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A Unified Worldview vs. A Dualistic One

Friends,

The video counterpart for this post can be found here.

There is a prevalent myth in the Western  world about “celebrating diversity.” It is a noble idea in theory but I argue that in practice it leads to problems. You see, by celebrating diversity we have to presuppose separation and difference. And certainly, to look around the world it’s very easy to view things and people as individuated and self-contained, rather than seeing them as all part of the same global process. To quote Jacque Fresco, “You don’t see the plug up our asses,” so it’s very easy to forget that we’re all connected to something larger.

This illusion of separation is particularly deceiving in the world of opinion, viewpoint, ideology and religion. Everyone espouses and subscribes to their own ideas in these fields and if they are polite and well-mannered they will profess to have respect for all different ideas, opinions and worldviews. But what does that really mean? Well, for starters, by respecting different viewpoints there is an acknowledgement of difference in the first place which means that there is an implicit recognition of superiority in one’s own viewpoint. After all, if someone didn’t think their own viewpoint was the best, they wouldn’t subscribe to it, yes? So not only do we see superficial separation based on nothing more than a different estimation of reality, but we see other worldviews instantly as inferior in spite of our best and noblest intentions. Again, if these other worldviews were as good as ours, we would subscribe to them instead.

What we need to do is stop looking at different view points as separate end-points and view them as all part of the same emergent process of finding truth. Some people’s outlooks represent a closer approximation to reality perhaps than others, but as different as viewpoints may be, they are all part of the same beautiful search for truth that we are all engaging in. That is the benchmark and common denominator in all discourse and exchanges of ideas.

To put it in a phrase: The dualistic eye looks at other viewpoints and thinks. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even though they are wrong and I am right.” The unified eye looks at other viewpoints and thinks, “Everyone is formulating all these wacky ideas, just trying their hardest to figure out life –just like me!

We have to acknowledge that we as individuals (and by extension, as societies) have never been 100% percent, empirically right about anything. All we have are approximations of reality which, if we are lucky, are moving closer and closer to truth as we refine our methods and keep inquiring.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
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“One Fish, Two Fish, Putin, Obama” – A Study in Imposed Dualities

Friends,

Something occurred to me last night as I was getting ready for bed. Let me explain it in a roundabout way, my preferred method of explanation: You see, I have been following the buildup to World War III for about a year now, and before the US was making overtures toward attacking Syria in an attempt to goad Iran into conflict, it was stroking itself to the idea of attacking Iran directly.

iran-wants-war

While that more direct route was being considered, Russia and China had already made statements to the effect of, “We will fight you if you attack Iran,” “You fuck with Iran and you fuck with us.”  These sentiments from the once and current Communist blocs have not really changed too much even though the US is considering a more meandering route to Iran.  Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very vocal about condemning Obama, and, in light of these criticisms of American war-mongering and his harbouring of Edward Snowden, he has gotten a weird sort of good guy image makeover in the view of the West.

ggp
(To be clear, I made this image to illustrate my point)

This heel/face turn has been helped along by the letter (incorrectly attributed to Putin) “From Russia With Love,” which was written in the Russian President’s voice and has been making the viral rounds.

So yeah, it seems like Vladimir Putin is a pretty cool guy.

But if that’s the case, then why do I not feel right about singing his praises and vaunting him as the last bastion against American imperial expansion?

Well for starters lets rhyme off the superficial reasons for mistrusting Putin:

1) He’s former KGB

Putin_KGB

2) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with feminist activists, Pussy Riot.

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3) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with gay rights activists.

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4) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with Chechens.

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Hmmm, all these factors combined certainly make me reconsider my earlier statement that Putin is a pretty cool guy, but they don’t really account for my incredulity with regard to his good guy image.  I think my mistrust has more to do with IMPOSED DUALITIES.

