S1E27 - Kylie on Aquaponics and Small-Scale Food Forestry

I talk with Kylie about aquaponics and how and why to set up small-scale food forestry.

Episode Notes

In this episode, I talk with Kylie about how she designed her backyard aquaponics setup and how she developed a small-scale food forest in the front yard of her house.

Our guest, Kylie, has a YouTube channel where she discusses aquaponics and gunfighting (https://www.youtube.com/c/AutonomousAlternative), and she is on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/autonomous_alternative/). She accepts donations for the free content she produces (https://ko-fi.com/autonomousalternative)

The host, Margaret Killjoy, can be found on twitter at @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. You can support her and this show on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

Transcript

Margaret  00:14 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the End Times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy, and this week's episode I'm talking with Kylie, an aquaponics farmer. And aquaponics is basically, in short, the idea that you can raise fish in order to use their waste to provide you with other food that you grow. And I didn't really know that much about this and I got really excited about it when I first started seeing her videos on the process. I ran across her, she has a YouTube channel that I'm sure she'll talk about on the show. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts, and here's a jingle from another show on the network. Da da da daaaaaa!

Jingle Speaker 1  00:59 Kite Line is a weekly 30-minute radio program focusing on issues in the prison system. You'll hear news along with stories from prisoners and former prisoners as well as their loved ones. You'll learn what prison is, how it functions, and how it impacts all of us.

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Margaret  01:39 Okay, so if you could go ahead and introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then any—I dunno, just like a brief introduction of how you got into what we're going to talk about today.

Kylie  01:52 Okay, my name is Kylie, she/her pronouns. I'm an aquaponics farmer, or a small-time farmer honks farmer, a backyard one. And I show and talk about how it's going to be beneficial for yourself and your neighborhood and everyone else around you to have access to that in your own backyard. As well as doing things like food forests, and reclaiming the land that you do have around house and in your area, in your community, anywhere you can get to.

Margaret  02:25 Okay, so, so what is aquaponics? It's a word that I had probably heard before, but as we discussed a moment ago, before I hit record, I didn't know the difference between it and hydroponics. And I don't—you know, so what is aquaponics?

Kylie  02:40 So the big difference between aquatics and hydroponics is whether or not you're using fish in your system. If you're using fish to provide all the nutrients and everything else that you need to grow your plants, then that's aquaponics. But when you're dealing with hydroponics, usually you're using different types of chemicals and fertilizers in order to amend your water so that can grow healthy plants. Aquatics is really just a mixture of aquaculture and botany, or whatever the word for taking care of plants is.

Margaret  03:21 That's interesting to me, because one of the reasons that I never got particularly into hydroponics is that it seemed like it—if you have to add the nutrients to the water yourself—like you have to go out and buy them or something to add them—it didn't really have a lot of interest to me as someone who is interested in building things that could be autonomous. 

Kylie  03:42 No, and I'm really not interested in involved becuase of that. With the hydroponics you're completely dependent on lots of different industries in order to amend your water. But with the aquaponics, you can make it so that everything is sustainable and you can grow your own fish food, feed fish, and then use their fish waste in order to grow your plants.

Margaret  04:06 How did you first get involved in in aquaponics?

Kylie  04:09 Um, about eight years ago—maybe 10 years ago—I saw my husband out in the backyard digging a koi pond. I said. "What are you doing this for, you know, you don't have enough time to take care of just a koi pond just sit there and look at." And I thought he was crazy at the time. He dug a small one in the backyard. And of course he didn't have much time to take care of it and I started taking care of it and started improving it little by little through the years, and then decided, hey, we have this fish and we have all this fish waste that we're having to deal with all the time. Why don't we just route it through a couple of pipes and try and grow some plants in it? And the first couple of times that we started—we ended up with some lateral systems and those that workout for us, they leaked all the time, it was a huge nightmare. We almost just stopped doing it entirely because it was such a mess. But little by little we tweaked the design and we've ended up with something that's been running strong for probably about four years now non-stop. 

Margaret  05:19 Okay. And so what is the end result of aquaponics? Are you basically, are you raising fish to eat? Or is it more about keeping fish and then using their waste to grow vegetables? Like, what is the—what's the goal? What is the result of it?

Kylie  05:35 The goal is that, of course, you can grow all your vegetables that you need. And then if you want to grow protein as well because I don't know what vegetables I can grow within the system that are going to provide me with protein or fats or anything like that. So if you're looking for a more rounded, a more full diet, or whatever you want to say, growing the fish with it is going to provide that for you. Now, if you don't want to eat the fish, that's completely up to you. That's dependent on you. If you just want to have koi—of course, you're not eating koi, you can just have them because they're pretty in they're big waste producers, that's something that you can do, that's a personal choice. But for me, we probably a few fish a year. We don't eat them that often because it's a little weird when you don't have such a big setup and you see your fish every day, and—it's a little bit more to have to go and harvest them. So usually when they do get too big, we'll either sell them off to other people that are gonna use them for the same thing, or—that's about it. We'll pull a few and eat them but it's not very often for us personally. But it's definitely an option with the system if that's something that you're looking into, because it takes about eight months for tilapia to grow out, for example. So every eight months, you're going to have a fresh rotation of fish.

Margaret  07:02 And what's the advantage of using aquaponics over other methods of like backyard gardening and things like that? Like, what draws you to aquaponics besides the fact that you also get a fish pond out of it?

Kylie  07:14 Well, um, I would say space, but there's a lot of different aquaponics systems and ways that you can go about it. I honestly haven't seen very many people using the vertical system that I've come up with because it takes all the growing space that you do have, even if you have a—you know how these apartments will have like a small five by five little patio in the backyard? You're not going to be able to grow anything in that. You know, maybe it's all concrete, maybe it's there's no grass there, and you can't even have anything there except for maybe a couple of potted plants. But those still take up a certain amount of ground space. With this you could have, you know, a two by five footprint. And you could have a 10-square foot grow space for yourself, if that makes sense. So you take that little 5x5 and you turn it in—and—well, you're only using 2x5 and you're turning it into a 10 just like that. Because it goes up about 8 feet.

Margaret  08:20 Okay. And so it's particularly good for, like, kind of like backyard level growing and, you know, porch growing and stuff like that? Does it also—are people doing this who are out on land, or?

Kylie  08:35 I'm the only one doing it the way that I've seen so far. I've taken little bits from both hydroponics and aquaponics because it's far more common to see a vertical system in a hydroponic setup. So I've taken things from what they do and I've mixed them together with aquaponics to kind of create my own. The way that I've done it, it's scalable. So if you did have a bunch of land out there, wherever you're at, you could link these things up and just have them going on in a straight line forever. And with the addition of course with more pumps and more filtration, but you can just keep on adding onto the system easily. So if you only have the 2x5 grow space, you can still do it and get a lot out of it—enough to feed, you know, a two-person household salads every day. Or you could have, you know, you could have a full scale setup, you know. You could have one of those industrial farms, yeah it's gonna take a little bit more work and you're probably going to cut some corners here and there on, you know, like tank buildings and stuff like that in order to save yourself some money, but it's definitely doable on a larger scale.

Margaret  09:43 Okay. And what—what kind of climates does it work for? Like what kind of climates is this good for?

Kylie  09:50 I can't personally speak for climates up north because I'm in the subtropics and tropics. 

Margaret  09:59 Mhmm. 

Kylie  10:00 So for me it works year round. And it's absolutely beautiful. It never stops, I don't ever have to worry about anything freezing over. But if you are in a cold climate, there are options for you. You can insulate your tanks, you can also start growing indoors so that you can grow year-round. The best option, instead of getting a bunch of grow lights and trying to go that route is probably a greenhouse, that way you get the free sunlight. And then all you're doing is what I'm doing right now is paying for a little bit of power to run the pumps.

Margaret  10:32 Okay. Yeah, I spent a lot of my—a lot of my life is involved with the frustrations of things freezing, like, and being destroyed in the winter. I'm on my, like, maybe third propane hot water heater for my shower here. And so I'm like, anything—as soon as you're like, "Oh, it involves water pumps," my thought was like, "Oh god, I'm gonna have to replace every fucking piece of it every time it drops below freezing." So a greenhouse makes more sense. 

Kylie  11:04 Oh, yeah. I mean, if it's like that, you'd have to stop the pumps for a certain, you know, however many months out of the year and bring them inside, take all the water out of things because if it does freeze over, you know, it just expands and starts cracking everything.

Margaret  11:20 Okay, so what are you feeding the fish? You said you're also growing the fish food? Is that—what makes that more efficient than just growing your own food?

Kylie  11:28 Well, there's a lot of foods that you can grow very easily and there's parts of different plants that we don't necessarily—like yucca, for example, or I think another name for it is cassava? Is that, you know, we the roots of it, but we don't really eat the leaves of it. So I have all this biomass sitting there growing out my yucca, and I can't really touch it. It's not doing me any good. But I can go and feed that to my fish and they love it. So I'm getting free food out of the deal, and I'm also feeding myself at the same time. And when I'm pruning those yucca leaves, you know, daily, it actually makes the yucca plant grow a lot more vigorously. So there's a lot of different plants such as sweet potato, things like that, that I can take the leaves from that I wouldn't normally eat and feed them to my fish. Tnstead of buying the commercial fish feeds that are filled with all sorts of horrible chemicals that are going to get you sick, you can just grow your own fish food. And even inside the system itself, if you don't have other space to grow different plants to feed them, you can grow extra things like lettuce in your system and just feed them the extra lettuce.

Margaret  12:41 Okay, that's cool, it—I'm not very—of all the sort of off-grid skills that I have, food has never been one of them. And I think people—listeners have probably sort of noticed that I haven't really covered much about how to do one of the most basic things that everyone is interested in for being prepared, which is growing food. And so I get excited about concepts like this and I ran across—I ran across your work because of other work that you've done. You do videos around gun fighting and general, like, preparedness to be in the field and stuff like that. And then I saw your hydroponics work and—or aquaponics work.

Kylie  13:25 Yeah, it's a—my gun fighting stuff is more kind based on, like, logistics. It's less about, I don't know, I don't really see anyone else kind of doing what I'm doing in the format that I'm doing it. So it's kind of hard to describe for me, but it's based in logistics. This is what you should be looking into, don't worry about all the fantasy scenarios, don't worry about any of this, this is what's going to keep you alive in this very specific scenario of a gunfight without any context there as to what fight is or why it is or how you got there. That doesn't matter.

Margaret  14:04 I'll probably ask you a bit more about that stuff at the end. But I wanted to talk to you more about food stuff. Like how—I mean, obviously one of the answers is watch your video series on it. But how does one get started doing aquaponics? What would you say to someone who's starting to do it?

Kylie  14:21 Start taking care of fish first. Even if it's—even if it's something that you're looking at down the line and, you know, maybe you don't want to jump right into it. If you have just an apartment for now and all you can keep as a fish and you don't have the room for this but go into it someday, start taking care of fish now. That way, you know, even if you have a small aquarium in your house, one day you can translate those same skills into a bigger format. And there are small-scale aquaponics things that you can do with just a fish aquarium in your house to kind of work through the kinks and learn what works and what doesn't and how to take care of the plants at the same time, because those two skills are extremely—there's a lot of—what do you call it? Like, you're learning from your failures type-thing. You know, there's a lot of trial and error there?

Margaret  15:16 Yeah, I've only ever tried to keep a fish once and it was a terrible—is one of those goldfish that was like, you go to the community swimming pool and it's, like, they don't chlorinate it that day and they put goldfish in it and you can bring them home, and then the goldfish die after like three days. Which doesn't do anyone any good because then I just became convinced, like, ah yes, I cannot—yeah, I'm like, I can't keep fish, they just die. Because I've tried once. This is also the reason I don't garden, to be real. I, you know, when I was a kid they were like, bring home this sapling and plant it.

Kylie  15:51 But you know what, the reason why [inaudible]. A lot of people don't think that they can take care of things just for those reasons you go to even Home Depot, for example, and the plants are almost dead by the time you get them. 

Margaret  16:04 Yeah. 

Kylie  16:05 So you take them home and normally something that you'd be able to keep up with, it's already dead when it's in your hands. You know, maybe hasn't started showing the signs of it or what have you, just like some of the fish that you get. So it's like, it gives people a bad taste in the mouth and then they decide, "Oh, I'm not gonna ever be good this." Like, I know how it is. I failed math a few times. I don't think I'm ever gonna be good at it at this point. I'm not even gonna touch it. So I can imagine seeing something dying in front of you, that's even bit more rememberable. Oh no, I can't be trusted with that. But it is a lot easier with—

Margaret  16:43 Sorry, you cut out. It's a lot easier with what?

Kylie  16:45 I just said it's a lot easier than you think. 

Margaret  16:48 Okay. Yeah, no, I'm like—I'm now trying to figure out whether my landmates will forgive me if I dig a koi pond. I have a feeling that we're not in the right, you know, the right space for at least an underground one. Maybe like a smaller setup like you have. But I don't know. So you do—you do work around—you do work around aquaponics but you also have interest in forest agriculture and community agriculture, right? As like a kind of like a larger food autonomy idea?

Kylie  17:24 Yeah, basically my vision and what I want to see in my community is just reclaiming all the land around us. Deciding what we want to do with it. Whatever the city says, if we all have food forests in our front lawn, waht are they gonna to do? You know, what are they going to do? You know, the code says one thing, but if we're all doing it and that's what we've decided we wanted for our community, they can't stop us. So my goal is to kind of do the guerilla gardening thing where I can, and where I can get away with it. And being an example in my own neighborhood to my neighbors, which, my neighbors have already started catching on. What I've done is I've taken over my front yard, gotten rid of all the grass that literally doesn't pay rent. It doesn't feed you, it doesn't do anything but poison your land and waste your time and money. So I've taken that up and I've planted a food forest with tons of different plants kind of living and helping each other, and it's just out there. I have neighbors coming up to me all the time taking coconuts and—what are they called—papayas and stuff like that every day. Then I have little peppers in there, and another little herbs and everything else, and people can just walk by on the sidewalk and pick it up. And since I've been doing that, I've been seeing a lot of my neighbors start growing their own fruit trees, because I have fruit trees completely surrounding my property. So wherever I have a free spot that's maybe like eight by eight, I'm going to put a fruit tree. And I've given out tons of fruit trees, because whenever I get them, of course I save the seeds and I plant them. If they grow, that's great. I hand them out to someone, they go plant it somewhere. So it's like, there's little things that individuals can do. And just saving seeds, for example. Just save a seed, put it in a pot, hand it off to someone that can grow it. You know, there's a lot of things that we can do and we can influence everyone around us to do the same thing. If we have an entire neighborhood with food forests in their front lawn, that's going to change the climate of the area. That's literally going to create a microclimate. 

Margaret  19:36 Yeah.

Kylie  19:36 And that's going to encourage all the natural flora and fauna and all the animals to start coming back and, you know, for the people that will eat that protein, that's another food source. In my area in South Florida we have a lot of—a lot of wildlife and there's a lot of invasive wildlife too, which I'm trying to get a handle on. I've definitely seen an impact since I've been actively going after them and trying to encourage other people to eat them when they can. Because, you know, it's destroying our ecosystems down here. But I have noticed a difference, just me going out and during those little things. So wherever you're at, there's something that you can do. If there's a median in the middle of the road, there's nothing stopping you from going and plan something out there. If they take it up, they take it up, you know, and there's not really a loss there, you can always get another seed. But you gotta try. That's the important part.

Margaret  20:40 That's interesting to me because I often think about how we don't think about how we can have an impact and how, like, you know, it's—some of these problems that we deal with, right, are so big that we just sort of think, "Oh, we can't have any impact on this." And then even, like, when—I was raised very detached from—I mean, I spent time in nature, but I spent—I was still very detached from like the concept that I would have an impact on nature. Like the idea that, like, hmm—like with a prepping thing, everyone talks about like, "Oh, well, I'll just go out and eat deer and squirrels or whatever," right? But then I remember reading about how, during the Great Depression, people hunted deer and squirrels almost to extinction. And it's—and I—people don't think about the fact that we can have this outsized impact. And the idea that you can create an actual microclimate in your neighborhood is really cool. I've never really thought about it quite like that before.

Kylie  21:38 Yeah, I've read a few things where, in different countries at certain points in time—I don't remember where it was or when it happened—but they started doing something similar to that. And they were creating microclimates around their area. And, you know, increase the the wildlife and everything else. So even if, during the Great Depression, you know, people want to say, "I'm gonna go out meet deers and squirrels." Well that's, you know, with as many people as there is, that's still a limited thing. You could, just like you said, you could almost go and hunt them to extinction. If the environment still isn't beneficial to them, they're not going to be there in those great numbers that you need them to be.

Margaret  22:16 Yeah, it's that extractive mindset, right? The like idea that nature is just this pool of resources that we draw from, not something that we actually tend to and try and—try and improve or try and create, like, a symbiotic relationship with.

Kylie  22:31 Right. Yeah, people think that they can take a resource without replacing it, you know, and you have to—if you're hunting an animal, you also have to encourage their propagation. 

Margaret  22:42 Yeah.

Kylie  22:43 You know, or else you're only going to be hunting them for a short period of time.

Margaret  22:47 Yeah, I sometimes wonder if that was the—if that was the food system that I had grown up into I, you know, probably never would have gone vegan. My veganism was absolutely a response to the ways in which, you know, industrial meat production is done.

Kylie  23:06 No, that's another reason that I like to do what I do. Because it's like, if someone, you know, if we have a bunch of squirrels out here because we have so many fruit trees and everything else, if someone wants to go out and take one of those squirrels and eat it, I don't see that as any type of thing. That's the way things are supposed to be. I don't—I want to create an alternative, literally, for that industrial monocultural agriculture. You know, it's like, it's too much. And it's completely unethical. People have to do what they have to do, of course, but there needs to be an alternative there for it. If we want to get rid of that, we have to first create the alternative. 

Margaret  23:50 Yeah. 

Kylie  23:51 And the alternative may be reclaiming our lands around us and using them to propagate food.

Margaret  24:00 What—I especially like this idea, because most of the ways that I've seen people talk about, you know, raising animals for proteins, is on like a small-scale or an off-grid sense, is more about specifically the raising of animals, right? Like, it's—as compared to what you're talking about that kind of interests me more is about, like, creating the environment in which these animals can flourish enough to the point where one could, you know, without fucking up their overall population or whatever, like, go and take some of them.

