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A Slow Day for Blogging

Friends,

A couple of days ago my friend Matt challenged me to answer something he called the “Proust Questionnaire.”

Really? An opportunity to talk more about myself? Challenge Accepted!

Also, our mutual friend, Adriana put hers up on her blog, “Des Etoiles Filantes,” and I thought I would do the same.

So without having done any research on what the questionnaire is all about or what it helps determine, here are my answers:

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? -The absence of craving and aversion.

2. What is your greatest fear? -That a mechanistic worldview which views human beings as nothing more than biological machines, is true.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? -Laziness.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? -Intransigence.

5. Which living person do you most admire? -There are certain people in my life who have inspired me to follow my dreams and i would say it is cumulatively them.

6. What is your greatest extravagance? -My morning coffees.

7. What is your current state of mind? Benevolent mostly, peppered with self-doubt, enthusiasm, and amusement.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? -Hard work. Hard work should be applied toward virtuous things but it isn’t a virtue unto itself.

9. On what occasion do you lie? -Any time I say what objectively happened in a given situation and informing that account with only my own limited observations and perceptions.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? -My posture needs work and my abs aren’t as hard as I’d like them to be. I’ve come to terms with my crooked jaw though and actually see it as a blessing in disguise.

11. Which living person do you most despise? -I don’t really despise anyone but I am averse to Bill Maher. He’s just kind of a smarmy, slimy dude who perpetuates a cynical faux-intellectualism.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man? -Follow-through.

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? -Taking action to remedy their problems instead of just idly complaining about them.

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? -Lately, I have been using the phrase “elephant in the room” quite a bit.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? I’m tempted to say my ex, but it would actually be myself/everyone. I try to love everyone as myself.

16. When and where were you happiest?
-First year residence in Matthews Hall.
-January 2009 in Afghanistan.
-Anytime I sat with a drink and/or smoke and/or listening to Gordon Lightfoot and watched the sun set while on a backpacking excursion.
-Oct. 2008, out in the middle of nowhere in the Afghan desert on a three week patrol, sitting in a trench under a beautiful blue sky, shitting into a bucket with my pipe in one hand and my coffee in the other and thinking “This isn’t so bad.”

17. Which talent would you most like to have? -Pro-level skateboarding parkour and freestyle rapping

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? -My shitty Riddler tattoo has to go.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? -Escaping the anger phase of my awakening process/not succumbing to hate.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? -I’d like to come back as a squirrel in a lush forest that was warm year-round and have no natural predators. The squirrel life would be fun .

21. Where would you most like to live? -On a deserted island in the South Pacific.

22. What is your most treasured possession? I guess my dog-tags are, but I don’t really like the idea of treasured possessions. If they ever go I hope I will have serenity to not grieve too hard.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? -There was one night back in Spring 2007 where I had gotten some bad news, ate a few too many weed cookies and ended up having the worst, most emotionally painful night of my life. More than anything I felt alienated and like I had wasted a year of my life. Looking back it was one of my most important single instances of growth. Not gonna say too much more than that but it was one of those wake-up calls that come when we need them.

24. What is your favorite occupation? -None.

25. What is your most marked characteristic? -Sense of humor, eyes, or affinity for wife beaters, camo and bandanas.

26. What do you most value in your friends? -Comfort. I like people I can be myself around.

27. Who are your favorite writers? -Orwell, James Clavell, Gary Jennings and Cervantes. Tolle writes beautifully and Vizinczey makes profound observations.Thoreau too has shaped my outlook with his beautiful observations about living in harmony with the natural world.

28. Who is your hero of fiction? -Venom. Or Jesus. I try and emulate the latter more.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with? -Marco Polo.

30. Who are your heroes in real life? -Peter Joseph, George Carlin, Russell Brand, Bill Hicks, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and myself.

