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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
Instagram: @dreguan
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Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdwhemiqzc

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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.

-

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

enhanced-buzz-6581-1374515190-381-840x550

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

8095_1

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

3

images

2

communism-vs-capitalism-575x250

Presentation1

125177754

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:

125177754

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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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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Praying On Our Downfall

“I’m an entropy fan”
-George Carlin

“Its the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”
-Michael Stipe

My Friends,
   You just missed it, but I had the most awesome end-of-the-world boner ever.  It all started on a night like tonight.  More specifically it was tonight.  Here in Hamilton, the lights all of a sudden went out whilst I was browsing a forum dedicated to cheating all government and confiscatory bureaus out of my hard-earned skrilla.
   Suddenly everything went black and after a split-second of thinking, “Ain’t this some inconveneient shit?” I suddenly thought, “Hey, this could be exactly what I have been waiting for! XD”  I shut my laptop and walked out onto the balcony just to confirm that all the neighbourhood lights were off.
   They were.  So far, so good.
   Quickly I went back indoors and sent out a mass text message to my parents and siblings in other cities and provinces asking them if they were having a blackout.  Hoping beyond hope that the message would not send because cell phone towers were out of commission too, I was somewhat disheartened when the message was received by all recipients.
   No matter; perhaps the cell phone towers were on emergency power for just such an eventuality.
   I waited.
   I went out back out on the balcony.
   Then I waited some more.
   I started receiving scattered messages to the negative and realized with a heavy heart that this particular loss of power was no widespread precursor of societal collapse, but simply a symptom of our outdated, inefficient and obsolete power infrastructure.
   My dad responded, wondering what I was talking about.  I responded to him thusly:

   (Sigh) It would have been too good to be true.  Still, it was all dark and stone-age outside and there was a palpable excitement and an air of possibility in the dark world.  Me and my woman set out in search of adventure.  She didn’t actually know we were looking for adventure but I would have dragged her reluctant, non-adventure-seeking, midget ass all the way to the depths of Mordor if I had to.

Or maybe not…

   We walked around outside and sure enough things were different; people were out on the streets, sitting on the curb, and I thought I heard some yells a street over which made me think there was going to be an impromptu block-party.  I was pretty stoked and I told my woman how I had messaged my peoples as soon as the blackout happened hoping that it was widespread.  She had previously accused me of looking forward to the coming collapse of society when I was musing about my survival plans for the possible imminent zombie uprising (“My Checkered History With the Undead,” 3 June 2012) and I had been taken aback because she had of course been correct.  But beyond the romanticized, survivalist notions I had in that previous conversation, there had been something else below the surface: A sincere desire to see this decaying society crumble so that we as a species could build something new and better from the ground up.
   Now, here tonight in the darkness of the street, vaguely aware of excited murmurs from others obscured from sight by the night, this thought of rebuilding the world even better from the ashes of what we have today was at the forefront of my mind; all romanticized survivalist notions were absent from my consciousness, notwithstanding the prudent concern of procuring groceries to weather the storm.

“There is no reason to fear the imminent, global financial collapse.”
-Unknown

      To be clear, I look at the societal collapse I have been referring to as a direct result of the financial collapse this quotation alludes to.  But society is not really going to be a collapse even when the financial system does.  Rather, I think it will change.  After all, as long as we’re here there is a society in some form.  And while society is always/has always been emergent (changing), I see a clearly marked period of more dramatic transition on the horizon where circumstances will force us to make use of our stifled ingenuity and compassion, currently yoked by a competitive and uncaring system which forces us to sacrifice a bit of our humanity every day in order to thrive.
   When that unknown speaker says there is no reason to fear the collapse, he is right in ways you might not have even considered.  Most people’s immediate concern, if they are selfish assholes with narrow aims in life, will be, “Oh noes, what about all my delicious monies!?!?”  Relax, when all your money is rendered worthless it will also wipe out all your debt and obligations too.

“Put on your sunglasses; the future is lookin’ bright!”

   Or think of it like this: Every dollar will be put out of its misery too.
   See, I liken every dollar to a sick person who gets weaker and frailer every day due to a sickness called inflation.  Every day your dollars degenerate further, laying in bed on a respirator, shitting into a bag and you are forced to watch as they become more weak, but you never actually get the closure of seeing them pass on and finally be at peace.  Like a terminally-ill person, their time has passed, and though the death will be an initial shock, you can not rightly say it was wholly unexpected and not for the best. 

