Is the alt right the new punk rock?


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It’s a question that’s been thrown around quite a bit lately with hyped up claims that the alt right is inspiring a youth movement better than the youth crews of the 80s and 90s hard-core scenes, with “blood and soil” replacing “I’ve got the straight edge” as the rallying cry. I do not believe that the alt right is the new punk rock, mainly because of significant ideological differences that many people more punk them myself have already pointed out but also because of the notable lack of a significant alt right music scene. However I believe there is an important connection between conservatism overall and some of the alt-right in particular and the more liberal ideologies of things like punk rock and skateboarding that is far more significant than all this prognosticating about whether or not the alt right is the new youth trend to supplant punk. In fact, I think this connection could be a missing link to proper diplomatic relations between young activists for social justice and those with more conservative tendencies, alt right or not.

Is there a missing link between the right and the left? There is, and it is in the most unusual place.
Punk and skate have the DIY ethos. These are both relatively liberal traditions in common perception, although their ideas are actually closer to a sort of communitarian oriented libertarianism. This unusual, seemingly paradoxical mix of ideologies has the potential to be part of the answer and bridge to the concerns of the right. These are what I term bridge ideologies – ideologies with components appealing to disparate parties but that allow for sufficient flexibility to allow them to both at least respect them and also which ideally have components that lead to constructive problem-solving. I believe these ideologies can be key to de-escalating tensions in politics .
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the term snowflake and SJW – short for social justice warrior – used in a derogatory sense to describe those who hold left-leaning positions, in particular those relating to diversity. And you would have to have been living in a rock without Wi-Fi to have not heard the millennial’s are lazy trope, that tends to be closely associated with their perceived political liberalism. These two ideas originate and end at roughly the same points that being liberal leaning people are weak, conservatives are strong and it’s better adapted to creating a productive and efficient society, thus their ideas should be adopted wholesale to prevent the inferior ideologies from seeping in and weakening society. Such weakening arises by way of mooching off of the strong conservative hard workers by way of welfare programs, hence causing increases in taxation, for example. But such things are not as binary as one would have you believe. And holding to such a binary view is actually adversed to the society’s welfare and ironically often times the welfare of those who promulgate these views.
Now let’s analyze. The term for the positive aspects of the ideology I just explained is rugged individualism. It exists in the hard-working values of the shall we say stereo typical conservative, but it also exists in the values of some of the most liberal or at least liberal seeming youth movements around. These movements don’t take to the term rugged individualism as easily as conservatives but their ideas of a DIY ethos amount to the same. Think about it on a very superfluous level. The stereotypical conservative is probably somebody who does a lot of work with their hands, a lot of DIY. Someone who takes their ability to take initiative and their raw strength seriously. Now the term DIY means different things for different groups in context, namely that the more politically liberal users of the term like punk and skate are less likely to be referring to home improvements and more likely to be referring to the development of businesses and community institutions that are in line with their values, whether that be, say, a record label like Dischord Records or a skatepark like Burnside in Portland.
However, on the conservative side, their own version of the DIY ethos as compared to their perception of the other side is used on the offensive against “lazy liberals” and strengthens entrenched policy preferences on the basis of moral distance, when all along there is a not insignificant segment of the ideology they oppose that stands in total agreement with them and puts it into practice by creating things to build a culture and community and not just complain about the lack thereof. One example of traditional political and community forces acknowledging this is when a Kennedy Center Rep said that skaters didn’t want a skatepark built for them, but they wanted to build it themselves. This is the kind of stuff that should warm a conservative or alt-right person’s heart. But they get a perception of liberal ideology, lumping them in with the so-called “snowflakes” that flushes this down the drain, along with their revolutionary ideas that may work well with, in particular, disaffected young people that get pulled into alt-right racism.

The most painfully ironic instance of this occurring is the story of rock musician and surfer Jason Greenslate, who was depicted by Fox News as being a lazy slacker on food stamps. There is, in fact, a very common perception of surfers and skaters as being lazy that I call Spicoli’s Paradox. This is because these sports are just as difficult, if not more difficult than the major four sports: baseball, football, basketball, and hockey but they don’t get the credit for it from many people. Perhaps if he was a baseball player, for example, and working on some other business that was not music related then they would cut him some slack for being on food stamps, but the story was chosen for drama and effect, not to mention the magic word of media: ratings. And also the ideas of freedom and independence that Fox News purports to epitomize are actually key components of action sports culture. They could have easily shown you the examples of surfers who build succcesful businesses and do so with a keen eye for social responsibility, but that doesn’t get ratings, especially in the demographic target Fox has. And I digress.

Now what does this have to do with politics? Good politics requires a very significant amount of common ground. The less common ground there is the more likely we are to devolve into the street fighter, beating each other up mindlessly, and less likely we are to be like the street skaters, working individually and in community to create. This is the root of much of the problems we have seen over the past few months or so since the election of the president. I go into this framework in more detail in my street fighter versus street skater episode.

There is an important concept called intersectionality that takes the focus away from who is more oppressed, aka the Oppression Olympics, toward common struggles and understanding of differences of experience. I’m going to go a little further than intersexuality which primarily looks at a common problem and look at a common solution. Now if only intersectionality can help us stop skateboarding from going into the Olympics.

