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The Shape of Integrity: Thoughts from the 18 MAY 2018 Munk Debate

Friends,

Is it possible to look at someone and tell if they have integrity?

I think yes. And this was illustrated quite beautifully in the recent Munk Debate between Michelle Goldberg and Michael Eric Dyson on one side, and Jordan Peterson and Stephen Fry on the other.

Just look at the dais:

Do you notice anything?

If you guessed that 3/4 of the panelists are addicts, you are absolutely correct.
Now, is this a problem? I think so.
Why? Bit of a difficult answer.

“I Don’t Trust Bunny, But I Trust Bunny to be Bunny”

At the risk of sounding crude and mean-spirited: Would you trust a junkie? I imagine the answer is probably “no.”
Why? Well for me it’s because its difficult to trust someone with no self-control. If someone is feeding an addiction it becomes difficult to tell when they are being truthful and when they speaking only to preserve their access to their drug of choice.

Fame is one such drug. And it directly affects integrity when people don’t have as much as they want.

With regard to the picture above, Jordan Peterson (second from right) is the most famous of the bunch and so arguably has enough access to the ‘drug’, if he is indeed addicted to it. In the case of the others that is not so certain and they are actually leeching some of his fame by appearing with him. Michael Eric Dyson refers to and admits to this many times throughout the debate and actually tries to goad Peterson into plugging his book. His referring to Peterson as a “mean old white man” is, as well as being incredibly bad form for a debate, a transparent attempt to increase his own profile through controversy. Goldberg and Fry may have attempted to engage in this kind of attention-whoring too at a smaller scale, but I didn’t really notice if they did because Dyson was so egregious and pathetic in trying to get his ‘fix’.
He is a fame-whore, and Fry to his credit, calls Dyson out as a snake-oil selling huckster in his stage presence and manner.

In all honesty, my own distaste for Dyson’s position aside, I truly don’t know where the line draws between his (attempts at) rational arguments and his ideologically-motivated silliness.

But fame is not the only drug that these panelists seem addicted to, so let’s address the elephant in the room: Food.

Goldberg, Dyson and Fry have a problem with food. Food, unlike fame, doesn’t directly affect someone’s integrity unless that person is starving, and I think it’s clear that Goldberg, Fry and Dyson are not starving. Rather, their food addiction is such that it indirectly affects their integrity by betraying some internal conflict within them. After all, health doesn’t just exist in the physical body, isolated from the mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. They are all connected and a disturbance in one has ramifications on the others.  I would guess that there is something traumatic that these people are holding onto and not dealing with. Instead they are treating this internal problem with food as their drug of choice and they wear the evidence on their bodies like five-year-olds who got into the cookie-jar wear evidence around their mouths.

“What cookies?”

 This whittles away my trust for them in a way that I won’t be blamed for because they look sick and unhealthy to my perceptions.

Is that unfair? No. Actually it’s in fundamental agreement with what they (Goldberg and Dyson) say throughout the debate: Maybe Dyson has indeed suffered at the hands of whites. Maybe Goldberg has indeed suffered at the hands of the patriarchy. And even though he is ostensibly on the right side of the dais (my side 😉 ), Fry too may have indeed suffered at the hands of homophobes.

But to quote Fry, “So fucking what?!” Does that make them right? I think trauma and suffering CAN give you valuable perspective once they have been incorporated and integrated into your psyche in a healthy way -but ONLY then. For Dyson and Goldberg, if their obesity and general unhealthy appearance attests to real suffering, then it also attests to their inability to thus far deal with said suffering productively and healthily. At best, it is difficult to tell how ideologically possessed they still are by their own pain. At worst, they are the aforementioned five-year-olds who got into the cookie jar and are now trying to see what lies they can get away with telling.

And for the record, I’m all for people working their half-baked, personal-suffering-based ideas out in a performative way –that’s art! But such performances are no more a road-map to a healthy future and a productive life than the The Marshall Mathers LP was back in 2000. Trust me, I tried to lived that album, and my life reflected it 😦

A+ for working through one’s own demons. F for providing a guide for how to live our lives.

Dyson’s performance was better-suited to a high-brow poetry slam while Goldberg delivered a relatively tasteful Vagina Monologue.

Fat Shaming?

It’s worth clarify my feelings about fat. Fat is not the problem. Sumo wrestlers are fat. The best actors in the world get fat for roles. But these two groups share a common quality: Discipline.

And this ain’t what discipline looks like!

