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“He Who Laughs Last Probably Died Laughing”

Friends,

An army friend of mine once related a story to me when we were in Afghanistan about a game he used to play in university lectures called, “Bait the Jew.” The premise of the game was simple: in class discussions he would say deliberately inflammatory things which would rile the Jewish students, particularly those with Zionist sympathies. He would then have a laugh at their expense. I cringed at this and felt kind of embarrassed for him but it was one of those situations you find yourself in all-too-often in the military where you gotta let some repugnant shit slide because for better or worse, this dude has my back when shit hits the fan.

But if you think about it, Bait the Jew is emblematic of how humor is generally done these days: inflammatory remarks are levied at various demographics (with various degrees of cleverness) and the “injured” party’s reaction only increases the mirth of those who see the humor in it. Sometimes, the injured party’s reaction is relatively benign (legal recourse, appeals to the government or similar jests in kind), but sometimes it’s pretty severe:

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I’m gonna go ahead and say exactly what’s on my mind here: Some people are VERY happy about the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Why?

Well, to me, I think it validated a lot of pent-up xenophobia and and Islamophobia and it certainly made a fair number of self-described atheists pretty euphoric. There is a definite under-current of these emotions in the wake of the attacks and a jubilation which some are hard-pressed to contain. It goes deeper than the validation of prejudice though. Some, like certain military friends of mine, have a vested financial interest in war because (at least in the Canadian military) there’s lots of delicious tax-free money to be made fighting commies/Nazis/insurgents. But there’s also the awards, honours, medals and respect that come from service overseas.

military-humor-soldier-russia-listen-here-noob-memeYou basically get some new bling to keep your uniform frosty.

Medals are a status symbol in the military and the worthiness of your career is (unofficially) related to the size of your rack of medals. In the context of being in the military, it’s considered a more or less objective indicator of whether or not someone is a good soldier. Sure, a guy may be an insubordinate, racist drunkard, but look at all his medals. Also, there is an unspoken resentment against superior officers who presume to command subordinates with more operational experience, and thus more medals, than them. So in my estimation, a lot of war-mongering has to do with guys who want to legitimize their careers and authority, while at the same time becoming one of the highly decorated veterans they vaunt.

I’ll defer to Bill Hicks here:

billPortraitWhat kind of people are these with such low self-esteem that they need a war to feel better about themselves? May I suggest, instead of a war to feel better about yourself, perhaps … sit-ups? Maybe a fruit cup? Eight glasses of water a day?

I was one of these guys when I got into the army. I saw dudes who had deployed to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cyprus, the Golan Heights and when they’d rock their medals on parades I wanted my own taste of that. Well, I got it. And, surprise surprise, all of that admiration and veneration from the younger generation didn’t mean all that much when I finally had it.

How far do you have to go down that road before you see where it leads?

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But I digress here because I didn’t set out to write a scathing indictment of the military mindset wherein a solider validates himself, his existence and his career through violent campaigns and occupations which leave people dead, orphaned, bereaved and embittered.

Rather I was writing about humour and the way it is done. This hits a little close to home for me because as of late I have been trying my hand at stand up comedy so I find myself very much concerned with what is funny and what is not. Now at the outset, let me be clear: I am not above laughing at crude, insensitive, racist, sexist, etc. jokes. I’d like to qualify that by saying that I only laugh at them if they are clever, good-natured and well-wrought but that would be lying. I’ve laughed at the worst of the worst and will continue to do so provided I find the joke in question funny.

Now I think many of us would agree that if I, as a white male, went around making racist jokes about blacks, saying the word nigger all willy-nilly and advertising bigotry, the people who were the butt of my jokes would have a legitimate qualm and reason to not find them funny. If things were taken a step further and I got my ass kicked by the injured parties, a lot of people would probably be like, “Well he got what he deserved.”

Now notwithstanding the fact that there are orders of magnitude of difference between the shit-kicking I deserve and a shoot-out in the streets, can we at least acknowledge that a similar dynamic is at play here?

1)Someone makes a joke at another party’s expense
2)The second party is offended by the joke
3)To vindicate their bruised honor, the injured party does (decidedly less whimsical) violence against the jokester (and anyone else unfortunate enough to be nearby)

Some of you may say that I have abstracted the Charlie Hebdo massacre too much to make it congruent with my hypothetical black joke scenario, but I maintain that this is an important mental exercise which helps us to recognize common kernels of causality. So yes, while there are worlds of differences between the CH massacre and me getting my ass tuned up by a bunch of hypothetical aggrieved African-Americans (Canadians???), there is a similar dynamic of vindication here.

Or how about this: A lot of people here in the west think it’s stupid for Muslims to freak out over pictures of the Prophet Mohammed, BUT GOD HELP YOU IF YOU DON”T STAND FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AT A HOCKEY GAME!!!

Yes, cause that makes infinitely more sense.

Or a lot of people might hate on (again) Muslims for those honor killings we hear so much about, but I would posit that “vindication of the national honour” (i.e. “honor killing” on a massive scale) is the main mobilizing premise used to dupe scared people into joining the war effort in the wake of some (usually trifling or made-up) initial provocation.

