I discussed some lines that had really stuck with me over the years.  However, I opted to write about this lyric in a separate post because of how aptly it encapsulates and describes the mind-lock you see when when having discussions about things like human nature, the way forward, technological progress or, more broadly, when you discuss and question the taken-for-granted assumptions about people and society.
The specific example which comes to mind is when people acknowledge say, the problems with the world, humanity’s collision course with ecological disaster and the inhospitable environment we are creating for our future selves and our children; they acknowledge this  and rather than asking how we can change it, they just resignedly(almost smugly) assert that mankind will eventually go extinct and things will return to normal for the planet, almost as if they are looking forward to this eventuality. In the context of the argument/discussion/debate, this is akin to flipping the board when you’re losing; rather than acknowledge that the other party might be making some good points by questioning taken-for-granted assumptions and institutions, they would rather fall back on a nihilistic perspective to make it look as if the whole discussion is a pointless endeavour because we are all going to die anyway.

I see through your bullshit, board-flipper.

It’s not that they have trouble accepting the problems with society, its that they refuse to accept that society is changeable based on on our cumulative actions, often citing some unchangeable human nature as proof that the society we have now (headed inexorably toward extinction as they assert). is the only type of society that is possible.

Why?

Why this stubbornness in the face of so much evidence to the contrary?
Why the refusal to acknowledge that modern technology enables and necessitates newer societal designs?
Why assert that human beings are naturally ONE certain way when there are examples of ALL KINDS of behaviour in the world?

I’m no mathemortician but I think the reluctance to accept the changeability of society has to do with the vague awareness that if society is changeable, the onus might fall on everyday people to rethink their comfortable patterns of existence.

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God forbid!
Other than that I can only think that they don’t want to accept that they might be wrong in an argument.

Or perhaps they just have a death wish.
If that’s the case and things keep progressing they way they have thus far, aided by the cumulative apathy, intransigence and lack of imagination of these nihilistic death-wishers, then the degradation of our world and extinction of our species becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in the worst way possible.

Best
-Andre Guantanamo

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When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

“They don’t gotta burn the books; they just remove ’em”
-Rage Against the Machine, Bulls on Parade

Friends,

Today I lost someone dear to me.  After months of online back and forth he finally unfriended me on Facebook after countless appeals to me to censor myself proved ineffective. I am kind of ambivalent; on the one hand I no longer have to scroll through my newsfeed and see his posturing as an intellectual and the subsequent overpowering urge to question the logical flaws in his arguments, buuut, at the same time his world just became a little more insular and he has less people to challenge him.

To be clear, in my view there was nothing I said that was particularly insulting; rather there is a history of both IRL and OL animosity which made it difficult for our online interactions to be amicable.  Case in point, by this morning I literally could not even present a separate point of view (on the topic of placenta-eating of all things) without him deleting it (deletion being his common recourse to my comments as of late). However, I don’t want to talk about who was right and who was wrong and who said what because it would be impossible to sift through and really it doesn’t matter.

What I find to be infinitely more interesting are the broader implications for online conduct.  At what point do we delete comments?  At what point does a comment become so offensive that we must alter history to read the way we want it to?  I think the only empirical answer is that either all comments are okay or none are okay; any limit on conduct based on personal taste will only (can only) be arbitrary.  That said, there are politics involved in which comments and points of view we allow  to be visible in our online profiles, because like it or not, people will judge us based on what we allow.

Or will they?

To be sure, certain people might make assumptions about you based on the company you keep, but its folly to believe that any of us are so important that worlds will come crashing down if someone gets wind of the fact that some of our friends have fringe ideas. For example, I have some Islamophobic friends who occasionally (not recently) posts xenophobic anti-immigration stuff or pro-military jingoistic crap on my wall.  What does one do in a situation like this? Well, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that if its hate-speech of any kind there is usually a logical way to quickly point out that it is little more than bigotry and prejudice with no empirical value.  So I point out that lack of logic. Mind you I try not to do this in an antagonistic way, but I instead I ask them to substantiate their positions with well-reasoned arguments. This does two things: One, it lets anyone who might be paying attention know that I don’t co-sign hate; and Two, more importantly it shows that I am secure enough in my own position and online persona that I don’t need to block ideas that I feel might reflect negatively on me.

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Ultimately, if you conduct yourself well, someone posting bull-jive on your profile is making an ass of themselves, not you.  The court of public opinion will quickly correct the situation.

I think this idea should serve as an example of how we deal with the inevitable posts that we don’t like. I have never been a fan of censorship and I acknowledge that it starts in the most inoccuous ways.  For example, we would all feel justified in deleting comments that were racist in some way but when it comes down to it, that is censorship.  This is why I much prefer the upvote/downvote model adopted by Reddit; nobody can pretend to be an authority on what constitutes offensive comments as they are weeded out by the groupmind which might be moving in a different direction that the commenter or the would-be censor.

It’s not a perfect system, but until people stop being so easily offended by words on the internet, its about the best I’ve seen.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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