First, the common struggle. We have a lot of disenfranchised white people in punk in particular who are looking for an alternative to the current culture and also a way to solve an adverse economic situation. Same with the alt-right. There actually used to be some racist punk bands many years ago, showing just how close together these groups can get. The kind of adverse economic situation they are Raging Against The Machine and seeking a General Strike for is that which many of the alt-right are struggling with. Problem is that socialist candidates like Bernie Sanders don’t appeal to a rugged individualist like those in the alt-right and other conservative or libertarian type movements. But we have something that is more liberal that does work great with this component of their ideology, hence we have a path away from antagonism.
Now, the common solution. Notice how the DIY punk-skate tradition focused both on individual creative freedom and community at the same time. Normally it is freedom going against community and in an authoritarian, government power focused approach, they can be put in opposition quite easily but when you have something that is libertarian in nature you don’t have that problem any more. And we have a group and idea focused not just on creating a better future for themselves but also for those around them. Sharing with your crew. Skaters in particular are about supporting their own brands and athletes that don’t sell out. If we replace “crew” with “whites,” as apparently preposterous as it sounds, then we have a community oriented idea that has a slight semblance of the alt-right, except skaters are not a racist group, and have inadvertently partly figured out a way to better the whole of society. This is a more tenuous connection than the liberty orientation I discussed but any connection is worth noting. It shows there might be a half-millimeter opening of light on community but that gets bigger as you get closer and your Overton windows ease up a bit. Community orientation is always tough with conservative types due to its connotations but there is a path when you get the first part of freedom as a gatekeeper handled.

This isn’t quite so with conservative type rugged individualism. I personally believe that when Christianity is added to this picture it actually resolves quite a bit of this but needless to say I am no theologian.
A big part of this show will be about how we as a nation can solve divides like these to create a better solution.

The Kind of Civics You Need When Things Get Gnarly

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We have been talking quite a bit about the DIY tactics we can use to solve systemic problems from the ground up, but we haven’t quite yet gotten into Gnarly Civics. What is Gnarly Civics? Simply put, it’s the kind of Civics you need when things get Gnarly. What does that mean? It’s the application of alternative subcultural attitudes, identities, philosophies, and approaches to contemporary political and social challenges, with an emphasis on applying their lessons to dealing with Gnarly (read: really bad and generally seen as unsolvable) problems. What do we mean when we say alternative subcultural? Though this is a broad term with a very broad set of emphases one can choose, my focus is on the cultures connected to the development of skateboarding culture. Things like punk rock, surfing, hip hop, and elements of the hippy culture. Why this set of cultures? Think about the people who are seen as causing the problems in contemporary society. On one hand, we have disaffected young, mostly white, people who think that society has abandoned them due to impositions of diversity and inclusion that limit their freedom of expression. They have a hardcore form of art called “memes,” are brash and bold, and don’t care what other racial groups think of them. They claim that the liberals’ restrictions on this art form legally in the EU and on social media platforms are because they “can’t meme,” rather than the old “can’t kickflip.” They even explicitly say their culture is “the new punk rock.” If you didn’t guess already, these are the alt-right. Liberals and much of established politics would probably call them “freaks.” True or not, hold that in suspense for a moment as we move on to our next group.

These are people who started making machines in their garages in the 80s or so. People thought they were interesting but perhaps not very useful. But they caught on, one brand urging people to “think differently.”  These machines are now known as computers. These people built enterprises worth in the billions of dollars and starred trends that shape how we communicate and view the world. They inspired new clans called “start ups” to follow their highest principle of “move fast and break things,” creating social media networks and this very medium. Try to think of the similarities between this motto and another motto of skate culture popularized by Thrasher magazine. Some tried to maintain their principles of creativity and community with a motto of “don’t be evil.”

However, many lost their souls and started to become destructive enterprises called to account by politicians and the media for causing political division, taking people’s data to sell as fool’s gold to misinformed and overhyped marketing organizations, leading people to extremism to maintain their attention to view aforementioned marketing, encouraging people to decimate and demoralize those professionals who focus on people rather than algorithms as being dumb and worthless, and adopting the labor practices of the most abhorrent industrialists with added technological control, running humans like machines. These are the “geeks.” And now I will explain these classifications.

Jeff Grosso once stated that two of the main groups of skateboarding are “freaks and geeks.” So our alt-right members are the “freaks” and the tech industry are the “geeks.” Both are seen as problems in society. Much like the skaters of old that people wanted away from their handrails and empty swimming pools. These people, much like extreme thinkers and nonconformists throughout history, have gained quite a bit of traction. They also have some things they can learn from predecessor alternative cultures and some things we can learn in engaging with them from these cultures. The first is that their bad actions are often either a response to reality that they feel is the best one or what I call a “mistake of flow,” going in a direction that feels positive but isn’t principled.  The second is that there is unbelievable potential for positive change but only if the seeds of positive change are there and planted authentically without imposition. Imposition and anything short of cooperation backfires when dealing with an independent culture. Ideally, the culture self-corrects and that is where we want to be.

There are then unique lessons for each culture, conditions, and set of people that we can draw from. Those will each require their own installment.

If you like what you are reading here, click here to find out when the full DIY Tactics, Gnarly Civics, and Reality Podcast is available.

Who are you servicing? The Problem with Providing Services as a Solution.