Don’t get me wrong I am no apologist for Islamic violence, but I recognize that it’s pretty presumptuous for us to poo-poo them for their violence when we cumulatively as “the West” are perhaps the greatest purveyors of direct violence (war), indirect violence (proxy wars) and war profiteering that have ever existed.

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But again I need to digress, because this is neither meant to be a scathing indictment of Western foreign policy.

So what is funny and what is worth killing someone over? I think the answer to both is, “It’s all relative.” Furthermore, there is a degree of overlap, so some hilarious shit might get someone killed.

batmano
He who laughs last, probably died laughing.”

I recognize doing stand-up that a joke which I find funny might get my ass kicked if it offends someone, and whether popular opinion is with me or against me depends on a number of factors: The disposition of the general public, whether I am part of the privileged class, whether the subject of my ridicule is a downtrodden minority and last but not least, the prejudices of the general public. Let’s face it, if Charlie Hebdo cartoonists saw some humour in making cartoons at the expense of rape victims and a bunch of feminist extremists IRL pwned (killed) them, there would be a lot of people of the mindset of, “Well, that’s what you get for talking shit.” But since the indignant transgressors were Muslims, the attitude seems to be “Fuck them and their feelings!

So, should Charlie Hebdo cartoonists have showed some restraint with regard to their jokes about Islam? Absolutely-the-fuck-NOT! We NEED people to push limits and say things that are on their minds even if the group-mind doesn’t deem it politically correct. The fact of the matter is that it takes a lot of guts to say some shit that you know isn’t popular, which incidentally, is why I mostly reserve judgement against the Westboro Baptist Church. Much as I might disagree with their message I have to laud their guts.

And while I think it sucks that people sometimes get killed for speaking their mind, I also think it sucks that we live in a system which necessitates the speaking of one’s mind in the first place.

What do I mean by that? Well, speaking one’s mind (whether that is asking for a raise, telling off a rival, or making an unpopular joke) is a form of asserting oneself and one’s views. But the necessity of self-assertion pre-supposes some marginalization happened as a pre-cursor. So the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists felt they had to assert themselves at the expense of devout Muslims, and the devout, more extremist elements of that group felt they had to re-assert themselves against those who had made light of their faith. Like so many struggles within a competitive socio-economic system, it’s just another case of one group trying to get ahead at the expense of another.

So again, for perhaps the hundredth time, I want to ask, “Shouldn’t we, instead of focusing on the individual acts of violence or insult (the latter being just another form of violence), instead look to transcend the structural mechanisms which pit people against one another in the first place?”

It doesn’t matter whether you identify more with Muslims or the cartoonists, cause while you bicker over who was in the right or wrong, someone is profiting from this whole debacle at the expense of both groups.

France

And what I find incredibly offensive about any new legislation pertaining to surveillance and privacy that will come to pass from this massacre is that it will likely disproportionately target Muslims (at least initially) and also that it flies in the face of the freedom of speech which Charlie Hebdo stood for.

So while we take sides, everyone loses.

Problem => Reaction => Solution

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But I digress, because I didn’t set out to talk about how we are being manipulated and played against each other.
Also, I ran out of clever shit to say.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
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Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdwhemiqzc

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Truth in Jest/Solemn Deceit

Friends,

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

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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“One Fish, Two Fish, Putin, Obama” – A Study in Imposed Dualities

Friends,

Something occurred to me last night as I was getting ready for bed. Let me explain it in a roundabout way, my preferred method of explanation: You see, I have been following the buildup to World War III for about a year now, and before the US was making overtures toward attacking Syria in an attempt to goad Iran into conflict, it was stroking itself to the idea of attacking Iran directly.

iran-wants-war

While that more direct route was being considered, Russia and China had already made statements to the effect of, “We will fight you if you attack Iran,” “You fuck with Iran and you fuck with us.”  These sentiments from the once and current Communist blocs have not really changed too much even though the US is considering a more meandering route to Iran.  Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very vocal about condemning Obama, and, in light of these criticisms of American war-mongering and his harbouring of Edward Snowden, he has gotten a weird sort of good guy image makeover in the view of the West.

ggp
(To be clear, I made this image to illustrate my point)

This heel/face turn has been helped along by the letter (incorrectly attributed to Putin) “From Russia With Love,” which was written in the Russian President’s voice and has been making the viral rounds.

So yeah, it seems like Vladimir Putin is a pretty cool guy.

But if that’s the case, then why do I not feel right about singing his praises and vaunting him as the last bastion against American imperial expansion?

Well for starters lets rhyme off the superficial reasons for mistrusting Putin:

1) He’s former KGB

Putin_KGB

2) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with feminist activists, Pussy Riot.

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3) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with gay rights activists.

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4) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with Chechens.

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Hmmm, all these factors combined certainly make me reconsider my earlier statement that Putin is a pretty cool guy, but they don’t really account for my incredulity with regard to his good guy image.  I think my mistrust has more to do with IMPOSED DUALITIES.

