Tag Archives: stephen harper

“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

***************
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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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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