31. What are your favorite names? -Natasha and George.

32. What is it that you most dislike? -Righteous Indignation.

33. What is your greatest regret? -Letting a girl get between me and a dear friend.

34. How would you like to die? -Serenely.

35. What is your motto? “There’s nothing to be afraid of; It’s just me out there.” -George Carlin

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
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Walking Ass-First into the Future

Friends,

   There is a lecture by Peter Joseph which ranks among my favourites called “When Normality Becomes Distortion.”  My fondness for it stems from the fact that it critiques our current methods of doing knowledge and calls into question our assumptions of what is empirical.  Among all of the interesting ideas presented, there is a simple yet profound one which screams to me every time I hear it: “The projections of thought in any point in time can only reflect the state of knowledge at that point in time.”  This idea is illustrated with reference to the constellations and the forms they represent.  “Spoons, oxcarts, scales and common animals” are the pictures astrologers see in the sky, not “space shuttles, TVs, and laptops.”  This bespeaks “the cultural characteristics of the period of origin” of these constellations and shows how the conceptions of primitive man were extrapolated and applied to all he saw.  The important realization here is that we still do this and we need to recognize that the cultural fixtures we conceive of as permanent have no actual permanence or empirical basis.

   Think about our current mainstream conceptions of the future from The Jetsons to Looper to Firefly to Alien.  Notice how the characters in these examples inhabit a world (or space) which is fundamentally like the one we exist in now?  People go to work and school, exchange currency for goods, and have a lot of the same problems and trials that we have now but with a futuristic twist (i.e. Instead of a car breaking down, a hovercar breaks down).  I think this is because while we can paint a picture of the future which takes into account the possible future trends and direction of current technologies (and posits new technologies) it is a lot harder to predict how ways of life, cultures and taken-for-granted assumptions about contemporary life would change in the future.

Image

“Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic that they originally predicted.”

   While Peter Joseph’s quotation is well-stated and well-received, I have paraphrased it into the words, “We must not let our projections of the future be bound by our conceptions of the present.”  This is where I think is the real challenge lies and where overused terms like “paradigm-shift” actually have merit.  In the box solutions like augmenting/expanding obsolete infrastructure, the passage of more laws, and the exchange of currencies when we have the technological ability to live in a post-scarcity world, are so many examples walking ass-first into the future, looking backwards to lead the way forward.  These ideas have no empirical value only represent the attempts of primitive people to deal with things they didn’t fully understand.  And we’ve been taking their word as gospel from our governments to our mediums of exchange to our ideas about work and incentive.

   When we think about possibilities for the future and what we are capable of we must try not to assume too much about how permanent today’s fixtures are.  For one, its depressing to think that way, and more importantly its just plain inaccurate.  Just like paleo-lithic man could not conceive of inter-continental travel, much less conceive of the idea of continents, we too don’t really know what our future capabilities are and we shouldn’t get too attached to the way things are now.
Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Handling Things the Mature Way

My Friends,
   I have a real problem with being overly argumentative.  I am in fact horrible at conveying messages to a crowds which are not predisposed to liking what I have to say.  This is a real problem for me because I think I have some good shit to say.  At the very least I have some less cancerous shit to say than some people I know, all things being relative.  The most glaring manifestation of this argumentativeness and poor communication is my tendency to get embroiled in Facebook threads which devolve into flame wars real quick.  Its not because I hate the person, or so much that I object so much to their initial comments or posts (well, sometimes its that), but very often its how people rationalize their opinions when challenged (and I use rationalize in the loosest sense possible).  I think it bothers me when people don’t do thought experiments with their opinions, extrapolating premises out to the nth degree to see if they still hold water, or attempting to rationalize these ideas within a larger global picture.  And when you try and have a discussion with someone who is in a box like this, their truncated frames of reference and ideologies invariably lead to misgivings and resentment.

   So yeah, this cognitive dissonance is a very real problem for me, someone who operates on the foundational premise that that the more logical argument should prevail.  But in a slow, stubborn way I am becoming more and more aware that such arguments shant prevail if one is sufficiently determined not to be swayed

“Traditional sentiment is constantly in conflict with emergent knowledge” -Peter Joseph, “Defining Peace”

