Tag Archives: love

On the Road Again 2018

Friends,

I have been an absolute failure as a writer of late.

For the last 8 months or so I have been living in Berlin and while my intention at the outset was to spend lots time documenting the previous two years of travel, I just kinda never got around to it in earnest. So here I will provide a brief timeline of some important dates / events so that what follows will make a little more sense.

November 2015 to March 2016 -Ayahuasca pilgrimage from Texas to Ecuador (#justmightbeok, #shredradlyordietrying)

-At the tail end of this adventure I spent a month in Nicaragua where I fell in love
-Woman I fell in love with invited me to go traveling the world with here but I chose not to on account of personal responsibilities

April 2016 to November 2016 – Back in Canada
-Still very much in love but apart from the person I loved because she was traveling
-Worked a lot and became a meme lord

November 2016 to January 2017 -Hitch-hiking in Arizona (#worldwasonfire)

-Woke up hungover the morning of Trump’s election to the good news; flew to the United States that very day
-Amazing experiences with a shaman, a silversmith, a wonderful family who became dear friends and the lovely people in that lovely state
-When I left on this trip I was more sure and focused and confident than I had ever been in my life -I was going on a righteous journey to meet up with my hippie queen

January 2017 to May 2017 – Back in Nicaragua (#pimpingbutterflies)

-reunited with the woman I loved; it did not go well and by the end became very hellish for me
-Made a lot of jewelry and taught a lot of jewelry workshops as well as yoga classes
-I learned a lot about how I had been mistaken going in there with expectations and expecting to pick things up where we left off
-I had been so intent on a life I pictured for the two of us that when things didn’t go that route it really threw me for a loop

May 2017 to September 2017 – Utila, Honduras (#livinginmydreams)

-Became a SCUBA divemaster, made some great friends, got into a bit of a self-destructive spiral of marijuana and alcohol
-Met my girlfriend, Anne and we moved to Berlin together

October 2018 to Present – Berlin (#migrantcrisis)

-I had acute difficulty fitting in here at first with the onset of winter, no job and no friends
-Even as winter abated and I had a job and had made friends I felt a calling to return to Arizona and resume silversmithing and to return to Nicaragua and help my friends build the eco-project down there
-I stayed in Berlin because I wasn’t sure I could trust my own inclinations; Did I really want to go back to AZ and Nica because I felt I belonged there? Was I just chasing a good and powerful feeling I had had in the past? Was I running away from adulthood? And most importantly, was I just trying to ultimately make things work between me and my ex? When I conclusively determined that the answer to this last question was no I felt more confident about moving forward with my inclinations to get back on the road again, which brings me to….

Now (#worldwasonfire2?? #pissontheashes??)
The United States of America is calling me. It needs my help. Trump’s America is the most exciting place to be right now. So much chaos. So much change. So this fall I’m going to be leaving Germany, and after a brief stay in Canada I intend to head down to south Florida, slowly working my way north and west as it gets warmer in early 2019.

My priorities will be:
1) Developing my guitar-playing skill in the southern U.S., primarily in the Mississippi Delta region where I can learn Bluegrass. I’m gonna buy a sweet resonator guitar and slide and make some twangy as balls music
2)Developing my broader skills through workaways. I’m gonna do a lot of volunteering and living/learning through various workaways, supplementing that with couch-surfing and camping when necessary. I expect to do a lot less hitch-hiking than in the past but there may yet be some. Yoga, sailing, guitar, etc… all of these things I can develop to great extents.
3) Creating understanding through a traveling podcast interviewing representatives of various fringe groups. Whether its Antifa, the KKK, the State branch of 3%-ers, etc. I want to breate bridges of understanding. Noone is beyond redemption and I want to prove it.

I have plans to be in Nicaragua but a lot of that will depend on whether or not the political situation quiets down some there.

I am very excited about what’s ahead of me. I had some anxiety about having to end my my relationship with Anne, but we’re talking about it a lot and figuring out a way we can do this together so that’s exciting as I’ve never traveled with someone else before.

That’s all for now, but expect updates in the future as the vision crystallizes.

Best,

-Andre

“Me and my song; we’ll do it alone.”
-Big Black Delta

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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…

ronald-reagan
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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Demystifying Rape

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Regarding Rape, What Are the Causes?

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

Violence is violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He doesn’t belong to any gender either.


Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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

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

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

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

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

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