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In my last installment, I covered agency and a little on how you can expand your own power situationally and daily. Now I’m going to talk about how the outside world tries to help “little people” (not literally but metaphorically) and how there can be people who want to help you and be your partner but just don’t get it and kind of refuse to get it. This mentality on the part of the “helpers” feeds back into the mindset of the DIY ethos I explained in DIY Ethos as a Response to Repression, which is my long-overdue analysis of an answer I got from Rodney Mullen at a conference in 2017. In short it deduces to if the system doesn’t care about you, why care about winning it to you? The answer is not that the system entirely doesn’t care about you, it does care about you but not in a way that properly recognizes the level of your agency and/or is trying to “use” you for some purpose they want but may not be your priority. Who are they really servicing? The skater’s skepticism is right.

The system presumes that it is a Skynet-type entity that knows exactly what to pick for your community’s problems with scientific precision, with perhaps the exception of leaving to human choice whether your kid wants the bubble gum or grape flavor in their liquid medication. It thinks that it knows and can solve your problems in your life better than you can. As such, the system would tries to give the people as little choice as possible without regard for the individual circumstances where the piece just doesn’t fit. Giving people things and, more often, specific services rather than the funds or choices of different product and service offerings to do what they believe is best. This is the Problem with Services, it is wrong and this lack of understanding of the people’s unique knowledge and contextual decision making capacity as well as the appropriate way to add in the intelligence and assistance of experts and technology leads to a massive amount of unsolved problems, wasted money, and political frustration and misdirection.

Speaking of medication, healthcare is probably one of the biggest areas where you see this issue. You have problems that manifest themselves as medical problems, that the person might even know the true cause of deep down but wind up as being health problems that lead to consumption of very costly services like ER visits and ambulance rides. The benevolent system sees that it cuts costs by covering less things and less things that cost more, it makes mathematical sense to a machine, there are two variables, number of uses and prices for items, reducing the number of items and reducing the number of items with a high cost results in a lower probability (all other things held constant, which they aren’t) of high cost items being used. But this is not random probability and there are actors with incentives and some degree of agency involved. Whenever there are people involved, it’s never a matter of simple probability and control. There are hundreds of variables, variables whose meanings are not well understood without being in the situation yourself, and certainly not reducible to what can be codified in a law book or a computer program. My own personal experiences in this area have led me to start building a project I’ve code-named HXF. As this develops, I will talk more about it on this podcast as well as an upcoming podcast called Rebuilding The Renegade, which is basically applications of Gnarly Civics-type principles to gnarly personal problems. If you want to know when that’s coming out, sign up for emails at

As I explained previously, the DIY ethos we study here is, in my opinion, a natural and rather healthy response to this seeming cluelessness of the systems that claim to be there to support us. If they can’t do it for us, then let’s do it for ourselves. We know this better than they do. That is good and actually quite refreshing given how politics today seems to work: blame someone else for everything and never offer any solutions other than those directly involving political power. The challenge we work through here is how we can best use this thought and this reaction in the environment we are in. The other challenge is obtaining resources to take great ideas from the bottom and implement them.

Others have identified the problems when the system, when people that think they know better try to solve the problems of the common person. A TED talk highlights the costs and ineffectiveness of social services in the United Kingdom and how an experiment where recipients were given more control over the services and professionals they work with helped to resolve problems that have costed tremendous amounts of money. Prior to this effort, everything seemed extremely mechanized and un-human. She also highlighted how building a community around people where personal connections were more valued than systems of providing services helped more than all the “well-calculated” services that welfare experts have been proffering for ages.

The act of interaction, in and of itself, starts to naturally and spontaneously create a better situation for people, whether that is in a cause-directed manner with explicit proclamations and actions like some of the subcultures we look at in Gnarly Civics or in a more indirect fashion with people just trying to help each other, perhaps even when people are interacting for a completely different purpose. This is because of innate knowledge that comes from closeness to a person and their situation that cannot be encapsulated in a set of rules. You don’t necessarily have to go all punk rock and say we’re ditching the rules, though that can work, but you have to have communication unstructured enough that it’s authentic. No scripts.

Now, where I sort of break from the DIY consensus (and I guess a little with Rodney Mullen) is that some interaction, when necessary, proper, and not harmful, with the greater system may be immensely beneficial. This is particularly true when these power players are entrenched into the space where you want to make a change. Just don’t sell out as the punks would say. Maintain your control but if you can get a little bit of support, don’t blow it off right away. This does get tricky so I will have to cover partnerships more in depth later. Of course, we always prefer as much independence as possible because independence breeds edge and edge begets efficacy, as I stated in slightly different terms at that conference.

If the system, though, can take some ideas from us and from an independently developed structure then we are both pretty good. Start giving people more discretion in what they can do using your program’s resources. Let them lead. Run based on authentic collaboration, not unnecessary rules, structures, and restrictions.

How do we start implementing this? You will need people and resources. The latter is why I think that partnerships can be valuable. But depending on your current status, you can start to build from people you know who are like minded. For others, like myself, it’s a whole lot tougher. You’re probably going to need to do a lot of strategic legwork and use what amounts to a marketing strategy. Putting yourself in an environment where these kinds of interactions happen also helps. This is where I goofed the most in college. More on that on my Rebuilding The Renegade series.

These are just a few ideas. Now think of some real problems in your life and that of others and think of how you can build up a solution with people around you, collective Resources and maybe a little help.



