Tag Archives: george carlin

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.

images

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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Company Loves Misery

My Friends,
Some issues, while no-brainers, are divisive nonetheless.  Same-sex marriage is one of those issues.  Notwithstanding the the fact that term itself is steeped in legal bias and loaded language (“sex” as it pertains to the courts is a legal construct, as is the institution of marriage) what are we really putting our energies toward?  The notion that same-sex marriage is a sign of progress is predicated on the assumption that marriage is an ideal circumstance which is being denied to a segment of the population.  My chief qualm with such well-intentioned actions as people putting…

…this image up as their FB profile pic in a show of solidarity with same sex couples hoping to get married…
 
…is not that it is so-called “slacktivism,” but that they seemingly have not questioned the institution of marriage itself.  This is understandable but inexcusable.  We must constantly check our premises because no knowledge or custom we have is empirical; that is to say just because we have been doing something for a while does not make it universal truth.
   I posted this picture a while ago:
So I have to ask again: What are we really putting our energies toward?  Its funny to me how people will cognitively see the logic behind Stanhope’s criticism of marriage but still go on and argue for more access to marriage.  i.e. “Well, marriage may be an antiquated custom and an outgrowth of scarcity*, but everyone should have access to it.”  This is so typical of our usual methods of problem resolution where we are more concerned with surface appearance than deep, possibly messy, structural change.

“You’d rather live in shit than let the world see you work a shovel”
-Lt. Cedric Daniels, The Wire
Rather than removing a sickness we would rather ensure that everyone has fair and equal access to it.
The Political Action Feint
   I think same-sex marriage is just the latest in a string of accommodated, politically-safe movements which have been allowed because they don’t actually threaten the status quo but serve as great polarizing rallying points for different camps (i.e. Divide & Conquer).  LGBT rights are the successors to Women’s suffrage (& Lib later on) and the Civil Rights movement.  I don’t want to denigrate those movements but what did they actually accomplish and how deeply did they change things?  Women’s suffrage for example got women the right to vote.  Now certainly everyone should be equal in their so-called “rights,” but essentially women had a long hard battle for something which is ultimately meaningless.  In fact, more than meaningless, it is harmful because it perpetuates the delusion that we actually have a say, through politics, in how our countries are run.  (I’m not even going to get into how obsolete the concept of a nation-state actually is…)
   Similarly, movements to put women in the workplace came at a time when our levels of technological understanding were getting to the point that cutting the workday in half for every man was looking like a reality.
“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come -namely, technological unemployment.  This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor.”

But instead of minimizing the workday through automation processes, everyone (women included) now has a McJob which on top of being typically underpaid is also technologically pointless and socially irrelevant.  Do women really feel like they won something in this regard?  (Note: I am not blaming women joining the workforce for the proliferation of McJobs I just want to point out that the workforce doubled when the workday was ready to be halved.  The reasons it weren’t halved are many but come down to people needing access to work for income.)

   Fast forward to the civil rights movement and we see more accommodation.  Now rather than paraphrase George Carlin here I will just put down a direct quotation because he said it so aptly:
“I don’t really, honestly, deep down believe in political action.  I think the system contracts and expands as it wants to.  It accommodates these changes.  I think the civil rights movement was an accommodation on the part of those who own the country.  I think they see where their self-interest lies; they see a certain amount of freedom seems good -an illusion of liberty- give these people a voting day every year so they will have the illusion of meaningless choice.”
…”The limits of debate in this country are established before the debate even begins.”
-George Carlin, incisive as always
 
Bearing this point of view in mind, what did civil rights really achieve?  Well black people in the south can ride the front of the bus, so there’s that at least.  Also, segregation is not legally sanctioned anymore, and we all know that if something is not legal people won’t do it.
Bitch Please!
 
In my own personal estimation very little was accomplished in the civil rights movement beyond black folk gaining nominal “equality” with the white lower and middle classes who are just as disenfranchised as segregated blacks were.
“Congratulations on your equality, black people.  Here are your new peers.”
 
This same issue came up recently when a girl I know tried to convince me that I had some great advantage over her as a male. Ummm…no.
   Look at the circumstances of those you seek equality with before you set equality with them as your endgame.  You might be sorely disappointed to find out they have it as bad or worse than you.  To clarify, I don’t deny that certain groups have endured terrible injustices throughout history; slavery. internment, persecutions have all happened at various times and in various places and it would be insensitive to deny the significance of these events.  However, I contend that such instances are outgrowths of a general inequality which still exists at all times even if a certain visible demographic is not being targeted.
On Using One Story to Distract you From Another
   Now there are a lot of (more or less) well-intentioned libertarian groups who point out that the same-sex marriage issue in the news is meant to detract from important news like the Monsanto Protection bill.  In a reductive sense, these news outlets (Death Before Disinformation et al.) are absolutely right.  But on the other hand any government could just as easily have the media focus on the Monsanto bill to distract the population from something else.  Neither the Monsanto bill nor the same sex marriage issue are fundamental, foundational issues.  Rather they can both be used as needed to distract people from more fundamental issues.  This is the problem with libertarianism (and any -ism really): when you define your position as counter to big government, you make a boogie monster out of it and end up endowing all of its actions as evil (which is not realistic) instead of looking at the causal chain of events which sets the government in opposition to its people.
Back to Well Intentioned (Sl)Activism)
   I realize I got off on a bit of a tangent there, but tangential discussions are useful in that they provide evidence for how all things are connected.  Every issue in society shares a common thread with every other issue, hence the tangents.  Hence too my admonishments toward reductive and limited agitation for one narrow goal.  I mean how can I really be expected to get riled up for women’s rights…
…when they don’t do fuck all for this kid?
 
