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The iPocalypse

Friends,

In the last few years smartphones have become ubiquitous in society.  Walking down the street its impossible not to see people wearing ear-buds.  Sitting on public transit you would be blind not to notice that everyone around you has their eyes glued to whatever viral video or vine is popular at the moment.  Well, either blind or immersed in that same video on your own phone.

These typical bland & innocuous observations out of the way I want to dig a little deeper than your average observational blogger might be wont to do.  Now I gotta qualify what I say by pointing out that I tend to be a bit contrary and I will argue any position even if its to point out that the person I am arguing with hasn’t thought deeply enough about their point of view even if I share their point of view. Whatever, I’m a dick like that I guess.  That said, the anti-smartphone sentiment has become fairly common Facebook bitching-fodder, and by default I am suspicious of any view which becomes the common man’s claim to intellectual discourse (see: atheism).  

So, without any further ado…

The Zombie Apocalypse Redefined
One of the most common criticisms levied at smartphone zombies is that they are in fact the zombies slated to take over the world in the imminent zombie apocalypse.

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Now I actually have a little bit of sympathy for this view, but only insofar as smartphone obsession is treated as an aspect of materialism and conspicuous consumption.  This view was of course explored in Goerge A. Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead (1978), although I confess I have never watched it the full way through and thus such observations on my part are only hearsay.

Dawn_of_the_dead

However, when this zombie comparison is postulated reductively to suggest that anyone immersed in the virtual world is a zombie, I begin to take a bit of an issue.  In a limited sense I agree: People being oblivious to what is going on around them can open them up to many hazards, but at the same time many of these hazards already exist even without smartphones.  Take for example walking into traffic and getting hit by a car: There’s a lot of variables present in that event, including but not limited to, the amount of traffic, the condition of the vehicle, the speed of travel, the disposition/distraction level of the driver, the awareness and agility of the pedestrian, etc…  But the witch-hunt for oblivious smartphone zombies assumes that someone on a smartphone is the prime cause for such an event.  Taken more broadly, this seems to be the latest permutation of our society’s fascination and preoccupation with foisting all responsibility for a complex occurrence, inevitably brought about as a result of a multitude of factors,  upon a single individual for expediency’s (and legal liability’s) sake.  Taking a systems approach and looking at the broad range of causality is simply not done because it would force us to ask difficult questions about our obsolete infrastructure and the lunacy of manually-operated cars and trucks when safe, automated operation is a technological reality.
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However, potential hazards notwithstanding, can an individual immersed in smartphone reality be accused of being a zombie?  Not always.
You see, that way I figure it, a smartphone zombie is distinct from you average couch potato in two important regards: One is visibility.  Whereas the couch potato immerses himself in his vice largely in private, the smartphone zombie engages in his smartphonery for all the world to see.  Hence, in my opinion, the popular backlash.

zombies3

The other distinction is that the smartphone zombie’s obsession is mitigated by the fact that his experience is not passive.  Certainly its not active in the same way punching someone in the dick or having sex is active, but its certainly interactive.  Even if its something as malignant as flaming a cancer patient’s support page, there is still more effort and thought being put into the endeavour than simply receiving a message.  Hell, the greatest part about the internet, aside from access to the entire world, is the ability to leave your indelible mark on that world.  And, with all those possibilities at someone’s fingertips suddenly me bitching about my day doesn’t seem all that interesting as a topic of discussion.  Which brings me to my next point…

It Hurts to be Ignored
We’ve all hung out with someone who could not put their phone away for five seconds.  It’s one of those things that becomes more insulting the more you dwell on it.  You roll your eyes whenever their attention wanders from you to their phone or groan audibly whenever their phone beeps or vibrates.  The feelings of rejection and unimportance inspired by occurrences like this are very real and are not diminished because you are being brushed aside for an object rather than a person.
Typically, I don’t get upset by stuff like this anymore because I try to keep two rules in mind:

Rule #1: “The responsibility for being understood belongs to the speaker; the responsibility for understanding belongs to the listener
Let’s call this the prime directive of communication; obviously you can only influence your own actions in any direct, meaningful way, and since you play both the listener and the speaker in any given exchange, the responsibility for understanding is always yours.  The upshot is that if you can’t communicate with someone who is absorbed with their smartphone then you are not coming at them effectively.  Don’t waste time fretting about how “unnatural” a form of communication it is because you can’t reach them with your words.  That’s like a guy talking about how sex is a really superficial and lame way to bond with people because he has erectile dysfunction.  Bottom line: reach out to people on their level and work to bring them to your level.  Don’t start on your level then become bitter when they don’t respond to you  There’s a reason why my French teachers taught us French class in English.  If they came into a classroom of English-speaking 10-year-olds and started spouting off in frog-speak my notebook would probably have been filled with dick drawings instead of conjugated verbs…
…and French impressionist dick paintings, graphite on paper.