   As the great warrior-poet, Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges once said, “Drink some prune-juice and let the shit go.”
   Others among you who are rightly less concerned with your delicious currencies than you are with your safety, but you should not worry too much either.  After all, nobody is out to get you who is simply being kept at bay by the current social order and its laws.  I too fall into this fearful category from time to time although I should know better; having been all of over the world and having met many different people, I know that the fear-mongering which we see on television is just that, and that people more or less just want to happily co-exist.  So no, I don’t worry about roving gangs of raider/cannibals marauding when things go sour, acting like a dark cloud trying to steal the sunshine from my apocalypse.

Even when apocalypse is frowning (always), he is still kinda smiling.

   And what about the for realz bad guys; you know, the prison population?  You just know that when people barricade their doors and stop going to work that the prison guards and administrators will do the same.  Rather than leave them to rot in their cages, some well-meaning, compassionate souls will probably try to release them so they have a chance at survival.  Should we be afeared of pissed-off convicts swelling the ranks of the aforementioned marauders?  Methinks not.  If crimes are not committed for monies (and the vast majority are, so there would really be no incentive for them in the post-dollar world) then they are typically perpetuated by so-called “sickos” who don’t do bad things for sane reasons like monetary gain.  Well research has shown that these sickos are people who are likely to respond violently when they feel looked down upon and feel they have no other remedy for the shame they feel, whether that be amends, recompense, or simply some other aspect of their life which they feel proud of and can mentally cling to in their darker moments.  If everyone loses everything and is (gasp!) reduced to being equal, it will be hard for anyone to look down on anyone else in the first place.  
   Besides, if theres anything the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy has taught me, its that convicts, when they are pushed to the brink of survival will act honourably, like they did when they were trapped on the ferry in The Dark Knight and the Joker set it up so that they would have to blow up the ferry beside them full of civilians by midnight or risk being blown up themselves.
You’ve come a long way, DeeBo

   Then again, in Batman Begins Nolan showed convicts as looking for retribution against Gothamites when a paranoid frenzy was induced in the population by Ra’s al-Ghul’s fear toxin.

And then he (Nolan) howed them (SPOILER ALERT!!) as all too willing to take control of society and hold mock trials against their former societal oppressors (which invariably ended in death sentences) when Bane freed them from Blackgate Prison in The Dark Knight Rises.  
So I’m not sure where Nolan actually stands on prisoners to be honest.
   But I digress.  I hadn’t actually meant to go on a tangent dispelling the likely fears people have about the inevitable collapse.  Rather I wanted to extol the benefits and the positives.  But in the same way we define our freedom as not being held captive, and heaven as being absent of the horrors of hell, perhaps it would be more effective if I made a short list of negative aspects of our society which are actually exacerbated by our system.  Which of these system-induced features of our lives could you do without?:
   
The stress of always feeling inadequate because you don’t have as much money as the next person, your big, fat junk-food addicted kids, war, most crime, parking tickets, most neuroses which come as a result of the psycho-social stress of living in a stratified society, not being able to trust anyone you don’t know (and even some you do), taxes, politics, child prostitution/slavery, etc…
   The list could go on but whether you realize it or not, there is not one problem you face which does not relate back to our monetary-market paradigm in some way (Someone call me out on this please!!).  Therefore I say we welcome with open arms our impending financial ruin, and call it what it actually is, our impending rebirth.  When I say it is an exciting time to be alive, I truly mean it.  In fact the worst thing that could happen at this point to me personally is that things go on more or less as they have for the rest of my life, I put money away for retirement, have a comfortable existence, sire a couple kids out of boredom and become a depressed geriatric because all of my doom-saying was for naught.  So when I look forward to ruin I don’t look forward to it in the religious “I want the rapture so I can meet Jesus” way, or the “Hey Allah, where the virgins at?” way, I mean it in the “Oh man, building a new and better world is gonna be dope as fuck!” way.
   I’ll leave you with two things.  First, one of my favourite George Carlin bits (and the source of one of the quotations I led in with).  
George’s insights are as relevant as ever in these wacky, exciting times, and although he would probably call me a fucking liar, I would like to see us work together to mitigate the loss of life which could likely occur during a societal collapse.  But before the collapse anyone is fair game because its just more evidence of the system breaking down lol.
   The second thing I want to leave you with is an idea my younger brother left me with.  I asked him how he would deal with society collapsing a while back (yeah, I think about it a lot).  I asked him, “Would you stock up on food?” “Would you fortify your house?” “Would you get out of the city?”  His response stuck with me: “Naw brother, I’d get a table and a pot and go out into the street and serve soup to people as they were running around scared & panicking.”
   More thinking like that is needed and we’ll be able to weather any storm.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
P.S. The power is back on fml
   