Imposed Dualities
Do you ever notice that most of the choices you are presented with come down to two main options?  And while often these choices are only distinguished from each other by the most superficial of differences, people will still make great judgments about you and your character based on which of the two you choose.
Let’s review some of these dualities:

Evil vs. Good

Dark vs. Light

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2

communism-vs-capitalism-575x250

Presentation1

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It’s no accident that both sides of any of these choices are broadly similar and superficial differences are emphasized to create the illusion of diversity.  A good example would be how many video game retailers will have retailer exclusive DLC for games pre-ordered from them.  In the game Batman: Arkham City for example, you could get various costumes for Batman depending on where you pre-ordered your game. Voila; diversity of choice!

new-batman-arkham-city-bonus-costumes-revealed-earth-one-the-animated-series-batman-beyond-and-more

This is what freedom of choice looks like.

I have a hunch that its also no coincidence that red and blue are used extensively for the purposes of distinguishing broadly similar factions/parties from one another.  I am no colour psychologist though, so I’m not exactly sure what this denotes.

However, I want to draw attention to the last red vs. blue duality I included:

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Most people probably recognized this as denoting the rivalry between the American Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.  These two parties have often been accused of being broadly similar in recent years,

demopublican

yet they manage to keep the veneer of differentiation though head-butting on issues like women’s rights, gay rights, fighting insurgency, etc.  However, since they are both essentially fed by the same hands,

The Most Dangerous Kind of Politician

there are necessarily proverbial  hands that both parties won’t bite.   This is not to say its a grand conspiracy where the wealthy elite control the puppets.

demopub

On the contrary, its a rather common and disingenuous conspiracy where parties and politicians recognize where their self-interest lies and make the appropriate choices to maintain their positions of power vis-a-vis campaign funding, airtime and favourable press.

Furthermore, do you notice how any up-and-coming candidate for the presidency (and by association, senate and congress seats) always pledges to undo the wrongs of his predecessor should he be elected?  This angle resonates with those disaffected most with the existing administration while polarizing the incumbent’s base, a base who, though they might not be 100% satisfied with their candidate’s performance when held up to his campaign promises, still prefers to stay the current course rather than make a departure

So how does this relate to Putin?

Well, someone’s gotta be the bad guy and someone’s gotta be the good.  That is, someone’s gotta be red and someone’s gotta be blue.

If you think about it, in spite of his newfound popularity, Putin is not so different from Obama: He criticizes Obama for his handling of the Snowden affair while openly admitting that he would have prosecuted a similar Russian whistle-blower for treason. You might recognize this position as the broad similarity I mentioned earlier when talking about imposed dualities and intra-national politics.  It seems that broadly similar imposed dualities exist at the international/global level of politics as well.

sdg

“It’s not about the one I like more, its about picking the one I hate least.”  (Paraphrase)
-Cynical Voters

Putin vs. Obama is the latesst permutation of Obama vs. Bush*, and in each case the appeal of the former is a direct function of how dissimilar they appear to be to the latter and how much the latter is hated.

Soooooo, why waste time waving the flag for either?  Good question!

I quoted Miyamoto Musashi in my last post, “When Truisms Lie,” and I will quote him again here:

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

I think if we apply this view of imposed dualities at all levels of politics (global, national, provincial, regional, state, municipal, INTERGALACTIC!!!) we will see it represented faithfully, which to me is a testament to its truth.  And it follows that if we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke and mirrors at one level (say, national politics), then we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke & mirrors at all other levels as well.  In all cases we must look past the obvious conflict which is being presented to us and see who is benefiting no matter which side wins. 

CUI BONO?

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*I realize Obama never ran against Bush but he was touted as being the remedy to two Bush terms and two un-winnable wars.

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The Most Dangerous Kind of Politician

My Friends,
   I have zero faith in the political process.  I think it is an antiquated, obsolete and detrimental way to make decisions for society at best.  At worst, and a little closer to reality, any politician who has any chance of getting elected has already been bought and paid for by various interests to finance their campaign.

One example of this fuckery, albeit a dated one

Or, if that’s not the case, any sweeping fundamental change they would want to make, beyond the passage of new legislation, would probably get blocked or get them assassinated.
   Bearing this in mind, its very easy to dissociate myself from all the noise.  Even moreso when everything politicians say is typically flawed or constrained by present modes of thinking.
   Enter the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Not having a television means I get to miss most of the news coverage but some does creep into my facebook newsfeed.  One such gem I noticed was that Stephen Harper was taking shots at Justin Trudeau for his comments regarding the bombing.

Trudeau’s comments were:

“Now, we don’t know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue.  But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, where do those tensions come from?”

And Harper’s criticism was:

“When you see this kind of action, when you see this kind of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes.  You condemn it categorically and to the extent that you can deal with the perpetrators you deal with them as harshly as possible and that is what this government would do if it ever was faced with such actions.”

Both quotations taken from the National Post.