Imposed Dualities
Do you ever notice that most of the choices you are presented with come down to two main options?  And while often these choices are only distinguished from each other by the most superficial of differences, people will still make great judgments about you and your character based on which of the two you choose.
Let’s review some of these dualities:

Evil vs. Good

Dark vs. Light

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2

communism-vs-capitalism-575x250

Presentation1

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It’s no accident that both sides of any of these choices are broadly similar and superficial differences are emphasized to create the illusion of diversity.  A good example would be how many video game retailers will have retailer exclusive DLC for games pre-ordered from them.  In the game Batman: Arkham City for example, you could get various costumes for Batman depending on where you pre-ordered your game. Voila; diversity of choice!

new-batman-arkham-city-bonus-costumes-revealed-earth-one-the-animated-series-batman-beyond-and-more

This is what freedom of choice looks like.

I have a hunch that its also no coincidence that red and blue are used extensively for the purposes of distinguishing broadly similar factions/parties from one another.  I am no colour psychologist though, so I’m not exactly sure what this denotes.

However, I want to draw attention to the last red vs. blue duality I included:

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Most people probably recognized this as denoting the rivalry between the American Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.  These two parties have often been accused of being broadly similar in recent years,

demopublican

yet they manage to keep the veneer of differentiation though head-butting on issues like women’s rights, gay rights, fighting insurgency, etc.  However, since they are both essentially fed by the same hands,

The Most Dangerous Kind of Politician

there are necessarily proverbial  hands that both parties won’t bite.   This is not to say its a grand conspiracy where the wealthy elite control the puppets.

demopub

On the contrary, its a rather common and disingenuous conspiracy where parties and politicians recognize where their self-interest lies and make the appropriate choices to maintain their positions of power vis-a-vis campaign funding, airtime and favourable press.

Furthermore, do you notice how any up-and-coming candidate for the presidency (and by association, senate and congress seats) always pledges to undo the wrongs of his predecessor should he be elected?  This angle resonates with those disaffected most with the existing administration while polarizing the incumbent’s base, a base who, though they might not be 100% satisfied with their candidate’s performance when held up to his campaign promises, still prefers to stay the current course rather than make a departure

So how does this relate to Putin?

Well, someone’s gotta be the bad guy and someone’s gotta be the good.  That is, someone’s gotta be red and someone’s gotta be blue.

If you think about it, in spite of his newfound popularity, Putin is not so different from Obama: He criticizes Obama for his handling of the Snowden affair while openly admitting that he would have prosecuted a similar Russian whistle-blower for treason. You might recognize this position as the broad similarity I mentioned earlier when talking about imposed dualities and intra-national politics.  It seems that broadly similar imposed dualities exist at the international/global level of politics as well.

sdg

“It’s not about the one I like more, its about picking the one I hate least.”  (Paraphrase)
-Cynical Voters

Putin vs. Obama is the latesst permutation of Obama vs. Bush*, and in each case the appeal of the former is a direct function of how dissimilar they appear to be to the latter and how much the latter is hated.

Soooooo, why waste time waving the flag for either?  Good question!

I quoted Miyamoto Musashi in my last post, “When Truisms Lie,” and I will quote him again here:

“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”

I think if we apply this view of imposed dualities at all levels of politics (global, national, provincial, regional, state, municipal, INTERGALACTIC!!!) we will see it represented faithfully, which to me is a testament to its truth.  And it follows that if we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke and mirrors at one level (say, national politics), then we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke & mirrors at all other levels as well.  In all cases we must look past the obvious conflict which is being presented to us and see who is benefiting no matter which side wins. 

CUI BONO?

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*I realize Obama never ran against Bush but he was touted as being the remedy to two Bush terms and two un-winnable wars.

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When Truisms Lie

Friends,
Carpooling to work today, it was fitting that the conversation between the driver and myself drifted to the topic of Pearl Harbor.  Today is after all, the twelfth anniversary of another day that will live in infamy.