Rule #2: “Don’t have conversations with distracted people.”
I learned this little gem from a book called, “How to be a Pick-Up Artist” by Wayne “Juggler” Elise.  I believe the lesson here is really two-fold:
First, and the more immediately pragmatic of the two aspects, if you persist in talking with someone whose attention is elsewhere, some part of the message is going to get lost.  It’s like, don’t give me directions while I’m on the phone getting the results of a medical exam.  There’s a chance I might not remember the finer points of your instructions if my own mortality is first and foremost on my mind.  To take this kind of example to a less extreme level, sometimes my girlfriend wants to tell me about what so and so said at the gym.  While this information is not incredibly essential to my continued existence I am happy to digest it, even if it is occasionally uninteresting, if only to strengthen the bond between me and her.  However, if she begins sharing said story while I am typing away furiously on something as profound and consequential to my existence as, say…this blog post, and then simply to fill the silence, then I might look at her incredulously and slightly annoyed.  That is not effective communication.
The second aspect in this rule is that you should have a little more self-respect; if someone is ignoring what you’re saying because they are too wrapped up in other things, but you keep talking in an attempt to win them over, then you are demonstrating lower value.  You are implicitly telling this person that you are worthy of only a fraction of their attention by co-signing their inattentiveness with your continued engagement.  Stop doing this.  Also, it need not be adversarial; simply tell them politely that you will let them finish what they are doing and then talk to them.  9 times out of 10 they will put aside whatever occupies their attention (smartphone in this case) and give you their rapt attention.  If they brush your polite concern aside and insist that they can concentrate on you and their phone at the same time, remain firm in your polite refusal to have conversations with a distracted person.  They will eventually come around and respect you the more for it at a sub-conscious level.  Or, they will stop hanging out with you.  But in this latter case, if they don’t have it in them to ever give you complete attention then they probably aren’t worth your friendship.

To these two rules I might add a third: If you are going to insist on having someone’s complete attention, at least have some interesting shit to say.

I think that if these two (3) rules are followed and really adhered to then we wouldn’t have the current backlash against smartphones that currently exists.  It all comes down to communication; if you’re a good communicator with interesting shit to say, no technology is going to stand in your way.  If you suck at communication and you talk about banal shit …well, no amount of pining for the good old days of probing, intellectual discourse while sitting in well-worn leather chairs in front of a fire while swirling brandy in snifters is going to cover for the fact that you talk like a faggot and your shit’s all retarded.

This unfortunately does not bring me to my last point in any artful way, so apologies if my argument seems disjointed, but here goes.

Motherfuckers Love Them Some ‘Takin’ Shit Out of Context”
Consider the following image

images

What do you thing Einstein meant when he said this?  What do you really think he meant by saying this in the first part of the 20th century when the possibilities for inter-continental communications were being initially being explored and promised to bring all people closer together?
Do you think he meant:
A: “We must be careful not to lose our humanity and critical mind in an age of mechanization and automation which promises to alleviate many of the burdens now placed upon us” …or something to that effect (This is my own personal interpretation BTW)
or…
B: “Fuck cell phones and anyone who uses them!” (Not an actual Einstein quotation…at least I don’t think so)

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a way in which a solid quotation can have empirical value than transcends the context in which it was initially delivered, but we really gotta be more selective about the piecemeal way in which we apply broad ideas and concepts to issues of marginal importance.