   Let’s deal with Harper’s buffoonery first.  He takes the notion that thought should precede action and rips it apart.  He wants action.  ANY ACTION, so long as it vindicates the national honour.  Forget preventing future violence, just condemn the perps (or whomever we have conveniently labelled the perps) and punish them harshly to satisfy the mob’s biblical need for revenge.
   I’m reminded of a line by rapper The Game in his song “120 Bars,”  where he references another rapper talking shit about him.  Game says, “He don’t write his own raps so I gotta forgive him.”  This is how I feel about Harper et al.  These fucks don’t actually write their speeches and they have PR teams to make sure that they portray a certain image so how am I really supposed to get mad at him for shit he didn’t think up?  Bearing this lack of accountability in mind, I have to approach Justin Bieber’s Trudeau’s comments with the same wariness but also the same magnanimity.
   So obviously he didn’t write his own comments.  But given the circumstances that’s kind of a drag because HE’S SAYING SHIT THAT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE.  If you read my blog with any regularity, you have probably read the words “root” and “cause” several times, as well as derivatives like “causality.”  For example, I use such terms extensively here, here, and here.  So needless to say my spider-sense tingled when I read these comments from Trudeau.  And here is where the danger lies; its easy to dismiss the “why plan when you can react” rantings of Harper for the idiocy inherent in those words, but when Trudeau comes at me with a message that makes sense, its tempting to forget that he is part of an establishment which actually cares little for root causality and fundamental, structural change.  In fact, such change is anathema to the political establishment because the viability and necessity of the establishment itself would have to be questioned.

“People are not elected to political office to change things, they’re put there to keep things the way they are.” -Jacques Fresco
   It’s important to mention I have no problem with Trudeau personally (or Harper for that matter), but I recognize that they have to play a game where the main guideline is “say the right thing.”  But knowing that (and I think we all know that’s what politics is on some level), the best course of action is not to accept the most appealing set of lies, but to reject an establishment predicated on lying altogether.  I know this is hard; politics paints things as epic battles between “your side” (aka “the right side”) and everyone else. You begin to see things as a fight for right and you put your support behind your champion/politician.  It feels good when your champion gains traction because you feel a part of it.  Conversely, when your champion loses you feel indignant, but righteously so.  And motherfuckers love them some righteous indignation.  
   Furthermore, when one of these champions name-drops something which is of interest to me (i.e. causality) its tempting to focus my attention on their struggle for me and my interests.  But politicians wear causes like pantsuits…
…and what was fashionable one day might not be fashionable the next.  If something is empirically (objectively) right however, it is beyond public opinion and the tyranny of the 51%, a realm which the politician calls home.  A politician may hit on the right note every once in a while but they only have as much integrity as public opinion allows them to have, otherwise they’re out of a job.  Or assassinated.
   So as you struggle to be free always remember that people are gonna say things which at face value may seem amenable to you but always dig deeper, because there are a lot of diversions which will give you that feeling of doing right without actually doing any right.  I am reminded of a part in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, when “looter,” Hopton Stoddard approaches architect and protagonist Howard Roark to build a temple for him.  Roark, not being religious, is initially reluctant but Stoddard has been briefed by antagonist Ellsworth Tooey on exactly what to say to Roark to get around his apprehensions.  Through the use of words and words alone, Stoddard convinces Roark that they are actually on the same page and that Roark IS religious in his own way, leading Roark to relent and build the temple.  This is how I feel about Trudeau’s comments; they have been calculated to get around the defences of a growing number of critical thinkers disaffected with the political establishment.  But like the words of Stoddard, they are just so much hot air.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo  
   

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Logical Disgreement/Beyond Good and Evil

My Friends,
   I was listening to an interview on youtube today and the interviewee, Peter Joseph said something which resonated with me, which I then tweeted:

Probably should have hashtagged his name as a reference

He was talking about the challenges he receives from others based on the views of societal design which he espouses through the Zeitgeist Movement.  After a certain point in a discussion, people who are too steadfast (read: religious/zealous) in their traditional worldviews invariably get offended and uncomfortable and in the worst cases become belligerent.  In any event they become irrational, clinging to outlooks and pre-conceptions which are provably mistaken.  Without commenting on the views which Peter Joseph espouses which can be found here here here and here, I want to comment on the broader notion of disagreement. We tend to think that there is merit to all points of view, or at least that everyone has a right to their opinion, and insofar as that means people should not be forcibly coerced to think a certain way or harassed for their views this is true.  But do all points of view truly have merit?  Does a racist’s hatred for someone’s skin colour have merit?  Does a misogynist contribute to the discussion when he mistreats women?  
  And of course, were Hitler’s views defensible?

   What we are left with from this simple thought experiment is a very clear picture that there are right positions and wrong positions (notice I am not saying good and evil cause there is no such thing), or at least positions which are more right or wrong than others, a continuum as it were.  But if there is indeed a right-wrong continuum, why settle for being simply righter than someone like Hitler, who is very clearly wrong?  That’s hardly a challenge, and with that very clear picture of what “wrong” looks like, we get comfortable in a worldview which supports our immediate comfort, not challenging ourselves and our outlooks to see if they can be refined and brought closer to the ultimate right, or at least what we know of right.  We kind of just sit there content knowing that we’re not as wrong as the Paul Bernardos, Luka Magnottas, Slobodan Milosevics, etc. which are paraded in front of us so that we have a very clear image of wrong.  