How am supposed to give a shit about starving kids in Africa when feeding them still doesn’t protect…
…these women from rapists.
 
Even then, how am I supposed to agitate for women’s rights when doing so would not serve…
…the homosexuals who live in fear of violent reprisals for their orientations.  
 
Finally, how can I profess to be a supporter of the gays, the women or the visible racial minorities when  supporting those groups does nothing for…
…the straight white males.  That fabled privileged class who rules the world.
 
   I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but I want to get the point across that any well-intentioned action which is not specifically calculated to improve the life of EVERYONE on the planet in a tangible way is just so much masturbation; nothing more than a way to make you feel good without actually doing anything.
That may seem like a tall order but there are channels to go through which would have a net positive effect on the planet and everyone in it if more people were aware of them.  First, an understanding of causality is required so that you can look at all the ills of the world and trace the causal chain of all of them back to a common mechanism.  Then you simply suspend and impede all actions which support that mechanism.
Ok, so its not that simple.  And if you look at the track record of people who have challenged the status quo at a structural level you see that it can be a hazardous endeavour.   Martin Luther King and Gandhi got assassinated because they attacked the roots of the inequality which pervades society and offered an effective weapon against it in the form of non-violent non-participation.  Whatever issues they started out as champions of, at some point they realized that they were fighting something bigger and that meaningful change could only come from addressing that bigger thing.
By comparison, Gloria Steinem and Jesse Jackson are still alive.  I am not saying they are not well-intentioned people who didn’t do important work, but their messages were hardly rallying cries which every person on the planet could get behind.
And this is just it.  If you want to help the gays, you can’t do that by loving the gays.  You gotta love everyone.  That means we gotta break down these barriers of seeing other groups as separate and apart from us, and other people as separate and apart from us as well.  You’ll find that when you do this there are very few popular movements to run with.  The established, accepted agitation groups represent only fragments of the population and so are necessarily exclusive in some respect.  Furthermore, by hoping to have legislation passed, they know better than to piss on the carpet.  In other words they don’t cross certain lines and instead they play ball with lawmakers.  They have to.  Chances are, if any politician is talking about any movement, that movement has already been corrupted and is therefore safe for political approval and backing.
The right issues are not the popular ones.  The important questions are the ones few, if any, are asking.  To get back to the initial point of this post.  Always check what you are actually fighting for, whether its marriage rights, minority rights or whatever.  Critical thought may reveal that you are not aiming high enough in your aspirations.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo*When I refer to marriage as an outgrowth of scarcity, I mean it literally.  What better way to ensure a potential suitor doesn’t leave your daughter when she turns out to be infertile or otherwise burdensome than to have the union legally ratified and unbreakable?  Although we dress it up now, its the same prevailing logic behind things like common-law status for two people living together.  If the more financially stable one decides to up and leave the other it can be economically disadvantageous so we brought the government into the equation (much to the chagrin of Mr. Stanhope) to arbitrate between the haves and have-nots.

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Six-Week "Adventure" Recap: Part 1

My Friends,
   It’s been a long time and no writing.  Well, at least no writing which I have shared with the world.  Lots been going on so I’l give you some broad-strokes.

“A Man is Rich in Proportion to the Number of Things he Can Afford to Let Alone”  – HDT
 
   I have managed to consolidate all of my worldly possessions into my apartment over the last month; no more shit in my Dad’s basement and no more shit in my grandparent’s shed.  Everything I own is either in my apartment or in my assigned storage unit in my building.  Better yet, this mass of shit keeps decreasing by the week.  See it always bothered me that I had so much stuff scattered about.  Certainly I don’t use most of it, but more than that it is burdensome to carry baggage about and it is a burden which I do not like to put on others.

A George Carlin video clip seems almost obligatory in each post now so might as well get it over with right up front.

Well, in the past month I have gotten rid of the metric shitload of clothing and accessories which constituted my army gear (oh yeah, I am getting out of the army – More on that at a later date).  On top of that I keep on doing the Kijiji thing and I slowly get rid of stuff that way too.  Other than that, anything I can afford to part with for free (books, clothes, etc) leaves my possession at a rate of about a box per week.  I can’t wait til the day when my modest amount of possessions are simply the things I use on a regular basis with nothing held in reserve so to speak.