Kylie  24:37 That's exactly it. And I feel like, once we can free ourselves from having to spend so much of our time in pursuit of money in order to get food and provide for ourselves and be subservient to that, you know, food system, you know, we'll have more time that we can spend, you know, in our communities. Rather than having to work maybe 40 hours a week, maybe we can cut back a little bit, because we're not having to worry about the basics of food. And once we're spending—my idea is once we're spending more time at home and we're growing our own food, we have a lot more time to organize, and we have a lot more to lose with our residences, our land, or wherever we we reside. Um, once we can do that, then the next step is, what's the next thing that you need? You need housing. You know, if we're spending that much more time at home organizing, maybe we can protect that housing. Maybe we can protect our residences so that when they do come in, try and tell us, "Oh, that's not code, you can't do that." Or "We're going to kick you out because you're not paying rent," or whatever else it is, we can just squat it. You know what I'm saying we can say, "Hey, we're all here, we got the time and you can't starve us out, you know? Maybe we can start to reclaim parts of our lives, maybe we can spend more time at home with our families. The more food we grow, the more freedom we grow for ourselves. And then we can translate that into securing other basic necessities of life, like our housing. 

Margaret  26:21 Yeah. I think of when I first got involved with anarchism I spent maybe five years at least—maybe a little bit longer—without a job as a result of that, and I worked constantly but it was just all organizing and especially just sort of, like, frontline work. And a lot of it was like squatting and things like that, and some of it was squatting so that we have place to live or whatever, but also a lot of it was like, you know, squatting as a political project and things like that. And I like the—but it was definitely something that was presented on some level as, like, you know, there's a certain amount of like privilege to be able to just, like, "Oh, I'm just gonna choose to not have a job and trust the movement to take care of me." And, you know, there was a lot of like food donations we ate and stuff like that. And I think we, like, worked for it. I'm not embarrassed of this period of my life or whatever. But I like this way of doing it where that generalizes a bit more of the way that you're talking about it, where we can minimize the amount of, like, you know, paid labor or whatever that we have to fuck with.

Kylie  27:30 Right. The amount of time that we need to sell of our lives in order to survive and meet our basic necessities.

Margaret  27:37 One thing I've always liked—you talk about food forests and, again, I I haven't really fucked with food production. You know, this last year I finally realized, I was like staring at the, like, "Oh god, I actually have to fuck with food production." And I'm in a very good place to do it because I, you know, live off grid on technically a farm. And—but the thing that—but it never—part of what never appealed to me about it, that food force does appeal to me, is I kind of like the idea of like food forests is, like, the like lazy way of gardening in some ways. Like it's a lot more like planning, but then theoretically, you're growing plants.

Kylie  28:15 Oh, yeah. So it's a lot easier.

Margaret  28:17 Yeah. How does—like, how did you get involved with doing that? Like, what are—what are some steps that people can take to start doing food foresting if they have, like, a yard or something like that?

Kylie  28:32 Well, in my area, the code tells me that I can have ornamental, you know, bushes and stuff like that. And I can have, like, mulch surrounding them. But I can't just go and take away all my grass. They tell me that. But what I did is I planted a couple fruit trees in my front yard. You know, they don't say anything about trees, luckily, in my area. So I planted a couple trees and then I put mulch around. And then I would plant, you know, a bush, maybe like an oregano bush in between those two trees. And then I put a little bit more mulch around that one. And then it just kept on growing from there. And each thing I would just start planting another plant in between each of the other ones, and then just adding mulch until it completely on my entire front lawn. And then it completely covered my entire back lawn—or backyard, whatever you want to say. It's little by little. You know, if you start—the best place to start is with fruit trees. You know, you get that whole canopy up and you don't want to be completely covering everything. But you get that up and then you start mulching around it, just start moving out slowly from there. 

Margaret  29:48 Okay.

Kylie  29:49 And eventually you're going to start to see all the native pollinators come back into the area, you're going to see all the birds come back, all the bees. I swear, like, the first year I did it, I had never seen like a bee warm before. And then all of a sudden in my coconut trees, there's just forms of bees. You know, they're not like harming anything, but it's like, oh, wow. And they're all going around pollinating all the little flowers and all fruit trees all around my place. It was amazing. And I've never seen that in my neighborhood before. And it happened quickly.

Margaret  30:21 That's interesting. How, were you—like how long from planting the trees till that kind of stuff started happening?

Kylie  30:30 Oh, about a year, because I do it pretty quickly. Like, you know, adding the mulch and adding plants and growing it out. I did it pretty rapidly. And after about a year I would, you know, I've got really sandy soil here that doesn't have a whole lot of anything and it's very loose, kind of falls apart little gray. And, you know, I reach down in my soil now and I reach down past the first layer of woodchips and all the woodchips underneath that are completely broke down now. It's completely, like, black soil underneath there. And there's mushrooms growing everywhere. You'll pick up a piece of the mulch, and it will just be one big cake of mycelium or whatever it's called—the white little tendrils that interconnect it. And that happened within a year of just—I first put manure down, like cow manure, and then I put the mulch on top of it. And it took a year, you know. And then my fruit trees started really producing well, and the bees and birds showed up, and it's been beautiful ever since. It's probably gone on about five years now. And it's it's very low-maintenance. Like you said, it's kind of the the lazy way of gardening.

Margaret  31:49 Have you had much pushback from the city or neighbors or anything like that?

Kylie  31:54 I had pushback. Several years ago when I first—I think it was after I planted my first fruit tree out there. I wasn't really trying to do the food forest thing yet or anything, but I was trying to get rid of some of my grass. And I had a—I was out there in the yard working. I was really hard, frustrated, been digging holes all day. And I had a city code compliance car stop right in front of my house and he came out to me and he didn't even speak to me, which I found odd. And he walked straight up to my door and he put a notice on it. And I walked over I picked it up. I said, "What's this? What are you doing?" He's like, "Oh, well, I'm I'm fining you for this," or whatever. And I was just like, "How the hell are you gonna fucking find me, you didn't even tell?" You know, at least give someone a warning first. 

Margaret  32:46 Yeah.

Kylie  32:46 Maybe you've been putting stuff in my mailbox and I didn't see it or know about or whatever. But like, you can't just come at people like that. And I started getting irate with him. I'm not exactly proud of it. 

Margaret  33:00 [Laughing] Uh huh.

Kylie  33:01 I just kind of explained to him. I was like, "Why are you extorting people? Do you feel proud of yourself? Like, how—are they gonna pay you extra for doing this?" I said, "Listen," because he was wanting me to go and pay for sod because my grass wasn't looking good enough up to his standard. And that's really what it was all about. I guess the sod wasn't up to his standard—is a little brown places, we were going through a drought. I wasn't watering my lawn because I didnt [inaudible]. You know? And he's like, "Oh, well, you need to go out and buy sod." I said, "Well, I can't do that. You know, I don't have the money to do that. What do you expect me to do? Do you think fining me is going to help me find the money in order to do what you want me to do? Do you want this neighborhood to be beautiful, or do you want to just punish me?" And I don't know if what I said got through to that individual. But I've never had them come back. I don't know if he went back to the headquarters and put a little black mark and said don't visit this house. But, I don't know. Whatever has happened since then has happened since then. And I've checked in with him a few times, like, "Hey, can I do this? Can I do that?" Just to get an idea if there's going to be pushback—not that I'm asking permission, but it's good to know if there's going to be pushback. So, you know, I've been lucky. 

Margaret  34:22 Yeah.

Kylie  34:22 I'll just say I've been lucky. And I think that the more people that see what I'm doing, and they see that it's possible, the more it's going to start happening and the less they're going to be able to enforce it, just like I was saying earlier. It's too much. 

Margaret  34:36 Yeah.

Kylie  34:36 You know, when you do find everyone $300 a day every day? That's unsustainable. It's not even realistic to expect that.

Margaret  34:43 Yeah, I find building code stuff to be this interesting mess of, like, I remember the first time I watched some of dealing with it, a friend of mine—one of my first friends to like go get land and start, you know, building a place to live rurally—and he got, you know, he was allowed—the like hippies in the area had fought for the fact that you could now do human compost. And you could—you know, human waste compost not human bodies—and you could do a solar water pump for your well. And he was like, great! So he went and he set all that stuff up and then they came and they were like, "You don't have a septic field or a septic tank." 

Kylie  34:44 Yeah, they'll get you on those septic codes.

Margaret  34:58 And he's like, correct, in this county you're allowed to do this. Yeah, it was interesting, because it was like, even though you're allowed to do it the, like, you know, the natural way or whatever, you still have to have, like, a regular grid tied electric pump for your well, and you still have to have a septic field or a septic tank, even though—you know, it's that weird thing where, like, I'm sure the people who fought for the right to compost their shit, like, probably were living in houses that were pre-built and already had all the septic stuff already figured out. And it's just like such a—you know, it's interesting cuz I had this moment of being like, "Oh, I'm so glad I live really and I don't have to deal with that stuff." I was like, wait, like living rurally, we think about and deal with code all the time also. You know, everyone who wants to do something slightly out of the ordinary has to deal with—it's such a—it's such a nonsensical, small thing. You know? It's so, like, I think if you tell the average person, like, "Hey, if you buy a house, you're not allowed to paint it like pink with purple polka dots." And you're, like, but it's my house. Don't we live in this, like, capitalist country where we, like, our private property is, you know, our own private property? And you're like, yeah, you still can't paint your house. I don't know, I was a grouchy libertarian teenager for a couple months around stuff like that before I realize the nightmare of capitalism.

Kylie  36:53 Till you realize that you still can't do what you want to do because there's still another guy bigger than you are.

Margaret  36:58 Yeah, exactly. It was actually like I was—

Kylie  37:02 The septic company lobbied the government to not let you get away without a septic tank.

Margaret  37:08 Yeah. My communist girlfriend in high school was like, "Corporations would run everything." And I was like, you're right and I don't have a counter-argument. And that ended my, like, three months of being a libertarian. But I was like, but I still don't want the government to tell me what to do. Yeah. To tie this in to anarchy and anarchism and doing for ourselves, one of the things that we talked about when we were talking about maybe doing this episode is—something that came up for you as you were talking about how, like, politics and organizing, and maybe anarchism specifically, is like a practice or it's nothing. And I was wondering if you wanted to talk about your thoughts on that.

Kylie  37:53 Um, I just get tired of people getting caught up in—not that I'm bashing, you know, the intellectual side of it at all. We need people to think of alternatives, we need people to theorize, we need all of that. But when you put that onus on the average person and you expect them to go read a book in order to, you know—they don't—my point is, they don't need to go read any book in order to do things. You know what I mean? If there's homeless people in your area that need to be housed and fed, it doesn't matter if someone's read a book. They can be completely illiterate. That doesn't change the fact that their praxis or whatever you would call it is effective. They can go help, you know, change people's lives without ever knowing what they're doing is called. Just because there is a label for it doesn't mean that you have to apply that label. Because, especially in this country where we've all been propagandized so thoroughly that anything outside of the system as it is, is seen as, you know, a Boogeyman. It's scary. You can't mess with it, you can't talk about it. So if, for example, you talk to your neighbor about, let's say, setting up a community garden, and you mentioned communism or anarchism, he's probably just not even gonna talk to you. Because it's not—it's not because he doesn't agree with what you want to do, it's because he has these preconceived notions of what that means. And if you just leave that out of the conversation, and you leave the conversation at "What can we do to improve our and our community's well being?" You know, like, that's where the conversation needs to be centered. Not on, "Oh, you didn't read this book or that book or agree with this 100-year-old philosopher this or that." You don't need that. People before Kropotkin and Karl Marx, you know, were doing and living in these societies that were anarchistic by label, by modern label, you know, they didn't have a word for then call it anything that was just the way of life and made sense for them at the time. And somewhere along the way we've forgotten that as an entire people throughout the world, you know. Once this type of, you know, brutality and violence took place and subjugated everyone put them into different categories and classes—once that took hold, we forgotten it. But every—you know, I believe that, you know, throughout—we got to the point of where we are because we did act like that. We evolved as human beings because we act in community, because we acted without arbitrary authorities over us. I think that we evolved to this point because of those things. So we need to recognize that that's in all of our ancestries. 

Margaret  41:07 Yeah.

Kylie  41:07 That genetic or mental, you know, memory is there. We just have to find it again and cut through all the bullshit that we've been taught in order to rediscover it and be like, oh, there is a way to just live. I remember when I was a kid, I was talking—I was having like an existential crisis, where I was like 12 or 13. And I was talking to my friend, I said, "You know, I don't really want to go to school, I don't want to like, go and grind out a job. Why can't my job just be to grow a little bit of food? Why can't I just go sleep on the beach, make myself a little hut? And have a little garden there and just be myself?" 

Margaret  41:48 Yeah. 

Kylie  41:48 And I was asking all these sorts of questions like, why not? Why not? Why not. And my friend who's, you know, 13 as well, got extremely upset with me and started screaming at me, and she's like, "But this is just the way it is and you need to get used to it because you're not going to, you know, survive with that type of thinking, or with that type of mentality." And, you know, it kind of cut through me and I'm like, well, maybe she's right. And of course, you know, to an extent she is right. The system will kill you if you step outside it. It'll will either jail you, starve you, or fucking literally murder you if you step outside the system and try and grow your own food, or trying to create your own education systems or systems of, you know, governments, I should say. It will fucking kill you. And, you know, I had to take what she was saying. I don't know if it was from the frustration of not being able to explain to me why life is fundamentally like this now and why it's so unnatural. Or if it came from a genuine concern of, you're going to die. But either way, it kind of woke me up to, oh wow, something's not right here. Why am I kind of the outlier here, you know? That little schism kept on going on until my early 20s, until I finally figured it out. But, you know, because I—you know, despite all that, you know, at 13, all that questioning, I was still subjected to all the propaganda in this country and I still, I still succumb to it and I joined the US Army at 18. You know, like, I kind of took what she said to her. I'm like, well, I better get with gettin and do what I'm supposed to do. So I tried that for a few years. And despite my anarchist tendencies without a label, and anarchist leanings and thoughts without that label, like, I still went in. And, you know, that little schism just drove me crazy until my early 20s. And so I was like, oh, this isn't working for me. This isn't working for anybody. You know, there's got to be something else, there has to be a real alternative. And I started reading history, you know. There is a lot of good that can come and help shape your worldview from the books and from the theory and everything else. So when I started reading history, and I'm like, we came from this. You know, look at the Amazon. Supposedly that's a gigantic food forest. You know, like, there's a lot of little archeological dig sites where they find all this shattered pottery and all these plants that are basically, you know, plants that we made just like corn and everything else wasn't just something that was naturally here all the time. We made that from a grass. You know, and the reason that we were able to do that in such a short period of time with such genetic diversity is because, for example, everyone had tiny little farms around their residences. You know, instead of these gigantic farms, it was tiny little home gardens. So you have, you know, hundreds of people around you all growing these little different strains of corn and grasses, and eventually turns into something bigger. They've separated us entirely and prohibited us from even dreaming about that. Now, I think that's like one of the biggest fucking crimes in the world so far, is that they make us go along with the genocide and the war and the famine and all of that when we literally don't have to, because they've coerced us.

Margaret  45:34 One of the things when you're talking—one of the like advantages of a label, in some ways... I don't know, I think about like, so—and this is presumptive—but you went in, you said you went into the military kind of like not, you know, you had all this sort of like anarchistic energy, but you didn't really know what to do with it yet, or you didn't, you know, you didn't know yourself in that way. But so in some ways I wonder if that's, like, one of the advantages of a label is that, for me, when I finally, like, kind of, like, discovered and sort of calling myself an anarchist I was 19. And it was able to—I was able to like kind of—it was like a lens with which to see my own thoughts. And I think that I try to not feel confined by the label "anarchist," like, but it still helped me wrap my head around ideas that I've been struggling with for so long to realize that there was this strain. And I do think there's huge limitations with anarchism, especially as like, viewing it as like a Western philosophy and, you know, like, oh, it's 150 years old and comes from Europe or whatever. But it still gives me a, like, a sense of, like, now I can look back and see rebels throughout history and see, like, very similar ways of struggling. And, I don't know.

Kylie  47:02 Right, right.

Margaret  47:03 I still agree with you about the, like, you shouldn't propagandize your neighbors, you know, I think that just, like, going and getting the shit done... 

Kylie  47:09 Right.

Margaret  47:12 Yeah.

Kylie  47:14 But, um, you know, the label is useful on an individual level for you to group certain ideas together and to learn more about it. Because, of course, you're building off people's knowledge previous. Like, of course, I've read Mutual Aid. I think it's—I think it's brilliant. And maybe, like, I don't have to go exactly with what he says, but I can build off of it. I can take the labor that he's already put down for us and I can build off of that. I can use that as a jumping off point. But the the problem is, is when you get dogmatic about these things.

Margaret  47:50 Yeah. 

Kylie  47:51 You know, some people get dogmatic and it's like, okay, but, you know, give—leave some room for nuance. Leave some room for expansion. Don't just sit there and be stagnant. You have to grow. And you can't use it as a limitation. 

Margaret  48:08 Yeah.

Kylie  48:08 You know, that's when it becomes problem is when it becomes a limitation. It limits your efforts or your organizing or your ability to work with others. But if you can use it as a way to further your own understanding of what's going on around you and your own ability to increase the well being of people in your community, then that's where it's at. That's where you have to focus it.

Margaret  48:34 Yeah. What was it like to sort of fall out of favor of like—like, okay, so you went and joined the army and then you kind of—did you, like, realize that was a mistake? Or how did that—I don't know. I'm just curious about the way you were talking about that.

Kylie  48:52 Well, you know, just like I said, I had anarchist tendencies, you know, when I was younger, and then 9/11 happened. My dad told me that we're at war when I was 11 and that kind of stuck with me. And of course all the propaganda that was ramped up right after that, I felt like I had to. Um, I went in and I didn't really know what was going on in the war—it was probably 2008 by the time I went in, and I didn't really understand it. I was just taking with whatever my parents said, wherever they heard on Fox News, probably. And I just ran with it. And I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was part of making my community better or safer or what have you. I thought I was doing the right thing. They use that type of goodwill to exploit it, you know? I don't really blame people for for going in and seeing an opportunity there because that's what they're taught. 

Margaret  49:49 Yeah. 