I don’t want to pull punches because if I can’t be brutally honest here then I can’t be honest anywhere, so I will say that as of late most of the head-butting I have been doing has been with buddies of mine from the army who post some super-moto, gung-ho shit, jingoistic tripe about Canadian pride, or bellyaching about how veterans don’t get enough respect.  I can’t stand shit like this but then I can’t stand a lot of things.  Interestingly though I see myself in the position of being able to call them out on their bullshit while being able to take their main bullet out of the chamber with regard to a rebuttal: “Yeah, well why don’t you try doing a tour of duty and then come say that.”
   Lol, been there done that and I’m still calling you out.  And just when I think that my street cred might actually mean something to them and that they might take my point of view seriously because I have gone through what they have gone through, they find some other ad hominem attack to go with which invalidates my points of view in their eyes.  Its very frustrating, but its a lesson which more or less jives with my view that you should consider the message absent the messenger; frankly I wouldn’t want someone to consider my views simply because I have shared a certain struggle with them, or because I have a certain credential in their eyes.  This type of selective attention seems to be the primary way in which we go about things today and its effects are mostly negative.  Don’t get me wrong, credentials have importance in many regards, but they should only serve as the cherry on top of a soundly-reasoned hypothesis-sundae, not the sundae itself.
   So anyway, I have as usual gone on a tangent.  My intent here is not to do a critique of the way knowledge is done (I find I do that far too often as it is), but to explain the way I am handling the inane bullshit and drivel I frequently encounter on the Facebooks.
   But first, a brief outline of the things which either cause me to comment rashly, face-palm hard, or ask myself, “Why am I friends with this person?”  
1. Super gung-ho army shit, jingoistic fervor and the aforementioned bellyaching that veterans don’t get respect.  While I do believe that the state entity is entirely responsible for taking care of any wounded (phsysically or mentally) solider and his family, I am more talking about this idea that John Q. Public doesn’t give a fuck about the military.  I am not sure where this comes from; maybe some people saw a disenfranchised Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump and feel his pain a little too acutely, but I can say that in 9 years of service I never had anyone say a sideways thing to me.  In fact they were all smiles and Hallmark cards, thanking me on the street, telling me how brave I was, etc.  I can’t speak for other countries but at least here where I’m at, the veteran is more or less revered.
2. People who post the most pathetic and desperate aspects of their daily lives for….I don’t know, pity maybe?  This shit gets old but there’s not really much you can say to someone who is complaining about how sick they are all the time, how exhausted they are, how much their kids cost, how tight money is, etc…  These are touchy subjects and unlike people with dumb opinions I don’t see any glimmer of hope with regard to helping these people come around.  As such, I never really comment on these posts, I just kind of cringe to myself.
3. People who make too much of politics.  Perhaps this one baffles me more than it should.  After all, I voted in the last federal election.  But hey, we all do stupid things when we’re young.  I get that it takes time for some people to realize that non-participation is the best route to meaningful change, and not established processes like voting, and many others never realize this at all, but knowing this still has not afforded me the patience I should have.  When someone posts something about how the Liberals are really shitting the bed and how the Conservatives would handle things better I will typically ask the poster something like “Do you think who’s in office really matters?” assuming that like me, they will look back to the chain of contrived causality which leads to a partisan system,  various offices and of course the media circus which ostensibly handles things with the highest journalistic integrity (wink wink).  But no, they take my question at face value and respond, “Of course it matters….”
4. Championing minority rights, a particular disease’s cure or the plight of a small nation by advocating the use of established, in-the-box resolution methods and not considering the root cause which lead to these problems.   With regard to minority rights, I think helping the black man is great, but if you try to help the black man by trying to help the black man you’re only going to piss off the white man, the brown man and the yellow man.  There are no minority problems, there are human problems.  We gotta start implementing solutions that help everyone and this might mean trying some new things and abandoning others.  This same logic applies to curing diseases.  I think a lot of people don’t really know how disease and addiction are fomented and thus believe there is a way to handle each related problem on a case by case basis.  Or even trying to “help” a country without giving it the means to help itself.  All of our solutions are not solutions at all, but ways of stroking ourselves to make us think we aren’t part of the problem.
   So anyhow, these are just a few of my favourite things.  And my master plan to avoid the frustration and rage that comes from being subjected to these inane ramblings every time I log onto the Facebooks?
   Unsubscribe.  This shouldn’t be that revolutionary to me because I have indeed directed friends of mine to unsubscribe from me when they complained of how their own news-feeds were full of updates whatever flame war I was embroiled in.  But I can actually feel waves of relief over me when I do this.  Its so satisfying to scroll through your news-feed and repeatedly lament the absence of a dislike or downvote button.  
   To be clear I haven’t unfriended these people as in most…all cases I still like them.  I just don’t wanna hear their stupid, tired, unrationalized bullshit every time I log on.
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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