Flexing My A-Bone

   I started taking improv classes about a month back and frankly I’m not sure why I didn’t start sooner.  I always loved being in plays in elementary school and I took drama throughout high school.  Then after high school I really didn’t do anything in that regard, but I always had this idea in my head that I would act again.  Alas, it was just a general idea so I never approached it in earnest.
   But over the years I have met a few actors and I have always admired their drive to pursue a passion. A little closer to home, my sister, a ham like me, has been taking improv and is starting a Second City course which totally convinced me that I should get my shit together and go do what I feel.  I looked for improv classes in Hamilton and found The Staircase.  I was amused to realize that it was a building which I had driven by a few years ago and which had piqued my curiosity.  I had always meant to inquire as to what went on in there and it is only years later that I serendipitously followed up on that past inclination.  A strong argument for intuition indeed.
   It has been going well thus far;

Top … Gun … Actor!

I go two nights a week and I’ve met some cool peeps.  I even attended the recent Halloween party where there were some seriously wacky costumes.  Among the wackiest was my very own…

BANE

   I’m not sure at what point it occurred to me that I wanted to be Bane for Halloween but it must have been sometime in the summer because I knew I would have to spend September and October bulking up my upper body to be even reminiscent of the top-heavy brawler.  While I certainly didn’t expect to get Tom Hardy big,

 I had no intention of going looking like…

So I started a regimen of push-ups to supplement my as-of-late chin-up-only routine, and I also activated the Goodlife membership my sister got me for my birthday which helped too.  All the while I started putting together the costume.  Working in a gas appliance warehouse was very helpful because the gas fittings and thermocouples on-site allowed me to craft a pretty cool mask using a paintball mask as the foundation.  That coupled with some gear I picked up from my friends at Hamilton Tactical (Shameless Plug) made for a pretty legit getup:

Given the amount of work I put into the costume and the overall menacing look of it, don’t be surprised if I rock it next Halloween.  At the very least I’l have to attend FanExpo this summer to floss it.

Squabbles

   I got into some altercations last week.  Two in two days actually.  The first was when a bus driver, who felt that I had recklessly jumped in front of his stopped bus to put my bike on the front rack, tried to lecture me in a condescending way about jumping in front of vehicles.  I reacted in a counter-productive way and gave him shit back.  Realizing perhaps that he had come at me the wrong way he tried to show me, without lowering his voice, how his condescension had come from a place of concern.  It was enough to defuse me.  I listened to what he had to say and we actually got to talking about mountain-biking, the army (he was a vet) and the sad state of the world.  Given the shitty start of our relationship it actually ended pretty well.  I should fight more bus drivers I suppose.
   The next day I took off work to get my costume ready for the upcoming Halloween parties that weekend.  Going into Toys R’ Us, one of the managers jumped on me right away asking me…telling me to take my backpack off.  I complied grudgingly and went to the bathroom.  On the way I noticed many women with purses and it occurred to me that on top of not liking being told what to do nor being presumed a criminal, I also don’t like being profiled.  I went back to the counter and explained that I was taking my bag and getting what I needed and that he could assign someone to escort me if he wished.  He said I would have to wait a few minutes because he was busy.  I said I wouldn’t wait and when I proceeded into the store (to purchase a Batman mask btw as an accessory for my costume).  He followed and we got into a spat which became, among other things, a discourse about the legitimacy of rules in general, with me quoting Henry David Thoreau much to this manager’s lack of interest:

“Any fool can make a rule and any fool will mind it.”

I told him that he might as well call the cops and when he left I bought my mask and as I was walking out I saw him on the phone.  I asked him if he wanted me to stick around for John Q. Law to show up and he said he just wanted me to leave.  
I peaced out, glad I had stood my ground and feeling justified for my disobedience, but still not altogether happy.  Somehow I felt I had to rectify the situation and I later did.  But alas, I must go to bed now so I will finish up this recap tomorry.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Ugly People

There is a saying: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  That’s a bunch of bullshit and we all know it. If that were the case there wouldn’t be websites like uglypeople.com and there would be no cosmetic surgery industry.  We should stop deluding ourselves with the idea that ugly doesn’t exist so that we can address why it does.

