Documentary

A Victor’s Narrative

The narratives we are given about the state of civilization in the continent later baptized America is a narrative designed to obscure the truth of one side in favor of another. Our text books refer to it as the “New World” and to the first Western European arrivals as “settlers”. These terms elicit a certain imagery in our minds of virgin lands, unperturbed by man until the “Christians” came.

The superiority of European technology and culture was such – the story goes -, that the genocide, ethnic cleansing and erasure of indigenous culture, which followed was an inevitable consequence of contact. It follows an accepted line of Western thought, which states that the “victor” always writes history. But, the concept of victory, itself, is part of the things that separate these two sides of the world.

Few dare question the narrative. Indeed, most are not even aware it is a narrative at all. It is simply assumed to be a historical fact. Should it be challenged, many will instinctively come to its defense with vitriol and utter contempt for whoever has the gall to inject even the slightest doubt into the conqueror’s tales. They will point to the brilliant scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs, like genetic sequencing and the moon landing, as proof of their civilization’s clear primacy and advantages.

Defenders of the narrative will rally around these ahistorical claims, shrouded in racial supremacist thinking and take them as gospel. The cumulative effect of knowledge transfer over the course of millennia between multiple civilizations completely escapes them. And it is no wonder, since this too, is a feature of the narrative of so-called Western civilization.

The idea that “rational” thought and the fruits of the Enlightenment are part of an unbroken civilizational lineage, that stretches back to Ancient Greece is nothing more than part of an overarching theme of the birth of “Academia” emerging out of 19th century Germany, where the modern-day seminary-style university model was developed. Martin Bernal dispels this myth in his seminal, two-volume work, “Black Athena – The Afro-Asiatic Roots of Western Civilization”.

The Saviors

Another oft-repeated refrain are the radical improvements in life-expectancy and medical advancements brought forth by our White brethren. And indeed, Europeans’ life expectancy and general health did improve dramatically as a result. But, here’s the part that is ignored: It was Europe that was sick and dying, struck by the plague and chronically ill. It was their societies, which were failing and caught in a spiral of death and wars of attrition.

What they found on the other side of the Atlantic were thriving, healthy civilizations living in harmony with their environment. So healthy, that the diseases carried by the invading foreigners killed them by the millions because they had never been exposed to them. Just like the rats carrying the bubonic plague into Europe, European “settlers” brought sickness into the Amerindian societies.

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Dead man floating under I-10. New Orleans, La. Sept. 3, 2005 – PHOTO CREDIT: THOMAS DWORZAK—MAGNUM

Columbus and all who followed him also found copious amounts of food and agricultural technologies, that supported populations in the millions. Crops in varieties and numbers unheard of in their pastoral homelands. Vegetables, fruits and nuts in such abundance, the “Conquistadors” could barely believe their eyes.

When Hernán Cortez wrote about “El Nuevo Mundo” to his royal benefactors in Castile, he was literally describing a new world. A world that represented nothing less than a lifeline for a decaying world, rife with war, hunger and disease.

It is, perhaps, one of history’s greatest ironies, that Western Europeans would sail thousands of miles across the ocean with their horses, swords and guns under the banner of Christianity, purporting to bring salvation to a “savage” people.

Revisiting the accepted historical narrative, even superficially, reveals this to be a classic case of projection. The ones who needed saving were the Europeans themselves and it was the Native people of the American continent who saved them.

A Retelling in Time

Narratives are important. It is the stories that we tell ourselves, which determine the actions we ultimately take. As we stand on the threshold of an environmental catastrophe, we are beginning to understand that our actions are leading us down a dangerous road. It is in these moments, that we must re-examine our motives. We have to revisit the narrative and identify the points that are not congruent with our reality.

FILE PHOTO – A poster promoting the first Earth Day
in the United States, which took place in April, 1977

The climate disaster, which is presently unfolding on this planet is the consequence of the same unsustainable way of life that led to the near collapse of Western European civilization at the dawn of a renaissance underwritten by Native and indigenous people.