Kylie  49:50 You know, almost everyone when I went in there for education if you ask them. That's why you'll never see free education in this country, because that would hurt the military recruiting numbers. But beside that, I realized that I wasn't supposed to be there during basic training, because they brought us all into a building and they put on a video for us. And it was all this literal propaganda—like country music stars talking about, "Oh, you're the hero of this nation," and they're playing all these like patriotic songs and stuff. And I started looking around the room—of course, I had little butterflies in my stomach because that's, you know, what they're trying to elicit from you. Of course, it's an emotional reaction that they're trying to elicit, it was working on me. But I kinda like snapped out of it and I'm like, "Where the fuck am I at?" And I looked around and all the other people around me had tears in their eyes. And I was seeing that it was affecting them, like, in a very, very big way that itwasn't quite affecting me. Of course, I'm there, I'm in the moment, it's affecting me. But it wasn't affecting me to the degree that was affecting everyone else. And I'm looking around at these people, like, this doesn't seem right. Like, they don't seem like they're thinking for themselves right now. You know, no one seems like they're really, you know—for lack of a better word—coherent. And then I started just slowly seeing how the system was, and how the war machine was, and hearing stories from, you know, sergeants, and this and that. I'm like, holy fuck, I don't want to be a part of this. When your drill sergeant, you know—someone asked him, "Have you ever hesitated when, when you saw a silhouette of someone's body to shoot?" And he said, "Well, I never did before until I shot a pregnant woman in the stomach." 

Margaret  51:49 Oh, god.

Kylie  51:51 You know, "I jumped in through a window in the middle of the night, and I saw a silhouette and I just put two rounds into the belly." And ever since then he's hesitated. But, you know, that still didn't make me feel good about him as a person because, oh, now you hesitated. You know, like, oh, you didn't just completely go off the deep end and be like, I can't do this anymore or frag your officer. You decided, oh, well, I'll hesitate for a second. You know, that's what your takeaway was, instead of the, you know—what I would see is the the normal reaction of, "Oh, my god, put me in jail." You know, I'm a bad person, that type of reaction. But it wasn't like that. And everyone else around me is fauning over this guy. Like, "Oh, wow, whoo." And, you know, I—that was still in basic training. I really realized that that was not the place for me. And the rest of the time—I was good at it, you know, it wasn't like I had a bad time there. Yeah, there was traumatic shit. You know, I didn't go overseas or anything else like that. But there was like, crazy shit that happened because you got a bunch of young people, you know, given access and authority and power and whatever else they think they have. And, you know, crazy stuff happens. But it was like, I'm not supposed to be here because of, you know, I don't feel safe around these people. These aren't good people, a lot of them.oYu know, I can't tell you how many times I've sat there and listen to someone tell me about how they've murdered people. And it was just like... there's nothing. 

Margaret  53:30 Yeah.

Kylie  53:31 You know, they're just recalling it. Like, they don't see any—they don't read into it. You know, "Why did I murder that person? Why was I there in the first place?" They don't question that at all. And that's where I saw the problem to be. Because if you're really feeling like you're there to protect people, or you're doing it for your community, trying to protect and that's what they lead you to believe, then the last thing you're going to do is hurt another community the way that you're afraid for your community to be hurt. So if you go over there and kill someone's mother, you know, like, that's exactly what you didn't want to happen here to your mother. You know, how can you justify this? 

Margaret  54:10 Yeah. 

Kylie  54:13 How can you live with it? And how can you not—the powers that sent in there and try and, you know, resist that? Because you should—if you care about your own family you should be able to care about and empathize with everyone else's families. And I didn't see that with people I was around. So I got out in a hurry, long story short. 

Margaret  54:39 Okay. Yeah, I—one of the most like alienated I've ever felt from, like, people—or especially... I don't want to specifically say especially men, but I want to say like maybe some of the ways that like men are taught to behave in our society or whatever. I remember talking to a friend who was on a boat with her boyfriend and they were boarded by pirates, and—or they were being approached by pirates or something like that. And her boyfriend was, like, so excited because he finally had an excuse to kill somebody. 

Kylie  55:20 Oh, wow. 

Margaret  55:21 And he was like, "I get to try and kill somebody now." And he was, like, gleeful. And she broke up with him. And just hearing that was like the most, like, oh there's people who think that way. And it's so confusing to me. You know? I'm not a pacifist.

Kylie  55:50 Right.

Margaret  55:50 This show is clearly not a pacifistic project. But there's still just this, like, gap between—I don't know. And I just, yeah, I...

Kylie  56:04 It's because they don't see other people as humans. They're looking for an excuse and they have that eagerness. And it's like, if you're eager, like, that's not a good sign, you know? 

Margaret  56:16 Yeah. 

Kylie  56:16 You know, I'm prepared to do what I need to do, but I'm not eager to ever do it. You know, I'm hoping for a world where no one ever has to do that. You know, that's the ideal right there. But if you're sitting there just waiting, itching for it, because you want to enact your power—your feeling of powerlessness on someone else—because that's what I see it as. You know, if someone sits there and says, "Oh, I want to go overseas because that's the only way to murder people legally." 

Margaret  56:45 Yeah.

Kylie  56:46 You know, like that's you projecting your own powerlessness, because you feel like you have to enact that on someone else in order to feel power. You know, you obviously weren't feeling powerful before, you know, if you feel like you need to do that—that you feel like you need to do that to someone. And for no other reason other than it's legal. Not because they did something to you, but because it's legal. And of course, you know, legality is no measure of morality. And it's scary when you come across people like that. I don't blame anyone for distancing themselves, protecting themselves from that.

Margaret  57:26 Yeah. You know, that, uh—yeah, I don't even know what to say about that other than it's just fuckin—it's fucking wild. Okay, so to, we're kind of coming up—we're coming up on an hour. But there's a couple more, a couple more short things that I kind of wanted to ask you a little bit about. You know, a lot of your work is—for anyone who, you know, is listening, you do a lot of video content on YouTube. You have a lot of videos showing how you build the aquaponic stuff that you do, but also videos about tactical stuff. And I remember when I reached out to you I said, "Hey, I'm doing this anarchist prepping podcast." And I use that as shorthand. I, you know, theoretically it's a community and individual preparation podcast. 

Kylie  58:18 Yeah.

Margaret  58:19 And you're like, "Oh, god, I hate prepping." And I—and then I watched more videos—I watched the video where you you have your camping bag, and everything that goes in it. And I really liked that content, it's a very good video, and I recommend it to people. There's a lot of really good specifics in that video. But I was like, okay, so there's clearly an issue with maybe, like, the label or the culture around it, like, do you want to talk about your issues with, like, prepping as a label or a community or an idea?

Kylie  58:51 Well, I think what sticks in a lot of people's heads when they think about prepping is the damn show—Doomsday Preppers. You know, a lot of that was silly. A lot of it was silly. And I can, you know—for most people, that's their exposure to it. So—and then you have the whole subculture around that that's all based on individualism. And just, I'm going to go hoard this thing so that I have the power over others if things happen. I think that's a lot of the mentality that goes into it. You know, you don't see prepping as a community-based thing very often. Especially not on that show, not what's being sold to us as prepping, you know. They want to frame it as that so you go out and you just buy things for yourself and keep on hoarding all these materials. But it's like, really, that's not gonna help you. You're not growing food yet? You should have just bought seeds and started learning to grow. If you really want to, like, make sure that you can sustain yourself and your community, that's where you need to first focus, is reclaiming the lands around you. But no one focuses on that. They focus on, oh, do I have the newest and latest gun so that I can go out and kill the marauders? And it's like, okay, you know, you need to scale back your fantasies a little bit and assess what may actually happen. You know, if you've ever been in a natural disaster like a hurricane or something else like that, here in Florida they happen all the time. So I grew up going through these power outages and, you know, homes being torn apart. And every time that happened, it was like a fucking party. Like it was the—it was some of the funnest times in my life. All of a sudden, I'm outside riding bikes with my neighbor. All of a sudden, I'm like, going out and collecting coconuts and helping my neighbors and getting to know them and clearing the roads with them and making sure that people will have power and being like, "Oh, this person over here has a generator, let's go get all the extension cords and make sure everyone's fridges are running." You know, it's like people come together naturally. All the labels and all the bullshit goes right out the window as soon as something real happens. So all these fantasies that people have about, oh, Yellowstone's gonna erupt and then the marauders are going to come from my food bars. And I have to kill them all with my children wearing bullet proof vests and they're going to shoot them all with .22s. It's like, it's insanity to me. Not to like, you know, denigrate anyone, but it's not healthy. 

Margaret  1:01:33 Yeah.

Kylie  1:01:34 It's absolutely not healthy to be thinking like that, where everyone's your enemy, everyone's out to get what you have. Instead of saying, "Hey, I have more than what I need. Let's build a bigger table." You're saying, "I've got more than what I need, I need to keep it, you know, so these other people don't get it and I got kill them if I have to." But it's like, how long are you going to be able to live like that? You know, so you got 100 Bakker buckets. And even if you are having to live like that, that's not life? 

Margaret  1:02:02 Yeah. 

Kylie  1:02:04 Like that's—why are you even fighting at that point? I don't understand that, personally. Like, my life has gotten to that point where all I have to look forward to is eating Bakker buckets and sitting inside a house with no lights on and never stepping outside because I'm afraid someone's gonna steal them. Like, that's not a life, you might as well just kill me. You know, I want to be outside interacting with people and seeing kids run around the neighborhood and scream and yell and laugh. You know, like, that's the goal. You know, when kids can be kids again, like, they can be free and not have to worry and they're safe. And they're fed and they're healthy and educated. Like, that's the ideal. That's what we should all be working towards with prepping. But you got these people just working towards, "I got to get more bullets so I can shoot everyone in my neighborhood." Like, that's not where it's at. If you're talking about prepping just to shoot individuals, like, holy shit. Just like the other guy you're talking about.

Margaret  1:03:01 Yeah, you're—one of my favorite, you know, a guest that we had on last fall—I just use the Royal we for myself—the guest that I had on last fall—the show is eventually gonna end up more collective but at the moment, it's just me. And I had on a guest named Deviant who had stockpiled a fair amount of ammunition before the current ammunition shortage and Deviant got an incredible amount of joy out of, like, getting to be the like, the bullet fairy and go around and, like, "Oh, you're just getting into guns now? That makes sense. Here Do you want to hold out of 223 ammo so that you can train?" You know. And like, to me the only point of stockpiling anything is to share it—is to be able—yeah, and like my personal goal, like I don't stockpile ammunition—mostly cuz, you know, got into it too late. But, you know, I do. I have a lot of five gallon buckets of food and I have a lot of five gallon buckets of food because I live somewhere with space in a way that a lot of people I know don't and they're not for me. Like, I don't want to eat beans and rice for the rest of my life. Like, you know, they're just there to like tide us with a—broad "us"—over either through like small interruptions in food, or in a large interruption with food, it's to tide us over long enough to get food into the ground.

Kylie  1:04:32 Right, of course. No, no, I totally agree with emergency—to have those things. And the best part about having those things, as I imagine, it's not going to do me a favors to sit there and stare at it inside my house all day, these little hoards and stuff like that. The real joy comes from like what you said, just going out and handing it out. Making people's days, making sure they have a, you know, belly full of food at night. Like that feels so much better. You know, like even if you want to look at it as a personal thing. I want to feel good. I want to feel good about what I'm doing. You know, like, I feel good when I give someone something, you know, that's a, you know, call it selfish. But, you know, that's the thing, you know, it feels a lot better to give something and make someone's day then does just sit there and stare at yourself.

Margaret  1:05:18 Okay, well, do you have any last thoughts about, you know, we've clearly moved a fair amount away from aquaponics. But about, like, food autonomy in general, or the work that you do, or anything else that you want the audience to hear?

Kylie  1:05:32 I just want people to realize that they have power. They have power to affect the people around them, and that's the only real power that we have. That's the only power that exists in the world. You know, the violence and the brutality and of, you know, the systems that be, that's not power, that's just an illusion of power. And we can affect each other. Like you—just like we were saying, if you can make someone's day, that's power. 

Margaret  1:06:05 Yeah. 

Kylie  1:06:06 You know, and you got to understand that. Instead of going around and trying to make people subservient to you or make them feel like they're underneath you, make them feel like they're with you. You know, I mean, when you see someone down don't punch them down, bring them up.

Margaret  1:06:26 Yeah, I like that.

Kylie  1:06:28 That's it.

Margaret  1:06:29 Cool. Where can people find you online? Where can people engage with the content that you make?

Kylie  1:06:37 So I'm in two main places, I'm on YouTube and I'm on Instagram. Both of them are AutonomousAlternative, all one word. And um, yeah. I'm in the middle of my next series, which is the firearm series. I'm about midway through that and should be finishing up soon. And then after that, it's whatever people want to see.

Margaret  1:07:02 Cool. Yeah. And if you want to see someone with gigantic bolt cutters and how you attach gigantic bolt cutters to your pack, I highly recommend your channel. There's a lot of other good stuff, but I was specifically impressed by being like, you know, it has never occurred to me that there's a version of this world where I would need to figure out how to connect, like, what four-foot bolt cutters or whatever to my backpack.

Kylie  1:07:27 The authorities sure do you like to hide things behind the law locks and fences, so it can't hurt.

Margaret  1:07:33 Yeah, no, it—it makes a lot of sense. As soon as I saw it I was like—I love those moments of, like, you know, I spend all my time like reading about preparedness and writing this podcast or whatever, and then seeing something that I'm like, oh, yeah! Okay, well, thank you so much. 

Kylie  1:07:50 Of course. Yeah, it was really a pleasure being on here. Thanks for reaching out.

Margaret  1:07:59 Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it. That's, I think the main way that people hear about it. And telling people in person is, of course, the coolest way. Although, well hey, maybe by the time you listen to this you might actually be able to interact with more than 0–2 people or whatever. And telling people who's cool. Also, telling people online tells the robots to tell other people to listen to it because algorithms are weird. And so is making the same exit commentary every single time I record an episode, but I'll just roll with that. And also, if you want to support the show more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And I put up an ostensibly monthly zine that fell down a lot during COVID, but I seem to be picking it back up. If you go there, you can get a bunch of exclusive content. And it's so exclusive that if you want it for free, just message me. Basically, anyone who lives off of less money than I make on Patreon, please just message me and I'll get you access to all the content for free. But that said, I'm excited to say that I'm starting to bring other people on board. Live Like the World is Dying becoming a more collective project. And of course, that means financing more people as more people do the work. And I'm so grateful about it, I think the show's gonna start getting back on track. And particular thanks to Casandra the transcriptionist [transcriber's note: you're welcome!] and thanks to Jack who is editing—doing editing on the audio now. And in particular I would like to thank Chris and Nora and Hoss the dog and Kirk and Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher, Shane, The Compound, Cat J, Staro, Mike, Eleanor, Chelsea, Dana, and Hugh. I really appreciate it. It's your contribution—it's everyone's contributions that is helping this podcast continue. Thank you so much. And I hope that everyone who's listening is doing well and enjoying—well, I guess the spring in the Northern Hemisphere, autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. I like autumn a lot too. So, you know. I hope you're doing well and I will talk to you all soon.

S1E26 - adrienne maree brown on Emergent Strategy

Episode Notes

The guest adrienne maree brown can be found on twitter @adriennemaree and instagram @adriennemareebrown. The book we are discussing the most is Emergent Strategy.

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. You can support her and this show on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

Transcript

Margaret 00:14 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy. I use she or they pronouns—and I'm sorry that it's been a minute since an episode has come out and it'll probably stay a little bit slowed down for a little while, it might be an episode a month for a little while. It's not that I've run out of people to interview or subjects that I want to cover, it's that it's hard for me to get anything done right now, which I think might be something that might—you might identify with, as well. I've kind of said that the only thing I've managed to accomplish so far in 2021 is talk shit on the internet and not die. And I'm doing very good at both of those things. I've have honed my talking shit skills, and I'm reasonably good at not dying. One thing that people don't talk about enough with off-grid life and things like that, I spend an awful lot of my time just maintaining the systems that sustain me. I spend a lot of my time trying to fix broken water pumps and learning that—the thing is, when you do everything DIY and you're not particularly skilled, the first time you do something you probably do it good enough, but good enough often means that it will fall apart before before too long. So I've rewired my electrical system probably seven or eight times. It seems to be holding good now. My plumbing system, I'm going to be crawling under my house and rewiring my plumbing system a lot. I've had a lot of things freeze and break. And there's just a lot of—a lot of uphill learning curve, especially to do alone. This week's guest is Adrienne Maree Brown and I'm very excited to have her on the show. We talk a lot about—well, about Emergent Strategy which is a conception of strategy, of political strategy, that embraces change and embraces the fact that, well, you can't have one strategy now can you? And we also talk a little bit about her work as a podcaster with the podcast How to Survive the End of the World, which is, yeah, as she points out that maybe the closest thing there is to a direct sister podcast or sibling podcast to this show. This podcast is a proud member of Channel Zero Network of Anarchists Podcasts, and here's a jingle from another show on the network.

Jingle 02:48 One two one two, tune in for another episode of MaroonCast. MaroonCast is a down to earth black radical podcast for the people. Our host, hip hop anarchist "Sima Lee The RBG" and sex educator and crochet artists "KLC" share their reflections on maroons, rebellion, womanism, life, culture, community, trap liberation & everyday ratchetness! They deliver fresh commentary with a queer, TGNC, fierce, funny, Southern Guhls, anti-imperialist, anti-oppression approach. "Poli (Ed.) & Bullshit". Check out episodes of MaroonCast on Channel Zero Network, Buzzsprout, Soundcloud, Google, Apple, and Spotify. All power to the people, all pleasure.

Margaret 03:40 Okay, so if you want to introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess kind of a brief introduction to you and your work, especially around Emergent Strategy.

Adrienne 03:51 Okay, my name is Adriennne Maree Brown, I use she and they pronouns. I am based in Detroit and I'm the author of five books including Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, and almost everything I've written is in some way inspired by Octavia Butler or in touch with Octavia Butler, including Emergent Strategy. So, yeah.

Margaret 04:18 Yeah, that was one of the—one of the many reasons I wanted to have you on this show was that if there's one book that keeps coming up over and over again on this show—and pretty much anyone vaguely on the left who cares about what's going on in the world—it's a Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. And one of the things that really struck me about your work with Emergent Strategy the—not just the book, but the kind of the concept of emergent strategy that I want to talk to you about—is basically, the thing that I loved—I mean, I loved a lot about Parable of the Sower and Parable of Talents. But the idea of creating this essentially religious way of interacting with chaos and change and like embracing those things and learning to use them as our strengths, whether because it's nicer or because it's our only choice, it really appealed to me. And then learning that someone was taking that out and developing it further into essentially a strategy both for like political change, but also personal development. I got really excited about it. So I was wondering if you could kind of introduce the basic concepts to listeners who might not know what the hell I'm talking about.