How Much Agency Do You Have?


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If you are in a bad situation in your life, like financial hardships, racial issues, or personal conflict, it is a common and honestly appropriate reaction to feel that you have less than adequate capacity to change the situation you are in and the situation around you. Even if you are in a pretty good situation with a good life, you will probably still feel that you have rather limited ability to change the greater problems in society. How we categorize this capacity is using a term called “agency.”

The levels of agency we have go all the way from the basic level of being able to do some things that have meaning in the current moment, to speak to one person or to many, all the way to power in politics, business, or institutions.

Of course, not everyone has the same level of agency. But often, what happens when we give information or advice on a one-to-many level, like what I do here on the podcast, YouTube, or in writing, we operate upon assumptions. This is a necessity in all social sciences and frankly all scientific fields. Assumptions when left in place and not substituted for an appraisal of the actual situation can result in a suboptimal or plainly inappropriate solution. Sometimes they result in assuming the person has very low agency, the only thing, for example, they have left is to use their physical capacities to stage some kind of protest (if that will even work), or they can assume that someone has the power to be a sort of superhero, do everything all at once, spend an inordinate amount of money and wield influence over others. The former results in you believing you can and hence doing less than you can to make change and also makes you feel so awful about yourself and your situation that it creates unneeded dependency while the latter, though it creates empowerment and possibly increases risk-taking, sets you up for failure and quitting because expectations are just too high for the person’s actual agency. Agency, in the holistic sense and not in relation to a specific context (eg. voting/suffrage) is in no way a dichotomous measure, it is a continuum.

When you are planning to implement strategies to address a problem, be it working to change policy, developing a social enterprise, or fixing a personal issue that transcends into political problems like financial instability, assess your level of agency and then try to aim higher than what it would dictate but in a manner that does not create defeat by going over a threshold where you get pushed back. The way I see it, there are two schools of thought in this regard: the first is to do what the more agency assumption would have you do and try to do really big stuff, put yourself in a place where you have to perform BUT understand that a failure to do so is not fatal, and the second is to aim for just a little more than what your agency is or close to the edge of your level of agency, then gradually increasing capacity upon those efforts. I think the best approach is a combination of both. There are “events,” so to speak, where the norms of society and the situation allow you to push far beyond the bounds of your normal capacity for a transient period of time and these are scenarios you have to seriously take advantage of. This is kind of like the scenario snowboarder Shaun White explains where in the Olympics he will do a very difficult and risky trick he wouldn’t do elsewhere, allowing him to push boundaries toward success. There is also a more day-to-day situation where trying to constantly do huge things causes burnout and near instant defeat before you even get started. This is where you just push a little more than you think your agency allows you to do. For example, getting together a skate setup in your backyard and then inviting your friends over. You don’t want to go too far and start imposing your vision for a whole skatepark by building on a plot of land that isn’t yours before getting approvals, because that’s stupid and will get you in big trouble, compromising your ability to do something big later.


How Political and Social Intelligence and Personal Development Strategy Can Work Together


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Motivational speakers and other disciplines (eg. personal finance, health and wellness-related), and even some well-intentioned mental health clinicians who dedicate their energy to improving the lives of their clients, who I will term personal change professionals, have long bemoaned the lack of utility and the potential detrimental effects political and social information and rhetoric have on creating the change their clients need. (the term “client” is used here loosely as these solutions tend to be offered in a one-to-many fashion which has its own sociological grouping effects) In a way, this is deserved. Studies have shown an adverse correlation between negative news and work performance. However, to not account for the whole of the environment affecting a specific realm of a client’s existence does a huge disservice to the client and, needless to say, to society. For the purpose of causing “immediate change,” personal change professionals tend to use a deductive and reductionistic framework that does not look at whole systems within which their client lives (literally and figuratively), or if it does look at systems, only steps as far back as the interactions between behaviors the client adopts and other behaviors in their life. Our society and hence our problems are ever-increasingly complex. People are desperate for solutions for their health, finances, and personal relationships, and we need a new approach that considers all relevant factors to ensure the most people possible get the help they need.

Rule #10 of the “rebellion” on a website called “Nerd Fitness” encapsulates the problematic mentality (if I can steal the terms of this subculture perhaps in denial of being one) perfectly. “Too many people blame their unfortunate situation on the government, the weather, their genetics, global warming, the economy, their parents, etc. Not us. We don’t expect anything to be handed to us; we are not owed anything by anybody.”

The last part kind of seems like common wisdom but of course common wisdom would know where this reasoning breaks down, unlike a dogmatic code of forced exclusion of relevant factors. And I don’t know about you but I prefer the kind of rebellion that identifies problems in the system and tries to fix them, not ignoring the system and effectively blaming the victims. I do like motivation sometimes too. Hence, I greatly appreciate those who are able to understand that the person in a dispossessed or adverse situation still has agency and can use their own ideas and reasoning based upon their situation without “blinders” in order to help themselves and help to develop a new system that acknowledges and helps tp address adverse circumstances on a population level.