That’s a photo of excess, not discipline. That’s what happens when you live too comfortably without feedback from the natural world. It corrupts your body and your mind because you have no reason to be strong and lack the mental fortitude to keep yourself so.

Now if I’m feeling charitable, maybe Goldberg gets a pass because she is not as obese as Dyson, and of course, males and females are different right down to the hormonal level. But in this case, all that pass would equate to is a marginally greater initial assumption of integrity from me irrespective of what ends up coming out of her mouth.

But Dyson? That jowly, Cochran-esque fuck?

“Brotha, me and my people are starving….sha bama lama ding dong!”

For the life of me I don’t know who could actually put stock in what that man says, except perhaps the most atrophied of spirits and the most gullible of intellects.

I digress though; I could shit on Dyson for another 1,000 words but I’d rather tie this up with the corollary argument, which incidentally also amounts to 1,000 words:

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Inconsistency and Contradiction

Friends,

I despise inconsistency. And my friend, this world we live in makes it damn near impossible to be consistent. Why? Because everyone looks at reality at an abstracted level. Their level of abstraction may be morality, or race, or nationalism, or gender, or familial love, or economics, or more likely they have more than one type of abstraction (i.e. having “deep convictions” about both American global primacy and the sanctity of all human life -huge contradiction there) that they compartmentalize in their head and which make them do mental gymnastics in order to prioritize which concern tales primacy when there is a conflict between their views. Take race and gender -the race/gender flavor of dissonance actually came up in a recent discussion where someone took issue with me describing sexual assault allegations as a “quick and easy way to deal with problematic men.” They challenged me on this and I described how these allegations had demonized specifically black male sexuality and there was literally no response.
They knew rape was wrong but they also knew that many a white woman’s lie about being raped by a black man had led to a black man being lynched. In this situation, wat do?

Now pay attention because here is one of the two times Ayn Rand was ever right and worth referencing (please keep in mind aforementioned “universal reality based on natural laws”): “There can be no such thing as a contradiction. If you find you have a contradiction check your premises; one or both is flawed.”

So let’s assume both race and gender are both flawed. What other lens/school of thought/bias/level of abstraction could resolve the#reparativerape contradiction my friend struggled with?
Well we could move laterally and examine it through a different abstraction like sexual orientation, marxist, Christian, or instead of moving laterally we can move up the chain of causality and see where race and gender et al. share a common root. It is from that point where can be begin to perform more useful analyses of reality and put forward more informed deconstructions of the world around us (read: opinions).

Until then we’re arguing fantasies that exist in different fictional universes. “Can you fit more Banthas into a tardis at warp 9 or would its mithril construction prevent that?” -did that make sense? No. Good because that incoherent, inconsistency is exactly what I see 92.3% of the time in comments sections. And really it’s analogous asking if a black escaped male slave is justified in raping the white female plantation owner who had his disabled son euthanized. Frankly, I’m surprised Tarantino hasn’t filmed that scene yet and I would love to see a film-maker play out a scene like that (minus the absurdist disabled son element) in order to see if they could make an audience cheer rape.

Do you hate nazis? Of course you do -it’s easy and you’re a lazy fuck. So in American History X Edward Norton, a neo-Nazi gets raped in prison by fellow NNs. Awesome, right!
No. It’s a horrible thing to watch. No Nazi should get raped. But as always lets be consistent: rape is a form of violence on the same continuum as all forms of violence and so consistency dictates that we instead say no Nazi deserves to be treated violently. But whoa, now we’re sounding anti-semetic and contradictory because we all know that unless you categorically condemn and denounce a whole generation of early 20th German people you are an anti-semitic.

HO, CONSISTENCY!! Cans’t thou mayhaps once again resolve our contradiction so that we can go on enjoying gefilte fish in our lederhosen with no compunction?

Consistency: Mayhaps I can…mayhaps I can…

First, is it really consistent to call one man a Nazi and another a Sioux Indian in light of the fact that they share the same biology and physiology? *** CONDITIONING ASIDE, THEY AS MEMBERS OF THE SAME SPECIES RESPOND COMPARABLY TO THE SAME CONDITIONING -THIS RESPONSE/SUSCEPTIBILITY TO CONDITIONING AS OPPOSED TO THE NATURE OF THE CONDITIONING ITSELF IS IS WHAT SHOULD BE DISCUSSED ROOTED AS IT IS IN CAUSALITY*** -sorry for capsing
If we further streamline our earlier statement about no Nazis deserving violence to “no humans deserve violence” you’ll notice two things:
1. You can’t argue with that statement. Not without adding another contradiction.
2. The magnitude and scope of that statement and the subsequent imperative which follows is immense. Preventing violence against humans is something you could devote a life of work to. On the other hand #preventnazisfromgettingraped is something that may trend on social media for two days -trivial, equivocal shit. Remember, “to be great is to assume great concerns.”