Conclusion
I’m not really sure.
I’m all for deconstructing what I feel is a popular backlash against smartphone technology, but that is not to say I see no problems whatsoever with the use/misuse of them or any other technology.  I guess more than anything my point is a variation of what it always is: look at the bigger picture, place things in a broader context and question everything.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Six Week "Adventure" Recap: Part 2

My Friends,
   When last I left you I was relating the events of an altercation I had at Toys R’ Us prior to Halloween.    Well although I managed to purchase the Batman mask I sought, I left not entirely satisfied with how events went down because I was far too adversarial.  I didn’t realize how bad I felt however until…

I Went to a Meditation Class
 
   Yes, one class.  And I should have done my homework better beforehand because what I thought was going to be a two-hour guided meditation (fun, right?) turned out to be an hour long Buddhist wisdom class, followed by Q&A, followed by a comparatively brief meditation.  Now, to clarify, I have nothing against Buddhism per se, but I am suspicious of any -isms in general.*  However, I have learned that apprehensions and prejudices should not be allowed to detract from the passage of actual knowledge; you must scrutinize all information without reference to the messenger.
   So I listened to the teacher talk and actually asked a question or two, and whether from Buddhist enlightenment or from his years lived on Earth, he showed me some small insight into a problem I face in my own life.  It was actually kind of refreshing to talk with someone who thinks about things as much as I do, or at least the same kinds of things I do as much as I do.
   Also, I found the guided meditation helpful; while I didn’t make very good account of myself on the astral plane due to my earthly, flesh vessel’s inability to get comfortable I did pick up a small breathing technique which I have employed since.  And of course, I mentioned that the session made me ruminate over my encounter with the Toy R’ Us manager the week before.  I actually got very upset about it (read: I cried) when I mulled it over in class.  This guy was a brother of mine and I wilfully set myself in opposition to him because of my arrogance.  In a very real way I had done violence to him and I don’t want to do violence to anyone.**
   I called him up the next day (he remembered me, surprise surprise) and we talked.  I made it clear that my feelings about rules in general notwithstanding, I had been too adversarial and put him in the lamentable position of having to flex nuts (prove his manhood).  He appreciated my call and explained that he hadn’t been trying to profile me.  I listened politely but I wasn’t really interested in talking about the profiling aspect because the real issue was the presumption of guilt implied in a “NO BAGS” rule.  We made peace and said our good-byes but to be honest there was no resolution for next time I go to Toys R’ Us.  I guess it will be up to me to achieve mutually desirable outcome.

So Why the Disdain for Rules?

   Have you ever wondered why a rule applies to you?  I think most have not?  Certainly many have questioned the arbitrary natures of the rules, regulations, statutes, and codes, the creation of which seem to be the sole prerogative of so-called “authorities,” but I think most are of the mindset that such rules, at least from governmental sources, apply to them, justifiable or not.  I have begun to question this mindset and actually study said rules and the flagrant violators of them.  This may be old news to some but there is actually a group called Freemen on the Land in Canada (Sovereigns in the US) who reject the authority of the government and subscribe instead to a do-no-harm mindset.
   While that brief description certainly colours the groups as out there or crazy, they actually speak a lot sanity: they propose actually reading the acts/codified law-books which we all subscribe to without knowing if they apply to us; a large part of the movement is knowledge of self and realizing that we a divine beings whose freedom can not be taken, but must be handed over willingly (we do this everyday if you think about it); and of course a large part of the movement is responsibility, because our criminal codes are meant for those not responsible enough to comport themselves like adults.
   “No” you say?  Our codified laws apply to all?  Well think about it like this, if you don’t work for a corporation, say Pfizer for example, can you be expected to adhere to Pfizer’s employee rules & regulations?  No, you can’t.  If you are not the employee or agent of a corporation its rules do not apply to you.
   So what if I told you that our government is a corporation?
   “Sure” you might say cynically, “Government is just a business. Everyone knows that.”  But there is a way in which people make these observations absently not actually seeing the truth of their words or the implications.  Sure, government is a business but its still a legitimate institution dedicated to the management of the state entity.  Well…

Entering “Stephen Harper” in the search field.

The list of businesses by that name.  Notice the last one.

Should you ever wish to do business with the Government of Canada corporation, you can order its credit report from D&B to make sure they pay their on time.