Adrienne 05:31 That's great. Yeah, so Emergent Strategy is, it's rooted in many, many things, I think it's the way that the world works. I feel like it's strategies for getting in right relationship with change. And once you understand that change is constant, and that you can either be thrown about by change and see it as a, you know, wild chaos that you can never get your footing in. Or that you can partner with change, you can begin to shape the changes that happen in your life or in the era that you live in. Emergent Strategy is for people who are ready to be responsible for shaping change around them. And some of the key lineages of it are the scientific concepts of emergence. So emergence is the way patterns and the way—like basically all these patterns arise out of relatively simple interactions. And they're very complex patterns, but each of the interactions or each of the relationships are relatively simple. So I think of like a flock of birds, a huge murmuration of birds, moving through the air, avoiding predation. And it looks like the most complex, choreographed, beautiful thing. But it's actually this simple system where each bird is paying attention to the five to seven birds right around it and following the subtle cues that they're sending each other: it's time to move, left, dip, rise, move, right. One of the core questions of Emergent Strategy was, what would it look like if our movements and our species could move in that way? What would it look like if we could murmur it together? How would we have to trust each other? So adaptation is a big part of that, is what does it look like to adapt with intention. Not just react to the chaos, but really adapt in ways that keep moving us where we want to get to. And then there's a lot about interdependence: what is the quality of relationships between each of the parts of our systems? Between you and my, between the people in our communities? How do we attend to the relationships? How do we think about decentralization? And I feel like one of the big lessons I've had, both in recent years and in looking back at movements throughout history, is that those that centralize are those that are not able to live as long as they need to live in order to do their best work. The centralization—something about gathering everything around one mind, one idea, one way of being—actually weakens us as a species. And nature shows us the biodiversity and creating more possibilities is actually the way to survive. And so now I think that's a lot of my work is, what does it mean for us to be biodiverse in a fucund and world? What does it mean for us to decentralize how we hold power and how we hold responsibility for what happens in our communities? How do we adapt well?

Margaret 08:28 I love all of it. I just eat up all this stuff. I've been thinking a lot about what you're saying about murmurations and the way that—the way that animals move in nature and the way that, you know, flocks move, and things like that, I was thinking about—I've been having some conversations with a couple people around the riot or the insurrection or whatever the hell people call it on January 6 at the Capitol, and the way that the rightwing crowd moved. And it's so funny to me, because like, there's like jokes on Twitter where it was like, we know it wasn't Antifa because there wasn't, like, a group of gay folks handing out sandwiches. And like, there wasn't a medic tent set up and stuff. And people present it kind of as a joke, but I realized I was looking at it and I was like, I've been terrified of people being trampled at demonstrations. I've been in militant demonstrations a lot of times, and I've never seen it happen. And watching that happen, I was trying to figure out what it was. And I think it has to do with what you're talking about, about our side at its best embraces interdependence and chaos and change and, like, and isn't there as a group of individuals. Like people talk about—sorry, this is something I think about way too much recently—

Adrienne 09:40 Yeah, no, go off.

Margaret 09:42 People have been talking about—I grew up being told the left is like The Mob. It's like the big mass action where everyone loses their individuality and it's bad chaos and everyone gets hurt. And then that just hasn't been my experience at all in large demonstrations. And then I look at what the right wing does when they all gather to go try and do this thing, and that's what I see. So I don't know. Yeah, I just, I've been thinking about that emergence stuff a lot as relates to that.

Adrienne 10:10 Yeah, I think that your—what you're speaking to is, like, extremely important distinctions which is, when a group comes together who have all been deeply socialized and have bought into their own supremacy, right? Supremacy is a disconnecting energy. It's like you can belong, as long as you play along by these rules, which are that we are better than everyone else and we're constantly reinforcing that betterness. But better, you're—then you have to constantly be reinforcing and finding new ways to be better than, better than, better than—even to the point that like, I've got to get to the Capitol door before you do, even if that means stepping over your body in the street. And you pair that with capitalism which is also the constant growth, constant bettering, constant one-upping, right? Constant showing what you have. There's so much—trying to think if you have—what the word is—like that sense of, like, this is just ours. This is mine, this is—you know? And I feel like when you go to spaces that the left has organized, there's such a care at the center of it. Like we're there not because we're just, like, I'm here to fight somebody, or I'm here to dominate, but we don't even necessarily believe it's like our way is "the right way." It's more like, we want to find a way to be loving and caring with each other. We don't think we've ever gotten the chance to experiment with that at scale, as a species. At the current scale that we're at, everything we're doing is constantly trying to defend ourselves and care for ourselves under the conditions of oppression. And it means that when we come together—I always see the same thing. I'm like, are we going to be safe? But then people are taking such care of each other, from the street medics, to the people who are watching after the kids, to people who are like, I brought for extra signs so everyone would have something to carry. People—I always notice is that people bring extra water and extra food and, like, one of my favorite things, and one of the reasons why I've always been such a stan for direct action is that those spaces tend to be such active spaces of love and care and precision and, like, let's attend to each other and attend to the work we're up to. And, you know, we can go overboard with how attentive we are to everything. Because I think is part of our responding to the trauma of living in a society that's so actively does not care for us. And so watching those people who actively don't care try to come together and assert themselves as victims and, you know, it's not funny. It's actually quite sad, you know. It's just sort of like, you have so much power, you abuse it—so much so that you end up abusing yourselves and you're you're continuously cutting yourself off from what is the best part of being alive, which is the nature of togetherness. That's what I want to study is like the scholar—I've called myself a scholar of belonging. What does it actually look like to belong, to be part of something larger than yourself, of ourselves? And in that belonging, to take responsibility for our survival, for how we do—how we be with each other?

Margaret 13:20 I'm so glad I brought this up, then because you just managed to finally articulate this thing that me and my friends have been trying to wrap our head around for—since we saw it happen on January 6th. So you mentioned trying to—trying to do this at scale, and how that's something that's somewhat unprecedented by human society and that—go ahead. I just want—how do we—how do we do that? And one of the things that really interests me about your work and about the work that I care about, is that it's embracing diverse strategies, rather than saying, like, this is the one way that we do it. So obviously when I say, how do we do that? I don't mean because you are our leader, but you know, instead—yeah, like, how do we—how do we learn to weave different strategies, different ethical systems, different ideas about how to change things? How do we weave that into a coherent force?

Adrienne 14:17 Yeah, I mean, this is the question of our lifetimes, I think, you know, is like, how do we do this thing? This is why I'm, you know—when Walidah Imarisha created that term visionary fiction I was like, "Yes, that's what I'm about is trying to figure out how we do everything that we've never really experienced in our lifetimes." The best I have so far is what I witnessed when bringing people together for the Emergent Strategy immersions, or bringing people together for a process of, like, how do we do community together? Beloved community. Like, what does it actually look like to practice that? And some of the elements of that are that people are really invited to bring their whole selves into wherever they are. That there is a sense of organized care. That we don't just leave it up to, you know, hoping everybody just figures it out. But there's a—there's a real ability to name, here are the needs in this community: the access needs, the food needs, the water needs, the timing needs—we need breaks, we need gender-liberated bathrooms—here's all the things that we need in order to fully be here. And then we have to let people unleash what they have to bring to the table. And this is where I think, you know, when I started writing Emergent Strategy I was onto something that I'm not sure I even had articulated fully to myself. But it was my critique of how movements and Nonprofit Industrial Complex was playing out, which is, we were often trying to bring people into space where only a portion of them was welcome. And where we weren't asking them to truly bring their offer. Like we were like, "Can you just come be a number in the strategy that we've already figured out? Or can you come play your position?" Like you show up in the debate exactly as we expect you to, and we'll say what we expect to say and we'll move forward with the lowest common denominator of a solution, which no one's actually passionate about, and like, nothing will actually change. Philanthropy will keep paying us. It'll go on and on forever and ever. And for me, I was like, I'm really not interested in playing the game anymore. I really want to see what happens when you unleash people to come together. And what I see is—what I've witnessed is people very quickly are like, how do we hold really authentic, effective accountability processes in real time together? How do we offer each other the rituals we need to really relinquish harm and trauma that has built up in our community? Here, we have tons of ways to care for each other. We created this exercise—and when I say we, it was one of the groups that was participating created this exercise that became something we did at everything else we ever did. And it was healing stations, where we just said, everyone gets 10 minutes. Go to your bag and pull out whatever you find to be healing, and create a healing station with your small group. And 10 minutes later, the room would have transformed into this place that felt like we can do anything, because we've got vibrators and cigarettes and Tarot decks and incense and medicines and tinctures. And like, anything, you know—and I was like, y'all just walk around with everything you need. So many books, you know, so many ways that people are like, this is how I care for myself and I want to offer it, I want to leave it here for other people to access and have contact with. That kind of—those moves, watching how quickly community did know, not only how to take care of itself, but how to hold each other accountable, and how to stay together. I was blown away. So I think a lot of the answers, we need to actually be willing to get into smaller formations and really practice being with each other. And let that proliferate, right? I think so often we're oriented around, like, how do we build a mass movement that's all thinking the same way to strike and to have this impact. I really love the idea of united fronts where people are all in their political homes united around some common organizing principles, but allowed to be their own weird, magical way of being and care for themselves where they need to. So that's why I identify as a post nationalist because I do think that the American experiment is literally at a scale that doesn't function. Like there's, it's—the scale is too big for there to be any kind of real, you know, something that's not just a brand of togetherness, but that's an actual practice of togetherness. You know, 70 million people or whatever are committed to voting for white supremacy in the country.

Margaret 18:50 Yeah.

Adrienne 18:50 Like, that's not, you know, that's not a viable strategy for how we move forward at this point. I love the idea of secession radical secessions. I love the idea of the Zapatistas claiming territory within territory with indigenous leadership would be like, a dream come true to me. I love, you know, people who are living off the grid and finding ways to divest from the American experiment already. So, you know, I think all of those are some of the ways.

Margaret 19:21 Yeah.

Adrienne 19:21 And I think right now with the pandemic unfolding, I think a lot more of us are like, "Oh, I do need, like, literal community." Not social media community, not conference community, but I need, like, literal people I can call on, that I could walk to their house, that I can count on to hold boundaries around safety. Like, we need those things. And I think that's the answer. I always think community is the answer.

Margaret 19:47 No that—that makes sense. And that's one of the main focuses on like, the—one of the main points of this show is to talk about how preparedness is more of a community thing than an individual thing.

Adrienne 19:56 Absolutely.

Margaret 19:56 So one of the things you were saying about—

Adrienne 19:58 Yeah, cuz individually, we just hoard.

Margaret 20:00 Yeah no, totally. Yeah. One of the things you're saying about—because earlier pointing out that direct action is a really good way to create a sense of belonging. And that's something that I've been watching happen in a lot of people who've been kind of radicalized to the left within the last year, since the uprisings last summer started. And what you're talking about, about creating these moments of belonging, I definitely, I think for my own experience, it has been those moments of, you know, facing down a very powerful force together and the way that—the way that you figure out who has your back when, like, literally—just to tell a random bullshit story, at one point I was, like, part of some march and, you know, the cops wanted to arrest me because I may or may not have been burning an American flag and things like that. And I thought all my like—yeah, I thought all my, like, punk friends were going to protect me. And then half of them were just gone. And then all of these people I'd kind of written off as like—this is a while ago, I was young—I'd kind of written off as hippies. Like some of the, like, older—I was like, oh, they're probably liberals or whatever—just surrounded me and were like, "Hey, just so you know, we're here to physically protect you from the police arresting you. They're definitely talking about arresting you." And it was just this nice moment of, like, realizing that in moments of conflict or even not unnecessary conflict, but moments of tension, you find out what community looks like. And maybe that's what COVID is unfortunately doing for all of us about how we have to suddenly develop mutual aid networks at a scale that we never did previously in the United States.

Adrienne 21:40 Absolutely. I absolutely agree with that. And I think that Octavia Butler taught us this. In all of her works it was like, you'd never know who you're going to be in the apocalypse with. Like, you have plans, you think you know what they look like and feel like, but you really don't know who's going to have your back under that pressure. And in some ways, I think it's because people don't even know themselves if the—what they'll be capable of under the pressure. And, you know, this pandemic has revealed for people so much about what they're like under pressure, because some people under pressure have really turned inward and disconnected from community and are, you know, really in a deep, lonely, isolated place. And I see that happening with people that I didn't expect it from, you know. And then I see other people who are really finding ways to weave themselves into community. And there's not a right or wrong here. It's just very fascinating to see who turns towards others and who doesn't. And what we need, right? I thought—I was like, I'm a loner, I like to be by myself you know, I'm a—that part of Octavia Butler's life always appealed to me because she just was by herself, like, just chillin and writing sci fi. But I spent a few months all alone. And I was like, I don't like this, I want to be with the love of my life, I want to be with my friends, I want to be with my parents, I want to, like, be with people who can lay hands on me when I'm sick. And, like, have my back, you know, physically rub my back.

Margaret 23:08 Yeah.

Adrienne 23:09 I just was like, I—that part, physical touch felt so important to me. And I'm watching our communities now. I'm like, there's mutual aid but there's also just, like, the need of being a body alive in this time. And like, what do we—what are the very fundamental needs? Which I also love about Octavia's is writing. Like, what—there are some very fundamental human needs that we share. And then there are beliefs, destinies that pull us forward. And what you're looking for in your community is the folks who can balance those two things, who are like, we can find ways to attend to the very non-negotiable physical needs. And we can align ourselves around a destiny. And it doesn't have to be a perfect alignment where we all say the same words and we're all coated out. But there has to be substance of like, oh, I want to be in communities that hold each other accountable. I want to be in communities that are abolitionists where we're not trying to dispose of or lock anyone away. I want to be in communities that really love the earth, like, at a primal, this is home level, you know? And so on and so forth. And I'm like, I meet those kinds of people, actually, more often than you think. And writing books has been my way of, you know, go "Hoo de hoo!" Like, who is out there that is potentially my people? I feel very excited right now by, like, just—I'll say this: the other day was Valentine's Day. And I often, like, ignore that completely, capitalism, whatever. But this time I was, like, you know, there's a lot of lonely people out there. Let me just try something. And I had a dream about it that was like posting a "looking for love" post but it was basically like for Emergent Strategists anP pleasure Activists and people who, like, really are like riding on this like Octavia way, right? And it was like over 1000 people wrote in and they're like, "I'm looking for love and those are the kind of principles I want at the center of it." And it made me so excited because I was like, this is what we—there's enough people now that are at least looking at each other, like, I may not, you know, stamp Emergent Strategy on my forehead, but I do want to be in right relationship with change, and I want to be in accountable relationship with pleasure, I want to claim, you know, my power in this lifetime, I want to take responsiblity for community. I'm like, there's enough of us now that we can fall in love with each other and, like, have, you know, radical families, and like, all that kind of stuff. Just, you know, we are a generation too. Like, we come from generations that held the ground for something outside of capitalism, something outside of nationalism, something outside of colonialism, militarism, all those things. And now we're that generation. It's just articulating ourselves again, and again, and again. Like, we're here, we love each other, we're taking care of each other. And as this added—you know, I think our folks are so brilliant, because they're like, this is not the first pandemic. This is not the last pandemic. You know, like, we have our folks who came through the HIV AIDS pandemic and are now here and teaching us inside of this moment, and we will teach people the next one and—

Margaret 26:12 Yeah.

Adrienne 26:13 Right? Like, we keep going.

Margaret 26:16 Yeah, one of the things that people I've talked to have brought up a lot that I've been really excited about is—excited about is the wrong word—but the fact that, like, the apocalypse isn't an event as much as like this cycle, ongoing process, thing that comes and goes, like, you know—and actually, I mean, even just to talk about Octavia Butler's work again from a fangirly point of view, like, one of the reasons that her work was so important was, in my experience, I'm not incredibly well read, it was the first slow apocalypse in the kind of still recognizably an apocalyptic story of people leave their homes and go on the road and figure out how to start a new society. But it was a slow apocalypse. And that's something that I think we need more of just out of—one of the hardest things that I've struggled with, in my personal life is—and this is awful, because I sound like Chicken Little—but it's trying to convince people that we are in an apocalypse. Like we are in a slow apocalypse right now.

Adrienne 27:17 Exactly. We're in it.

Margaret 27:18 Yeah. And people are waiting for the bomb to drop. So they're like, "Oh, it's not the apocalypse." And I'm like, well, but what—what do you need? Like, failed infrastructure? You know?

Adrienne 27:31 How badly does it have to be? Yeah.

Margaret 27:33 And I'm actually curious.

Adrienne 27:35 Yeah.

Margaret 27:35 I've been meaning to try and ask people—well, actually, no, I want to bring it back to the Octavia Butler stuff and then—you also write fiction, and you also focus on—I've seen a lot of your work around trying to present visionary fiction and present futures. And that's something and‚I'd like to hear more about. I'm just always trying to ask people about—because obviously it's very close to me personally—but how do you—

Adrienne 28:03 Well you write them.

Margaret 28:04 [Chuckling] Yeah. What it—like, what is the—what is the importance of writing futures? Like, what is the importance of imagining futures?