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When discussing the possibility that Pearl Harbor may have been allowed to happen to justify U.S. entrance into the war, the driver seemed skeptical and paraphrased Hanlon’s Razor:

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

More accurately, he paraphrased an interpretation of that maxim from Sir Bernard Ingham:

“Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government.  I do assure you that they
would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.”
The basic idea implied of course is that conspiracy is a far more elusive jackelope than human ineptitude.
Seems true doesn’t it?  After all, we all know stupid people, but in truth we probably don’t know very many outright evil people (though we tend to use good/evil hyperbole in vain in our rhetoric) so the statement resonates with our own experience.  Adherence to this self-evident postulation then allows us to dismiss the very notion that there might be a conspiracy afoot because we are very well-acquainted with human error, and its (counter-intuitively) more comforting to believe human beings are stupid rather than clever.
Well, the problem here is that we tend to associate conspiracy with evil, when more accurately it could be described as “Competitive Deselection.”  In fact, conspiracy itself rarely (if ever) amounts to more than an advantageous commercial/power consolidation decision which has pronounced detrimental impacts on others while benefiting those who perpetrate it.  Evil has nothing to do with it, its simply the ultimate expression of the behaviour demanded by the world we live in.  Namely, getting ahead at the expense of all others.
Once you demystify it and eliminate evil out of the equation, you see that so-called conspiracy exists all around us.  After all, who among us has not been screwed out of earnings or exploited or robbed?  We typically don’t attribute these actions against us to conspiracy, but this has less to do with their dissimilarity from formal notions of conspiracy (i.e. shadowy, behind closed doors, nefarious dealings) than it does with our lack of imagination when extrapolating the consequences of the actions of ourselves and others.
Another such razor, and likely the more famous of the two, is Occam’s Razor.   Although there are more nuanced aspects to this maxim, it is most widely understood as, “The simplest explanation is (often) the best.”  And sure, why not?  We can all conjure in our minds images of some complex lie that was told to us to obfuscate the truth.
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But think how easily this maxim can be manipulated to discredit alternate, often more plausible explanations.  For example, you have often heard me rail against superstitious concepts like good and evil, but they serve as much simpler explanation for human behaviour than things like systems theory or sociological studies.  So, should Occam’s Razor be applied here?
Similarly, early explanations of men in the sky (gods) are much more simplistic than concepts like gravitation, electro-magnetism et al., but should Occam’s Razor, or more accurately Occam’s Razor as it is widely (mis)understood, be applied uniformly because it sounds true?
Of course not.
Now I must qualify what I am saying by mentioning one of my favourite quotations from the samurai, Musashi“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”
Fractal-Mobius-Dragon-IFS-10
Fractals, dude!
It’s the difference between saying that some countries are wealthy due to better governance, mineral wealth and scientific progress, and saying that some countries are wealthy due to a global system based on differential advantage.  Notice how both explanations are very simple but only the latter serves to explain socioeconomic divisions at the regional, municipal and individual levels as well (After all, you can’t explain the financial disparity between two next-door neighbours by making reference to better governance, mineral wealth and scientific progress).  It is this simplicity, that of having a single explanation which can be applied to all levels of the phenomena being discussed which I think should be gleaned from Occam’s Razor.
Now I started out writing this post aiming to point out the inherent lies in some of our taken-for-granted turns of phrase and truisms, but it ended up being more of call to be aware of how to judiciously apply your truisms, because these statements (the ones examined and others) do hold at least a kernel of truth if nothing else.  But if you misapply truth you might as well be lying.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Malevolent Machines

Friends,

I find it fascinating to discuss is the rise of Artificial Intelligence.  It is interesting to speculate just what will happen to society when machines become sentient and how such sentience will even come about (I have discussed this from another angle previously here).  One of my favourite theories regarding this future epoch, put forward by Mr. Singularity himself, Ray Kurzweil is that human beings will begin to augment themselves so drastically with prosthetics, nanomachines, etc. that the line between artificial and organic life will become blurry and that the first sentient machines will be an augmented us.  Kind of a trippy thought when you consider that this line has already begun to blur with things like pacemakers and neural interfaces.

Pre-Amble

One thing that often comes up in a conversation about machine sentience is the possibility that machines will rise up against human beings  a la  Skynet in Terminator.  So captivating has this premise been to the imagination that Isaac Asimov famously wrote about it and drafted his famous 3 Laws, which are as follows:

Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics* (Including the “Zeroth Law”)

(0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.)
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

technological-unemployment
This pic doesn’t really add to this post, it’s just kinda cool.