One of the greatest showings of how these two work together is the punk band H2O’s album FTTW.  In the song Black Sheep they basically put to a hardcore soundtrack (like many bands in the positive hardcore and straight edge scenes) some of the ideas of the self-help people, “I’ll never find my place in a 9-5 world,” and “gotta keep that PMA” (short for Positive Mental Attitude). Then, in their song Empty Pockets they attribute problems like crime to be “all because of empty pockets.” The really awesome thing about punk ideology (and it’s counterparts like skate culture) is that it doesn’t accept defeat but it also doesn’t ignore reality. That’s precisely what you need to do in these kinds of cases where social ills cause problems in one’s existence.

Now, how does the obvious get obfuscated in the information the public relies upon to improve their lives? It happens like this: in the cases wherein the problem is solely or primarily the client’s behaviors, the solution often works. The client gets better. Hence, this affirms the modality utilized by the professional and further entrenches them. If it’s not broken, why fix it?

Except that outside of these cases where the client’s situation improves, which in the instances of some modalities or disciplines (in particular personal finance), may actually be closer to edge cases than the most common case, the solution yields suboptimal results. Real life situations, unlike optimal conditions used to test methologies, rarely are dominated by a single factor that controls outcomes in a linear fashion. But the positive feedback from the ideal cases has settled and caused the professional to believe that if the solution does not work that it is the subject’s failure to properly implement causing the failure, not the inappropriateness of the solution or its failure to consider factors which are taboo or seen as the province of “social justice warriors” or “wimps who aren’t successful.”

To hide this, selection bias takes hold and results in the incessant parading of the successes to the point of insulting the capacbilties or even the humanity of those who are outside of the domain who are best suited to benefit from a modality. Mention “social justice,” “systemic failures,” “low socioeconomic status,” or even “regulatory obstacles” (ironic), and you are not of the elect who are predestined to the fate of success and only by ignorance of your own obviously true reality shall you prove yourself to be of the elect who will not face economic damnation in this life. Even though you are in circumstances that but for their existence you would be able to get yourself out of your problems, your wisdom will be proved in your ignorance and submission to the authority of the all-powerful guru. If this sounds more like philosophy or false religion than social science, that is because it is. The irony, of course, being that many of the “successful” practitioners of these disciplines on the Internet would berate me for spending time and money on a “worthless” liberal arts degree, which helps give me the knowledge to root out what they’re actually doing.

The solution is this: the personal change professionals are correct in working to first solve the problem at the level of the individual unit, in fact, creating solutions from the top downward by people who have no true familiarity with the circumstances of each person and community is the greatest cause of overcorrections leading to what systems thinking terms “fixes that fail” pathology. Fixes That Fail is the problem that plagues many policy interventions, particularly for social welfare issues. That and excessive bureaucracy that, in the name of accountability and consistency, expensively applies a solution that does not work well in unique, individual contexts (which thus amounts to a type of “fix that fails”). This is why I strongly endorse the use of a “DIY ethos” in the implementation of solutions to systemic pathologies. This is because you can have the freedom to be truly creative rather than be stuck in the mold of the system that probably created or contributed to the problem in the first place, tailor make a solution to each unique problem and context, test its limits, find problems and fix them, and then take it forward to as many people as it can help.  More importantly, you can see any newly created pathologies right there in the flesh before magnifying their scale by using them on a larger population. These solutions that are developed at the individual level should:

  1. Be attentive to the context of the person.
  2. Understand its contribution to the problem.
  3. Understand the cultural inclinations of the person and the community and how they relate to the solution being implemented.
  4. Incorporate these aspects of the problem into the solution by finding viable redirects around the flawed system or working with it better and NOT demand without good cause that aspects of the person’s experience be ignored, or worse mindlessly bludgeoned out of the person to make way for the culture, preferences, and ideology of the solution developer.
  5. Allow the greatest level of agency reasonably possible to the client.
  6. Be analyzed both in results and causes of results. When a solution works, know why it worked. Did it work because of specific factors in the client’s life that have nothing to do with the solution? What types of privilege does the client have? What did your solution do right for the client’s context?
  7.  (Possibly) become generalizable. Once you can see what worked and didn’t and why it did or did not, see what can be generalized, or shared with others. This is how you build a solution outwards to the system.

But working from the bottom is a pretty tough place to be. It’s frustrating and way harder for you than it is for someone at the top to flip a switch, so to speak. And that is where some of these personal change methodologies can fit perfectly into a strategy to empower the people working to solve a problem in their lives, then outward through their spheres of influence, and into the greater community. But they absolutely, positively must be cognizant of factors that would impede their efficacy and be implemented in a fashion that is adaptive to circumstance, not blinded to it. If the people you are listening to are telling you that your progress being proportionately slowed by having to work two jobs and making below the cost of rent in your area is “not an excuse” and makes you “lazy,” then you have my permission to ignore them. You’ve got two choices, find people who get these circumstances and understand individual deviation or use your own discretion to build in adaptations to your circumstances. The latter is harder to do and even though it prevents the fixes that fail outcome of quitting because you believe your minimal progress makes your efforts futile, it can create an opposite counterreaction of eliminating your drive to solve problems within the limits of your own level of agency and resources. The personal change professionals want you to believe this last part will happen the second you start looking at reality, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Making these kinds of adjustments and reasonably practicing a high level of freedom while making progress is the way a DIY ethos is supposed to work.