My Friends,
   I was working at a trade show this past weekend and it proved something to me which I have suspected for a very long time:  This life takes its toll in some very unexpected ways.
   First, a thought experiment: Imagine someone widely regarded as pretty.  Say Brad Pitt:

At his prettiest in Thelma & Louise if you ask me

Now I would argue that Brad Pitt is physically attractive because he has gentle features, all his teeth, a chiselled physique and eyes that twinkle like Paul Newman’s when he smiles  
No Homo

On top of that I have heard him in interviews and when he is not coming off as lovably, charmingly bewildered, he does seem very coherent and affable.  And as if that weren’t enough, I’m sure he smells good too.  These non-visible cues tend to add to his physical appeal and I would argue that this holds true for all physically attractive people.
   However, working at a trade show all weekend I saw lots of people who fell short of the Brad Pitt standard of physical beauty (imagine that!).  On the whole it was an average looking bunch, but there were many incredibly ugly, disfigured, wretched people who came by and more often than not their behaviours, whether obnoxious, creepy, inappropriate, spiteful or aggressive, matched their appearance.  Now I say this with no malice, for I love my fellow man, but it occurred to me that these folks were living portraits of what this life can do to people.  
   Science has shown us that from a behavioural perspective, people are shaped by their environments.  It has been posited, and I would agree, that behaviours are a reaction or adaptation to one’s environment.  This is not to say that there is no genetic component, but the genes simply determine a range of possible behaviours while the environment dictates where a person falls in that range.  The best analogy I have heard is that human beings are like computers: the genes are the equivalent to hardware and the environment is the programming.  
10 years of running a bad program called “Crystal Meth”

   I guess I never stopped to think deeply about the ramifications of this principle on physical appearance, but if you think about it, the way someone looks is both a product of their genes and their environment.  If they did not have the genes to look at a certain way, lets say morbidly obese, they could not possibly look that way.  But just because they have the genes to look a certain way, again morbidly obese, does not mean they are going to look that way if their environment doesn’t reinforce that predisposition (i.e. exercise, proper nutrition, etc.).  In the above before & after picture, the woman obviously has the genes to look both ways, but her post-meth appearance was by no means pre-determined by genetics.  Rather it was a possibility which became reality due to environmental factors.  
   On a sadder note (yes, sadder than meth addiction), look at this little girl.
Not only is she going to be physically ugly for her whole life (scientifically provable based on the labels pointing out her defects), but she is going to be so very wretchedly so due to environmental factors imposed upon her by the indiscretions of another.  For she suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, meaning her mother drank while pregnant with her.*  Often we think of life beginning the moment you are born, but we forget that the newborn has already been developing in its own unique environment for the previous nine months.**  
   So when I saw so many sloppy, ugly, slouchy, slack-jawed fucks this weekend (again, said with no malice, but ironically love), I couldn’t help but wonder how much of their appearance was a direct result of bad programming or environmental factors.  And of course, to what extent, if any, are these environmental factors a result of socio-economic status?  
   Now before you protest what you think I might be getting at here, watch this video:
Now I axe you: do you think the majority of people in that video were from relatively high or relatively low income brackets?  I would hazard a guess that they were mostly po-folk from shit-kicker American towns reduced to poverty after the mill/plant/factory closed down.  
   Now I am not saying that the people I dealt with this weekend were as wretched as the Wal-mart all-stars (thankfully I saw no butt-crack), but many tended toward these appearances (obese, unkempt, misshapen) and behaviours (general apathy toward outward appearance, rolling around on scooters).  And while I believe it is wrong to judge someone based on socio-economic standing, the affluent and the downtrodden are by and large very easy to pick out.  The wealthier, or at least comfortable have a certain carriage and deportment which is reflected in their attitudes, behaviours and appearances.  This is not to say that they always behave better; on the contrary, they can quite often be insufferable assholes and preening douchebags, not to mention misshapen and physically ugly.  However, in my experience they tend to carry themselves with a confidence and deportment that poorer types lack.  I can only attribute this to some sense of self-worth that they have, although I don’t pretend to know where they derive this sense of self-worth from.
   On the contrary, more poorer types in my experience tend to behave more erratically, being often unpredictable and squirrelly, not carrying themselves so much with confidence, but with a mixture anxiety, fear, desperation, or even malicious cockiness.  To me, these seem like symptoms of someone with little sense of self-worth.

I’ll just leave this here…

I don’t pretend to know why their sense of self-worth is so low though.

   Of course there are exceptions to these observations, and I find it fascinating and encouraging to see someone of modest means who carries themselves with dignity.  Again, I don’t pretend to know where their sense of self-worth comes from, but I do know where it doesn’t come from: their bank-account, for we already established that this person is not affluent.

To Be Contuvre…

~Random Tangent – Read at Your Own Peril~
   To this last point, there is a Spanish word, Hidalgo, which I am rather enchanted by.  Its actual historical context doesn’t impress me so much, but its literary context, that of a nobleman who has lost all his wealth but still retains the privileges of his class, well I rather like that.  For what more important privilege of nobility is there than knowing your worth; knowing that you are better? Not better than other people mind you, but better than the value society places on you based on your material wealth.  This is the most important knowledge.  A nobleman can be broke, destitute, emaciated and starving but he could still go somewhere and make a demand with the full expectation that it will be fulfilled. He had knowledge of self and that can’t be taken away once it is learned.  The problem is that many don’t ever learn knowledge of self in the first place; they either learn some religious malarky like “original sin” which implies they carry someone else’s sin which they must atone for, or they are just subjected to a society which reenforces subordination to legitimized forms of authority no matter what (don’t question your parents, always co-operate with police, etc.).  This teaches people that they are less than  a human being, they are simply subjects in a pecking order.  So instead of rooting their self-worth in the very fact that they exist, they tie it to fluid and changeable things like money, the opinions of others, etc…  Things, in other words, which can ultimately be lost or taken by others.  This process of acquiring financial means, social capital or other fluid things for the sake of moving up in society’s pecking order is colloquially called “getting ahead.”  So many are caught up in this game when they should be trying to figure out how to get free instead.