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Logical Disgreement/Beyond Good and Evil

My Friends,
   I was listening to an interview on youtube today and the interviewee, Peter Joseph said something which resonated with me, which I then tweeted:

Probably should have hashtagged his name as a reference

He was talking about the challenges he receives from others based on the views of societal design which he espouses through the Zeitgeist Movement.  After a certain point in a discussion, people who are too steadfast (read: religious/zealous) in their traditional worldviews invariably get offended and uncomfortable and in the worst cases become belligerent.  In any event they become irrational, clinging to outlooks and pre-conceptions which are provably mistaken.  Without commenting on the views which Peter Joseph espouses which can be found here here here and here, I want to comment on the broader notion of disagreement. We tend to think that there is merit to all points of view, or at least that everyone has a right to their opinion, and insofar as that means people should not be forcibly coerced to think a certain way or harassed for their views this is true.  But do all points of view truly have merit?  Does a racist’s hatred for someone’s skin colour have merit?  Does a misogynist contribute to the discussion when he mistreats women?  
  And of course, were Hitler’s views defensible?

   What we are left with from this simple thought experiment is a very clear picture that there are right positions and wrong positions (notice I am not saying good and evil cause there is no such thing), or at least positions which are more right or wrong than others, a continuum as it were.  But if there is indeed a right-wrong continuum, why settle for being simply righter than someone like Hitler, who is very clearly wrong?  That’s hardly a challenge, and with that very clear picture of what “wrong” looks like, we get comfortable in a worldview which supports our immediate comfort, not challenging ourselves and our outlooks to see if they can be refined and brought closer to the ultimate right, or at least what we know of right.  We kind of just sit there content knowing that we’re not as wrong as the Paul Bernardos, Luka Magnottas, Slobodan Milosevics, etc. which are paraded in front of us so that we have a very clear image of wrong.  

About 1:28 is where Tony expounds upon this point
I think this is where most people fall (fail), at least in my experience.  They know (or think) they are lightyears away from murderers, drug addicts and white slave traders, so they feel that by corollary they are right without ever giving it critical thought.  But do you think that with your “right” worldview you could say, win a debate against Hitler?  Do you think you could argue Trotsky or Marx into a corner?  And while most people in our society likely support his views on some level, could you, if tasked to, hold your end in a discussion with free-market champion, Milton Friedman?  I doubt many could, yet these same people KNOW that (at least in the case of the commies and the nazis) that they are in the right.
   Now what I AM NOT SAYING is that people should work on their rhetoric so they can appear smarter than the person they are discussing with.  Nor am I saying that they should raise their voice in order to bolster themselves against an opponent with more clout and the support of the audience.
The truth does not need to be supplemented with force.  Lies do.  In fact there are books and articles about how to be a good liar but none about how to tell the truth.  
The truth kinda just speaks for itself.

What I AM SAYING is that…well let me just post a recent tweet, also a quotation from Mr. Joseph:
I actually hadn’t tweeted this yesterday or the day before like I meant to so I just tweeted it now (avec le petit hashtag).  Hopefully noone calls me out for fabricating evidence when needed.