Bottom line is that solving social problems and problems in the collective is closely connected to problem-solving in individual contexts like that which the self-help field prides itself upon mastering. The two are inextricably connected and but for the attempts of salesmen to oversell and the personal and political biases of the generally successful people (merits aside) who proffer these solutions, this should be obvious.  The great hope here is that once you understand that the political/society end and the personal problems end are connected, you can use your own knowledge to solve both more efficiently and effectively than a blind methodology, hence getting a better outcome than the other side. You can also make sense of the world around you in the context of your own problems, which would otherwise send you to the side of the “not elect” for even having these thoughts of “negativity” enter your mind. An approach that deals with circumstances in a manner that optimizes (not avoids) the chance of attaining personal change objectives both solves the cognitive dissonance created by those who tell you to basically ignore the outside world and avoids the defeatism of those who believe that these kinds of problems can only be solved by a “switch” somewhere in the strongholds of political power.

Furthermore, for those who become part of the power structure of society, you don’t lose your roots and stop thinking about other people in favor of a model that basically tells you not to care about other people in a meaningful way because it’s bad for you. The world around you will still exist whether you make $10,000, $100,000, or $1 million a year and when you have that kind of power and influence it will help you in the long run to understand people in circumstances like the ones you are in right now. These will become the people your influence extends to and who will become a thorn in your side through politics and the media if you lose touch and do evil stuff with your “success mindset” blinders on. Through many diverse iterations, holding these two seemingly disparate ideas of real circumstances and real agency together will help to build a more just society, starting from our own agency and power.

Next time, I will explain how to begin practically implementing this approach to solve problems, from the inside or from the outside.

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Welcome to the preview of my podcast Greyson Peltier: DIY Tactics, Gnarly Civics, and Reality. Before we get into what all of that means, let me ask you a few questions. The last few times you saw, heard, or read a political news story, how much did you feel like it was something that affected your life? How about the lives of other real people, whether they are down the street or across the world? And did these stories make the problem seem solvable? Lastly, if they made the problem seem solvable, how did the solution make you feel? To quote the Dirty Heads, does it make you feel good? Or angry? Or just simply “it’s too complicated, I’ll leave it alone”?

If thinking through any of these questions made you feel like there was something missing or that something just wasn’t right, then you are in the right place. And you are not alone. A study featured in the Harvard Business Review showed that people actually had decreased work performance as a result of negative news. Now add in the fake news of the day designed to make you feel awful enough to do stuff you wouldn’t do if you were outside its grip and you have a disaster waiting to happen…oh, wait a second, it has happened. Actually today, believe it or not, false stories outperform the truth on Twitter. That is an indication of just how far down the ideological shock, threat, and fight rabbit hole we have gone.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. This show is engaged in nothing less than the creative destruction of the aforementioned paradigm. We take that irrelevant, distant news and replace it with something else. Now, what is that something else? Cute puppies, style advice, motivational self-help? What about all 3? Yeah, but nah – at the same time. We are not immune to fun stuff, because that is actually a good deal of what is lacking in the work of very well-intentioned people who have tried to do a corrolary of what we are doing, and part of what we do is empowering people, but it’s really not like anything you’ve seen because we destroy the paradigms normally used. And I like puppies.

Ok, let’s take it back. Is there an issue that is connected to politics, connected to the way society and its institutions function, that you wish you could bring attention to? Maybe it’s the fines your city gives out for the weirdest things, how your work underpays you because they run everything by an algorithm that is relegated to such a high status that it is totally unconscionable, or your health insurance and its multitude of problems. This kind of stuff can and does get news coverage, but it is often overshadowed by empty banter about tabloid topics superimposed on politicians, who are now spoken of with less dignity than Lindsay Lohan or Kanye West (and he’s a story in and of himself, we’ll get to him latter), that literally drive you crazy and make you feel hopeless or just simply numb.


And does this kind of coverage bring forth an actual solution to anything? The answer is probably no. When we do discuss those kinds of things, a scapegoat solution is often brought out that if you don’t engage in the intellectual gymnastics and performance art of political TV commentators makes no sense for the problem that reeled in your attention. We often times have no idea how much the broader parts of society and systems inside and outside our government impact our lives. How solving problems related to broken systems is as valuable as buying a new product that solves some problem in our homes. The value of fixing our collective reality.

Now, this isn’t a show where I yell about how my side of the aisle has all the solutions to all the problems of the world and the other side needs to just get lost. I played that game for some time on a show I used to have many years ago and I can tell you that it really does nothing. In fact, we are living in the evidence of this deficit of solutions, lack of creativity, excess of reactivity, and just general people in power not caring sometimes not because they don’t want to but because the incentives make them not care.

I found some alternative ways to look at issues, and solve them, and now we get to the weird title you just clicked on to get to this podcast. I will do a full show on my personal story but suffice to say that I started out as a far-right conservative and then started to realize that problems are real and we need to find ways to solve them. I wound up having some adventures in cultures that have nothing really to do with politics and seeing how they looked at big issues, brought it down to the people’s level, democratized the ideas and the solution, get things done, and overall look rad doing it. I realized these kinds of cultures had something special. A really good mix of the right principles from both sides of the aisle and beyond the aisle. Conservative independence and liberal communitarianism. Conservative diligence and liberal mellowness. This is how you get a system un-stuck. if we stay in either of these modes alone, we stay stuck and unable to do anything of significance.