Our increasingly polluted rivers, oceans and air; the rampant deforestation and resource extraction; the unsustainable fossil fuel energy paradigm that is not only driving wars around the world, but is also causing our atmosphere to warm and threatens to extinguish life on earth as we know it. These are all manifestations of the same spirit that crossed the Atlantic 500 years ago as a self-destructive civilization survived its imminent demise by leaching off of societies working successfully to reach an equilibrium with nature.

A Call to Action

My documentary Ghost on the Water revisits the Colonial narrative in order to expose the lies we continue to tell ourselves about how we got here and where all this is leading us. If you feel this is a worthwhile endeavor, consider making a contribution so we can continue production:

Kickstarter Campaign

Where Are We?

We’ve all been in that Uber, looking down at our phones and playing Candy Crush or whatever, when we look up to see that our gig-economy cabby is taking the absolute weirdest route to our destination. They don’t know the area and rely on the algorithm to tell them where to go. And the algorithm doesn’t know shit.

I get it. GPS can be a very useful convenience and might even save your life, in certain situations. But, is it really much more different than carrying a printed map in our glove compartment or pockets?

Knowing the terrain entails so much more than just finding the right intersection. It’s about recognizing the landmarks, engaging with the memories and feeling the feelings a particular place, neighborhood or city elicits.

I’m no Luddite. Much of my work depends on all the technological “wonders” of our time. I use digital cameras, lots of different software and I know how to code. But, I’m also keenly aware of the price we are all paying for making them such a prominent feature of our lives.

I was here before all of this and I remember what it was like to get lost in a city with only my wits to carry me through. You see the world in a far different light when you’re the only one looking. Today, we have a million eyes looking along with us. A million different opinions to color or override your own.

This may sound like an advantage, but it is most definitely a curse. At least, it is a curse for the individual. Only a hive mind can thrive in such an environment. The further we go down this road, the more the individual human recedes and blends into the amorphous nothingness of single mindedness.

FLIE PHOTO – Movie still fromthe 1972 film Network. Towatrds the end of the film, the protagonist, Howard Beale, delivers a speech to his audience declaring that the individual is finished.

Nowhere is this so apparent than in the contrast between the popular music of the late 20th century and that of the early 21st. It is becoming nearly impossible to find musicians these days. People who express a creative urge through instruments and song are being replaced by the algorithm, that know-nothing know-it-all infecting our real lives. I have written about this before, but I want to do more than that.

The Creative Impulse

Many of the creative ideas I have revolve around ways to mitigate the alienating aspects of this tech-infused world. It is an instinct, more than anything. Like all creative endeavors, it is an individual journey of self-discovery that may or may not yield a “piece of art”.

If I was a sculptor, perhaps I would chisel away at a big rock that would end up on a street corner. And it would end up there so other people could see it and appreciate it. Make it part of their inner landscape. The algorithm has no use for my art.

So, the question is why do we make art to begin with? Why make music in the first place? We have gone from using technology to make art to making art for technology. And that, in my opinion, is complete insanity.

I have just launched a Kickstarter campaign for a project many years in the making called Inspired Ground. And as the name implies, it has to do with the literal ground we walk on and the value of the unexpected. It is about an art form the algorithm is intent on destroying: Street musicians, colloquially known as “buskers”.

Buskers are the very definition of what we call the “gig economy”, except that what they do falls short of perceived notions of value in our algorithmically-driven world. While some people are too captivated by their devices to listen to a man rocking it on the sidewalk, even those who do stop can’t give the performer a tip because they’ve pretty much gone cashless.

Inspired Ground is a musical anthology/film documentary project that will take advantage of all the technology available (Internet, crowdfunding, digital cameras) for a chance to create a lasting space outside of it.

Drew Dunbar

The pilot of what I hope will turn out to be an ongoing series is about the busker who inspired it all, Drew Dunbar.

Five years ago, I was in Las Vegas doing some video production for a mobile technology company – ironically enough. After the conference I was covering was over, I had some time to kill before heading to the airport and decided to take some pictures around town. That’s when I spotted Drew jamming on one the pedestrian bridges along the strip and I recorded him doing a great cover of the classic rock song, “Hey Joe”.