Contuvre…  

   When people who root their sense of self-worth in wealth and status which they do not have, I believe they are wont to treat themselves poorly (poor nutrition, deliberately poisoning themselves with alcohol and other drugs, poor posture).  They are worthless in their own eyes when compared to others who have done so much better by the standard which they judge themselves by.  This contributes to a less physically attractive person both superficially (slouched, vacant look in the eyes, slack-jawed) and in the long-term, as certain prolonged diets, vices and lifestyle choices will have irreversible and detrimental effects on a person’s physical beauty (see above photos of crystal-meth addict).
   So back to Brad Pitt, just imagine that he hadn’t had the particular upbringing he had and he had instead ended up as a lower-class worker or homeless person.  He would cease to be the pretty boy we all know and secretly (if you’re a dude) have a crush on.  He would likely be some long-haired, leathery-faced, fat American chain-smoker riding around in a rascal at the Springfield Wal-Mart.
   Conversely, when you look at the so-called ugly people from the Wal-Mart video, or just the ones you see in everyday life, imagine the wasted potential for hotness that their genes might carry but which has been squandered from perhaps as early as their time in utero when their mother may have drank or done drugs, to their childhood where they were perhaps malnourished and not taught their true worth as human beings, all the way up to adulthood where their bad habits intensified due to the ingrained belief that they don’t deserve any better than what they have and society’s persistent reinforcement of this idea.  This wasted potential for hotness is the unsung casualty in discussions about social change.  I truly believe that the further stratified our society becomes and the greater the amount of poor people becomes, the more the average physical attractiveness of the population will go down and the lower the overall number of 5/10s and above will be.  If this doesn’t instill a sense of urgency in you as to the importance of changing the world for the better, you should check your pulse cause you might be dead.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

*By calling the little girl with FASD ugly, I am not trying to be malicious, but honest.  One of the worst distortions of truth is soft, politically correct language because it turns some unfortunate human being’s real problem into some statistician’s quantified abstraction.  We must be precise in language and call things what they are, lest we trivialize the problems of others.  As is often the case, George Carlin had something to say about this:

**One of the important qualifiers for what constitutes life, or more accurately what constitutes an organism is that it has an environment which it affects and is affected by.  In the case of the fetus, its mother’s womb counts as this environment which in my mind pretty much galvanizes the position of the Pro-Life camp that life begins at conception.  However, this realization in my mind does not soundly resolve the abortion debate because if we are arguing the baby’s right to life we must also argue the mother’s right to security of person, which should be just as inviolate.
   I think the oft-overlooked position in the abortion debate is ameliorating the factors which lead to unwanted pregnancy and the desire to abort at a fundamental, root cause level.  Giving out condoms and lectures about safe sex apparently have not resolved matters.  A discussion about abortion is something that merits some attention and I may get to it at a later date but I wanted to clarify that although I believe life provably begins at conception, I don’t think it soundly decides the abortion issue.

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The Three Kings


“I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who”
-Rudyard Kipling, The Elephant Child
My Friends,
   With all due respect to Mr. Kipling I have found that there are three (3) questions which rank as being of primary importance in the world we live in.  These questions are sadly not asked frequently enough, and if they were asked more, answered honestly, and then the answers acted upon, we would live in a very different world indeed.  So, without further ado, let’s begin.
Why?
Watch 1:00 to 1:30

   The most frequently asked of these infrequently-asked questions, why is actually a prime example of a question almost universally not being answered satisfactorily and honestly.  Many Some of you may recall that I am fond of this question and especially the formulation of what I call a “why ladder” (“Logical Disgreement/Beyond Good and Evil,” 26 June 2012), where you essentially keep asking “why?” until the person either a) communicates the answer (root cause) if they know it, b) gives an answer of “I don’t know” if they legitimately don’t know and are honest about it, or c) anger.  I mistakenly assumed when I wrote that post that these were the only three outcomes when constructing a why ladder, but there is actually a fourth: circular reasoning.