If you really wanted to effectively refute Hitler, the commies or the laissez-faire capitalist types, you would have to know their failings.  Instead most people would fall back on criticisms of evil, which on top of being completely irrelevant, are qualitative.  After all, Hitler didn’t think he was evil.  He probably genuinely hated Jews and saw them as a legit threat.  And based on his eugenics program he probably had more than a passing interest in science or psuedoscience.  Yet most even today with so much knowledge at our fingertips would still not have the chops to explain to Hitler why a eugenics program is retarded and furthermore why the “Juden” were not responsible for the Weimar republic and the Treaty of Versailles.  Could you do it?  I think I could.
   However, would Hitler accept my argument?  It would make sense but it would put a visible crack in his theories which is where all his power rested.  In a very tangible way he would associate being proven wrong with failure and the loss of power because all of his power was predicated on mistaken assumptions.  So Hitler would instead get angry, stick to illogical/provably wrong assertions, resort to name-calling, question my intellectual background, question my life experience, then tell me to go back to my Macbook and have an espresso at Starbucks with all my hippie friends.  
   Interestingly enough this sort of close-minded response is similar to what I get from a lot of people on Facebook when I discuss with them.*  Typically I question deeply-held convictions which have little to no relevance and it basically stirs up lots of shit.  When asked to rationalize obsolete perspectives it invariably ties back to their own life observations rather than scientific ones.  Life observations are unreliable of course because we have been scientifically proven to see what we’re looking for.
   Even when someone does manage to keep their composure and elect to refute what I am saying with logic, it is typically no more than name-dropping something/someone to do with science, pretending to agree with misinterpretations of parts of what I am saying, and then using extreme examples and figurative language to illustrate the ultimate outcome of their own bastardized perceptions of what I am saying.  It can be frustrating.
   Now it may sound like I think I have all the answers, but I most certainly do not, nor do I think I do.  Instead I have one advantage which most people lack by choice: I hold NOTHING sacred.  I question everything.  There are no givens, there are no upward limits of what is possible, there is no human nature.  All of these convenient assumptions and others which allow most to go on day to day in ignorance of the ultimate outcomes of their actions are up for debate.  And what I find more than anything is NOT that I have the answers, but that the people who hold on to their sets of assumptions don’t.  
   All you have to do is ask “why?”
   Why is the worst question but also the best question and if you have ever asked it to someone in authority you have probably been disappointed by the answer.  This habit of unsatisfactorily answering this most important of questions is learned early on by people and carried on throughout most of their lives.  And if you follow the why ladder you will find one of three outcomes 1) An answer, if they know what they are talking about.  2) “I don’t know,” if they are honest enough to admit they don’t know what they are talking about, or 3) Anger.
***************
Now I want to reiterate that I don’t profess to have all the answers.  I simply try not to hold onto a premise past its usefulness (It is bitterly ironic that in a culture of such disposability we are unwilling to repair or replace our beliefs).  I think everyone should adopt this practice of critical thinking, as that is infinitely more important than what particular belief you happen to hold.  But criticism must start at the self and the premises you hold and that is a hard pill to swallow.  If I were to make up an itemized list of practices to embrace off the top of my head it would be something like this:
1) Question EVERYTHING!  Question the motherfucking ground you stand on if need be.  If you don’t know the answer to the question go learn it.  If you do know it, seek different perspectives.  Yes, I know 16 & Pregnant is on but this is more important
2) Find the Truth that makes you squirm.  So you found an explanation? Fanstastic! And it tells you that everything is in good working order and that things are operating as they should?  Well, if thats the case how do you reconcile it with crime & poverty statistics and 1 Billion+ starving people on the planet?  What about your own poverty?  Sure, life may seem grand when you have an iPhone 4 and 60″ plasma but could it be better?  The answer is invariably yes.  When you start looking at reasons why it isn’t and those reasons make you uncomfortable you are on the right track.  
Note: If the answers you find in your quest for truth equate to “Pack your sunglasses cause the future is looking bright” then they probably aren’t taking a lot of things into consideration.
3) Look at the broader picture and attempt to find root causes.  All too often we deal with issues in a reductive and individualistic sense.  We would attempt to deal with air pollution by dealing with industrial emissions for example.  First off, this negates the fact that there are other causes of air pollution and that even the emissions themselves are not causes of pollution, simply agents of the cause.  The cause would likely be irresponsible industrial practices.  Irresponsible industrial practices would then be relegated from cause to agent when the broader question of “what causes irresponsible industrial practices?”  Similar to a “why ladder” is a “cause ladder.”  Climb it til you find that squirmy truth.
The answers are simple if you are honest and reject false concepts like good and evil.  
4) False dualities.  There is a position beyond a and b.  Far too often we get labelled by people as this or that for expressing an opinion which is contrary to what theirs is or simply for asking a question.  This whole idea that “if you’re not one, you’re the other” is a detrimental oversimplification and it hinders the pursuit of truth by attaching to people a set of beliefs that they don’t necessarily hold.  Also, it is a way of attacking someone with an unpopular label without refuting their argument. 
“He’s a heretic/communist/liberal/muslim/fascist/etc!”