Adrienne 28:15 Yes. You know, I just listened to—I got to read a bunch of Octavia Butler's work for this NPR Throughline podcast. And they include a lot of interview with her. And she's talking about how important it was for her to write herself in. She was like, "I wanted to write myself into the narrative, into the story." And I think for so many of us, when we look back, we can see either stories of our trauma or stories—or like the gaps, the erasure, where our story should be, and they're not. And I live in Detroit, and Detroit, you drive around and if you know what you're looking at, right, if you've seen like maps or pictures of what it looked like 40 years ago to now, you can see that it's a city full of gaps, full of spaces where there used to be homes. Like literally on a block it'll be like, "Huh, this is kind of random. There's just two houses on this block." It used to be seven, right? But time and the economic crisis and other things disappeared those homes and I feel like history can look like that for those of us who are queer or trans, Black or Latino, Indigenous, etc. can look back and be like, "Where were we? Where were we?" And white supremacy and nationalism, other things, errased the full story of us so that we are left with just the trauma that we've been able to unveil. And so writing futures—writing ourselves into the future—is to me a way that we go ahead and stake a claim. Like, we are here now imagining ourselves. And in the imagining, we are creating room for something different to exist. And whenever I am engaging in fiction writing as a practice, I really feel like I am up to something that—the biggest thing maybe that I'm ever up to, is understanding that the whole world that we currently live in came out of someone's imagination. All of the constructs, the way that I experience my own gender, the way that I experience my skin, the way that I experience my size, the way that I experience my desirability, my worthfull—worthiness, you know—there's so many fundamental aspects of myself that are just miraculous, because that's what everyone is. But they've been so complicated, and I've had to fight to feel like I deserve to exist. And that fight is because someone imagined that I did not. And they imagine that, you know—I was this morning thinking about all the Black children that we've lost to police violence, and like, they're all dead because someone imagined that they were dangerous, you know. Imagination is a very, very powerful drug, a very powerful practice. And, to me, I'm like, if we want something new, we have to actually imagine, what does it look like? When I say defund the police, what am I imagining happens when there's a domestic violence incident on the street? And does that mean—am I imagining myself willing to go down and intervene? Am I imagining myself calling community mediators to come on over right now, something's going on? You know, what do I imagine happens? Because if I can't imagine it, I'm definitely not going to be able to invite tons of people who are used to the putative system to come join me on another path. The imagination to me is how we create the future that we want to be, and how we make sure that we're not absent from it. So—and I have to give a lot of props here to Disability Justice communities because I feel like I've just now starting to understand how much I learned from Disability Justice communities around this. But they're like, if we're not in the room and y'all plan something and it doesn't have a wheelchair ramp, and it doesn't have an accessible bathroom, and it's like chemical scent overload or whatever, it's because we weren't in the room. So you didn't even imagine us there. You didn't not imagine us, you just didn't think about us at all. We were just not part of it. And as a facilitator, the number of times that happened was like, "Oh, I'm sorry, like, I just didn't." And it's like, no, that's not acceptable. Like, now I'm like, how do I make sure that people are in the room where imagination happens? How do I make sure that they're in the pages where imagination happens? And because then you end up with a future that is accessible, that is equitable, that is pleasurable, and is sustainable, right? Because we're all there dreaming it.

Margaret 32:37 Yeah, the—this happens sometimes when I interview guests and I'm like, instead of having like a good—especially my year of reasonable isolation, I've lost some of my social skills. So people say things, and I'm just like, thinking about it. You know? Instead of having like, an immediate response.

Adrienne 32:52 I'm like—I would love to do a study on the social skills we've all lost.

Margaret 32:56 Yeah.

Adrienne 32:57 Because I just like, yeah.

Margaret 33:00 Yeah. [Laughing]

Adrienne 33:01 I'm also having—I have that experience all the time these days where I'm just like, everything moves slower now.

Margaret 33:06 Yeah.

Adrienne 33:06 And I'm thinking about it.

Margaret 33:07 Yeah. And then, you know, in some ways I'm, like, glad because I'm like, well, I don't have an immediate response to what you're saying, because I'm just thinking about it. I'm like, I just want to sit with that. Like that's, you know, that touches on something that I've thought about before, but I haven't—and I've tried to address in my own work, but I haven't succeeded at yet. And I haven't given enough attention to.

Adrienne 33:28 Yeah.

Margaret 33:28 To talk about something else. I very embarrassingly, after I named my podcast Live Like the World is Dying, googled—I was like, "Well, what if I called it something like How—" Because I always do things that are like "how to" or like, you know, whatever. Yeah.

Adrienne 33:42 How To... [Laughing]

Margaret 33:42 And um, do you want to talk about your own podcast with a very similar title?

Adrienne 33:47 Yes. I mean, our podcasts are definitely siblings in the territory of content.

Margaret 33:51 Yeah.

Adrienne 33:53 Yeah. So I have a—I have two podcasts. Actually now I have three podcasts.

Margaret 33:56 Oh wow, okay!

Adrienne 33:57 I'm an unstoppable podcast machine. So I really love the art of podcasting. You know, there's something beautiful about just sitting and having a conversation, listening to a conversation. So my first podcast, my longest running one, is called How to Survive the End of the World. And it's with my sister Autumn. And we're both just obsessed with Octaviam obsessed with apocalypse and like how do we turn and face the fact that we are in apocalypse, and that we have been through many, and that apocalypse is actually a moment you can harness for change. And it's actually quite a powerful portal if we harness it that way. So there's a lot of philosophy and theoretical conversations mixed in with, like, hard skill offers. So that one is is kind of a blast, you know. It—for me it felt very liberating to just turn directly and face apocalypse and just get to be in conversations that are all, like, related to what is. And then I do the Octavia's Parables podcast with Toshi Reagon where we're reading the Parable of the Sower chapter by chapter. We just finished that first season. Now we're going to head into the Parable of the Talents, and then we'll keep going with Octavia's work just—we're like, even though only two of her books are called parables, they're all parables in a way so. And then Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute just last week launched our podcast, which is the three kind of core collective members take turns interviewing different people who are, what we see is like living Emergent Strategy in the world. And we're just examining, like, building basically a set of audio case studies for people to listen to. Like, what does it look like to practice Emergent Strategy and all these different realms of movements?

Margaret 35:46 Okay. I admit the How to Survive the End of the World one—people have been, you know, that—more and more, I think, people—for some strange reason everyone's really into prepping right now. It's hard to figure out why. But I actually—

Adrienne 36:04 No idea why. Mysterious.

Margaret 36:07 And I like that there is—that there is other stuff out there. And I was wondering if you had—

Adrienne 36:13 Oh, yeah.

Margaret 36:14 —your own thoughts about, like, where people can find stuff about whether individual community or social preparation? Or like, how else people can get—

Adrienne 36:23 So we have brought on a series of guests. Last year, I was away on sabbatical and my sister did, I think, the best episodes of the entire podcast without me, which were—it was apocalypse of survival series. And each of the guests are people who have their own work and their own lives. But there's a group called Queer Survival—Queer Nature. They basically blew our minds. Blew our minds. And it was just very tangible stuff on, like, how do you think under the pressure of crisis? And they do trainings, they do offerings. And then Leah Penniman came on from Soul Fire Farm and was really talking about, like, how do we reorient our relationship to food? Because, you know, what happened when the pandemic went down. Everybody was like, run to the store, buy everything frozen and canned, stick that in your house. And like—I'm like, so basically, you're prepared to give up even having access to any organic, fresh food. And that's your plan for how you're going to survive. Like, what does that mean? Right. And I feel like, listening to someone like Leah Penniman, it's like, what is it instead look like to begin to organize ourselves around farms, around food growth, around the cycles of planting and gardening and growing. I'm hoping that that becomes one of the next iterations that emerges from this pandemic crisis is that people are like, okay, we were not fully ready to actually be growing and thinking about food as a community. That's something we want to be orienting ourselves towards. I know that for me that's something I'm thinking about is, do I have the first clue about how to grow my own food if I wanted to? [Laughing, inaudible] How would I do that? You know? So I just started, I'm now growing cilantro and lavender, which is not something I could survive on but it is, like, a move in the right direction. And I have aloe and I have other things. But I'm like, what does it look like to actually, like, think about a season and put things in the ground? And how much food would it take for me and my partner to live? How much will we be able to contribute? One of the things I love, that I feel like I learned from the conversations with Leah, but with other farmers, Black farmers—Derek Cooper, other folks—is like, everything that we grow is actually immediately abundant. If you're doing it, if you're in right relationship with whatever it is you're growing, you end up with more than you could ever need. And that's why so many farmers end up doing all kinds of cooperative efforts of sharing their food out to other people, because you get so much. I love that as a problem and as a challenge for us. It's like, could we deal with the abundance that would come if we actually all gave a portion of our time and attention to growing food directly from land? So that's one of the things I'm—that's like one of my next horizons is, like, inspired by this Soul Fire Farms community is, like, what does it look like to actually get our hands dirty in a different way.

Margaret 39:23 Cool. Yeah, I um—when all this happened I was like, I live on land that is technically a farm. And I consider myself to not have a green thumb at all. And—

Adrienne 39:36 Yeah.

Margaret 39:37 —and I've like, you know, the few times I've tried to grow food, it's failed. So I've convinced myself that I will never successfully grow food. And so—

Adrienne 39:43 You're like, see, I can't. [Laughing]

Margaret 39:44 Yeah, exactly. Which is funny because I think that I'm capable of, like, almost anything because I'm so obsessively DIY that I like—I'm, you know, in a house I built and I've learned plumbing and electrical since the pandemic started so that I could make my house meet my needs and, and all of these things. But I'm like, I'm convinced that growing food is entirely just magic that is beyond me. And what I've decided to do personally is I'm going to start mushroom cultivation because I'm like, well, this fits my like, "I live in the forest." Everyone else lives in, like, you know, elsewhere in the sun. And I'm like, "I'm in the forest, everything is dark and rainy." And, you know, trying to play to my strengths while still—but then there's the thing where it's like, I don't even envision—as much as I talked about my isolation, I still live with land mates, right? I'm, and I imagine that, come crisis, we continue to help each other. And so I'm like, well, I live with people who know how to grow food. So— I will focus on learning how to fix the rainwater catchment and things like that.

Adrienne 40:36 Exactly. Exactly. Like there's a way to be of use. And I mean—well, two things are happening right now. One is, I have my first mushroom log out on my deck. So we, you and I are mycelium familia. And I'm very excited about it. But same thinking is just like, I can grow mushrooms, like, I'm in a place where, like, there's enough condition for mushroom growing. And then I feel the same way, right? That I'm like, even if I never get great at growing food, if I'm in community with people who do grow food, but I have other skills to bring to the table, then that's great. And one of the things I'm always worried about is like, is my only skill talking? Like, do I still do I have other—you know, like—and then, you know, like, no, facilitation is a skill. Mediation is a skill. That's something you can offer to a community. I do doula work, that's a skill. But I'm always looking at like, you know, I'm of value in the current conditions, how would I be a value in future conditions. And I want to make sure that whatever I'm developing myself, I would be a community member that people would be like, "you're of value to us."

Margaret 40:44 Yeah. Yeah.

Adrienne 41:47 And not just because of what you do, but how you show up how you are, right?

Margaret 41:50 Yeah.

Adrienne 41:51 Like, I would love to have such value to my community that even if I can't do anything—because I have arthritis that it's just getting worse and worse and worse and worse—so Toshi and I talked about this often that, like, if the community all had to run for it, we wouldn't be running for it. So we would be like, okay, we'll sit and hold down the fort and, like, distract them and point them in another direction and that'll be our usefulness. Or whatever it is, like, you know—but be—I think everyone should be thinking about that question. How can I be of use in community? How do I understand my usefulness? How do I understand the relationships I'm in? Not transactionally, but in a sense of mutual aid and a sense of, we all need, we all have to give, how do we do that well with elegance, with grace? Yeah.

Margaret 42:34 Yeah, the usefulness question, it comes up so much when we talk about disability and the apocalypse, like you're talking about, and I really liked the way that you phrased—you phrased it, how you come to interactions is also part of our usefulness. And, you know, and—and then there's even stuff around like, you know, I've friends who, through like, sort of, like no fault of their own, or whatever, have... let's go spiky personalities. Right? And yet, we—I think it's like, partly it's a challenge to figure out how we can be useful, but it's also partly a challenge to figure out the usefulness—like, what people around you bring to you. And so like, for me, it's like, okay, my friends who are, like, maybe really hard to get along in a facilitated consensus meetings because they're opinionated and angry. And like, often because the world has done horrible things to them. And yet, like, for me, I kind of secretly enjoy, like, learning to help those people point themselves. Be like, ah, you have all of this anger. Here's this institution that needs destruction. How would you go about destroying it? You know.

Adrienne 43:09 Like, how would you do it? I love that, Margaret, because I—I just turned in the final draft of my next book, which is called Holding Change, the Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation. And there's a whole section on there, like, quote/unquote problem participants. And one of the things I was noting in there is like, every single person who shows up in the space as a problem—whatever kind of problem they are—if you can harness the energy that they're bringing in, they're often the most effective people. They're coming to the space. Right? You should be able to harness and move that energy somewhere. But particularly the grumpy, grouchy, curmudgeonly, flat, you know, this isn't working. Often those are the most visionary people in the room. And what's happening is that they are hurt by how it's all going down. You know, they're like, why are we not free yet? Why is it going like this? Like, why aren't we doing a better job? And like, harnessing that energy could free and save the world, right? So I always keep a couple of curmudgeonly, grumpy people close by. [Chuckling] Just keep me honest and to keep me like motivated.

Margaret 44:47 I think we're running up on time. How can people find out more about your work?

Adrienne 44:55 You know, go to akpress.org to buy the books there. I prefer people buy them straight from AK, which is an amazing people's press. And I'm on Instagram, that's where I'm like a person, you know, on social—the place where I—I mostly put pictures of things that I think are beautiful or cool. And then I have a website, adriennemareebrown.net, where I blog and I keep an archive of the interviews I do. So this will eventually live there. Yeah.

Margaret 45:31 Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, or any of the other episodes, please tell people about it. Like, first and foremost, the way to help the show is to tell people about it in person or online. And, you know, I always go on about the algorithms that run the world and how we can influence them. And, you know, and that's kind of shitty to just sit around and try and influence algorithms. But if you like, or subscribe, or post about this, or review it, or whatever, on whatever platforms you listen to it, it helps far more than it should. It helps bring it up into other people's feeds and it helps people more find—more people find out about it. And all the support that I've been getting for the show, especially seeing people post about it on social media and things like that. And, you know, people I know telling me that they like it is kind of the reason that I'm continuing going with it right now. I'm very low energy these days, and that'll swing back around, I'm sure. But hearing that it's useful to people is—matters to me and it makes me feel like I'm not wasting my time. So thank you all. And also you can support the podcast more directly by supporting me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. There's not a ton of stuff that you get, like, that exclusive, except that I do ostensibly a monthly scene that I mail out to people. It's also very far behind. I point to, you know, the world, and hold that up as my excuse which is getting kind of old for myself, but so it goes. And I do try and post up there as much as I can and also try and send out presents to my Patreon supporters as much as I can. In particular though I would like to thank Hugh and Dana and Chelsea and Eleanor, Mike Satara, Cat J, The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, Nora, and Chris. I—I'm overwhelmed by the amount of support that I've been getting. And I've been able to use that to hire a transcriptionist. And now also potentially get more help, like the show might end up collectivizing, who knows, we'll see how it goes. In which case, me having bad mental health times won't be as much of a hold up. And that'll be good for everyone. And so thank you to my supporters for helping that make—helping that look like it might become a possibility. Anyway, I hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that's going on and I'll talk to you soon.

S1E25 - Cici and Eepa on radio

Episode Notes

Cici can be found on twitter @postleftprole. The IAF-FAI can be found on twitter @IAF__FAI and through their website iaf-fai.org. The Javelina Network can be found on twitter @JavelinaNetwork.

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. You can support her and this show on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

For an overview of radio from an anarchist perspective, check out the zine For An Anarchist Radio Relay League.

Transcript

1:32:19 SPEAKERS Margaret, Cici, Eepa

Margaret 00:14 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy. Are use she or they pronouns. This week I'm talking with two people who have a lot of experience with different radio communications, mostly HAM radio and other means of two-way radio communications. Their names are Cici and Eepa and they work with the Indigenous Anarchist Federation and/or the Javelina Network which is a network of—well, they'll explain it. And we're going to be talking a lot about radio communications, and they actually do a really good job of breaking it down—a subject that could feel very technical. I know I get very overwhelmed when I try and understand radio communications. They break it down in a fairly non-technical way that, well, I'm excited for you all to hear. So this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And usually I lead with a jingle, but this week I'm going to do something slightly different and first I'm just going to say welcome to the Maroon Cast. I don't believe they have a jingle yet. But there is a new podcast on the network called the Maroon Cast and it is absolutely worth checking out. And the jingle—they actually call it a commercial—that I am going to play is from the Institute for Anarchist Studies who are offering grants. And here's that. Hooray. Hey radicals, anarchists, and all of you liberatory leftists. Are you a podcaster, video maker, multimedia artist, or writer? The Institute for Anarchist Studies wants to let you know we have grants available for projects focusing on Black and Indigenous archaisms, police abolition and alternatives, and mutual aid. For details and how to apply visit anarchiststudies.org and click on the grants application post on our main page. That's anarchiststudies.org. Anarchist-studies-dot-O-R-G. Applications close January 31, 2021. Spread the word and tell your friends. Okay, so if y'all could introduce yourself with I guess your name, your pronouns, and then any political or organizational affiliations that makes sense with what you're going to be talking about today.

Cici 02:32 So my name is Cici. I do she/her pronouns, I also do they/them pronouns. I don't really have any organizational affiliations at this time. I am—I have some experience with radio in a like a certain area, but in other areas I'm still learning and I'm trying to get up to speed. I am a licensed radio operator which helps a bit. But obviously, like, you don't have to be licensed to do stuff with a radio. And that's I guess enough about me.

Eepa 03:13 All right, [I didn't catch a lot of this except Eepa] and I use he/him pronouns. My affiliations, I'm with the Indigenous Anarchist Federation and I'm a part of the newly formed Javelina Network. And basically, I am fairly new to the whole communication world. But it's one of those things that I've become very passionate about building up people's knowledge that way in communities for mutual aid, you know, both in disasters and just for general preparedness. We have ways of communicating that don't rely on, you know, corporate infrastructure or government infrastructure.

Margaret 04:02 Yeah, so I guess one of the first things that I want to ask you all, for people who are, like—so this will probably be in some ways a slightly more technical conversation than some of the—some of my shows, just because, at least, there's an awful lot of acronyms and weird technical stuff that comes along with learning about radios. And I think it's worth—I'm going to ask you all a lot about that stuff. But I guess I was wondering if you all could start with kind of like a pitch for why we should care about radios. Like, we all have cell phones. Shouldn't we just use cell phones? Like what are some of the advantages of understanding and having an experience with radio communication?

Eepa 04:40 So one of the things that people should consider whenever they're using—whatever type of communications you're using on a daily basis, that could be using email through ProtonMail or using Signal or WhatsApp, or just using your regular cell phone service—these are things things that are controlled by somebody. So the infrastructure that makes them possible is controlled by either corporations, or they're controlled by corporations and regulated by the government. They're subject to warrants and data collection and they're subject to a lot of other, you know, less security-related, but more just infrastructure in general. You know, if, as we saw in hurricane Maria, when hurricanes come they knocked down cell phone towers and if you don't have cell phone towers, your cell phone just becomes a, you know, a box with whatever photos you have on, it doesn't become very useful for communications. And the same thing goes for emails, when you are logging on to your, you know, ProtonMail account which is, you know, a great service and everything—if those servers go down in Switzerland, then you're out of luck—that that means that communication no longer exists. If the United States government decides to block a certain app that—that could basically cut off your service and take away all of your context. So it's a very fragile thing that we have, you know, during normal circumstances cell phone services is great, it's convenient. And honestly, it should still probably be your primary means of communication because of its ease of use. But there's a lot to be said for having all of the infrastructure you need to communicate in your own hands without needing any external infrastructure, aside from a community of other people who are likewise equipped and trained to communicate with.