   For example, I have this one friend with whom I often discuss matters with and I have realized that trying to communicate ideas with him is an uphill battle.  For whatever reason he doesn’t like to hear new ideas from me even if they are relatively self-evident or backed by science.  I could go on and on about his dated assumptions regarding so-called human nature, his high-esteem for the merits of drudgery, his sophomoric attempts to pass off something he learned in a lecture as the missing link to all human understanding, and of course his insistence that there is a feminist plot to enslave mankind, but that would simply be vindictive and a result of my bitterness about his many successful attempts to stymie my pursuit of logic.  In an effort to overcome his stubborn refusal to admit that I might (from time to time) know what I am talking about, I decided on a different approach; I would ask him questions, mostly “whys,” in an effort to lead him toward finding knowledge on his own.  I unfortunately sorely underestimated his anti-intellectualism, and I realized that he (shrewd asshole that he is), understanding what I was asking him and sensing he knew (unconsciously or otherwise) where I was going with it, would refuse to answer my questions honestly and would respond to subsequent whys with previously given answers.
Example:
Me: Well, you seem to feel that A is a problem, but what caused it? (why?)
Him: Well its cause of B
Me: Okay I see, but why does B exist as such?
Him: Cause of C
Me: Well, what conditions are in place (why?) that give rise to C?
Him: I already told you, its because of B!
   You see what he did there? B is both the cause of and a result of C.  How is this possible?  Well its not, but sadly such circular, self-referential reasoning is far too commonplace.  And whether it is religion, the social system we have, or some other deeply-held belief or value-system which people strongly identify with, everyone has a box in which they can not argue outside of.  For if they did acknowledge that the answer might lie outside of their cognitive comfort-zone it would open them up to the possibility that they might be mistaken about other things as well (God Forbid).  
   This is why I emphasize that these questions must not only be asked, but answered honestly.  After all, do we really think that it is some political party, or union, or criminal, or music genre, or violent video game which is the root cause of all of our problems?  Of course not, yet these irrelevant issues are constantly attacked as if overcoming them will make life better somehow, when in fact they are actually so removed from the life sequence of value as to be less substantial than a popcorn fart.
…a Final Word on “Why”

   For a long time Jeopardy has been my favourite game show.  I find the formula of “questioning answers” instead of answering questions to be an interesting take on the typical trivia format.  And as this post makes clear, I, like Alex Trebek, am a fan of people asking the right questions.  However, I have noticed that the questions contestants respond with are always in the format of, “who is ____?” or “what is _____?, or infrequently, “where is _____?”  I have never to this day seen a contestant answer with “why is _____?”  
   Think about that for a second.
   Now think of what kind of clue could be given to necessitate a response beginning with “why?”
“Why is our socio-economic system such an abysmal failure, Alex?”

Something tells me that such a question wouldn’t serve the purposes of Alex Trebek’s overlords at Sony Corporation.  That actually brings me to my next question…
   For those who don’t read latin, this translates to, “To Whose Benefit?”  This is an oft-unasked question because the answers can frankly be scary.  After all, people don’t want to think that someone benefited from a tragedy or crisis, but it holds true that this is often the case.  Don’t believe me?  Consider the following:
You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” -Rahm Emanuel

“All we need is the right major crisis…” -David Rockefeller

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” -Warren Buffett

“Fortunes are made in recessions” -Anonymous

You see my point I hope.  Even outside of the financial and political realms this is true.  On an interpersonal level, I have been aware for some time that there is no such thing as bad news, just “news” and how you take it and use it is what matters.  For example, if you have a bit of a spat with someone or disappoint them it can rightly be seen as an opportunity to redeem yourself and find yourself in higher esteem than you would if you hadn’t gotten into a bad situation in the first place.
   When it gets scary is when you realize that some person or some organization of great means might actually effect a crisis in order to benefit from it.  This is colloquially called “conspiracy theory” but it is in reality the aforementioned law principle Cui Bono, handed down from the ancient-Roman legal tradition.  
Now its conspiracy … something that should not be even entertained for a minute: that powerful people might get together and have a plan.  Doesn’t happen.  Youre a kook, youre a conspiracy buff!!”
-George Carlin, relevant as always

   I think the truth in this question rests in the fact that regardless of your opinion on orchestrated tragedies, crises, etc., you have to concede that because we live in a competitive system, some person(s) must lose so others can win.  IN EVERY TRANSACTION!  After all, we can’t all be millionaires, right?
   Now go ahead and mull that point over for a sec because I want to make sure you are in agreement with that basic truism of our system before I go on, as my next point is predicated on it.
Seriously, think it over for a sec.  I’ll go watch porn for a few minutes.

   Are we all in agreement then?  Do you acknowledge that in a competitive system there has to be a loser for there to be a winner?  Good, because you must then also acknowledge the corollary, that there must be a winner to be a loser.  Think about that: every loss you have ever had has been a gain for someone else, usually a financial one.  Everything you dread, fear, or cower from is dollar signs for someone else.  Car breaks down?  Dollar dollar bills for the auto-service industry.  Loved one dies?  Pay-day for a mortician.  Terrorist attack? Foreign Belligerent? War?…
I’ll just leave this here…*

I really want to make clear that everything bad that happens, whether deliberately brought about or not, is profitable for someone.  When we start asking who benefits, we start to see the world in a much more honest, if sometimes cynical way.  But cynicism is the cult of the weak; a temple for those who feel indignant and impotent.  Much better to empower yourself…
What Would YOU Do?