4B) As an unofficial side-rule don’t waste your brain following politics.  I did mention that I do have lots of FB debates but they are never about politics, except if I am explaining why the political system is useless, ineffectual and insulting.  Neither party is right cause they are not trained to be right.  They are institutionalized entities out for self-preservation even if it means catering to the financial interests who hold their purse-strings.  Those campaigns and conventions don’t buy themselves you know.  For a more practical analogy, asking me what I thought about Barack Obama’s or Stephen Harper’s last proposed legislation is like asking me what I thought about Justin Bieber’s new song.  Does it matter? 
Seriously, politics is about as useful as a cock-flavoured lollipop.  Stop getting excited and/or angry about new legislation and stop voting, you’re just letting them think they matter.

5) Rethink/Relearn what you “know” about people.  The debate about so called human nature has unfortunately been reduced to another false duality, nature vs nurture.  If you don’t believe in one then it must be the other.  Of course the truth is more complex than this, and assumptions about man in a state of nature as a greedy,profit-maximizing, hoarder (which only serves to legitimize the current paradigm we live in btw) are completely untenable given the level of knowledge we have.  I personally think this is the most important conversation to have because what we think about human beings and their nature ultimately frames our conceptions of what is possible for the world.  So if we assume that man is a the aforementioned greedy, profiteering hoarder since his inception, then society would necessarily have to be, well as shitty as it is today.  But is he?  Go learn about it.
6) BEING PROVEN WRONG IS NOT FAILURE.  This is hard and it often takes me at least a few minutes to (grudgingly) admit that I was mistaken about something.  It sucks when you go and fact check something you said and realize you spoke more than what you knew when you should have said “I don’t know.”  But admit when you are mistaken and move on.  Remember though, unless you are a hate-monger who has mobilized millions of angry people based on your lies and rhetoric, the admission of error will probably not be your total and utter downfall.  In fact, it will be liberating.  Trust me on this.  I have been wrong about so much and there is a certain joy that comes from laughing at how stupid you used to be because it is a measure of how far you have come.  
   
   I think that’s all I got as far as suggestions but I will share with you two quotations from Ayn Rand.  Though I care nothing for her theories on economics, she had some incisive observations about right and wrong.  I will share two:
“There is no such thing as a contradiction.  If you find there is a contradiction, check your premises, one of them is mistaken.”

“People who argue that things are not black and white are really saying, ‘I am unwilling to be wholly right, please don’t judge me as wholly wrong.'”**

   To tie things back to my original tweet, there is no logical disagreement.  If there is a disagreement, someone is espousing a mistaken view, or misinterpreting a correct one.  If it is a failure of communication between two parties who essentially agree then it is not a logical disagreement.
ADDENDUM 27 June 2012
   On thing I forgot to mention when I wrote this post was perhaps my major stumbling which I need to work on: I must work to communicate myself more effectively.  Basically its easy to explain things to people if you can get them to drop their religiously-held pre-conceived notions, but if you can’t get them to that point you might as well shout a brick wall.  Whether it is my cocksure attitude, my intellectual words, or simply the people I endeavour to discuss with, I have had limited success in getting through to people.  I can understand this, I often deal with people who have profited greatly from the paradigm we live in.  I by comparison have not profited as much and it still took me many years to come to terms with certain realities.  So if even someone like me, who really suspected something was not quote right since I was a kid, can take years to come to grips with the distortion of natural law we are living in then I can only imagine how much harder it would be for someone totally content.  Still with respect to this hindrance of attachment to the current paradigm, I must work to inform others without coming off like a preachy Jeremiah who alienates people who who need to be eased into new ideas.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

*Not a direct violation of Godwin’s Law, because I could have used Friedman, Trotsky or Marx instead of Hitler and still made the same point.  
**The original quotation used the terms good and evil which I have already expressed my disdain for.  The substitution of right and wrong is applicable and more apt for this post.

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