I had also recorded an original tune of his, but had not uploaded it to my YouTube channel because I wanted to establish a line of communication with him in case there was any ad revenue he could collect. I was never able to find him until now, when a fellow busker emailed me back in May.

But the story is already on the Kickstarter campaign page. Go there >>

Borderline was born from an article in Proceso magazine, one of Mexico’s top publications for investigative journalism, about the incredible conditions inside the CERESO de Piedras Negras where the Zetas cartel had been running operations since the early 2000’s. The piece was based on a report by the Colegio de Mexico, and was also included as a downloadable pdf. More tan intrigued, I immediately printed the 70+ page pdf document. Only a fraction of what I read in there actually made it into part one of Borderline, and if you can read Spanish I recommend reading it in its entirety.

At first, I considered making the series about the Zeta-controlled prison exclusively. There was certainly more than enough material to justify it, but given the current political climate in the United States I was afraid that producing a portrait of such a place without the larger context would prove counterproductive,

As soon as I began my research, I came upon Ginger Thompson’s fantastic investigation for Pro Publica about a bungled DEA operation, that resulted in the death or disappearance of more than 300 people in the region of northern Coahuila as the Zetas exacted revenge after the American law enforcement agency “carelessly” revealed the cartel bosses’ private cell phone numbers to Mexican authorities. As it turned out, it was Thompson’s article which spurred the subsequent investigation by Colegio de Mexico scholars into the prison, where many of the killers unleashed on the hapless residents of Piedras Negras and surrounding areas by the Zetas came from.

I quickly realized that I had the perfect story from which to launch a broader examination about the war on drugs. Here was this horrific incident taking place less than 5 miles from the border between Mexico and the United States after more than four decades of a relentless “drug war”.  How was this possible? More than forty years engaged in a battle against narcotics and not only are the most violent cartels to date doing business steps from the U.S. border, but the illicit drug market in America has ballooned to an all-time high, raking in $150 billion dollars a year?

Clearly, something else is going on. The truth about America’s war on drugs is out there and has been for quite a while, but mainstream sources of information rarely take on these stories and in most cases work to suppress them. The case of Gary Webb is among the most salient, though not the only one. The facts themselves are the best proof that the so-called war on drugs is a cover for hegemonic foreign policy directives originating in Washington.

In Borderline, I try to lay out some of the facts and provide a broad historical perspective for those who may otherwise not know the full story and find themselves being manipulated by dishonest political discourse. It is not an exhaustive presentation, by any means, but I have tried to cover a large enough swath of events – spanning centuries – to give those who seek a better understanding a solid foundation for further research.

The series starts and ends with the story that is closest to us, both in time and space. But, in between, the root causes of the humanitarian crisis currently expressing itself at the U.S.-Mexico border are finally given the context that is missing from other accounts about the war on drugs and the fictionalized dramas, like Narcos, which have found so much recent success.

The full series is freely available online on the Deep City Chronicles Vimeo channel.

Trailer

Netflix

Netflix is about to release the third installment in its wildly successful series “Narcos”, which began with the fantastic portrayal of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar by Wagner Moura, in a well-conceived, albeit, fictional narrative centering around the exploits of the Medellin cartel and the hapless DEA agents in pursuit of its infamous leader.

Blown Cover

The new season moves on chronologically and northward, to the mid 80’s in Mexico and the first case of a murdered agent of the DEA. Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was an anti-narcotics officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration working in Mexico under cover as a journalist. In the Winter of 1985, months before a devastating earthquake that would take thousands of lives in Mexico City, a member of the Guadalajara Group, got careless with the plans to kidnap him after his identity had been leaked to the criminal organization by an anonymous source in the American consulate located in the capital of Jalisco.

Camarena
File Photo: Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was tortured to death in Mexico by Rafael Caro Quintero in 1985.