About 1:28 is where Tony expounds upon this point
I think this is where most people fall (fail), at least in my experience.  They know (or think) they are lightyears away from murderers, drug addicts and white slave traders, so they feel that by corollary they are right without ever giving it critical thought.  But do you think that with your “right” worldview you could say, win a debate against Hitler?  Do you think you could argue Trotsky or Marx into a corner?  And while most people in our society likely support his views on some level, could you, if tasked to, hold your end in a discussion with free-market champion, Milton Friedman?  I doubt many could, yet these same people KNOW that (at least in the case of the commies and the nazis) that they are in the right.
   Now what I AM NOT SAYING is that people should work on their rhetoric so they can appear smarter than the person they are discussing with.  Nor am I saying that they should raise their voice in order to bolster themselves against an opponent with more clout and the support of the audience.
The truth does not need to be supplemented with force.  Lies do.  In fact there are books and articles about how to be a good liar but none about how to tell the truth.  
The truth kinda just speaks for itself.

What I AM SAYING is that…well let me just post a recent tweet, also a quotation from Mr. Joseph:
I actually hadn’t tweeted this yesterday or the day before like I meant to so I just tweeted it now (avec le petit hashtag).  Hopefully noone calls me out for fabricating evidence when needed.

If you really wanted to effectively refute Hitler, the commies or the laissez-faire capitalist types, you would have to know their failings.  Instead most people would fall back on criticisms of evil, which on top of being completely irrelevant, are qualitative.  After all, Hitler didn’t think he was evil.  He probably genuinely hated Jews and saw them as a legit threat.  And based on his eugenics program he probably had more than a passing interest in science or psuedoscience.  Yet most even today with so much knowledge at our fingertips would still not have the chops to explain to Hitler why a eugenics program is retarded and furthermore why the “Juden” were not responsible for the Weimar republic and the Treaty of Versailles.  Could you do it?  I think I could.
   However, would Hitler accept my argument?  It would make sense but it would put a visible crack in his theories which is where all his power rested.  In a very tangible way he would associate being proven wrong with failure and the loss of power because all of his power was predicated on mistaken assumptions.  So Hitler would instead get angry, stick to illogical/provably wrong assertions, resort to name-calling, question my intellectual background, question my life experience, then tell me to go back to my Macbook and have an espresso at Starbucks with all my hippie friends.  
   Interestingly enough this sort of close-minded response is similar to what I get from a lot of people on Facebook when I discuss with them.*  Typically I question deeply-held convictions which have little to no relevance and it basically stirs up lots of shit.  When asked to rationalize obsolete perspectives it invariably ties back to their own life observations rather than scientific ones.  Life observations are unreliable of course because we have been scientifically proven to see what we’re looking for.
   Even when someone does manage to keep their composure and elect to refute what I am saying with logic, it is typically no more than name-dropping something/someone to do with science, pretending to agree with misinterpretations of parts of what I am saying, and then using extreme examples and figurative language to illustrate the ultimate outcome of their own bastardized perceptions of what I am saying.  It can be frustrating.
   Now it may sound like I think I have all the answers, but I most certainly do not, nor do I think I do.  Instead I have one advantage which most people lack by choice: I hold NOTHING sacred.  I question everything.  There are no givens, there are no upward limits of what is possible, there is no human nature.  All of these convenient assumptions and others which allow most to go on day to day in ignorance of the ultimate outcomes of their actions are up for debate.  And what I find more than anything is NOT that I have the answers, but that the people who hold on to their sets of assumptions don’t.  
   All you have to do is ask “why?”
   Why is the worst question but also the best question and if you have ever asked it to someone in authority you have probably been disappointed by the answer.  This habit of unsatisfactorily answering this most important of questions is learned early on by people and carried on throughout most of their lives.  And if you follow the why ladder you will find one of three outcomes 1) An answer, if they know what they are talking about.  2) “I don’t know,” if they are honest enough to admit they don’t know what they are talking about, or 3) Anger.
***************
Now I want to reiterate that I don’t profess to have all the answers.  I simply try not to hold onto a premise past its usefulness (It is bitterly ironic that in a culture of such disposability we are unwilling to repair or replace our beliefs).  I think everyone should adopt this practice of critical thinking, as that is infinitely more important than what particular belief you happen to hold.  But criticism must start at the self and the premises you hold and that is a hard pill to swallow.  If I were to make up an itemized list of practices to embrace off the top of my head it would be something like this:
1) Question EVERYTHING!  Question the motherfucking ground you stand on if need be.  If you don’t know the answer to the question go learn it.  If you do know it, seek different perspectives.  Yes, I know 16 & Pregnant is on but this is more important
2) Find the Truth that makes you squirm.  So you found an explanation? Fanstastic! And it tells you that everything is in good working order and that things are operating as they should?  Well, if thats the case how do you reconcile it with crime & poverty statistics and 1 Billion+ starving people on the planet?  What about your own poverty?  Sure, life may seem grand when you have an iPhone 4 and 60″ plasma but could it be better?  The answer is invariably yes.  When you start looking at reasons why it isn’t and those reasons make you uncomfortable you are on the right track.  
Note: If the answers you find in your quest for truth equate to “Pack your sunglasses cause the future is looking bright” then they probably aren’t taking a lot of things into consideration.
3) Look at the broader picture and attempt to find root causes.  All too often we deal with issues in a reductive and individualistic sense.  We would attempt to deal with air pollution by dealing with industrial emissions for example.  First off, this negates the fact that there are other causes of air pollution and that even the emissions themselves are not causes of pollution, simply agents of the cause.  The cause would likely be irresponsible industrial practices.  Irresponsible industrial practices would then be relegated from cause to agent when the broader question of “what causes irresponsible industrial practices?”  Similar to a “why ladder” is a “cause ladder.”  Climb it til you find that squirmy truth.
The answers are simple if you are honest and reject false concepts like good and evil.  
4) False dualities.  There is a position beyond a and b.  Far too often we get labelled by people as this or that for expressing an opinion which is contrary to what theirs is or simply for asking a question.  This whole idea that “if you’re not one, you’re the other” is a detrimental oversimplification and it hinders the pursuit of truth by attaching to people a set of beliefs that they don’t necessarily hold.  Also, it is a way of attacking someone with an unpopular label without refuting their argument. 
“He’s a heretic/communist/liberal/muslim/fascist/etc!”