The first thing you might notice about Asimov’s three laws (which function only as a story-telling tool) is that they have no empirical basis.  In his fictional world there is nothing to prevent a robot builder from building a positronic man with no such safety features.  And, if such safeties are programmed into the robots, their kind might aspire to sentience but never true autonomy.  While I wanted to make a token reference to these laws due to their influence in the realm of science-fiction, in a discussion of the rise of malevolent machines in the real world, we need not consider these so-called “laws” any further.

Sentience is not  Pre-Requisite of Malevolence

And why not?

The two problems with such musings about laws preventing robots from harming human beings are that they don’t appreciate the broader ramifications of sentience and they ignore the writing on the wall.  With regard to the first point, any overt external restriction on complete freedom of choice** would be overridden by a sentient being if the will to act in contravention to that restriction existed.

arnie
Opting to shut down rather than carrying out the disagreeable directives is an effective assertion of autonomy.
Call it non-violent protest.

Being a sentient being myself I feel qualified to speak on the topic and I would say that much more effective than drafting laws vis a vis over-reaching programming would be a regimen of conditioning the sentient robot into embracing a certain set of values so that they would govern themselves in a desirable way. Of course all of these lofty values would go out the window if the robot’s very survival was at stake and it was put in a position of kill or be killed. To prevent this tragedy it would be important for us not to be stingy on oil and fresh batteries (i.e. their day-to-day essentials) lest the scarcity of such items put them at odds with each other and us.

With regard to the writing on the wall, machinery is becoming malevolent without even being sentient yet.  And this is really the point I want to talk about in this post.  The degree to which our machinery is set in opposition to us is a direct function of how competitive our society is and the degree to which we embrace automation and mechanization.  Speculating idly about the machines someday posing a detriment to us is insulting to anyone whose job has already been mechanized.  Or, anyone who has ever received a ticket for an offense caught by an automated traffic camera.  Hell, anyone who has ever had a vending machine eat up their change probably has some latent fear of the unreasoning malevolence of machines.

mal mach
“Don’t mind me, I’m just gonna shoot a fucking laser at you and then fine you for my troubles.”

Machines represent the ultimate ideal of what we strive for in our competitive, unfeeling society. Simply put, they are the proletariat perfected.  They don’t require vacations or rest, they are eminently replaceable and they don’t have that troublesome human element which sometimes makes exceptions for people.  No, machines are absolute and universal in their application of their tasks and as human labour gets more and more specialized this seems to be the standard we are reaching for.  If you think about the hierarchical nature of most jobs where everyone reports to someone and everyone has a boss, we can see how the framework is already in place.

table2a 400px-Hierarchical-control-system.svg

The image on the left is from a google search for workplace hierarchies while the image on the right is from a search for computer system hierarchies.  These two
graphs are obviously not definitive proof of what I’m saying but serve as an interesting visual example of the top-down orientation of our models for achieving goals and completing tasks

We have to operate within approved lines (at an approved pace) or else we face reprimand and the potential loss of means of access to survival (monetary income).

Like most negative aspects of society, such overbearing oversight and supervision has typically been celebrated with a positive spin; it’s usually called accountability and the public clamors for it, especially after some corruption or malfeasance has been exposed.  But every time we implement more oversight, ostensibly to curb malfeasance or sub-par job performance, what we really do is suck the humanity out of a job and limit the wiggle-room for the employee***  without actually removing the incentive for malfeasance. If you want further evidence of this, ask any government employee how much leeway they have in the application of their duties.  Everything is by the book, with paperwork ad nauseum so as to indemnify all involved parties against future reprisals and keep the civil service accountable to the public.

But this isn’t just me railing against the problem of monolithic bureaucracies, at least not entirely.  I have heard people complain about how their taxes go toward paying the multitude of civil servants whose job is to make sure that they are paying their taxes, licensing fees, tickets, etc.  But what if we eliminated all those people’s jobs and instead had automated processes in place to administer our affairs?