Rafael Caro Quintero had been just another uneducated thug on the payroll of the drug trafficking group, but had risen quickly in the ranks as a result of his ambition and innovative marijuana cultivation methods. At that time, the organization was headed by Amado Carrillo Fuentes, a.k.a. El Señor de Los Cielos, who would later put together a fleet of aircraft to transport narcotics across the border. Quintero ran part of Carrillo Fuentes’ operation with fellow gang deputy, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo or Don Neto. Together, they decided to teach the annoying DEA agent a lesson and scare him off.

The Look-Away

Camarena was abducted and hidden in one of the organization’s main properties in the city of Guadalajara. Business was booming. The covert Iran-Contra operation was in full swing, and American deep state actors had scaled the Mexican drug trafficking business considerably. Tons of Colombian cocaine were being smuggled into the United States via the Sinaloan desert, where U.S. military personnel swapped the weapons cargo they had flown in, destined for Nicaraguan Contras, with cocaine brought up from South America on its way to the streets of South Central Los Angeles and other points in the growing crack and coke market. It was not surprising then, that Caro Quintero felt he could get away with torturing a DEA agent to death.

Nevertheless, when Fonseca Carrillo, heard what Quintero had done, he was terrified. He personally went to see the agent’s mangled corpse while it was still in the safe house and went off on Quintero. What his partner didn’t understand was that the boss was not THE boss. There were higher-ups in the Mexican military and the federal government who would not be happy with this turn of events. Quintero’s rouge actions could jeopardize their positions. Indeed, Don Neto was soon convicted of the agent’s murder and is languishing in a Mexican prison to this day. As for Caro Quintero, he too was arrested and sent to prison, though released just a few years ago. The Guadalajara Group, however, would continue to thrive under new figureheads groomed by the real bosses behind the scenes and rebrand itself as the Sinaloa Cartel.

That’s Entertainment

The first two seasons of Narcos didn’t go very far down the rabbit hole of the deep state’s active involvement in the drug trade. At best, there were only some very subtle insinuations. But, nobody expects that to change as the series progresses. After all, there are “higher-ups” in nearly every industry and people, in general, like their heroes and villains to be clearly defined. Diego Luna is set to play the Lord of the Skies in the upcoming Netflix epic. If the Mexican actor is able to approach Moura’s gravitas from the first two seasons, then the show will be well worth the $9-dollar subscription price tag. But, don’t assume you’re going to get the real story about the drug war.

If you’re looking to be both informed and entertained, I would urge you to consider watching my series “Borderline – The Unhinged Truth About the Drug War”, currently half-way through its full release. Part I and Part II are out now, no subscription necessary.

Borderline – The Unhinged Truth About the Drug War

Is the war on drugs a failed policy or a vital tool of American hegemony?

Part I


A massacre in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila was unleashed by the most violent cartel in the country, the Zetas. As many as 300 people were murdered or kidnapped in 2011 by the mercenary drug army, but if it hadn’t been for the DEA, such a terrible tragedy might have never happened. Part one takes you on the ground of the deadliest war of our time, and sets the stage for the real story about the so-called war on drugs.

Part II


Part II takes a step back into history and looks at the roots of drug trafficking in America as well as the rise to power of the architect of the modern day “war on drugs”, George H.W. Bush, and the so-far unexamined, engineered crisis imposed on a rising Mexican economy three decades ago, which plunged it into the violence-ridden country it is today.

Part III


Part III begins with the collapse of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua and the creation of the world’s biggest illicit drug market in the United States via Iran-Contra by elements of America’s deep state. The policies and strategies employed by the military-industrial complex are then revealed in detail, as the political discourse of “national security” was continually used by both the Department of Defense and large U.S. multinational firms to impose hegemonic designs on Latin America and the world, with pharma giant Pfizer leading the way on the corporate front, and U.S. Southern Command (Southcom) assuming the lead role on the military front.

Go to the Ghost on the Water Landing Page to learn more about this documentary film project that examines the spiritual roots of environmental justice movements across America and confronting an unsustainable energy paradigm.

Consider making a contribution to help us complete production. Visit our Go Fund Me Campaign for Ghost on the Water or share this page on your preferred social media networks. Thank you!

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