Cici 06:42 I think that's an excellent answer. In addition to what Eepa said I would basically just add on, like, yeah, there's—it's hard with the infrastructure that people usually use—cell phone towers, servers, routers, or at least, you know, commercially available routers and phones and everything. People don't have—people in, like, their communities don't have a lot of control over it. One of the things that I'm actually—I need to do way more study into it, because it's rather technical. But if something were to happen and the internet were to go down, either unintentionally, because—or, you know, not because of a—because like it's natural—something natural happens like a hurricane. Or because the government has shut the internet down for the express purposes of, you know, preventing people from communicating. One of the things radio can do is it can actually mimic a internet, I should—I may say mimic but it's actually a true internet protocol. So you can actually get an internet running up in your community. Those are the kind of things that I think radio is great for. I would echo what Eepa said where it's not really a—in terms of people saying, "Well, I have a cell phone what's, you know, what is radio offer to me?" I'd actually say, yeah, I don't think that just being able to say, "Hey, I communicated with somebody in another spot." Like, that's not really the attraction necessarily for learning a bunch of radio things. I would also note for a lot of people who are just doing off-grid stuff, there's a lot of places where your cell phone just, there's just no signal, it's too far away from cell phone towers. You can still get out with a radio if something were to help. A lot of people are like, well, you know, I'm not gonna be setting up a another Wifi internet system. But, you know, if you're ever hiking or you're doing stuff that's just not close to a big city or whatever, it can still be useful if something happens, you get hurt, you're not out in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone signal needing extreme medical attention immediately. So I just like to point that kind of thing out where it's useful on an individual level, but it's also useful on a community level.

Margaret 08:58 Yeah. Yeah. I mean—

Eepa 09:00 I think that that's probably one of those—I think that's one of those misconceptions that people have about radio, just in a general sense, is they think that it's two people on walkie-talkies talking to each other. But there's a whole realm of radio use that includes, you know, sending messages, photographs, even videos utilizing radio that people are probably not aware of.

Margaret 09:24 I only learned about that really recently when someone was talking about how you can take your Baofeng radio and—I think it was, like, get a photo from the international space station on your cell phone by having your, like, cell phone listen to what's coming out of your radio?

Eepa 09:46 Yeah.

Margaret 09:48 That was a good moment of like, "Oh, this is some scifi shit." And I'm like, "Oh, and I mean it's some like 1970s scifi shit." But it's—that's so fucking cool. Yeah, I mean, okay, so like, I'm rudely guessing that a lot of people who are listening, if they have much experience like, say, direct action stuff, they're probably their only real experience with radios might be walkie-talkies. Right? And so I was—I was wondering if there's like a way to, like—the thing that really intimidates me when I look at radios is that I look and then I'm, like, okay, there's high frequency, very high frequency, ultra high frequency. There's walkietalkies which use FRS. There's MURS. They're CB radios, there's GMRS radios, there's the Business Band, there's a HAM radio. There's AM/FM, SSB, contint CW, like, there's like all this shit, right? And so I guess I kind of wanted to like start and try and kind of break some of this down if you all can, like, maybe talk starting with like—maybe you'll have a better pedagogical sense of like where to start or something. But in my head, I would ask you first about maybe, like, Family Radio Service, the walkie-talkies, that people might be used to, like what they can be used for and kind of build out from there. Or if there's another way to introduce all of this that you all would like to use.

Cici 11:18 I can't actually speak too much to the Family Radio Service. I'm glad you mentioned that there's a lot of different modes. What tends to happen is there's very few people that know all of that, or if they do they're a dime a dozen. At least from my experience talking to other radio people, they tend to focus in areas that they think are interesting, or areas that they think are useful, or whatever. So for instance, you mentioned Family Radio and you mentioned, I believe it's GR-GMRS, I actually have like no experience in those. I mentioned in the introduction that I'm licensed. What I meant by that, or I probably should have been more specific, is that I'm licensed as an amateur radio operator. If people have ever heard someone talk about HAM radio, that's basically what I'm talking about. HAM is just another way of saying an amateur radio app. I'm an amateur in the sense that I don't get money. I'm not like a radio station. I'm not commercially broadcasting, like, the radio you might listen to music or whatever. So that's all that means. Amateur doesn't necessarily mean you don't know a lot or that, you know, it just means I don't get paid. And that my license basically says I can't get paid to broadcast. So that's kind of my experience. So yeah, I don't know if Eepa would be able to talk about the Family Radio Service. Some people have heard CB radio. I believe that's—it's similar to amateur radio but it's it's still very different. I actually associated with truckers doing stuff in the, like, I know, that's kind of an old association, doing stuff in their cars. As far as modes, I know Margaret, you mentioned things like single sideband which is that SSB. That's a voice mode. You mentioned—I guess I should start with the—you mentioned high frequency, very high frequency, and ultra high frequency. Usually people will shorten that to the individual letter. So like very high frequency they'll just say VH, VHF. Those just basically are a shorthand way of talking about how far you can talk. So for instance, people that have Baofengs are often going to be using very high frequency or ultra high frequency. Very high frequency is usually going to be a line of sight, maybe a little bit further because radio waves can actually see a little further than, like, the way we see the horizon. But for instance, if you and a friend both had Baofengs and you lived in the same city, depending on your antenas, that a bunch of other technical stuff, you should be able to hear each other. A lot of times the type of radio also use a repeater. The repeater is basically something that will send the signal further—it's it's own equipment but it will send your signal further than if you just had it by yourself. So when people hear that I just want them to think, "Oh, that's just distance." My interest is in very high—or, excuse me, is in just high frequency, just HF. That tends to be very far distances. So like that's usually talking to people in other countries, or talking to people across, like, a country, like a big country like the United States, or the so-called the United States. I'm in the Midwest, I can use high frequency to talk to someone in California which is obviously not line of sight or, you know, horizon. So that's all that means. I don't—a lot of times HAM radio and radio in general uses these terms that make stuff sound really technical and really like scary, but it's actually just a—there's an easier way to understand it. So that has to just do with distance. That's all I'll say about that for now. I don't want to overload but uh...

Eepa 15:01 Yeah, and so basically what I'll add to that is there's two basic things that somebody who's new to radio needs to do to understand what their radio is going to be used for. And so like Cici was talking about with the frequencies: Frequency is one of the two things that you really need to pay attention to when you're a beginner, is frequency and wattage. So wattage is just how much power is actually being emitted from your radio. So one of the ways that you can think about frequency—we'll start with frequency first—is it's basically wavelength. And so the shorter your wavelength, the smaller it is, the smaller the distance—or the frequency or sorry, the frequency. So ultra high frequency, very short distance. Very high frequency is going to be kind of a medium distance. And then high frequency is long distance. Now what the Family Radio Service radios that you're talking about, they broadcast on very high frequency. But what makes them not very good for communicating at distance is they have a low wattage, so they're legally not allowed to go above a certain wattage. And so that means that they can only communicate at like a very, very short distance. Basically, these radios were designed so that way parents and kids could have radios or, you know, a family convoying on a vacation—this is in the days before cellphones—could have communication with each other. And so they didn't need very high wattage, and they didn't want these radio frequencies to be basically blocking other radio traffic. So it's a low wattage, very high frequency and that means that it's going to be a very limited distance. So even with like ultra high frequency, if you have a low wattage, you get even less distance. What amateur radio opens up to you is higher wattage, and it opens up more frequencies. So that's the key thing there.

Margaret 17:09 Okay, yeah, I took a bunch of notes about this right before. Right before we started I was trying to like map out all of this because I've been learning about this some for a while. And I was just trying to map all of this out. And what I came up with was basically like three types of, in the US, unlicensed types of radios, and then like two sort of types of licensed radios with HAM radio being kind of like the big—or amateur radio being like the big open one. And it was kind of interesting to me because I learned, like, for example, like I was reading about, like, what the hell is the difference between CB and FRS, and between walkie talkies and trucker radios as I always kind of saw it. And yeah, so I guess if CB is high frequency it needs—it can go further on lower wattage—or I don't know if it goes through a low wattage, but it can go—it bend—the the frequencies like bend around the horizon and hills and shit better. But apparently it takes like a much, much more of an antenna and it doesn't like going into buildings and shit very well as compared to like—

Eepa 18:17 Yeah.

Margaret 18:17 UHF, which is like much more—I don't know, in my head it's almost like piercing rather than, like, you know, it doesn't go very far but it like goes through things a little better or something? And doesn't need as much of an antenna. I don't know, that's what I—what I—so I guess—like, what I came up with as the things that you can use unlicensed are—well, I mean, you can theoretically use anything—well anyway—actually, I'm gonna ask you some about some of that stuff and a little bit, what you can get away with. But unlicensed, you can use FRS which are like the walkie talkies, you can use CB which has like a slightly higher wattage limit and is shortwave only but requires more of an antenna, and then something called MURS, M-U-R-S, Multi Use Radio Service, which is, like, a little bit better. And then, I think, in terms of licensed radio, I'm actually—I'm running this past youu so you can like tell me if I'm wrong. But also if I'm right then I'm just expressing everything that I learned to the audience. In terms of licensing, there is one type of license you can get without taking a test, you just give the US government 70 of your dollars. And it's General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS. And it's, like, still substantially more limited than amateur radio, right? But it allows more—I don't know, it's a little bit—it's nicer than than family radio service. It's nicer than a walkie-talkie. It's like a fancy walkie-talkie. And you don't have to take a test, versus amateur radio, which I guess you have to in order to—you have to pass these very intimidating tests in order to start using it, or in order to legally start using it. And I guess—I dunno, does that match up with with—does that seem correct? This is just like what I put together right for the show.

Eepa 20:08 Yeah, so if people wanted to just get on the radio, like, tonight, if you could just go down to the store and pick something up and get on the radio. Basically, what you outlined is spot on, you know, Family Radio Service is probably the weakest kind of radio that you can get. And, again, if you're within, you know, eyesight of the person you're talking to those kind of radios will work for you. CB radios are larger, typically they're mounted in like a vehicle. So they are a little bit less easy to keep on your person but they do carry further. So this is what nowadays you tend to see, like, off -oaders and other things like that use whenever they're going out in the desert and off-roading. Again, you have limited channels on both of those. So you have, like, you know, theoretically there's a bunch of channels in there, sub-channels, but it's very limited. So if you're in a city or something, you could find very easily that all of those channels are occupied and being used by people. And so that could just make things really confusing and really challenging. CB radios are kind of known as, like, the wild west of like the radio world, because you can say and do anything on that radio channel without any kind of punishment. So it's full of very not great things. And, again, it's a very busy radio channel because it's used by a lot of unlicensed people to communicate. Now, when you're talking about basic commercial radio, which is that license you're talking about for those handheld, the GMRS, that is going to be something that usually requires that you show you are a business. So you need to have an LLC, a nonprofit, some kind of designator, some kind of, like, you know, tax ID or whatever, to tell the FCC that yes, I'm a business. They will assign you a little tiny frequency of the spectrum that none of the other businesses in your area have and then you're stuck with it. So that means that you might have a few channels on your radio, but that's all that's going to be available to you to legally use. And you're having to pay money on a regular basis to keep that license.

Margaret 22:23 Okay.

Eepa 22:24 The one upside to that is you do get to use a slightly more powerful radio that—I mean, they are designed for, you know, like, mines and construction sites and factories, that's typically where these kind of radios are used. So they are more powerful and they also have the legal ability to be encrypted. So you can actually get encrypted radios, which is not legal on any other radio service. The only way you can do that is through the GMRS. But you have to go through a major company to get your encryption service which means if somebody wants to de-encrypt your radio, all they have to do is get in contact with the company and find out what your encryption keys are and then they're in. So this is also something that you see a lot of law enforcement that had switched to is this style of radio, just a modified one that are, you know, higher power and use repeaters. So these are all legal non-testing options, but they're purposefully designed to limit you. They're designed to basically reduce your capacity to communicate beyond line of sight in a way that, I mean, the amateur radio community would say the reason why is because, you know, you can't have people running rampant on the on the air, there needs to be, you know, law and order on the air. So that's part of the reason why the amateur bands are more thoroughly regulated, is to basically make sure that there's a system of accountability to the government.

Margaret 24:00 Okay.

Cici 24:04 Actually, I'm really glad that Eepa shared tha. I have—my information outside of HAM radio is very limited so I actually learned a lot listening to that. The only different thing I would like to say is there's actually a lot of changes coming with the—not with the testing, but the FCC—this is extremely recent. Like, I think the actual report from the FCC is, like, was dated like December 28—of like a few days ago, like last month, basically, it'sless than a month old. But they did actually say they're going to start charging people for HAM radio licenses. This is extreme because it used to—like, as of right now it's completely free. You have to take a test, but you don't have to pay any money. Sometimes if you look online you'll see people saying they want $15. That doesn't actually go to the FCC, that goes to the people providing the test itself. Those people are actually just HAM radio operators. It's, one of the interesting things is that the FCC actually has a very decentralized, like, they basically let HAM radio operators test each other and that's—they just send the paperwork to the FCC to get your callsign. So if anyone's at home thinking, "Oh, I was thinking about getting licensed and I think I'm ready." If you don't want to pay the FCC $35, like, I would, I would say, like, do what now. Along with that, they actually cut the GMRS license to $35 as well, it used to be $70. So they actually made getting a GMRS license and getting a HAM radio license the same price. HAM radio—people on ham radio, very upset, like, they—one of the big things is, oh, we need to attract people to HAM radio. So, like, the community in general is not happy about this change. It hasn't taken effect yet. The report doesn't actually say exactly when it's supposed to take effect, like, it's supposed to take effect the month after the report, but then it has to go through a bunch of bureaucracy. If I had to guess I'd say they're probably going to try to do it sometime around February/March. But it might be sooner, it might be more after that. As far as my experience, I—that's correct, you do have to take a test to get into HAM radio. Even in HAM radio, the first—there's three levels. Basically you have to pass each test to get to the next level. So like you can't just, like—so the levels, the first one you have is technician—technician level. The second one's a general level, that's actually where I'm at. I have a general level license. And then the highest one is called amateur extra, a lot of people just say "extra." That's—extras basically have the most privileges on the HAM radio.

Margaret 26:36 They all sound inverted. Like, if I was to come up with the hierarchy, I would be like amateur, general, technician.

Cici 26:44 Yeah no, they're like actually, like, holdovers from older—like there used to be advanced, there used to be a novice and, like, they've changed—the FCC is the one that's in charge of making these levels. And it's like, it's changed a lot. It used to be kind of like five or like three and a half kind of, and now it's basically just the three. Sometimes you'll run into a really old HAM who's like, "I haven't advanced license," and it's, like, what the hell is that? But it's basically like an old, depreciated license that they don't issue anymore. So yeah, I'm at the middle level. You can't just jump straight to, like, one of the levels. So like, if you're like, "I think I know enough to get an extra license," you can't just go and say, "Give me the extra test, I'll get an extra license." But you can take them all in one sitting. So like, if you're like, "I'm pretty sure I could do the extra," they'll give you a technician test. If you pass it, they'll give you a general test. If you pass it, they'll give you an extra test. The extra test has more questions, it's—I'm actually studying for it right now. It's very technical. It's kind of like what Eepa was referring to. There's kind of a culture of HAM radio. And it's, there's this idea that you basically have to earn your privileges on the bands by knowing what you're doing and all this type of basically hierarchy type of ideas. But I mean, it is helpful to know some of the things that are in the test. I've actually learned a lot, just from having to study for the technician or the general test even though I've forgotten some of it. The licenses are good for 10 years. So you do have to actually renew them every 10 years. So yeah, after a few years I'll have to renew mine, and pay them this stupid fee that didn't exist when I first got it. But yeah, also something I want to put out is if you—you only need a license if you want to transmit. By what I mean by that is if you want to send a signal out. That's important if you're, like, if you're in an emergency situation, you're probably going to want to send a signal out. If you're trying to communicate with people that are not near you, you want to send a signal out. But if you just want to listen you actually don't need a license, you can actually go grab a radio tonight, tune your radio to HAM radio bands and just listen all day long, as long as you don't transmit. And technically you're not supposed to interfere. So you can't, like, jam other people's signals. But, like, if you're not transmitting, you can listen, like whatever. Like there's no license to listen. So that's something interesting I want people to know: if you just want to listen to stuff, you don't actually need a license.

Margaret 29:05 What do they talk about around you? Because around me, like, I got a scanner and, you know, it doesn't transmit any way, right? And I set it to listen to HAM radio channels, and I mostly heard like a 70-year-old talking to maybe a 15-year-old about like how to cook hot dogs and how to get trucks unstuck in mud, and then started explaining a story about snakes that I found very improbable. And that was about the most interesting thing that's happened, like, all of the many hours I've, like, just had the scanner on in the background. I don't know. I'm curious what you all have heard people talking about on these things.

Cici 29:45 So for me, I actually don't do that much listening. Going back to kind of like different areas of different—I guess that's something called "rag chewing." In the HAM radio world that's if you hear someone say, "Oh, you're rag chewing," that's basically you're getting on the radio, you're just listening to other people. A lot of times people will make—I don't want to say a game, game probably sounds—is the right—is the wrong—but people will actually do this as a contest. Like, sometimes people will try to contact as many people as you can in a certain amount of time. You've heard of people called "contesting," that's what they mean. You'll hear some people "de-exing," this is better if you have that—so if you're in the high frequency, you try to get people as far away from you as you can. A lot of that, actually, you don't say much. Because you want to get as many contacts, you'll actually have this very non-conversation. It's basically like your call sign, like, some necessary information and that's it. Some people actually automate it. It's interesting. So you don't actually say a lot when you're doing that. However, I know we mentioned ultra high frequency, the UHV—or excuse me UHF, I'm sorry—UHF earlier, and somebody might be thinking, "Why would I want to even talk"—like they're very short, like, distances. They can penetrate into buildings which is helpful. So someone's like, "Why would I want to do that? If somebody right there, like, what's the point?" I mentioned earlier, one of the things you can do is you can create your own WiFi networks. Those actually operate. And those vary—or excuse me, not very, but ultra high frequency. 13 centimeters is about where that happens if people are able to look at a band plan and, like, see what links go where. If you were trying to set up your own—like, even like the commercial WiFi networks operate in that same thing. That's why your router is generally limited to your house and just outside your house and why you can't pick up a router like a mile away. So that's kind of like—I know, this is getting away from the question of what do people talk about around you.