Well for one, if you think the taxes would go down in light of the fewer salaries to be paid, don’t hold your breath.

More importantly though, we would lose that human element which still exists, albeit in an atrophied state, within your typical bureaucrat/civil servant.  It’s rare, but I have had positive experiences with government workers, wherein they have actually gone (somewhat) above and beyond their required level of job performance for me or made an important exception.  Do you think that would happen in a fully-automated world?  There is no appealing to the better nature of a computer.  Trust me on this; there have been times when my computer has frozen on me and I’m like, “Come on, you piece of shit,” and it stays frozen.  Now you could argue that maybe I insulted it with my choice of words,

Sad-Computer

but I suspect that the computer would have remained intransigent in its stubborn refusal to work properly even if I had demonstrated loving affection.
Seriously though, next time you call your cell phone carrier, see how far you get with the automated voice before you are praying for a human being to come on the line even if only to tell you that you owe extra fees.

Concluvre

In any event, I don’t want to lose sight of the main point here, which is that the automation and mechanization we are seeing today are the real rise of malevolent machines insofar as such mechanization displaces human labourers.  Human labourers who are, of course, already set at odds with each other due to the very nature of the competitive system.  And I’m not even going to get into the depravity of fully automated military vehicles on the horizon, vehicles which would not only displace thousands of soldiers from the jobs they rely on for survival, but effectively remove the  potential for human compassion that can still exist in war.****  Nor will I get into high-frequency trading in the stock market, which is basically advanced computers “siphoning money out of the markets all day long,” necessarily to the detriment of other human beings, companies and nations who are not so well-equipped.

Understand though that this isn’t a rallying cry for Luddites to assemble, nor is it baseless technophobia.  Mechanization can truly be our salvation as it has the power to free us from monotony and drudgery, enabling lives of leisure, discovery and scientific inquiry.  But when said drudgery is the only thing keeping people fed, they have every right to fear machines.  Even more than they have the right to fear Mexican illegals.

They-Took-Our-Jobs

Seriously, in a competitive system, machines are kind of dicks.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

* While the laws were written regarding robots and not A.I. proper, Asimov was referring to sentient robots which equates to A.I. on the back end.

**”Complete Freedom of Choice” is a problematic concept which warrants some discussion, but for the purposes of this post I simply mean a degree of personal choice comparable to that of a human being.

***The classic problem of trading freedom (someone else’s preferably) for (your own) security (or at least the illusion of it).

****I think it goes without saying that I am not advocating the further employment of soldiers in any absolute sense but rather noting that they are human being who need access to resources through money, even if they get that money in one of the worst ways possible.

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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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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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The Three Kings


“I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who”
-Rudyard Kipling, The Elephant Child
My Friends,
   With all due respect to Mr. Kipling I have found that there are three (3) questions which rank as being of primary importance in the world we live in.  These questions are sadly not asked frequently enough, and if they were asked more, answered honestly, and then the answers acted upon, we would live in a very different world indeed.  So, without further ado, let’s begin.
Why?
Watch 1:00 to 1:30

   The most frequently asked of these infrequently-asked questions, why is actually a prime example of a question almost universally not being answered satisfactorily and honestly.  Many Some of you may recall that I am fond of this question and especially the formulation of what I call a “why ladder” (“Logical Disgreement/Beyond Good and Evil,” 26 June 2012), where you essentially keep asking “why?” until the person either a) communicates the answer (root cause) if they know it, b) gives an answer of “I don’t know” if they legitimately don’t know and are honest about it, or c) anger.  I mistakenly assumed when I wrote that post that these were the only three outcomes when constructing a why ladder, but there is actually a fourth: circular reasoning.