You might say that removing all nuance, labels and separation from people excuses bad behaviour, but I would argue that the application of and identification with said nuance, labels, and separation are what give rise to bad behaviour in the first place.

In summation, i hope this rant has stayed on a tack of coherence or if not, at least made some errant overtures toward it. In the words of Peter Joseph, “I am less interested in what people think and more interested in how they came to think it and how they maintain it as valid.” Right now there are a lot of dumb arguments out there predicated on constructs completely decoupled from reality and its rules. Under these circumstances it is impossible to be consistent and sadly whenever a contradiction erupts between two, say…capitalists about the degree to which government should have its hand in the economy, the tendency is to redefine oneself as an “anarcho-capitalist” or “neo-liberal” accordingly rather than to question and re-examine the assumptions behind government and economy to see if they are still empirically defensible.

More than anything develop a system founded in the principles of natural law then challenge that system by using it to deconstruct every situation you can. If it proves inadequate then strip away what is unnecessary until it becomes simple, universally applicable and lacking contradictions.

Then act on that.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Whitey’s Goin’ to Mars

I can’t pay no doctor bills,
But whitey’s on the moon.
10 years from now I’ll be payin’ still
While whitey’s on the moon.”
-Gill Scott Heron, Angel Dust

Friends,

Yesterday I decided to take a relaxing bath and listen to a 70s funk classics playlist. I don’t know too much funk but I liked the genre a lot in theory and principle because I know how extensively it influenced modern hip-hop, especially the aptly named “G-Funk” sub-genre. I was enjoying the playlist quite a bit, but it was the above song by Gill Scott Heron which really caught my attention, specifically the beat poetry portion at the end where he scathingly yet humorously criticizes the establishment for having a space program when people (black folk) in inner-cities are starving. It made me think a lot about the Jenga metaphor I used to use frequently to describe our social progress in the current paradigm: Essentially, we tend to try and build higher and higher with new innovations and achievements without broadening our base for more stability. This leads to a certain precariousness and imbalance where people are dying on the street in Karachi and they’re trying to create black holes at CERN -its kind of absurd that these two realities are existing on the same planet simultaneously.
To take the metaphor further, imagine we built a broader base for our Jenga tower, analagous to say, making sure everyone was fed and sheltered and educated, how much higher could we then ultimately build?

Jenga
Fuck it! Let’s toss time travel in there as well!

I don’t know, it just seems to me that there wold be more minds to advance our civilization ultimately further if we didn’t have a good many of them struggling to procure their next meal.

Buuuuut, I’m not here to talk about this metaphor as I have discussed it at length in older posts. Instead I want to talk about what “whitey” means when Gill Scott Heron says it.

So Who is Whitey?

This is really the question isn’t it, as its a bit of a polarizing moniker. I certainly don’t feel like whitey, nor would I wager do most of my light-skinned friends. So a question then: Would Heron’s sentiments have been different if there had been a black man on the Apollo 11 mission?
Perhaps, perhaps not. But this is the problem with framing activism and criticisms of the system along racial lines; it’s relatively simple for a established powers to deflect allegations of racism by “uplifting” a minority to a position of superficial primacy as an overt demonstration of how fair and egalitarian the system is. We saw the same thing when Obama got elected. Yes, black Americans got their black president so racism is over right? Tell that to Trayvon, Sandra Bland, Sean Bell, and countless others.

“I have much more in common with most working and middle-class white people than I do with most rich black and Latino people. As much as racism bleeds America, we need to understand that classism is the real issue.  Many off us are in the same boat and its sinking, while these bougie motherfuckers ride on a luxury liner. And as long as we keep fighting over kicking people out of the little boat we’re all in, we’re miss an opportunity to gain a better standard of living as a whole.
-Immortal Technique, The Poverty of Philosophy

George Carlin once observed that he felt the civil rights advancements made in the 60s were an accommodation, and I tend to agree with this sentiment. Nothing really changed beyond perhaps perceptions. Instead the system merely “contracted and expanded” to accommodate and placate a critical mass of people with grievances.