A lot of my approach started with a concert, hint I mentioned the band earlier on. I accidentally started looking at the ways how artists looked at politics and the greater whole of society that feeds back into politics and the problems we see. That last part is actually something we forget and it changes the universe of potential solutions. Then, from these artists and their cultural background, I wound up looking at surfers, skateboarders, different kinds of creative athletes, people that deal with tons of risk and act creatively rather than in typical fight-or-flight like we do, the common people, when we look at fake news for example. Notice how I said “like we do.” I am not one of these awesome people, just to prevent any awkward allegations especially those involving the word “kook.” We’ll get into that later.

But how do they think differently? How do they look at complex situations involving threat, like most every divisive political battle of the day? How can they be strong, disciplined, and downright aggressive, be rugged individuals, and also be highly cooperative? These are some of the topics we will discuss and the ideas we will apply to the modern political and societal experience.

I know this all right now sounds like a really, really huge stretch that seems disjointed and doesn’t really relate to anything, but as we go through you will start to see the better connections between culture and society back into politics and then how we feed those straight back in reverse, unlike how we have it now where politics feeds back into society. This is the line we follow and if you follow that path then you will understand how things in culture feed back into politics. In fact, a lot of the recent political discussion has a whole lot to do with culture, most notably the debate on both the left and the right about identity politics. We will see some examples of how to bridge this divide and the conceptualization and analysis of this problem in coming episodes. That is why it is important to know that this creative approach we are using does not really lie anywhere in the political spectrum we see today.

From my analysis, this alternative method of of understanding and solving problems can be deduced as the following: remove the threat – meaning the supposed threat of people who are perceived to be causing a problem on a knee jerk reaction (think, on the right, people who are scared of immigrants because they feel they are taking their jobs, and on the left people who are scared of people who are upper class and white, for example, and not based on evidence but following a feeling), develop a vision, creatively address the problem at its lowest terms as close as possible to people involved in a problem, apply a great level of cooperation with other people, borrowing ideas from your community and all around and contributing ideas back like the way you would put together a bunch of music genres, apply a DIY, decentralized, freedom-oriented ethos to implementation even as you are implementing what would be, create and destroy at the same time.

Now that I explained the unique approach we will try to apply here, let’s contrast with politics as usual: act on the threat aspect of a problem, capitalize on it and assume that it is the whole problem, rile people up over it, implement solutions against the perceived threat at the highest, most governmental or bureaucratic level as possible, only let in solutions allowed by party donors or the political media elite (side note on political media: a person who might be on the show asked me once when I was trying to get into conservative political media instead of as how he put it “doing things,” and I can get where that’s coming from especially given his cultural ideas are likely those I just explained, but I saw that Fox News and talk radio had more power over policy making than people in politics, and look, we are talking about that all the time with the Trump administration, so I was right. Now let me back away from this self-aggrandizement), and destroy random things through unintended effects while still not fully solving the problem you started with.

Notice how in the creative shall we say “Gnarly Civics” method I first explained the center of power is on the people, but with politics as usual the center of power is those already in power. This is by design. The system is designed to feed itself and push everyone else out, to the detriment of society and even to an extent, paradoxically, those who are in power. This last part is the interesting part if you are looking to build partnerships, since they also have something at stake.

This is an interesting way to look at political problems, because the real problems, not the made up tabloid stuff that I talked about earlier, are real, not just systemically but in people’s experience. So when we talk about solving political problems, we are going to talk about working from the bottom up most of the time. Solving complex problems in our own lives, the lives of those around us, and build up to the system as a whole. Even though we are starting at the lowest level possible, we don’t stay there, we don’t do what motivational speakers do to politics and systemic challenges, which is deny their existence and  their impact on your life and effectively blame you for every problem in your life and expect you to just solve things on a strictly personal level with blinders to the collective and make yourself into a debt-free, extremely confident, super spiritual, jacked superhero when you can barely keep your lights on and are eating beans and rice, rice and beans to survive and still not paying off your debt. Yes, I listen to Dave Ramsey whenever I want to feel bad about not being rich. And yes, you are not the only person that thinks my Dave Ramsey impersonation is annoying. We will have a special episode all about motivational speakers, self-help, and society, and take some hints from punk rock on how to create a strong DIY individual and not just do that but bring it outward to the community without ignoring or just giving minimal passing mention to the brutal reality that has to be solved. Of course we will discuss policies and systems to analyze and understand but the real good work is often done from the bottom.

