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‘Nosediving’ I: Life Imitating Art in China

“I’ll just follow my nose…”
-Toucan Sam

Friends,

In my recent efforts to get caught up on the program Black Mirror, I yesterday watched the first episode from season 3, entitled “Nosedive.” In this episode, the protagonist, Lacie lives in a world where everyone is constantly rated by each other on a 5 star scale. One’s rating at any given point is an aggregated average, with 5-star ratings from “high-4s” bringing one’s average higher than 5-star

ratings from 3.5s and lower. Lacie averages a respectable 4.2 at the episode’s beginning but to achieve a 4.5 and receive the benefits such a ranking holds (financial, social and professional) she takes a gamble and enters the high-stakes game of upward mobility at the elite level. Things quickly unravel for her as circumstances beyond her control coupled with some “average-dropping” faux-pas’ cause her to drop just below 4.2 and lose that ranking’s necessary benefits. This leads to an emotional outburst and profanity (a positive no-no in the perfectionist world of social media lifestyle cultivation) which gets her harshly penalized until her average is so low that she throws away all pretension and goes thermonuclear at the very social event that she gambled would bring her 4.5dom.

The whole episode seems as if it’s going to be a sobering parable about hubris and the dangers of superficiality, but late in the episode  Lacie has a chance encounter with a formerly high-4 woman happily reduced to 1-dom and we start to see that maybe letting go is the path to salvation and the moral of the episode. The final scene in a jail cell where Lacie (at an abysmal sub-1 average) trades barbs with a fellow inmate only confirms this moral.


She seems happier cussing out this black man than at any other point in the episode….RACIST!!

And it’s a good moral. It smacks of Voltaire’s timeless bit of wisdom, “Man is free the moment he wishes to be.”

I pondered this moral and it’s implications for me and where I’m at. I realized a few years ago that cultivating a squeaky-clean image online was not possible for me, nor desirable, as it would psychologically limit me in the future when I wanted to say some real shit.

Or perhaps more accurately, recognizing that a social media presence is a digital monument, if I built one based on omission and SFW opinions, I would be unwilling to topple it down the road (with risque points of view), it being a monument after all and something I would have, at that hypothetical future-point, invested much time and effort into creating.

No, better to speak my piece, polarizing as it may be, and let the chips fall where they may.

Enter the universe (or invasive data-mining), which, in it’s infinite wisdom, has been known to conspire: Logging onto the Facebooks this morning I saw that a friend posted an article from Wired entitled, “Big Data Meets Big Brother: China Moves to Rate it’s Citizens.

 

That’s right, China is moving to implement citizen ratings based on stringent governmental standards by 2020. I would suggest you read the article for Rachel Botsman’s in-depth analysis of the implications, but essentially people will qualify for better services and greater privileges based on how high their rating is. Furthermore, and much more insidiously, those considered “untrustworthy” (Naturally, China is framing it as a trust-scale more than a conformity-scale) will not only have a lack of privileges, but be a threat to their circle of friends, as one person’s degree of “fuck-uppery” will reflect poorly on anyone who deigns to associate with them, threatening even the ostensibly “trust-worthy” with loss of privileges.


“China, YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD!”

It’s like in Full Metal Jacket when Pyle keeps fucking up and so Hartman decides to punish the rest of the platoon, alienating him from everyone and causing them to beat the shit out of him, in what was (impressively) arguably the most disturbing scene in any Kubrick film. Punishments against bystanders for indulging and tolerating undesirables is a fundamentally malicious policy because it goes against beautiful and humanistic ideals such as “Love thy Neighbour” and “Do Unto Others…”

I’m not so naive to believe that this is a China-problem, nor that people-rating hasn’t already manifested there and here in the west. In a way, I’m all for it; I’ve worked hard to be a good traveler and earn a good reputation on CouchSurfing for example, and that reputation (rightly) gains me the trust of new hosts in new places a lot quicker and more easily. The logic is simple: Don’t be a shithead; Don’t get treated like a shithead. Simple! I, much like Ms. Botsman believe reputation to be the once and future currency of the world -good enough for proto-human tribes, good enough for the post-scarcity economy we’re moving toward.

However, China is bastardizing the noble concept of reputation by taking two of it’s ugliest permutations, credit ratings (a mechanism to further deprive the already deprived) and people reviewing (a “legitimate” way to smear someone via apps like Peeple), and combining them into an ugly abomination with the power to bestow privilege and convenience to the worthy and mete out suffering to the unworthy based on pre-established standards which are reflective of the state institution’s survival needs rather than the ability of citizens to co-exist with each other. And if that wasn’t already enough, those afflicted with “unworthiness” carry a memetic contagion of sorts, alienating them from worthy members of society who may help to, at the very least, rehabilitate them, even though they may have done nothing worse than question policy.