Margaret 31:50 Oh, no, no. Go on. This is a better tangent.

Cici 31:55 It's like you don't have to necessarily even if you—there's a lot of people that have radios and they hardly ever listen, they don't ever rag chew. One of the things I'm trying to learn is it's basically Morse code. I don't know why I said basically, it is Morse code. It's called—for technical reasons it's called "continuous wave" in HAM radio. So if you hear people saying CW, that's Morse code. One of the attractive things in Morse code—because someone's like, "Well, why would you want to do that, that seems way more, way more like technical and you have to learn a whole thing and then"—it gets out when nothing else can. When I say that is a radio signals take up a certain amount of space, basically, in the bigger—the more space it takes up—bandwidth is how, I guess, the technical word for that. But the more bandwidth it is, the harder it can be to get that signal out. This is particularly pression, as Eepa was saying, a lot of times you're limited in how many watts you can put out. So if you're running something that's not a lot of watts—especially you've got like maybe an antenna that you've made or an antenna that's not extremely efficient—if you can do something like Morse code, it might get out, when if you were trying to do a voice code wouldn't get out. Now you have trade-offs with that, like, you know, you have to, you have to have equipment that will use it, you'll have to have somebody on the receiving end that can listen to it. But actually a lot of people use automatic—something, I forget what it's called. But it's basically something where when it comes up to your computer, or your radio, depending on if your radio is nice enough, will just automatically translate the Morse code for you. So you don't necessarily have to know it. In the HAM culture it's kind of like, well, that's cheating, you know, like you're supposed to like actually learn it and whatever. But if you're using it as an emergency thing, for instance, it can be really important. Another thing is if you don't really want to listen to what people around, you have to talk about, like I don't want to care—I don't care how people make hot dogs. The jokes is actually that if you are actually—a lot of it's just what gear do you have, what radio do you have? And like, "Oh, how nice is your radio?" And it's just, like, this is not information I need. One of the things, you can actually send out images? Which seems kind of like, "Well, I've got a computer, why do I care that I can send out images and like actually receive them?" This can be key if you're in a place where the government's actually shut down on purpose, you know, your your internet or your cell phone stuff, because they're doing things that they don't want people to know. For instance, I don't actually, I don't know if it's still happening. But I remember in the northern region of India, there was a blackout there a year or so ago. The Indian government was doing just, we don't really know because nothing could get out. But if you had a radio that could send out—there's fast scan and slow scan—TV is what it's called. But if you could send out an image without the government knowing, you could potentially let people know what's going on and in a situation where it's otherwise impossible to get communication out. So I mean, that's something that I—basically my answer to the question, "What do people talking around me?" is, "I don't really know." I'm not listening to people around me so much and I'm not a I'm not rag chewing, basically. But that's just to give people examples of what you can do if you're like, well, I'm really antisocial, I don't want to talk to anybody around me about just random stuff. So...

Eepa 35:14 Yeah, for like around me, one of the things that—I actually do listen. I'm actually still in the process of getting licensed. The tests are themselves are, you know, intimidating and challenging but you can develop a lot of interesting insights, basically, by listening. And, I mean, around where we're at it's simple stuff, like, they have little game shows where you can, like, call in answers to trivia questions. And they have, like, little social meet and greets. They've got like a technical night where if you're having a problem with your radio, you can call in and they'll help you troubleshoot what's going on with it. And this is all done via repeaters, which means you could use a UHF or VHF, you know, like a Baofeng basically, to talk to somebody in Ohio. Now, again, these repeaters are run by local radio clubs which means, you know, you don't control the infrastructure, which means if those repeaters were to go down or, you know, the government was to take them over or something like that, you could lose access. And that's one of the reasons that I'm very interested in HF because HF is a self-contained communication system where you're able to do everything on your own. The IF's in contact with some of the people—some of the anarchists in Ethiopia. And during the recent civil war in Tigray that was one of the issues that they were running into and something that they had wished that they had basically prepared was people who could actually send out images and send out news reports on the radio from within Tigray because a lot of the news was only coming from the Ethiopian state forces. And there were, you know, reports and rumors of massacres and other things like that. But there were no images, there was nothing really to substantiate what was happening. And so just touching on that, the ability to send images and things like that is really nice. But just when it comes to listening, I think that's actually something really critical to think about when you're looking at radio from a prepper kind of standpoint, from a—the idea that you are trying to get into communications because you want to be a part of community awareness. The primary thing that you will be using radio for in a situation where communications are shut down through normal means, and that could mean just a grid down, you know, Hurricane knocked out the power grid or something like that. Or it could be something more sinister where, you know, the government is purposefully denying people access to communication. The primary thing you're gonna be doing on radio is listening, is intelligence gathering. It's figuring out what all the other HAMs that are on the radio are talking about, what are they seeing, you know. Are they seeing, you know—are there rumors of, you know, troop movements to the north? Are there rumors, that there's a food shortage in the town that's north to you or that, you know, they're sick people really concentrated in a certain area? That intelligence gathering is something that you can do with really cheap equipment. You can—one of the things that we recommend on our site is to get a shortwave, you know, receiver or something that can listen to all of these different bands. And just use that as a tool in your community to get people the ability to listen and learn because information is absolutely critical for survival, it's the central thing you can have in a situation where stability has crumbled, is to have information awareness on the ground. So listening, even when you're, you know, not licensed, can do that. It also can kind of give you an idea of what your local HAM community is like. Because one of the things that you will very, very rapidly learn, if you're a minority and you're involved in HAM, is that the community is blazingly white. And sometimes they can be fairly reactionary. And you can actually start to take notes of people that are actually kind of cool on the radio and people that you never want to talk to you again, just based off their call signs because they're required to give those. And that can help you decide in the future how reliable somebody information might be, or what kind of perspectives they might be providing in a disaster situation. So that kind of, like, finite information gathering is an important skill to develop even before you consider transmitting, you know, that's something you can work on right now.

Margaret 39:59 Yeah, that makes sense.

Cici 40:00 I'm actually really glad he mentioned that. Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, Margaret, I'm sorry,

Margaret 40:04 No, go ahead.

Cici 40:05 I was just gonna say like, I—I'm gonna preface this just legally by saying, don't ever do anything illegal on the radio. But one of the things that I don't think people necessarily realize is that the FCC isn't—they don't have the manpower to sit and listen to like every single band. So like, generally, if you're doing something say, untoward, or you're not necessarily licensed, it's not the FCC that's going to like find out. It's the other HAMs. HAM radio is largely kind of self-disciplined. It's self—like, for instance, we do our own testing. Like, it's not like if you do—if you do something someone's—the band hammer is gonna come down. It's basically if you piss off enough HAMs or if they know, they'll— they're the ones who's going to report it. Eepa had mentioned earlier in our conversation that in HAM radio you can't send encrypted communication. However, you could send—and there's kind of a formality of how you send information via HAM radio—but for instance, you could say what they would expect you to say if you were doing a regular HAM conversation and it could mean not what they would necessarily expect it to mean. So for instance, one of the things on—I don't know a lot about voice because I actually am trying to focus more and Morse code, but one of the things that you're supposed to do on Morse code to call a another radio is CQ, CQ CQ. And then someone will be like is, you know, are you looking for someone? You can use those codes to mean for your intended audience whatever you want them to mean. So it's not encrypted. But it's also something where the other HAM radio, if someone happens to be listening, has a HAM radio, they won't necessarily know what's going on. Again, you should never do anything illegal on the radio. I just want to let people know that it's not like there's a radio police that sits and actively listens, like, it's really just other HAMs that are gonna report you. Also, that's something to know. If you note that you're in kind of a, you know, maybe you live in a really remote area and there's just not a lot of other HAMs, you're listening on the air, and they're just not a lot of other people, you don't hear a lot of other people. That also might mean there's not really a lot of people listening, which means there's not a lot of people that could report you to the FCC. So that's something to keep in mind as well. If people were, you know—also something to note that even in a licensed situation, for something that's considered an emergency, and this is actually one part of the test, you can break HAM radio protocol and laws in the case of emergency. And that's actually something that's acknowledged. So like, if something were happening where it's like, this person needs immediate attention, you're not expected to follow all the—like, you can get on the air and be like, "I'm not licensed, but I need help," and most HAMs are gonna not, you know, they're not going to get on you. Like, that's allowed. So that's also something I want people to know, like, if you just want to radio for emergencies technically you should be licensed and it's good, because you'll have experience and you'll know what you're doing, but if it's something like this is like four death, or this is extreme, other HAMs aren't gonna report you. Like, people are generally, you know, and also that's allowed. So even if they did report you other HAMs would be like, well, that's allowed in the rule. So something I just wanted people to know.

Margaret 43:44 Yeah, that actually helps.

Eepa 43:45 So if you break your leg out in the woods, go ahead and get on your Baofeng and start honking.

Margaret 43:51 So I feel like at this point, I should probably tell the audience what a Baofeng is. Which is, as far as I understand—because that's actually, that's how Baofengs were introduced to me, right is like, "Oh, yeah, I got a Baofeng." Like, "Oh yeah, there's radios over there, they're Baofengs." And like, everyone like talks about it, like, "Whoa, like, this is the fucking coolest thing ever," right? And it's just a really cheap radio that can do a lot of things. And it can do a lot of things that are legal like transmit at low wattage on FRS. And it can do a lot of things that would only be illegal if you were licensed. But it's just kind of like, what, a $20 or $30 radio you can buy on the internet and you can like swap it out with a nicer antenna? And it's just kind of like—it's become, like, kind of like a thing in this sort of like tactical and prepper and whatever worlds is like Baofengs is, like, the thing. But actually what you were talking about, about how you can use it in emergencies. That's kind of how I've always seen, like, I have a Baofeng, right? I don't really know how to use it. I've pretty much just used it to listen to things. But I'm like, okay, I could theoretically transmitted an emergency if I needed to. And, you know, for a $20 thing that can transmit in an emergency, that's cool. It's also cool that it's a tool that, like, isn't limited, like, I hate when I buy something and it's like, this is locked down to make sure that you can't do the things it's supposed to do. Just the things that you're allowed to do. You know?

Eepa 45:23 Yeah.

Margaret 45:23 I hate that kind of shit, I—there's a, just, I don't know, whatever. I'm clearly an anarchist, I—there's—I don't really have to defend this position very hard.

Eepa 45:36 Yeah, and so like, those Baofengs are basically like, I mean, the the way that you can think about it is, like, your first, you know, foray into radio if you are, like, just—what I generally recommend Baofengs for is if you're actually interested in doing like, computer stuff with it, if you're interested in doing programming, they can be really fun to play with. Also, if you're interested in a radio that the cops can confiscate and you're not going to miss it because it's not that much of an investment, that's another really good reason to get a Baofeng. But if you're a beginner and you're serious about getting into radio, I do think that there are better options for just ease of use, because Baofengs can be very difficult to program, sometimes, they can be very finicky to use all of the functions of it. And so something like, you know, an Alinco, or a Yaesu, you know, these types of like, you know, Japanese radios can be a little bit more easy to use and they're going to be much more durable, you know, as far as like weather proofing and things like that. But again, that's something you have to weigh the pros and the cons of, you know, is this something that's gonna be confiscated at a protest, I probably don't want to spend a lot of money on it. Whereas if you're something where this isn't my go bag, I need something that's going to survive no matter what, then you might want to invest more money in something that's going to be easy to use and is going to be durable. So I mean, yeah, the Baofeng s ubiquitous, because it is cheap and there are better options that are still affordable.

Margaret 47:20 I feel like the Baofeng is like such a perfect way to introduce someone to help goddamn convoluted radio looks, like, you know?

Eepa 47:30 It can't—that's one of the issues with it is if you were—if I was to hand you a Yaesu. Like if I was to give you just like a Yaesu FT4X you would be able to program that without plugging in into a computer. It's much easier to use. You can just run to the menu, everything's right there. It's not convoluted and complex. And I think that's one of the issues with the Baofeng is it kind of—if you're not used to radio it can be very, very intimidating if you see that as your first introduction to radio. At least that's been my experience. I do have Baofengs, I was that typical person where I went out and I, first thing I got was, you know, a four-pack of Baofengs that I split amongst some of my comrades. And we were, you know, learning how to use them. But it was much more challenging. And the first time I used a radio with a nice, smooth, easy operation interface, you know, a nice, easy menu system. It really—it made it a lot less intimidating.

Margaret 48:35 Now you sold me. I mean, yeah, like, I basically look at my Baofeng and I'm like, I'm an idiot. And I'm like, I know how to program a computer to some degree, like, I've been doing technical shit for very long time. And I just look at it, and I'm like, I don't have enough time to dedicate in my life. Actually, this ties back to something I don't remember—I think it was Cici who was saying it but I'm not sure—earlier about how like, you know, Cici's like well, I actually very involved in this community, right, but then you're like, but I only know about the stuff that I'm interested in. I don't necessarily have to know everything about everything. And that is one of the things that's so hard about radio is when you look at it from the outside, it's just a string of letters that you're supposed to know how to make sense of. I mean, it honestly reminds me of like when you get into guns or something when everyone's like, "Oh, yeah, well if you don't have this thing go attached to this thing and the other thing and then this thing, then you're just gonna die." Well I don't wanna die.

Cici 49:32 I mean it's actually—yeah, I'd say with guns it's a good analogy. Like, there's very few gun people who, like, their experienced with revolvers, and they're experienced with like the latest pistols, and they're experienced with like lever guns, and their experienced with black powder, and their experienced with like—yeah, like, if people are—I don't know if listeners, if your listeners would have a good sense of like how guns are. I know you've done some episodes on firearms, but generally people tend to know more about certain aspects of firearms and they do other aspects, even though—even people that have a broad knowledge will know more about stuff than others, like black powder is very specific. A lot of people don't—who know a lot about guns, still don't know a lot about black powder, or vice versa. In the same way radio is kind of like that. There's very few. And I mean, like, I haven't met anybody who's, like, I know everything about every aspect of radio. That's, like, a crazy person. Like, or I should say, a person who's like, you know, they might be an engineer or something or that's their job.

Eepa 50:33 Yeah, yeah.

Cici 50:34 So for most people, like, I actually don't do too much what I would call local radio stuff and be—that'd be the very high frequency and ultra high frequency. I am interested in mesh networks, which would be the setting up those WiFi networks, but I haven't actually done a lot with it. What I'm interested in, the stuff is usually called high frequency, it's more long-distance, it's very different from the ultra high frequency. So I'm still learning a lot about setting up a mesh network and how to do a decentralized WiFi. I'm still learning a lot about that. What I guess my interests lie more in something called, I mentioned Morse code over there. There's another aspect of radio called QRP. So yeah, QRP is just a fancy way of saying low power. Generally, when people talk about radio they're gonna be talking about wattages. So we've been talking a lot about Baofengs and I know Eva mentioned the Alinko radios, Yaesu radios, these are generally going to be handy talkies. They looknkind of like what people might think a walkie-talkie would look like. The type of radios that would be a base station, they'll look very different. They look kind of like a—basically a box. It's a real, if it's a nice space station, that might be a really big box. Generally those are going to be at 100 watts or more, but those are also going to be extremely expensive. They're going to also generally require kind of semi-complex antenna setups, a lot of room to set up some type of base station like that. The stuff that I'm interested in for low power, the difference is that it's much cheaper. And a lot of people look at radio and they're like, I don't have an extra $1,000 to just drop on like a nice radio, I don't have an extra—especially if you want to do long distance stuff. That was kind of my interest. That's actually why I have a general license. If you get a technician license, it actually kind of limits you to very high frequency and ultra high frequency. You can do some stuff on the longer distance, but it's very limited. So yeah, you to even do stuff with long distance in a general sense, you have to get a general license, but a QRP is a way that you can not spend a lot of money—or at least spend less money, it still might be a lot of money, relatively speaking. But um. What'd you say?

Margaret 52:58 And QRP means low powered, right?

Cici 53:01 Yeah, low power. For Morse code, that's five watts or less. For voice modes like single sideband, that would be 10 watts or less. Actually, a lot of HAM radios kind of poopoo it because they're like, why would you use, you know—it's just, it can be difficult because you're using such little power, but you get a lot of benefits with it. A lot of benefits is you can use a radio that doesn't—or you can use an antenna that doesn't take up a lot of space. If you live in an apartment, that's huge. If you live in a place where, you know, like, you don't—you're not supposed to set up outside antennas or something, that's huge. I already mentioned that it's very cheap, or cheaper, I shouldn't say very cheap. But it's cheaper than doing other types of radios that use much higher power. Also, one of the big things is that you can make your own radios. We were talking about earlier how one of the benefits of radio was that it's decentralized, like, you're not about to go make your own smartphone.

Margaret 53:55 Mm hmm.

Cici 53:56 At least I can't. I don't know anyone who can. But you could make your own radio. And you can make your own antenna. In fact, a lot of HAMs encourage people to make their own antennas because it's—antennas are actually kind of expensive to go buy. It's actually cheaper to make them. So like a lot of HAMs will just learn how to make antennas out of, like, nothing. Like a lot of people make them on a tape measure and stuff, like it's very—if you're kind of that person where it's like I want to experiment and I want to kind of just make stuff with found materials or stuff that's, like, I have already at my house. Like, that's a huge benefit. Also, we didn't mention this earlier, but RF safety kind of is a related to the amount of—it's related to a lot of stuff, but it can be related to the amount of watts you're putting out.

Margaret 54:39 What is RF?

Cici 54:41 Oh, sorry, RF is radio frequency. It's just—it's the type of energy we're using for radio.

Margaret 54:47 So what is—how does it tie in to safety? Sorry, I'm just like...