4B) As an unofficial side-rule don’t waste your brain following politics.  I did mention that I do have lots of FB debates but they are never about politics, except if I am explaining why the political system is useless, ineffectual and insulting.  Neither party is right cause they are not trained to be right.  They are institutionalized entities out for self-preservation even if it means catering to the financial interests who hold their purse-strings.  Those campaigns and conventions don’t buy themselves you know.  For a more practical analogy, asking me what I thought about Barack Obama’s or Stephen Harper’s last proposed legislation is like asking me what I thought about Justin Bieber’s new song.  Does it matter? 
Seriously, politics is about as useful as a cock-flavoured lollipop.  Stop getting excited and/or angry about new legislation and stop voting, you’re just letting them think they matter.

5) Rethink/Relearn what you “know” about people.  The debate about so called human nature has unfortunately been reduced to another false duality, nature vs nurture.  If you don’t believe in one then it must be the other.  Of course the truth is more complex than this, and assumptions about man in a state of nature as a greedy,profit-maximizing, hoarder (which only serves to legitimize the current paradigm we live in btw) are completely untenable given the level of knowledge we have.  I personally think this is the most important conversation to have because what we think about human beings and their nature ultimately frames our conceptions of what is possible for the world.  So if we assume that man is a the aforementioned greedy, profiteering hoarder since his inception, then society would necessarily have to be, well as shitty as it is today.  But is he?  Go learn about it.
6) BEING PROVEN WRONG IS NOT FAILURE.  This is hard and it often takes me at least a few minutes to (grudgingly) admit that I was mistaken about something.  It sucks when you go and fact check something you said and realize you spoke more than what you knew when you should have said “I don’t know.”  But admit when you are mistaken and move on.  Remember though, unless you are a hate-monger who has mobilized millions of angry people based on your lies and rhetoric, the admission of error will probably not be your total and utter downfall.  In fact, it will be liberating.  Trust me on this.  I have been wrong about so much and there is a certain joy that comes from laughing at how stupid you used to be because it is a measure of how far you have come.  
   
   I think that’s all I got as far as suggestions but I will share with you two quotations from Ayn Rand.  Though I care nothing for her theories on economics, she had some incisive observations about right and wrong.  I will share two:
“There is no such thing as a contradiction.  If you find there is a contradiction, check your premises, one of them is mistaken.”

“People who argue that things are not black and white are really saying, ‘I am unwilling to be wholly right, please don’t judge me as wholly wrong.'”**

   To tie things back to my original tweet, there is no logical disagreement.  If there is a disagreement, someone is espousing a mistaken view, or misinterpreting a correct one.  If it is a failure of communication between two parties who essentially agree then it is not a logical disagreement.
ADDENDUM 27 June 2012
   On thing I forgot to mention when I wrote this post was perhaps my major stumbling which I need to work on: I must work to communicate myself more effectively.  Basically its easy to explain things to people if you can get them to drop their religiously-held pre-conceived notions, but if you can’t get them to that point you might as well shout a brick wall.  Whether it is my cocksure attitude, my intellectual words, or simply the people I endeavour to discuss with, I have had limited success in getting through to people.  I can understand this, I often deal with people who have profited greatly from the paradigm we live in.  I by comparison have not profited as much and it still took me many years to come to terms with certain realities.  So if even someone like me, who really suspected something was not quote right since I was a kid, can take years to come to grips with the distortion of natural law we are living in then I can only imagine how much harder it would be for someone totally content.  Still with respect to this hindrance of attachment to the current paradigm, I must work to inform others without coming off like a preachy Jeremiah who alienates people who who need to be eased into new ideas.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

*Not a direct violation of Godwin’s Law, because I could have used Friedman, Trotsky or Marx instead of Hitler and still made the same point.  
**The original quotation used the terms good and evil which I have already expressed my disdain for.  The substitution of right and wrong is applicable and more apt for this post.