In this last regard, China is almost creating a prison without walls, which might not be so bad if this state-sanctioned social smearing was implemented as an alternative to physical incarceration (even though the ‘bar for entry’ seems to be much lower), but there has been no apparent mention of this, so its essentially just a way to lock up more citizens and scare many more into falling in line.

Well-played, China. The magnificence of your bastardry apparently knows no bounds.

My knee-jerk reaction to this article was predictably fear and anxiety. I’m not a violent criminal but it seems ‘crimes’ we all engage such as out-spokenness may one day land us in hot water as state-ratings become normalized and global. From a strictly amoral and Machiavellian perspective, it does seem to be a viable way to conserve and consolidate power and only someone with a complete lack of imagination or an interest in seeing this system propagate could deny it will be implemented in the western world if the China test-case proves successful.

Again, what was most paralyzing about the worry I felt  was that I realized one day having an opinion that was considered unpopular could hurt those I care about. If I had to dissociate from my father for example, or worse, if he decided to dissociate from me because I was too much of a liability… Well, how could I fault him for that?

But in that moment of panic I realized that I was just feeling, I wasn’t thinking. The former has a place to be sure, but sometimes we have to be pragmatic and logical. Whenever I am seized by existential anxiety I go over my escape plan. The details of it change over time but points 1 and 2 are pretty much always the same:

ANDRE’S SUPER-SECRET, ‘DON’T TELL THE GOVERNMENT’, ESCAPE PLAN

  1. If shit gets too bad I can always kill myself and then my problems on this material plane are over.
  2. I can always focus on my breathing and the present moment.
  3.  Refer back to points 1 and 2 as needed until such time as a better solution presents itself.

You could maybe argue that the order of 1 and 2 could be switched, but they’re just a starting point and as important as their actual viability as solutions to the problem of life, they serve the purpose of reassuring me while I formulate other strategies.

Those strategies I will elaborate on in my next post which will be a follow-up to this one.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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“Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Bridges…”

Friends,

A lot of you didn’t know me back in 2012. It was a rough year for me and something of an awakening process. I was becoming aware of just how profoundly screwed up society is at a fundamental level, predicated as it is on the maintenance of artificial and unnecessary scarcity to maintain high levels of profit and a dependent, compliant workforce….but I digress. The upshot was that I was very argumentative both IRL and OL.

It was bad.

The benefit of such dissatisfaction is that it spurred my creativity and caused me to blog quite prolifically, albeit angrily, and I was never at a loss for what to rant about.

Fast forward four years and I am a much happier dude. My convictions haven’t changed, but I realize that rather than smashing my face against the keyboard to spur along the change I want to see, it’s better for me to become a living example of what I’d like to see. As such, I never get into heated arguments in-person anymore and only occasionally online, and even in those latter cases I am not so emotionally invested because I realize that if either party is saying anything truthful it will sink in and take root over time. Trying to FORCE someone to see your POV is like screaming at a seedling to make it grow faster.

******

So why this pre-amble? Well, a few weeks ago I had a cathartic relapse which even now, a month and a half later with a clear head, I struggle to feel remorse for. A (former) friend and colleague of mine went on a militant SJW rant basically declaring war on anyone who made off-color comments around her. I find such righteous indignation and vitriol on behalf of ostensibly progressive ideals ironic and all-too-common. I suppose the basic underlying premise is that the best remedy for misanthropy in the world is a great big helping of misanthropy. Who the fuck knows?

In any event, I wish I’d screen-capped the whole conversation (FORESHADOWING ALERT: She deleted fucking everything and unfriended me, cause ya know, that’s how adults roll) cause it was a pretty terrific example of…well, something. Not sure. But I laughed.

It basically unfolded with me calmly and respectfully explaining that when I read her post it made me want to spout off some horrible shit for a laugh then have a solid eight hours of sleep while she racked her brain putting together a thousand word diatribe of hatred which I would ultimately never read. I softly suggested that she might sway more people with calm and sober discussion. Naturally I was accused of tone-policing, which I guess is a new buzzword which means “suggesting that people don’t scream at you like assholes.”

*******On a related note, I swore in front of my dad once when I was a kid and he “tone-policed” me upside the head. I think we really water down the meaning of the word when we apply it all willy-nilly like she did, but I digress because as an adult who knows how to speak to people respectfully I have little chance of people telling me to modulate my tone so I really don’t have a vested stake in what constitutes tone-policing.