   For example, I have this one friend with whom I often discuss matters with and I have realized that trying to communicate ideas with him is an uphill battle.  For whatever reason he doesn’t like to hear new ideas from me even if they are relatively self-evident or backed by science.  I could go on and on about his dated assumptions regarding so-called human nature, his high-esteem for the merits of drudgery, his sophomoric attempts to pass off something he learned in a lecture as the missing link to all human understanding, and of course his insistence that there is a feminist plot to enslave mankind, but that would simply be vindictive and a result of my bitterness about his many successful attempts to stymie my pursuit of logic.  In an effort to overcome his stubborn refusal to admit that I might (from time to time) know what I am talking about, I decided on a different approach; I would ask him questions, mostly “whys,” in an effort to lead him toward finding knowledge on his own.  I unfortunately sorely underestimated his anti-intellectualism, and I realized that he (shrewd asshole that he is), understanding what I was asking him and sensing he knew (unconsciously or otherwise) where I was going with it, would refuse to answer my questions honestly and would respond to subsequent whys with previously given answers.
Example:
Me: Well, you seem to feel that A is a problem, but what caused it? (why?)
Him: Well its cause of B
Me: Okay I see, but why does B exist as such?
Him: Cause of C
Me: Well, what conditions are in place (why?) that give rise to C?
Him: I already told you, its because of B!
   You see what he did there? B is both the cause of and a result of C.  How is this possible?  Well its not, but sadly such circular, self-referential reasoning is far too commonplace.  And whether it is religion, the social system we have, or some other deeply-held belief or value-system which people strongly identify with, everyone has a box in which they can not argue outside of.  For if they did acknowledge that the answer might lie outside of their cognitive comfort-zone it would open them up to the possibility that they might be mistaken about other things as well (God Forbid).  
   This is why I emphasize that these questions must not only be asked, but answered honestly.  After all, do we really think that it is some political party, or union, or criminal, or music genre, or violent video game which is the root cause of all of our problems?  Of course not, yet these irrelevant issues are constantly attacked as if overcoming them will make life better somehow, when in fact they are actually so removed from the life sequence of value as to be less substantial than a popcorn fart.
…a Final Word on “Why”

   For a long time Jeopardy has been my favourite game show.  I find the formula of “questioning answers” instead of answering questions to be an interesting take on the typical trivia format.  And as this post makes clear, I, like Alex Trebek, am a fan of people asking the right questions.  However, I have noticed that the questions contestants respond with are always in the format of, “who is ____?” or “what is _____?, or infrequently, “where is _____?”  I have never to this day seen a contestant answer with “why is _____?”  
   Think about that for a second.
   Now think of what kind of clue could be given to necessitate a response beginning with “why?”
“Why is our socio-economic system such an abysmal failure, Alex?”

Something tells me that such a question wouldn’t serve the purposes of Alex Trebek’s overlords at Sony Corporation.  That actually brings me to my next question…
   For those who don’t read latin, this translates to, “To Whose Benefit?”  This is an oft-unasked question because the answers can frankly be scary.  After all, people don’t want to think that someone benefited from a tragedy or crisis, but it holds true that this is often the case.  Don’t believe me?  Consider the following:
You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” -Rahm Emanuel

“All we need is the right major crisis…” -David Rockefeller

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” -Warren Buffett

“Fortunes are made in recessions” -Anonymous

You see my point I hope.  Even outside of the financial and political realms this is true.  On an interpersonal level, I have been aware for some time that there is no such thing as bad news, just “news” and how you take it and use it is what matters.  For example, if you have a bit of a spat with someone or disappoint them it can rightly be seen as an opportunity to redeem yourself and find yourself in higher esteem than you would if you hadn’t gotten into a bad situation in the first place.
   When it gets scary is when you realize that some person or some organization of great means might actually effect a crisis in order to benefit from it.  This is colloquially called “conspiracy theory” but it is in reality the aforementioned law principle Cui Bono, handed down from the ancient-Roman legal tradition.  
Now its conspiracy … something that should not be even entertained for a minute: that powerful people might get together and have a plan.  Doesn’t happen.  Youre a kook, youre a conspiracy buff!!”
-George Carlin, relevant as always

   I think the truth in this question rests in the fact that regardless of your opinion on orchestrated tragedies, crises, etc., you have to concede that because we live in a competitive system, some person(s) must lose so others can win.  IN EVERY TRANSACTION!  After all, we can’t all be millionaires, right?
   Now go ahead and mull that point over for a sec because I want to make sure you are in agreement with that basic truism of our system before I go on, as my next point is predicated on it.
Seriously, think it over for a sec.  I’ll go watch porn for a few minutes.