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LOL, Health-Care Fraud

My Friends,
   A week or two back I tweeted the following:

It’s not like I went into the hospital attempting to play devil’s advocate with this broad, but the small talk we were making got a little heated when I decided I felt some type of way about the way she was running her hospital.  I’ll give you the transcript of the conversation as I remember it.

Me: Hey, I’m here for a PFT (Pulmonary Function Test).
Clerk: Health Card Please
Me; (Handing paper-copy over) I only have this one because mine is getting replaced.
C: Oh good, you’re switching to a new one?
Me: Well, mine got stolen… (“Make a Little Somethin Out of Nothin,” 27 September 2011)
C: Oh, well did you have the green one or the red & white one?
Me: I had a green one
C: (Happy with this news) Those ones are better
Me: Yeah, but the other ones are good for your whole life though aren’t they?
C: Well yes, but I have a lot of problems with those ones when people use them at the hospital
Me: Oh…
C: We prefer photo ID.  We can prevent fraud that way.
Me: I like the idea of never having to renew the card
C: Well, we had a case last year of three people (immigrants) using the same card to have babies
Me: Awesome!
C: We’re a small hospital.  We can’t cover the costs of fraud on a large scale
Me: Well that’s a structural problem then with the system as a whole.  There’s no reason why anyone in the world shouldn’t have health-care.
C: (Visibly taken aback) Those people are costing you money by using your health-care that they don’t pay into
Me: I hear ya, its just that I can’t really get too upset about my fellow human beings getting a minimum standard of healthcare
C: Do you have a job? (implying, none too subtly, that she thought I must be a deadbeat as well)
Me: Yes, several
C: And that doesn’t bother you
Me: Not really, people need to get better
C: (Giving up on me) You can wait for your PFT in that lobby over there

  Now I don’t mean to unduly paint this clerk as an evil bitch, but when your job is to nickel and dime every patient that comes in its perfectly natural for you to start looking at human beings strictly in quantitative terms.  Nothing she was saying was logically wrong, but she was unmoved by basic human compassion which should transcend cold, hard, monetary logic, especially when you work…

IN A FUCKING HOSPITAL!!!

   Sorry for shouting.  I actually wasn’t mad from this exchange.  I rather felt a warm sensation that I had shown this woman a light which she caught only a brief and unsettling glimpse of before she turned away terrified and buried herself in the comfort and familiarity of hospital routine and bureaucracy.
   I sat and waited for my PFT.  The nurse informed me she was running a little late.  “No Problem.”  I waited some more.  The nurse came out and apologized again and informed me she would be ready for me in five minutes.  “It’s Cool, I’ll be here.”  Finally, after a half an hour delay I got in for my test.  She nurse was very apologetic and although waiting was inconvenient I assured her it was okay.
   We did the test, I passed, and as I was leaving she apologized again for the delay:

Nurse: Sorry again for the wait
Me: It’s okay
Nurse: The gentleman before you was older and his breathing was really bad.  We had to get him emergency oxygen.
Me: Its really not a problem,
Nurse: (Eyebrow raised) Yeah …most people would be pretty mad
Me: That’s what a hospital is for; to make people better
Nurse: I’m glad you see it that way

   I don’t mean to portray myself as some Christ-like figure with a raging hard-on for my fellow man, but I would like to illustrate the difference in perspective between the two ladies I dealt with.  One deals with people, the other with money.  Not surprisingly, one does not give a shit about sick people (Hint: Its the one who deals with money).  With that mindset, why should sick people without insurance/OHIP give a shit about the hospital’s budget?  Hence, health-care fraud, one of the many excesses of our competitive monetary-market system.  In the world we live in, sometimes fraud, theft and leeching off the system just make good economic sense.
   Unfortunately, in Canada, lack of health insurance typically means immigrant/illegal alien, so any dissatisfaction an insured, tax-paying Canadian may have about their lot in life will find a fertile, racially-charged spawning ground to develop into outright racism and xenophobia.  Really, its not the aliens people should be mad at, its the system perpetuating the inequality which makes people desperate enough to take what isn’t theirs.
   Basically, don’t hate the player, hate the game.
   However, before I go into a tangent about how the current paradigm we live in promotes racism and other prejudices, I want to rein it back into the conversation with the hospital clerk.  She pointed out that the fraudsters (literally, one who commits fraud) are costing me money.  Now this is true, and my apathy toward this point of hers had less to do with the infinitesimally small amount each incident of fraud costs me personally than it did with my knowledge of a very important secret.
   The Secret of Why I’m Not Rich.
   Now I can’t just up and tell you how I got “not-rich,” or poor as some people call it.  To learn that you’ll have to attend one of my seminars or purchase my series of cassette-tapes.  But I can give you a few hints:

First off, I didn’t get poor from rampant health-care fraud, as the hospital clerk would have had me believe.  The income I may ultimately lose out on due to fraud is so negligible that I don’t factor it into my monthly costs (hopefully you caught my facetiousness here).