   You have probably heard of this Jesus guy at some point.  People have in recent years pondered what he would do in any given situation.  We know they were pondering this because they wore cheap bracelets with W.W.J.D. inscribed on them:
I never had one but I think I’ll start bringing it back.

In any event, I don’t think most people would know what Jesus would do.  My respect for the man comes not from the bible but from an interpretation of his acts which I read in a non-violence class I took.  He was actually kind of a badass who seized upon the moral initiative, establishing himself as alpha-dog in social situations and pre-empting violent confrontation…
Well, MOST violent confrontation…

…with the strength of his presence, knowledge of self, and social clout.  But even if you possess my knowledge of the man (a knowledge which rivals that of any biblical scholar), and furthermore a knowledge of what he would do, that still begs the question: What would YOU do?
   Not such an easy answer, is it?  I think in our heads we mythologize Jesus and treat him as kind of a superhero; something unattainable.  In fact, that is missing the point; MY Jesus is the most accessible, down-to-Earth guy ever invented and he lived by a simple code.  Anyone can live up to the Jesus-code because it doesn’t ask more than anyone can give, but it does ask for all they can give.  
   Now I don’t want my admiration for and dick-riding of Jesus to get in the way of the point I am trying to make because nobody has to do what Jesus would do.  However, anyone who poses direct questions to themselves and finds honest answers finds themselves in the unique and lamentable position of no longer being ignorant.  And when you are no longer ignorant, a moral imperative arises, for you can no longer carry on the way you did in ignorance and keep a clean conscience.  When you know a behaviour is harmful or that you are contributing to a problem, it will gnaw at your conscience and peace of mind every time you engage in said behaviour.  We shouldn’t try to suppress this, for it is every fibre of our being telling us to do the right thing. 
   So what would you do?  Sometimes doing the right thing is passive, amounting to little more than abstaining from socially harmful behaviours.  Other times it is much harder, requiring difficult choices and actions.  But following the hard path, whether you want to call it the Jesus-path, the Gandhi-path, the MLK-path, the Zeitgeist-path or whatever, is much more satisfying, even if not rewarding in the superficial sense.  You know it from those times you did right by someone for no reward, or from those times when you intervened and prevented great tragedy from befalling someone.  And whether you call it altruism or enlightened self-interest, there is a feeling you get both from direct action and from making the right long-term choices which is the true meaning of life.  If this sounds preachy, its because it is: unqualified, uncompensated love for another human being is the greatest joy I have yet found. 
   
   ***
   
   I think if we ask honest questions of ourselves, both the first two questions  I posted and others, we come to certain truths rooted in natural law and universal human need.  And when we realize these truths, it is actually more difficult to resist the path of good than it is to follow it.  Let me say in closing that the hardest decisions I have ever arrived at were actually easy choices to make but difficult to follow through with.

Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
*Taken from the facebook group for the army regiment I belong to.


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The Bastard Cause

My Friends,
   A few years back I took a political science course which related to how power and influence are wielded and consolidated in Canadian politics.  And though it dealt specifically with Canada, the lessons of the course had universal implications.
   To add a practical aspect to the course, the professor decided he wanted the class to choose a representative (I put up my hand and was picked) who would act as the student voice and help to organize agitation for change we wanted to see in the course.  Basically he gave us carte blanche to organize and demonstrate so we could make changes to the marking scheme of assignments, the weighting of assignments, due dates, etc…  It turned out disastrous; people were not simply apathetic but generally scared to be involved in walkouts or any other disruption which their parents might disapprove of, even though the professor had said that’s what he wanted from us.   I’ll take blame for failing to inspire them where blame is due, but I think their lack of enthusiasm was a product of something more fundamental than a lack of charisma on my part.
   However, the result of this experiment is not what I want to talk about today.  Rather I wish to segue into the matter at hand by recalling an important lesson I learned in my first couple of days as class rep.  Basically, I had worked with the sub-representatives and had gotten a survey of what the class of 150+ students wanted to see regarding change to the curriculum.  I made a list of our modest demands and when I went to ascend the dais to communicate these ideas, the professor refused to let me have the floor.  He explained that I was not the legitimate, duly-elected leader of the class because I had simply put my hand up when no one else had.  For him to recognize us we would have to have a formal election.
   This fuckery put us behind two weeks because I had to go about organizing an election and urging my peers to nominate/self-nominate.  In the end, the consensus was that I should have the job because I was the only one who showed interest.  So there I was, representative-acclaimed, still at square one with 14 days less to work with in the semester.
   This taught me that perceived legitimacy imparts great power to a group.  It may not seem that profound, but keep this in mind next time you read the newspaper.  There are sound-bites and quotations aplenty in any news publication from individuals representing one interest trying to discredit, decry and deligitimize representatives from other interests, or other interests as a whole.
   A recent news item which conceived the kernel which became the idea which became this post is Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews’ condemnation of the hackers from Anonymous making public all of his personal information in response to his proposed internet-privacy infringing legislation, Bill C-130.  Of the hackers from Anonymous, Toews said:
 
   “These are individuals, as far as I can understand it, who can choose to belong to Anonymous whether other members of Anonymous want them to be there or not…So in many respects, these are individuals acting on their own.”  –24H 28 March 2012

Do you see what he did there?  He called into question the membership status of individuals belonging to a group with no membership requirements, save for self-identification as a member.

