Tag Archives: torture

Lessons From Star Trek

My Friends,
   This morning while waiting in the doctor’s office I picked up a copy of Maclean’s from this past September.  It was an issue commemorating the ten year anniversary of 9/11.  It profiled the lives of those who had been affected in some way by the incident.  Soldiers, politicians, locals and one Maher Arar.  His case is a few years old and most might be familiar with it, but I had only a cursory knowledge of the details.  I became angry while reading about how this man (a Canadian citizen) endured torture for a year in his native Syria all because he fit the profile of a terrorist (male of Middle Eastern descent who traveled a lot and had a proficiency with computers).  What really got to me was reading about the aftermath of his ordeal; I began to cry when I read how he had returned home a “broken man,” a jumpy and nervous shadow of his former self.  This I think is the real tragedy of the story, and it reminded me of a passage from W.H. Auden’s poem, “On the Shield of Achilles.”

“They were small/
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame/
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride/
And died as men before their bodies died.”

  
   Throughout all of the debates about torture we have had to endure (I find it offensive that its even debated) this point about its after-effects on the victim is noticeably absent (I have my theories why but that’s a story for another day).  When torture is debated, the focus is never about the permanent damage done to the individual, but rather the legal aspects (is torture a violation of human rights?/are terrorists subject to legal protections?) or the strategic aspects (torture does/does not work for gathering information).  All too often the effects on the person are not brought up.  Best case scenario, if you are are deemed to have been wrongully detained and tortured, the adverse effects are simply quantified and monetary compensation is made (p.s. The going rate for extraordinary rendition if you are a Canadian citizen is apparently 10 million dollars and an apology from Stephen Harper).
   I think what irks me most is that around the time that this happened (2002 to 2003), any number of people would have thought it better to be safe than sorry, and would have supported Arar’s detainment and deportation to Syria, even if reluctantly.  In the midst of crisis our better judgment apparently goes out the window and we will cosign all sorts of human rights infringements under the pretense of increasing security.  I think the following clip will explain just how serious an issue this is and how indignant we should all be about the lives that are ruined in the name of “freedom.” 
   A little backstory: in this episode of Star Trek: TNG, a Romulan spy (the Federation is at war with the Romulans) has been exposed and a military tribunal convenes and begins using “insinuation and innuendo” to cast suspicion on everyone.  One young unfortunate, Simon Tarsus has been singled out for lying on his Starfleet application and saying that he had a Vulcan grandparent when he actually had a Romulan grandparent (the two look similar).  Well Captain Picard don’t take no mess, and as he realizes that his ship has become the setting for a deplorable witch-hunt he elucidates upon the ideals that make the Federation what it is.  Enjoy.

  
   Upon reading over what I have just written it seems that I have talked about both paranoia and torture.  While each merit their own discussion I did not feel the need to treat this as two separate entries because I believe the former progresses naturally into the latter, and thus both are related.
   Someday in the future we or one of our allies will be attacked again by alleged terrorists.  There will be suspicion, mistrust and perhaps another futile war.  We would all do well to remember the mistakes made in the aftermath of 9/11 when we seek to vilify a particular group or silently assent to morally repugnant war measures.  I will leave you with Captain Picard’s words as I feel they succinctly encapsulate what I am trying to say:
“The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.”
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

  

  

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Don’t Judge a Book by RAPE BITCHES KILL PEOPLE

My Friends,
   A few weeks back I was riding with my younger brother and as he was driving we were listening to the songs bumping the joints on his ipod.  One group he is really into of late is Odd Future,

and particularly their frontman, Tyler the Creator.