It’s not a drug addiction, past or present, either.  Future? … we’ll see.

It’s not cause of the terrorists.

Its not from laziness; I work full-time and then some.

Its not from lack of ambition; I have plans, and I tend to set out in earnest for whatever I want.

Its not the people on welfare who keep me poor either.

Its not my extravagant lifestyle.  I don’t own a car and my biggest monthly expense is groceries.

Its not unions driving up the price of goods and services which keeps my wallet light, nor is it my job being outsourced to China or India.

Its really not even taxes that keep me poor; they’re just inconvenient sometimes.

It’s not interest on debts either, although I can see how that would be a problem for many.

Its not cause of immigrants.

Its not cause of ponzie schemes, recessions or bailouts.

Nor is it legislation which widens the socio-economic divide.

Its not the government freely spending my tax dollars.  In fact, being an army-fag, a large part of that spending (Defence) goes back to me directly or indirectly.

  So what is it then?  Like I said, I can’t tell you.  But I think you might have a hunch even if you don’t know for sure, because its keeping you poor as well.  Next time you get frustrated with something or someone’s adverse effect on your financial well-being/lifestyle ask yourself if that thing or person is really the problem.  They are probably no less of a pawn than you are in a much bigger game, driven to seek out their best interests, necessarily at the expense of yours because that’s the rules of this game.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo




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All The Meaningless Words

My Friends,
   I recently read an article in the March 23-25 edition of Metro which I found disconcerting.  The story, “Cops on hunt for armed-robbery suspects,” detailed how Toronto police have begun asking for the public’s help in identifying two bank robbers who held up a Bank of Montreal on Lakeshore Blvd. on February 23.

These fly dudes

The part of the article which troubled me was the remarks from Toronto Staff Inspector, Mike Earl.  And I quote: 
“These individuals are urban terrorists.  They need to be taken off the streets before another robbery like this occurs.”  Mike Earl .. not sure if stupid or trolling
Urban Terrorists.  Think about that for a sec.  Now I realize it must take some doing to vilify bank robbers who didn’t kill anyone and who only robbed an institution which most people, on some level, feel robs them every day…

I’ll just leave this here

… but urban terrorists??  Let us examine the various levels at which this ill-wrought comment betrays its stupidity.
   First and foremost, the inspector has confused the names fo two vastly different crimes.  Terrorism and Robbery.

terrorism |ˈterəˌrizəm|nounthe use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.
robbery |ˈräb(ə)rē|noun ( pl. -beries)the action of robbing a person or place he was involved in drugs, violence, extortion, and robbery an armed robbery.• Law the felonious taking of personal property from someone using force or the threat of force.• informal unashamed swindling or overcharging.
This is an egregious misnomer which attempts to whip up public sentiment by hearkening back…
…to this.

To attempt to play on people’s emotions like this is a cheap and disingenuous ploy which is frankly insulting to anyone who has ever lost a loved one to bank robbers terrorists.  
ULTIMATEBANKROBBERY!!!
Not to paint an unwarranted sheen of nobility on a bank robber, but they’re not all necessarily mass murderers, and as far as crimes go some are less severe than others.
   Second, and this is a trifling point, but to call someone an “urban” terrorist seems a tad redundant.  Would there by corollary be rural terrorists?  I don’t think so simply by virtue of the fact that there isn’t as much shit to blow up in the countryside…
except these decadent western bitches and their cows.  
ALLAHU AKBAR!!!

Methinks this “urban” distinction was related to the “unique Rocawear hoodie” worn by one of the suspects, which was explicitly mentioned in the article.  So “urban apparel” (code-word for clothes made by black people and marketed to white people) such as Rocawear automatically bestows the appellation urban to whatever criminal activity the wearer participates in?  What if Al-Qaeda, Hamas, the PLO, the IDF or any other terrorist organization decided to rock Rocawear, Wu-Wear, FUBU, et al?
Urban Jihad, nigga!

   The third and final point I would like to make relates to the title of this post.  Certain words…we’ll call them sexy words, have gotten too sexy for their own good and have become overused to the point of inanity.  Here is a brief, inexhaustive list:
Terrorism, Freedom, Liberty, Democracy, (The Creation of) Jobs, (Suffering from) Exhaustion, 9/11, and the list goes on.
These words had a meaning, then at some point it got blurred, and in some cases these words now mean the opposite of their original definition.
Oh yeah, that “freedom” we were fighting for…

My homie, George Orwell kinda predicted this liberal use of the English language a while back, but its still sad to see how right he was.  I can’t help but tune out these words when I hear some talking head say them on television.  Furthermore, I automatically assume that the person who says these words is lying somehow about something.  
   To get back to Staff Inspector Mike Earl, I really wish he could use his powers of inspection to find better and less misleading words.  It reflects poorly on him and the police force when he uses the word terrorist in an alarmist way to drum up feeling in the hopes of solving a cold case.  To those who find this criticism harsh I would respond that if you want to wear the fancy hat and the shiny badge you gotta hold yourself to a higher standard.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo




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