So does that make Obama et al. “token blacks”? No. I don’t think it does. There are enough dark-skinned people in positions of power to effectively refute allegations of racial barriers in the context of a debate. But the fact that there are “positions of power” is perhaps what is the real issue, and the one which Gill Scott Heron was reaching for in his spoken word. Whitey can really be decoded as the powerful. Black people, Asians, Aborigines can all be whitey because whitey is a class construct more than a racial one, and I think that people are starting to realize this.

As a progressive (and I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this blog) you may probably get irked by white people who scream “REVERSE-RACISM” when they feel marginalized by the advocacy of another race. You may feel like they are being petty and overly sensitive. However, the existence of these opposing voices indicates more than just intransigence and privilege; it reveals that things are tough all over.  Racial bigotry notwithstanding, everyone is in a survival struggle of some sort -this is in fact an unspoken assumption of our scarcity-based economics system. It’s a system that emulates the animal kingdom in its ruthlessness and dispassion. So when I as a white man hear a black man complaining that he should have a job instead of me, it’s analagous to if I were I were a gazelle and a wildebeest being eaten by a lion was like, “Not fair, you should be eating more gazelles!”

Fuck that! I’d be like, “Motherfuck you and every wildebeest who looks like you.” -Facetious or not, I basically just explained racism.

IT’S A ZERO-SUM GAME, PEOPLE, and just because the gazelles have typically been able to elude lions better than the wildebeests in this particular corner of the Savannah (the Wesstern world) doesn’t mean they don’t taste just as good. In fact, whitey in this example would be all of the gazelles, wildebeests, boars, etc. who were fast enough to evade the lions and/or make deals with the lions by selling out their fellows. So let us not lose sight of the fact that if we are gazelles, our problem is not wildebeests, or vice versa. Our problem is what it has always been: LIONS. Or more accurately, scarcity and the survival anxieties it foments.

Scarcity will kill us. Fear of it will have us kill each other.

So Whitey’s Goin’ to Mars Now?…

It seems so. It’s funny, as a kid I was fascinated by space and the cosmos and my explorer spirit made me want to be a part of this new and exciting frontier. Buuuttt, something isn’t quite right about it. It doesn’t seem righteous to me. We haven’t figured out our shit here on Earth and we’re going to other planets.?Seems a little reckless.
Also, it scares me that certain “nation-states” will be going there and carving up the Martian landscape, declaring ownership and restricting access to future visitors.
And finally on a more philosophical slant, are we really the best representatives to go out into the universe and start colonizing other worlds? This human species has great potential but we are currently so fucked up and troubled that we aren’t really poised to make a splash as upwardly mobile galactic up-and-comers when we make the definitive move of colonizing another planet. We’re like the out-of-shape, obnoxious, combative, and smug debutante at the ball. Who would fuck us, let alone marry us?

Something Conclusive-Sounding….

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago. Since then, in just the last few days actually, two black men have been killed by cops in the US and a black sniper retaliated by killing 5 white cops and injuring more in Dallas. Racism, or at least its perception, is alive and well and its very tempting to reduce these instances and countless others to racism alone. But there’s something of an awakening happening. Mycah Xavier Johnson, the aforementioned sniper, specifically targeted police. He allegedly preferred to kill white cops but his primary focus was on their “cop-ness” and not their whiteness which means he recognized it was the status-quo protectors who were the devils he had to bring it to. He understood that his enemy was the lion and not the gazelle.
Now I gotta qualify this train of thought by saying I don’t believe in “enemies”, much less the use of violence, but I want to make the controversial point that Johnson’s anger was at least aimed in the right direction. Pun intended.

Police are the gazelles, wildebeests and boars that have made deals with the lion and sell out their fellow herbivores. They have thus effectively become predators in their own right and their intentions BUT they are neither as noble or evil as we would like to believe. They are simply trying to ensure their survival. However the existence of this constabulary class with a monopoly on force and legal authorization to kill you if they deem it necessary should bother you at a deep, existential level. Every cop is an iron fist and many don’t even have the decency to glove themselves in velvet. They are our brothers and sisters in an absolute sense, but as long as they are the enforcement arm of an establishment which seeks to keep you pliant, dependent and obedient, they can not be trusted.

This didn’t start out as a rant about cops but rather a discussion of racism vs classism.

Its’s funny how senseless violence can change things so dramatically.

Best,
-Andre

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