I pulled that screencap from Dun & Bradstreet which is a credit database for every registered corporation.  It turns out that our legitimate government is provably a business instead of the democratic institution most believe it to be.  So at election time we are simply electing a new CEO.  Going back to the government’s so-called rules or “laws,” if you actually look at the 6,000,000+ legislative acts which have been passed in North America, you will notice that they dictate statutes, sections and regulations as opposed to laws proper although there is a persistent tendency to use the blanket term, “law” to describe the rules outlined in such acts.  Any so-called law which you at one time or another felt was unjustified because violating it didn’t hurt anyone was probably not a law at all, but a codified law or statute, applicable only to persons/corporations.  You on the other hand are a human being.
   However, another aspect of the movement is taking control of your legal person/government given identity and using it as your tool of commerce by acting as the agent or administrator of the identity assigned to you.  Its not YOUR identity after all, its the government’s identity (ever notice how any ID card always says that is the property of the issuing body?), which is why they can charge that identity with legal infractions.  And as long as you ignorantly agree that you are that identity, they hold you culpable.  But if you separate yourself from that identity (and there are ways to do it) and realize that you are not a legal person (and this is where knowledge of self comes in) you begin to realize the presumption of so-called authorities who have the audacity to think they can tell you what to do and that you’re guilty.

“Man is free the moment he decides he is” -Unknown

   There is a lot more to say about the sovereignty/freeman-on-the-land movement but if you are interested in finding out more the most common starting point seems to be the E-Book, “How I Clobbered Every Bureaucratic Cash-Confiscatory Agency Known To Man” by Mary Elizabeth: Croft but I have found that the youtube videos by Robert: Menard very enlightening.  As an added bonus, if you compare his original unedited interview with the CBC to the snippets they used in their heavily biased expose on the freemen movement, you will see that the CBC is not the bastion of credibility and journalistic integrity most Canadians assume it to be.
Note: I have brought this concept up to a cop friend of mine and he responded with insults and denial.  Call it a case of seeing what I want no matter what, but I found this hostility very telling.  
So Why the Meditation?

   So I have been meditating.  Its partly because I want to relax.  Its partly because I want my self to reach a contemplative state where I can ponder things absent my ego.  But mostly it is because UI wan to increase my vibrational frequency to the point where I transcend this dimension.

But srsly though, I am not what you would call a superstitious person and I certainly don’t believe in the supernatural, but I do think we must expand our definition of natural to include things which we may not understand or which mainstream science has yet to deal with.  After all, if it can happen, its natural.  And certain metaphysical ideas which might be popularly viewed as psuedoscience actually have a solid empirical foundation.  Of course, due diligence requires that a critical thinker not take solid foundations and make leaps of faith from them.  But when a plausible causal chain is shown to exist that can be put to test, any critical thinker has a moral imperative to experiment for themselves.  And that’s kind of what I’m doing.  I find the science behind consciousness, meditation and dimensions very interesting and I think it is an aspect of our existence which has been lost in the daily grind.
   I can’t really go into the depth I would like to here because RECAP implies brevity, but if you would like to know more check out Spirit Science, the Heart Math Institute and lectures by Dr. Nassim Haramein.  For those who don;t know Dr. Haramein he is a bit of a polymath, but he is mostly known for his contributions to physics.  His biggest contribution thus far seems to be solving the Grand Unification Equation…

…which was being worked on by this guy before he died.
   Well that’s all for now.  Unfortunately I had to type the last part about meditation again because I deleted it this morning while tired after publishing the post last night.  So if you read it last night and are for some reason reading it again, I hope the rewrite retained the original magic of what was lost.  
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo  
 *To reinforce this point, during the Q&A, another student was asking the teacher about clearing your mind of conceptual thought when attempting to meditate.  The teacher explained that the so-called “emptying” of your mind was not a sought-after goal of meditation and it was instead it was a prevalent misinterpretation of Buddhist goals which arose from a HERESY in the 1200s or 1300s.
Heresy…
I think that there can be no heresy without an overbearing, dogmatic, institutionalized ideology; the one presupposes the other.  Its the universe’s way of keeping balance.  Maybe I am learning something from Buddhism after all.

**There is a certain amount of violence which we all must inflict to survive in this world.  It is often abstracted through monetary exchange and the victims of your violence are often so removed from you that you are unaware you are hurting them.  Furthermore, it is not one person’s vilence which hurts others or you but an accumulation of the others’ violence which hurts everyone else, so in a very real way everyone’s culpability is diffused among everyone else.  “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” is a common defence for such violence and if you think about this defence it implicitly states that we are all chipping off each other in some way.  I acknowledge that I am complicit in structural violence and that can not be helped completely because I also must survive, but to whatever extent possible I would like to reduce my participation in explicit physical and verbal violence.
Seriously though, heresy is a problematic word and I am wary of any group who uses it to ostracize others.

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