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Shitting All Over Democracy

Friends,

The video counterpart of this post can be found here.

A few years back, while living in the Maywand District of Kandahar, Afghanistan, I noticed that there were two Western contrivances we tried to force upon the locals: Democracy and the toilet. You probably had at least a passing awareness that we installed a “democratic” government there, but you probably weren’t too familiar with the implementation of toilets because it really only happened on army bases.

So what’s the common thread here? Well, both inventions are things we take for granted in the west. They are ubiquitous and we see them as somehow empirical and eternal. So ingrained are these ideas for example, that many have a knee-jerk reaction to shitting via squatting the same way they have a knee-jerk reaction to ideas like dictatorship. Does this make sense?

I don’t think so. From an evolutionary perspective, shitting while squatting is much more the normal state of affairs and it is still practiced widely around the world, so any aversion to it is actually aberrant. Ditto for democracy. We are born into family units where the rules aren’t voted on. We are told what to do. So whence cometh democracy?
Also, with regards to democracy, we live in a natural world with very clear physical rules like gravity, scarcity and other constants which really don’t change based on popular opinion.  So again, whence cometh democracy?

Pretending that toilets or democracy are in any way the natural state of affairs, rather than Western contrivances and fancies, is myopic self-delusion.

In a beautiful action illustrating this point, my interpreters in Maywand unwittingly showed me  the folly of trying to shoe-horn Western practices into other parts of the world.

The interpreters, Afghan natives, were accustomed to squatting while shitting. There was no place to squat and shit on the base and they couldn’t leave the base due to safety concerns so they had to use the porta-potties located on-site.

Porta_potty_Seat.jpg1856A5EC-1851-49A8-A9A43FBD4779870A.jpgLargerIn case you don’t know what a porta-potty looks like.

And they did, but in a decidedly Afghan way: they would stand on the seat and try to shit through the hole. Admirable effort and best intentions notwithstanding, more often than not, they would shit all over the seat. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was actually a profound metaphor for the folly of trying to shoe-horn democracy and other Western ideals onto a people unaccustomed to them.
Now for the record I have no especial esteem for democracy, as I alluded to earlier; nature is a dictatorship and its laws are absolute as opposed to relative. But, assuming democracy did have some especial merit, that doesn’t mean that the world is just gonna accept it any more than they accept the toilet.

So we shouldn’t be surprised when things like toilets and democracy, things which we have, if you think about it, been conditioned to accept as normalcy for our entire lives, don’t catch on like wildfire when transplanted elsewhere. Or if they get shit on so to speak.

We don’t have a monopoly on the right way to do things and we would do well to remember that.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Movie Review: The Last of the Mohicans

My Friends,
   I have The Last of the Mohicans finishing up in another window as I write this.

This movie came out like 21 years ago and I am just watching it now in spite of the universal praise I have heard it receive.  I should have watched it sooner cause it appeals to me on a few different levels.  Lemme get past the meat & potatoes philosophical aspects before I get to the more more whimsical stuff.

The Redcoats Are Not Always Bad
   Is it just me or have we been programmed to always view the red coats of imperial British soldiers as evil?  In The Patriot they burn down a church full of colonial women and children to goad Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger into attacking them

It works btw

In Zulu, Michael Caine and his soldiers are portrayed as brave holders of the fort against amazing odds…

…which distracts from the fact that they were foreign occupiers.

Cary Elwes was a douche-bag in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book… 

…although he didn’t wear red.

And let’s not forget the most recent example, Assassins Creed 3,

where, as a young half-Indian assassin, you are on a mission to bring down a secret society called the Templars against the backdrop of the American Revolution.

   So yeah, reasons aplenty in pop culture to hate the British empire.  However, LotM does its best to actually humanize the Brits and puts them on the side of right in the North American theatre which was unprecedented to me.  Mind you, they are still a little cunty, what with their attempts to force colonials to join their fight against the French-Huron alliance and their desire to hang Daniel Day-Lewis for sedition.  But in spite of these shortcomings, the real cunts of the film are a faction of Huron Indians led by Magua, who seem unable to accept the peace terms that their French allies set up with the British rivals.
   Now some liberals might say it is a little cruel to portray Indians as villains in a film set against the conflict between two European powers vying for territory which belonged to Indians, but this is interesting for the same reason that seeing the Brits as “good guys” is interesting: Frankly, conflicts aren’t black & white.  History doesn’t have good guys and bad guys, just people with conflicting motivations; for every cunt in history who is remembered for his cuntiness, there is a perfectly understandable set of motivations and causality which led up to said cuntiness.  It is actually unfair to the Huron Indians to portray them as universally good, just as it is unfair to portray the Brits as always bad.  Both were victims of their cultures and acted within a framework which dictated (broadly) their actions and motives.
   So yeah, to recap, while the film still portrayed an unrealistic good vs. evil dichotomy, it did so in an unconventional way where things were shown to be more complex than “native = good and foreign occupier = bad.”

The Huron Indians Were Fucking Terrifying
   Miss Weir taught me a lot about the Huron Indians in Grade 8.  I learned that they were fierce warriors who lived off the land, (yawn) respected nature, traded with the French, etc.  Needless to say, such explanations of their fierceness never painted a vivid picture of just how fierce they were:

Check out the first two Indians who lead the ambush starting at 0:55

Those two fuckers literally come out of nowhere screaming.  I would defy the bravest motherfucker I know not to shit his pants in such a situation.  Or better yet, watch this entire scene which chronologically comes first in the movie:
See where that dude gets fucking scalped?  I cringe when I think about the times I had sliced skin off my scalp while shaving, never mind losing the whole top of my head.  And the way they came out of the woods screaming after a musket volley?  I guess I never appreciated how terrified European soldiers must have been even with their superior numbers and firepower.  
I Want To Be An Indian
   Ok so not actually, but watching DDL and his fellow Mohicans running fleet-footedly through the forest at the beginning of the movie reminds me of how much I love the feeling of….
I dont really have a word for it.  Its a feeling you get, particularly in nature, when you’re fit and agile, and traversing the terrain, aware with your whole body of obstacles and fluidly moving around them in an optimized way.  The equivalent in the city would probably be parkour.  Again, its not about backflips or flair, or even looking cool.  Its about economy of movement and confidence of ability that come from knowing a place and oneself.  At the end of the day its what I believe all the working out, running and fitness is for: mastery of your environment.  
   They say you shouldn’t run from a bear if you see one in the woods, but watching the opening scene from LotM, do you really think a bear could catch the three Mohicans if it wanted to?  
I have my doubts.  
Similarly, do you think the police could catch parkour founder, David Belle in the environment he has mastered?
Again, I have my doubts.

If you have never had this feeling I pity you, but I suspect most people have.  I think most children at one point or another feel a certain connectedness with the world around them.  Its something as simple as not being afraid of getting dirty by rolling around on the ground; at its essence its just a connectedness with the world around you whether natural or man-made.
   This is a connectedness which I never want to lose but I face a problem in that my current lifestyle is not entirely conducive to it.  Will have to work on that.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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