In any event, my gentle suggestions must have smelled like blood in the water to the lurking wolves…sharks….w/e, and they pounced. All of a sudden they were lighting me up left, right and center for being against the cause of human progress (I guess), telling me I had no right to tell aggrieved groups how they should talk, and jumping to my former friend’s defense, a defense which for the record was wholly unnecessary because up that point I had been nothing but civil.

Here’s where I made my only mistake: I remained calm and explained respectfully that I hadn’t told anybody what they had to do, only how they could more effectively reach me, and I suspect, many others. This was only perceived as further weakness and I was roasted for my level-headedness. I decided to just pull out of the conversation and let jackasses be jackasses. Even this was seen weakness:

Male SJW: “Oh what? No response? Is that cause a straight white male chimed in or because I’m right? Or are those two things the same to you?”

Me: “Actually its because I’m jerking off to pictures of the holocaust so can you fuck off while I get this nut?”

The beauty of this line was that they immediately realized that I no longer gave a fuck how I was perceived by them.

Me: “Oh what, no response? Is it because you have a problem with the extermination of millions or because you have a problem with the sexual gratification of a straight, white male? Or are those two things the same to you.”

You ever watch an MMA fight and one fighter gets punched square in the jaw and for the rest of the fight he’s just clinging to consciousness trying not to get hit instead of hitting? It was like that, and I’m not ashamed to say that I relished seeing these paper tigers fold. I had even endured so much abuse up to that point that I was like, “Fuck it; I’ll double down!”

Me: “Male SJW I bet you’re the kind of guy who apologizes to a girl after having sex with her. You fucking cuck!” (lol, “cuck” is one of my new favourite words)

Female SJW (Friend of OP): “I bet Male SJW only apologizes to women he has sex with for making them come too much.” (I wish I made this up but the twat actually said this. I don’t think I could cringe harder if my mom walked in on me masturbating and offered to help).

Me: “Relax Male SJW; just cause she’s jumping to your defense to show solidarity doesn’t mean she’s interested in sleeping with you.”

I don’t remember much of the details beyond these lines, but I remember how I felt when I decided that I didn’t care what these people thought of me. I felt FREE. I felt POWERFUL. And I felt UNENCUMBERED.

For the record I don’t advocate aggression for its own sake but when you are dealing with people of low-intelligence they won’t respect you unless you display some. Thankfully, I deal mostly with people of higher intelligence so I very often feel like my life is similar to floating on a cloud made of whimsy and good humor. But every once in a while a dumb motherfucker doesn’t appreciate such good-natured detachment and so I gotta flex nuts. C’est la vie. And I’m not even saying that these people are low-intelligence in any absolute terms, I’m simply saying that within the context and circumstances we conversed in they bore all the earmarks and behaviours of low-intelligence bullies and so I had to treat them like the retards they were being in order to shut them up.

But what does this whole encounter point to more broadly? Well, I wanna not give a fuck and I am actively working toward that level of serenity and enlightenment. It’s something of a process but I feel I am making good progress. The last four months of traveling have actually been very good for me in that regard because removed from the toxic, politically correct climate of where I live, I have been able to find my own voice and speak more freely with less care of repercussions. As well, coming into my own as a film-maker is helpful because not only does it allow me to tell the stories I want to tell, it also makes me less dependent upon others for work than I was when solely an actor. Let’s face it, actors though they may have the coveted autonomy of a self-employed contractor, are still dependent upon others for work, and these others may have feelings and get offended by realness.

Ultimately though, I don’t want to box myself in, whether career-wise or life-wise. I look back on old posts from like 2008 and cringe at the dumb, reckless shit I used to say but at the same time I smile at how little I gave a fuck. I wanna get back to that zero fucks level but this time be informed with the better taste and judgement I have accumulated over the subsequent years.

Some people may see this as a regression. Fuck them! Their path isn’t mine and what they eat doesn’t make me shit. I have attained a level of freedom, mobility and financial security that is the culmination of years of work, ongoing discipline and a reflection of righteous values. And the benchmark for how successful I am is how happy I am. So how happy am I?

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Note: “Shake ya Ass,” while a great tune is not actually on this playlist. I just happened to be listening to it causelike I said; great tune.
Note 2: I welcome suggestions for songs to add to this list.

That’s right: I actually have a whole playlist devoted to those times where I sit and reflect on how awesome life has been so far…UNHAPPY PEOPLE DON’T DO THAT!! So solipsistic as it may seem, that’s all I need to know to know that I am on a righteous path.

So in closing I am going to keep testing my own courage to say what’s on my mind and when someone calls me on it I am going to endeavour not to be fazed (I may even snap back) because my fear of other’s perceptions is and has been the great limiter and inhibitor of my adult life.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
#justmightbeok @dreguan

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