And that is done by applying a DIY ethos and DIY tactics from the smallest component up to the largest, acknowledging the real problems involved and informing our approach with the reality of the situation, and then using some of our Gnarly Thinking that involves a tremendous amount of creativity and adaptability, we build up to the institutions and systems, maybe doing a little “skate and destroy,” shall we say, to their ways, and speaking a bold, radical vision from a place of strength as best as is possible. And this is done within both an individual and community context. We’ll stick with our culture and our roots and call this “your crew,” and we’ll talk about building one as we go through this podcast. There’s this kind of magic place where community and individuality, strength and love, are in the right balance, but politically we call them diametric opposites, so we never see this. By the way, this is area of opposites is where those “snowflake” and SJW rants you see all over the Internet come into play. People will perceive, often wrongly, other people just complaining about random things they believe a reasonable person would find to be of no true significance and asking people to bend over backwards to fix them. With this kind of skewed perception and asymmetry of understanding, this often doesn’t go over well, no matter how legit the complaint is. Often times, people will take the few really bad examples that you can’t truly generalize out and use their threatened mind and generalize them to the situation incorrectly. One way you can break these perceptions is through counterexample and that is how liberal ideologies can use an infusion of the kinds of alternative ideologies and DIY ethos that we will be discussing here to implement their ideas without causing as much of this instant backlash. This really is key to bridging the divide because it shows the strength of an ideology and its adherents, which is a big step on the path to legitimacy, which is a big part of the path to success. The issue is that, true or not, there is a perception that these kinds of liberal ideologies are just imposing on people excessively and their adherents are so weak they cannot take care of their own issues. Punk and skate are the total counter-points in the spectrum of more liberal ideologies to this weak “snowflake” view, so greater integration of these ideological subsets when done appropriately can help with demolishing opposition and gaining trust on the opposite side of the aisle, if you play it right. That’s the key, you can do all the re-alignment you want to, you can actually be something totally different, but unless you use it in the right way a lot of it will be a waste. We will do a separate episode on this SJW issue and the alt-right’s counter reaction and how to solve both sides of the coin. There is actually a tremendous article in the New York Post about the “conversion” of a white supremacist that speaks a lot to the kind of cultural integration I will emphasize here, and I will discuss that in that episode. The solution, as it often is, is not what you think.

We are also going to look at the radicals of society. The artistic categories I spoke about fall in this category but they have made tremendous adaptation to turn that radicalism into something amazing, something we call in its political form Gnarly Civics – the kind of civics you need when things get gnarly, like just about right now. These radicals hold the key to our transformation as but often go untapped and often implode on themselves or are pushed out. This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest wastes of society’s resources, and this repeats worldwide. Not working with and integrating the radicals of society in a meaningful way has consequences leading from divisive protests to all-out wars, here and at home. But there are plenty of counterexamples where the radicals of society have been integrated in a manner that doesn’t cause the nightmares we expect and does good that we can work from in order to accomplish this.

There is probably something you’ve noticed missing from all this political talk, albeit in a weird way, and it’s the focus of almost all other political sjpws. Voting. We won’t talk much about who you should vote for, though just a bit maybe during this election season. As much as voting is a civic duty and you should do so well-informed, much of the change we want to see in society, the change that will make our lives better, comes from places other than the ballot box. So we start with voting, and go further.

Now on a practical level, what can you expect from me and this show?

We are going to do a multiple part fundamentals series that explains complex issues facing our society, things that stick around, are what we call in media “evergreen.” Lay the foundation for what kinds of approaches we can follow. Next, we are going to try to interview some totally rad people who are from some of the cultures I spoke about, particularly from skateboarding which has intrigued me increasingly since I took a class on the subject of skateboarding and society with the US State Department’s Special Envoy of Skateboarding. Talk about a cool job title. We are going to try to get him on the show to talk about his work and some really innovative ideas for engaging our valuable youth that are disaffected by society to do awesome things. And I’m pretty sure he can kickflip, unlike myself. Seriously, I can’t skate. There are reasons for that and I might drop those on the YouTube greysoncpeltier.

There will also be some episodes posted weekly (I hope) on current issues worked through a framework of solving problems and reality, as well as taking some issues in-depth over multiple episodes. One of the ones I am really looking forward to is with my very own step-grandmother who has been placed in an illegitimate guardianship I will take your questions about just about any problem you are facing in society and how we can work to solve it individually and systemically. Because it’s not just society, it’s not just your attitude, it’s everything. So we can venture to say that to DIY our change, I could wind up talking about almost anything. You can send those questions to There’s also some fun and interesting stuff that will go on my YouTube channel before they arrive here. Some upcoming topics for the YouTube are the social problems of My 600-lb Life. You’ve got to see that one because if you’ve ever seen the TV show because you will never watch it the same again, I got into the show and noticed some fascinating points on how to best help people in these kinds of medical circumstances. Also the corporate social responsibility problems with Craigslist, and their management structure and some less-related stuff you may find interesting too. The YouTube will be a lot more casual, including things from my everyday life, how I sometimes do battle with political and social issues of myself and those around me but also how I do battle with myself and my weaker side. You might be able to learn something. Or just laugh at me. If you want to hear more of my un-produced and unrefined opinions, you can check there later on.


In Summary:

We are going to talk to people and solve problems. Maybe we will be able to visit the grounds of the problems in real life and document how we can make changes. The insurmountable will become achievable.
We do this with DIY Tactics – creative things that people can implement and do in order to solve the complex social problems everybody else calls impossible without some kind of attack ideology that won’t solve anything anyway without waiting for someone else.
We explain what’s going on and reason through it with Gnarly Civics, which is a special kind of civic framework that works best when things get gnarly and is the renegade thinker’s political framework of a radical vision, creativity, and universality, and the lens that gives you the knowledge and motivation to shred problems like crazy.
We develop the approach and measure progress by looking at reality. Not political numbers or delegates or the electoral college, but the things people really care about. This means you will hear something useful or at least interesting whenever you listen.

Please join me next time for our episode on the power of value, how it explains so many social problems, especially the student loan crisis, and how using the same principles as the most absurd As-Seen-On-TV product can fix our crisis of technology being seen as the solution to everything and many people being underpaid and stuck with excessive student loans while being placed on the sidelines of society without a paycheck for their valuable skills that can do plenty of good.