I was aware of the group prior to this motorcar ride but he played me some stuff I hadn’t heard.  Specifically we listened to a few tracks from Tyler’s most recent album, Goblin (2011).  The songs he played were received well by me; haunting, grimy beats complemented by thought-provoking, if explicit, lyrics.  All in all, I resolved to download the album when I got home.
   Now perhaps I am a bit jaded as a rap enthusiast; I have listened to Necro, Ill Bill, a ton of Eminem, Cage, Apathy, etc…, and any shock I may have had to Odd Future’s raw lyrics has effectively been used up by these predecessors and others.  However, I could see how the uninitiated might be a little taken aback at first. But really, only a little taken aback.  After all, they’re not saying anything that hasn’t been said before in a song and they are certainly not using words that everybody hasn’t used before.  I therefore find it a little disappointing that I heard about the group last spring due to the controversy surrounding them rather than because of the merits of their music.
   It seems we as a society can’t seem to leave the issue of content in music/movies/video games alone.  It seems ridiculous to me that people still feel that expressions of the culture precede the culture itself.  If you’re gonna criticize lyrical content you have to criticize the societal conditions which produced the discontent leading to such lyrics first.  But a bunch of foul-mouthed black kids make a much easier target than society at large, so all too often the suppression of offensive free speech is the cause championed by so-called “do-gooders.”
   However, the unfair persecution of those who use cuss-words in music is only half of the problem.  The other half of the problem is that the cuss words are the only thing critics hear.  Its like when rapper Cam’Ron was on The O’Reilly Factor and Bill O’Reilly introduced him as a rapper whose album was about “pimping & bitches.”

Also a Satan-worshipper it would seem

The album in question, Purple Haze, did have its share of explicit content but to say it was about pimping and bitches isn’t just reductive, its wrong.  Still, I understand that Bill O’Reilly is simply a troll to incite conservative America and bait the liberals, so he said what he said for calculated reasons.  However, other seemingly more enlightened individuals have also made the mistake of prejudging as well.
   Back in the early 2000s for example when Eminem’s Marxhall Mathers LP was at the peak of its populairty and the subject of many news reports, my father caught a radio report talking about the controversy surrounding the album.  Without actually listening to it he stopped us before leaving for school one day and asked us if we knew Eminem.  When we said “yes” he told us we were not to listen to him anymore.  Thankfully, this was never enforced but the fact that he presumed to tell us what to listen to infuriated me, and not least of all because he hadn’t listened to the album and didn’t know what Eminem was all about.

…he don’t know you like I know you Slim, noone does…

But more than infuriated I was embarrassed for him.  What he was betraying by saying this was complete ignorance and a willingness to be scared by reactionary fervor.  
   In any event, we went on listening to our music with impunity and some years later, my younger sister of all people played Eminem’s third album, The Eminem Show for him.  Specifically she played the track Hailie’s Song, which details Eminem’s long battle to get custody of his child.  As my dad had also been through a custody battle or two, the song resonated with him and he came to me some time later and told me that he had listened to Eminem and realized that he was just a guy and not the devil-incarnate.  All it took for him to come to this realization was to hear more than what was publicized on the news and to find a bit of the artist’s work which he could relate to.
   With regard to Odd Future, one of the song’s in their repertoire has a disclaimer/PSA before it urging white America not to take the song seriously or blame the group for anything negative that happens as a result of the listening to the song.  The song in question, Radicals, certainly sounds scary: ominous haunting beat, Tyler screaming the vocals and the other members screaming “KILL PEOPLE BURN SHIT FUCK SCHOOL” over the hook.  But after each round of the hook the beat drops out and Tyler talks to the listener giving advice, presumably the same advice he urged the listener not to follow during the disclaimer.  Some highlights are:
-“They want us to go to they schools and be fuckin miserable at they fuckin college studyin that fuckin bullshit.  Fuck that.”
-“Do what the fuck makes you happy.  Cause at the end who’s there? You!”
-“I’m not saying go out and do some stupid shit, commit crimes.”
-“Do what the fuck you want; stand for what the fuck you believe in and don’t let nobody tell you you can’t do what the fuck you want.”
-“Imma fuck a unicorn and fuck anybody who say I’m not.”
I think its ironic and appropriate that the disclaimer precedes such advice.  Ironic because the advice is positive, and appropriate because the advice is perhaps more subversive than all of their raps about murder, rape and torture.  Fortunately, the parents, politicians and pundits won’t hear this actual subversion because they’re too hung up on the use of the f-word.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo


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