   Are we all in agreement then?  Do you acknowledge that in a competitive system there has to be a loser for there to be a winner?  Good, because you must then also acknowledge the corollary, that there must be a winner to be a loser.  Think about that: every loss you have ever had has been a gain for someone else, usually a financial one.  Everything you dread, fear, or cower from is dollar signs for someone else.  Car breaks down?  Dollar dollar bills for the auto-service industry.  Loved one dies?  Pay-day for a mortician.  Terrorist attack? Foreign Belligerent? War?…
I’ll just leave this here…*

I really want to make clear that everything bad that happens, whether deliberately brought about or not, is profitable for someone.  When we start asking who benefits, we start to see the world in a much more honest, if sometimes cynical way.  But cynicism is the cult of the weak; a temple for those who feel indignant and impotent.  Much better to empower yourself…
What Would YOU Do?

   You have probably heard of this Jesus guy at some point.  People have in recent years pondered what he would do in any given situation.  We know they were pondering this because they wore cheap bracelets with W.W.J.D. inscribed on them:
I never had one but I think I’ll start bringing it back.

In any event, I don’t think most people would know what Jesus would do.  My respect for the man comes not from the bible but from an interpretation of his acts which I read in a non-violence class I took.  He was actually kind of a badass who seized upon the moral initiative, establishing himself as alpha-dog in social situations and pre-empting violent confrontation…
Well, MOST violent confrontation…

…with the strength of his presence, knowledge of self, and social clout.  But even if you possess my knowledge of the man (a knowledge which rivals that of any biblical scholar), and furthermore a knowledge of what he would do, that still begs the question: What would YOU do?
   Not such an easy answer, is it?  I think in our heads we mythologize Jesus and treat him as kind of a superhero; something unattainable.  In fact, that is missing the point; MY Jesus is the most accessible, down-to-Earth guy ever invented and he lived by a simple code.  Anyone can live up to the Jesus-code because it doesn’t ask more than anyone can give, but it does ask for all they can give.  
   Now I don’t want my admiration for and dick-riding of Jesus to get in the way of the point I am trying to make because nobody has to do what Jesus would do.  However, anyone who poses direct questions to themselves and finds honest answers finds themselves in the unique and lamentable position of no longer being ignorant.  And when you are no longer ignorant, a moral imperative arises, for you can no longer carry on the way you did in ignorance and keep a clean conscience.  When you know a behaviour is harmful or that you are contributing to a problem, it will gnaw at your conscience and peace of mind every time you engage in said behaviour.  We shouldn’t try to suppress this, for it is every fibre of our being telling us to do the right thing. 
   So what would you do?  Sometimes doing the right thing is passive, amounting to little more than abstaining from socially harmful behaviours.  Other times it is much harder, requiring difficult choices and actions.  But following the hard path, whether you want to call it the Jesus-path, the Gandhi-path, the MLK-path, the Zeitgeist-path or whatever, is much more satisfying, even if not rewarding in the superficial sense.  You know it from those times you did right by someone for no reward, or from those times when you intervened and prevented great tragedy from befalling someone.  And whether you call it altruism or enlightened self-interest, there is a feeling you get both from direct action and from making the right long-term choices which is the true meaning of life.  If this sounds preachy, its because it is: unqualified, uncompensated love for another human being is the greatest joy I have yet found. 
   
   ***
   
   I think if we ask honest questions of ourselves, both the first two questions  I posted and others, we come to certain truths rooted in natural law and universal human need.  And when we realize these truths, it is actually more difficult to resist the path of good than it is to follow it.  Let me say in closing that the hardest decisions I have ever arrived at were actually easy choices to make but difficult to follow through with.

Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
*Taken from the facebook group for the army regiment I belong to.


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