But in the bullshit department … a businessman can’t hold a candle to VIC TOEWS.  Cause I gotta tell ya the truth folks … when it comes to bullshit, big-time, major-league bullshit, you have to stand in awe … in awe … of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, VIC TOEWS”

   Ironically, he gives an amorphous and loosely-associated group like Anonymous a certain credibility by virtue of tangibility: By recognizing that there might be some kind of membership process by which the hackers interfering with his privacy have not yet gone through, he is imparting recognition to the group.  Still, this inadvertent nod to the group should not detract from his aim, which was to attack the credibility of the group’s individual members.
   Another example of this kind of marginalization would be when the British government withdrew Special Category Status from IRA prisoners in the 1970s and mandated that they would have to wear normal prison uniforms instead of their IRA uniforms.  The Brits were looking to take them down a peg from “political prisoner” to “ordinary criminal,” which is basically like spitting on them and their cause.  Obviously, the IRA prisoners didn’t stand for it, but that’s a different story.
   While this calling into question of membership status and group structure is an effective means of delegitimizing an opponent, I feel the most oft-used (and often readily believed) method is to remove a group’s ownership of a cause, or simply to blame foreign interlopers.  Let’s go back to the early 1960s when the Portuguese were fighting to maintain control of their African colonies, primarily Angola.  The Salazar government maintained throughout the conflict that the Angolans were happy as Portuguese subjects and that the war was being waged by Soviet proxies trying to destabilize the balance of power in Africa.  I have a great-uncle who was on the Portuguese side in that war and when we have talked about it, he still insists that the Angolans loved the Portuguese presence and that the enemies they were fighting came from abroad.  If that was actually so, then whence cometh war?
   Even a superpower like the USSR would have had marked difficulties discreetly waging a proxy war against the Portuguese in Angola if both the Portuguese colonists AND the Angolan natives didn’t want them there.  If the Angolans were really on the same side as the Portuguese then they would have done a better job of reporting these interlopers who would materialize in and out of the civilian population much like the Taliban materializes in and out of groups of our Afghan “friends” today.
   However, saying that the war/cause is being waged by foreign belligerents is an expedient way to cast doubt on just how disaffected one’s own people are.
   Which brings me to the G20 conference in Toronto during June 2010.  I have had conversations with cop friends of mine who were doing security at the summit about the morality of preventing Canadian citizens from  marching into the streets.  One of the worst justifications I have heard for violent suppression of these protests is that the so-called “Black Bloc” were all foreigners and professional agitators who riot for pay.
   There is so much I take issue with in this defence, so let’s just break it down into three main questions:

1) Whether Canadian or foreign, if they are rioting for pay, who is paying them?  No one seems to ask this question although the trope of the “agitator-for-hire” is one I have heard from different police officers.  It seems to me that someone would only pay these people to violently demonstrate if they had something to gain from it.  So what is there to be gained from violence in the streets?  Justification for over-reaching legislation?  Larger budgets and greater powers for police forces?  Who might profit from these things?

“You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers.  But you start to follow the money and you dont know where the fuck it’s gonna take you.”

2) Even if they are foreigners, it IS a multi-national summit.  Its seems a bit presumptuous to invite the leaders of the nations over and then get mad when their constituents follow as well.  Multi-national protestors at multi-national summits are as natural as multi-national spectators at the Olympics.
3) Do we really think that all of the discontent that was expressed was the work of these agitators?  Is there actually no angry Canadians who wanted to be heard throughout these protests?
   Obviously this last question is the most pertinent to the discussion at hand.  Its as if the mention of foreigners should convince the masses watching at home that all Canadians are happy with the way things are and that they should be too.  
   But to illustrate how preposterous this assurance is, let’s look at a current example: Bashar al-Assad is claiming that his people, who have been revolting for a year now, are not the problem.  instead it is again foreign interlopers trying to destabilize his government.  If we find his claims about Syrian contentment so ridiculous, why should any other government’s claims about its idyllic domestic situation be deemed any less so?
   I apologize if I seem a bit disjointed, and in the case of the G20 stuff, a bit tangential.  Overall, what you should take away from this wall of text is that whether its a grassroots movement or an elected leader, an opponent will always try to chip away at their legitimacy.  If you can delegitimize an opponent you take away their ability to play ball on your court, so of course you’re gonna win.  
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo


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