Cici 54:52 Oh, it's okay. So if you're using something like 100 watts or more and you're transmitting. Like, for instance, you should never touch an antenna at that many watts that's transmitting. You're gonna get an RF burn. It's basically something that, like, it can get kind of complicated. But—and there's—I don't want to like scare people or anything, like, it's not—I'm not trying to be like, "Oh, we didn't talk about safety." But the lower wattage you use the less you have to worry about that, basically, especially if you have an indoor antenna or something. Like, if you have an indoor antenna, you really want to keep your RF, like, levels lower so you don't—part of it is actually practical, like, we haven't talked a lot about interference. But if you have a really, really high, like, wattage, and today—it can cause interference. And it can be something where your neighbors are trying to like use their electronics, and they hear all sorts of weird stuff, they hear all sorts of clicks and whatever. That's because you're using like a really high power radio. So, like, your neighbors just might get mad and be like, "You're, we see this antenna outside your house, and it's doing this thing and blah, blah, blah." So using a less power, it can be—it can cause less interference. But also it will just cause less RF like fields, which means that it's safer to operate inside. And someone might, like, might be thinking, "Well, why would I want to operate inside? If I can operate outside, shouldn't I?" Well, it depends. Are you doing something where you don't necessarily want people to know you're operating. A big antennas, like, if you have a huge antenna outside your house, or even just kind of a moderate one but something that's obviously an antenna and not a TV antenna, it'll be like, well, that person's a radio operator. Not everybody wants that immediately known if they were to walk by their house. I'll just say that. It's something that, if you're using QRP, it's much easier for you to not cause interference, to operate from completely inside, and to be able to make your own equipment.

Margaret 56:51 It's really cool honestly. Like, talking to you makes me want to learn how to build radios.

Eepa 56:58 I mean, it's like, there's some benefits to, like, QRP, like low power HF radios for prepping especially because they're mobile. You can literally put one of these—you can put a full QRP setup—a low power radio, power source, an antenna, and like an antenna tuner—in your purse. You could put it in a very small satchel and be able to talk to somebody states away. So these can be really compact and really mobile solutions that still give you access to autonomous email, like, still give you access to, you know, listening to all of these different bands, transmitting all these different bands. So from a preparedness perspective, that is a huge benefit. The low wattage basically allows you to use less power from your battery so you can use a very small solar panel that folds up and into your backpack to recharge your battery when you need. And so that just has tremendous benefits for mobility. And one of the key things to think about from a, maybe, a situation where you have any type of adversary. So that could be, you know, a lot of white supremacists militia types have created radio nets and have radio training. They're—they've been working on preparing this for years, they have pre-designated frequencies and nets, they've got all these different things set up. And one of the things that they can do is they can track you. So it's extremely easy to triangulate and locate the source of a transmission. So if you are needing to transmit something that is sensitive or that will identify you, as politically opposed to people that might be interested in finding you, you're going to want to transmit from locations away from your place of residence and also in a way that doesn't, you know, create a big circle on the map around your house. You're going to want to choose random locations to transmit from, and you're going to want to use, you know—low power helps with that a little bit as well. You can reach the people you need to without giving away your position too much. But as soon as you click the transmission button, you're opening up the world to find out exactly where you're at. So you can transmit what you need to, pack up, and get out of there if you need to. That's the nice thing about those low power rigs. So that's something to really think about when you're getting into radio. And, yeah, you can build your own, you can build your own antenna. There's some awesome antennas that you can literally just launch up into a tree with a slingshot and it's—all it is is one giant long strand of speaker cable, speaker wire. That's it, that's an antenna. Nothing more is needed. You just need a little antenna tuner to hook up to it and your radio and you're good to go. So those kinds of things are—they open up the whole world to you on a very, very—on a lower budget than you would be if you had a base station. One of the things that we talked about with the article that we released the Javelina Network is that handheld radios and QRP HF radios are very good for transmitting on the go and that was our main focus on that. You can do base stations which is like based out of your apartment, based out of your co-op or your bookstore or whatever you want to do. But again, that's a known location, that's a fixed location, that means that you have to be much more careful about what you're transmitting. And if you're transmitting outside of legal areas, the amateur radio committee has a whole community of amateur snitches that their whole thing—they get their jollies by tagging people on not having licenses and stuff. So it can happen. You just got to be careful about what you do.

Margaret 1:00:53 That's actually one of the questions that I—when I asked around basically being like what should I ask these people? One of the questions that came up a couple times was how real is—I think—it was presented to me that's called fox hunting? Like, the hobby of tracking down on licensed operators. What a great culture, what a wonderful culture where their whole thing is just snitching on people. But so, yeah, my question was, like, how real is that? Like, how much do people—especially like, let's say if you're not—I mean obviously if you're doing something where people are—where the people around you are politically opposed to you, and opposed to what you're saying, obviously that will increase the odds. But if you're just, like, coordinating some random bullshit like picking up lumber or something like that, how much do you act—do people—how real is this? How much do people actually get kind of tracked down?

Eepa 1:01:52 So from my experience, basically, fox hunting—I'm sorry, I've got a ICE helicopter flying over me right now. The—as far as fox hunting goes, if you go to any type of, like, HAM Fest or HAM convention or HAM con or, you know, whatever you want to go to, they will all have fox hunting competitions. This is something that, you know, people really enjoy doing is just like, you know, hunting down signals. Now, what this is typically used for is not going to be tracking down the guy who's saying, "Hey, I got lumber," or, you know, the person who's like, "Hey, you know, I need to pick up a quart of oil from you," or something like that, or the gal that's, you know, "I've got eggs for sale," or something like that, you know. It's not typically going to be stuff like that. It's usually like sources of interference that people are going to be tracking down. So if you're causing a lot of interferenc, and it's pissing people off, then they will fox hunt you down, and they'll find out what's going on. So if you have a jammer or something like that, which are illegal, and you operate that jammer and it makes people mad—if you operate it for long enough, people will find it and they will make sure that that is put to the stop. And so you have to be careful if you do utilize jammers and things like that, that you're not using them when you don't need to. So fox hunting in, like, day to day circumstances is a little bit less of a threat. If you know kind of what radio people sound like—and, again, do this at your own risk. This is something, again, that, you know, is illegal. But if you had like a fake callsign and you just follow the standard protocols of calls, you could basically get away with it as long as you didn't accidentally have some callsign that somebody there knew as being somebody else. So generally it's not going to be an issue if you're just talking between two people, you select a frequency, you listen to it, nobody's on that frequency, nobody's been on that frequency for a long time, and you just use it to call each other to coordinate something. Just kind of sound like you belong and you'll be okay. As soon as you get into an adversarial situation, that's when you do have police operating like stingers and other devices that will track down cell phone data, they'll track down radio data, everything—any kind of frequency that's being emitted, those things will be able to track down the source of so just be very aware of when and how you're transmitting, and be safe about it.

Cici 1:04:29 Absolutely. And I would actually add to what Eepa says: If you're going to use a call sign, first you want to absolutely know who—you know, if you're licensed—So, okay, so for people who are like what the hell is call sign?

Margaret 1:04:43 Yeah I was about to ask.

Cici 1:04:46 For HAM radio, what—basically what happens is you take this test. Assuming you pass they'll—what the license actually—the most important thing that I guess the license gives you is a call sign. I actually have a call sign. I'm not going to say it. The reason I'm not going to say it is because for anybody that says a call sign, it's instantly look up-able. When you take the test you have to give like an address, it's supposed to be your home address, of where you live. And basically that data is publicly available. So like, if I were to say my call sign right now, anybody listening to this podcast could go look it up online and find out exactly who I am—or at least, I shouldn't say exactly who I am. They could find out the name that I gave to the FCC, which is my real name. They could find out the address I have listed. You're supposed to updat it, like, you know, every time you move or whatever. A lot of people don't necessarily but like if they find out, like, that can become an issue. So for instance, let's say you just found a call sign. Nobody's using it. Cool. Somebody happens to look it up—and they might actually do this innocuously, a lot of people want these—they're called QSL cards. It's basically a little card that say, "Hey, I contacted you." And it's like a postcard that 's like, oh, cool. So they might just look it up just thinking, "Hey, I contacted you, I want a little postcard," and see that, you know, that call sign's registered to somebody in Texas. You were transmitting from, like, Washington. Like, they might be, like, well, that's kind of weird. That's not necessarily a tip off. Because, you know, you could be traveling. It's not like you have to change your call sign when you go traveling, you're on vacation, whatever. But if you're constantly—like, if you live in Texas and you're constantly transmitting from Texas and you never transmit for Washington, but that call sign is assigned to someone in Washington, like that's gonna tip somebody off, like, is this person really who they say they are? Also, you might—this gets a little dicey, too. But if you're using voice modes and, you know, your call sign says tou're this 58-year-old guy and you don't sound like a 58-year-old guy, like, that might start making sound like, you know, is this person who they say they are?

Margaret 1:06:57 Is it gonna be like four random letters or something? Like is—or is the call sign, like, this is like, I don't know, Phoenix Rising, I don't know...

Cici 1:07:06 Oh no, they're random letters. Like, for instance, I'm not gonna say my call sign. But, for instance, I'm reading this book, HAM—like HAM radio people generally love sharing their call signs, like, they'll put it on books. The call sign of [inaudible] from this guy that I'm reading, it's G0KYA. And actually, the G in the beginning means that he's actually from the UK. So not only are they location-specific, but they're country-specific. So like, if you just made up a call sign, like, people can generally tell if it's real or not. They're supposed to be a certain length, they have certain—like, for instance, in the in the US, generally if you get a call sign, it's gonna start with K or W. So like, that's something, if you're going to do that, you should know that these are things. Now of course this could all be alleviated just by getting an actual, like getting licensed and getting an actual whole sign. Still be careful who you share it with, you know. Like, maybe don't just go around telling everybody what your call sign is like most HAMs do. Just because, you know, maybe there is that really reactionary guy at the local HAM and, like, he gets a whiff that you're not, you know, you're not—your politics upset him. He knows your call sign. Also, if you're broadcasting you're supposed to actually say your call sign every 10 minutes. So it's not like, "Well, I'm just never gonna say my call sign when a broadcasting." You're supposed to. You're not just gonna keep it secret so that's something to think about. As far as fox hunting, yeah, there's this whole thing where HAMs will set out a radio, they'll hide it, and the whole game is to try to go and find the transmitter. This is actually something you don't even need to be licensed to do, you're just listening for this transmitter. So like, technically, you wouldn't even—you don't even need a license to go fox hunt. Anybody could track it down if they're just listening to you.

Margaret 1:08:48 That honestly sounds fun.

Cici 1:08:50 Also—I would also mention, that's actually something I'm interested in doing. We're not the only people at Radio Stash, obviously have radios. And if you know how to foxhunt and you note that there's this—or maybe there's just this guy in your local HAM community. If anyone's interacted with HAM, it tends to be very old, white, retired dudes. Like the average age of HAMs is probably something like 60 or 70. Like, it's very old. Like, it's people that have the money to buy like $1,000 base stations usually. So like, maybe there's a guy there that's, you know, he's always got a Blue Lives Matter shirt on. Or maybe, you know, he went to, you know, he went to DC recently, or something. And maybe you don't know his, you don't know his call sign, or maybe he's using a fake call sign or something. But if you can triangulate your signal, you could probably find out where he's at least transmitting from. Whether or not that's his house is, you know, it's a different thing. But you can actually use a lot of this stuff—the stuff that they use against us you can also use, like, to help us as well.

Margaret 1:09:56 So I'm impressed that we made it an hour and eight minutes before we brought up the fact that the fascist attempted to stage a coup in the United States yesterday. Sorry, anyway, what were you gonna say?

Eepa 1:10:11 Oh, no, I was gonna basically just add that when it comes to that security culture around call signs, that's really important. I've remember going to a protest of a basically a bunch of white supremacists, you know, ethno-nationalists or whatever. And there was a guy there who had his FRA sticker and his call sign on the back of his truck. And so I just went online, I looked at the call sign, and I showed him a picture of his home address. And I said, "Do you live here?" And he's like, "Yes." And then I showed him a picture of his little earth and his truck sitting in his driveway of his house, I was like, "This is your house in your truck, right?" And, you know, his face went white. And it was just like, either you put the call sign on the truck, or you put the the FRA sticker, but you'd never put both.

Margaret 1:11:02 Yeah.

Eepa 1:11:02 And typically, it's just don't even put your call sign in your vehicle. Because if you show up to an event, police will be able to look that up, fash will be able to look that up, anybody who knows about that can look it up. So that's just a really basic piece of security culture to do. And I can guarantee you that there are people who were in DC that had their call signs that the FBI are going to be looking up as we speak to go and arrest them. So don't snitch on yourself.

Margaret 1:11:31 Yeah.

Cici 1:11:32 Yeah. So no, I mean, like, be very diligent who you share your call sign with. Talking about repeaters, anybody could call into a repeater. So if you're using a repeater and you know that there's people in the area that you don't want them to know your call sign, like, either don't transmit longer than 10 minutes or, you know, just be aware of that you don't want it to be where there's a situation where you're constantly saying your call sign and now people you don't really want to know where you are, either know where you are, or they find out you have a call sign, or something like that. I do want to mention that if you're doing a data mode—there's these things called data modes, which are basically not voice modes. It's, you know, it's not your voice. Also Morse code obviously isn't your voice, it's just a series of beats dits and dots. It's harder for people to tell that's not necessarily you—not in the terms of location but in the terms of like, dits and dots. So like, if you have a friend that lives close to you and you know, their licensed, and and they said it's okay—you should never do anything illegal on the radio, by the way.

Margaret 1:12:35 Yeah, that would be wrong.

Cici 1:12:37 For someone to tell that, oh, that's not you doing dits and dots. I mean, they could maybe? Like maybe your friend transmits at a certain speed and you never transmit at that speed. But even then you could use a keyer which just puts it in automatically. And then like lots of people use keyers, like, that could be—like someone would have to really know, like, I know that dude and I know, that's not how he sends code. Like, that's a really specific situation. But if you're not using voice you have a little more... I don't know. Don't ever do anything illegal on the radio. But also, you don't have to use voice.

Margaret 1:13:12 Yeah.

Cici 1:13:13 Just gonna say that.

Margaret 1:13:14 And I mean, like, it's funny because like, I actually think that—go ahead, go ahead.

Eepa 1:13:18 No, no, no, no, go for it.

Margaret 1:13:21 I actually do think that, like, I think it would be great for us all to get licenses. Like it would actually be like, you know, I mean, it's like—do I think it's like ethically necessary that people have licenses to drive cars? No. But do I, like, want people who are driving cars to know how to drive cars? Yes. Right? And it's not the same thing, right? But like, I would say that, like, I intend to slowly work towards getting my license, right? And, you know, anyone who's interested in radio, it seems like a really good way to do it. And so—but yeah, no, I appreciate that sort of nuance of the conversation around, like, here's how you can choose to access radios while you're still working on them in emergency situations, etc. You know?

Eepa 1:14:06 Well, and I would say, basically, when it comes to getting your license, I think that is actually an important step for people to take because one of the things that allows you to do is to get lots and lots of practice. Practice is going to be the most important thing for you to actually be effective in a, you know, grid down or a, you know—in a sensitive situation, you don't want to be figuring out how to do new modes, how to, you know, what the bands are in the area, what your radio can operate at. You don't want to be figuring that out on the fly. And so if you spend a lot of time with a license interacting with other people in the community, even going and learning from some of those old white codgers who, you know, know how to build, you know, nice antennas or mobile rigs or things like that. You can do that and you can learn—you can learn a lot. And so that's the upside to the license is that you're going to be able to develop and nurture the skills that will come in handy later. Because one of the things that I'm very interested in is a program called JS8Call. And what that does is basically it creates a network of people that, you can be off the radio, and somebody can send you a text message. And the next time you get on the radio, other radios have stored that and when you get on, it'll send you that message. So it's just like an email, or just like a text message.

Margaret 1:15:32 Cool.

Eepa 1:15:33 In that whenever your radios on, you can get those messages. So the other nice thing about that is they have individual rooms. So you could set up a room in JS8Call just for your local mutual aid thing. And if somebody logs in, you will know that they have logged in from your group. And if somebody logs in who's not from your group, you will know. So it offers you a little extra level of security over just general voice transmission and things like that. So, but learning the fineties of all of these different things and learning what your niche is, because again, everyone has different interests and different talents. The best way to explore that is going to be with a license. Now, the second things go south and you need to be using your radio for revolutionary purposes, you also need to know how to operate securely without your call sign, and how to, you know, vary your location, how to vary your signal strength, how to use transmission that actually bounces off of the ionosphere instead of line of sight, and things like that. There's all kinds of cool tricks you can learn, but you really need to practice them and refine them and make sure you know what you're doing before you get to a situation where you're going to be asked to be the expert. And it can be very intimidating, technically, to be like, you know, there's all these different things that I can learn, I can do all this, I can do all that. One of the things you can do is if you are one of those people, like, you know, us, that's very interested in radio and thinks that it's like really interesting and cool, is become extremely proficient at something and then develop simplified protocols for people who aren't extremely interested but want to have communication. We have, one of the members of the Javelina Network is a veteran who used to be a radio operator overseas. And basically, you type the numbers in, you push the button, you call. And that's basically the level of complexity. And that enables large-scale coordination of logistics, of people movement, of intelligence, of all kinds of stuff like that, just having community members that know how to make those transmissions. So if you are the kind of person who's excited and interested in radio, and you're developing those skills, your other role is to act as a teacher about just basic stuff. You pre-programm the radio and you give it to somebody and you say, "Okay, this is how and when to transmit. This is why you transmit. This is how you stay safe." You just give them the basic instructions and that way, they don't have to worry about programming, they don't have to worry about all of the minutia that, you know, you can get easily lost in. And that's the way we can we can lift each other up. That's part of, like, what the Javelina Network's all about.

Cici 1:18:11 Absolutely. I love that. Also, I would say to people—so yes, HAM radio is generally—it's going to be more reactionary as a general rule. You're going to generally be dealing with old white dudes. But it's not—I don't want to paint them as all bad people. Like there are—some places are better than others. I liked what Eepa said earlier about just kind of listen and see what kind of people are there. Some HAMs, some like people in HAM radio, they love teaching new HAMs, they love trying to—there's this kind of subset of HAMs that we always need to be like getting more people into this. It's like, if you just show up and you're just like, "I don't know anything," or you know, I don't know anything, but I need help. There's, depending on the club or the culture that exists in your area, there might be somebody there that's like willing to just take you under their wing. That's actually a word in HAM culture for people that teach. It's kind of hard to find these people actually, but they're Elmers. An Elmer is actually supposed to be a mentor for you. They're supposed to, like, help you. You know, you don't have to be super political and you don't have to tell these people what you think or whatever. A lot of HAMs, you know, a lot of HAMs actually won't tell other people what they're thinking either. They're there just to have fun with the radio, they're not trying to necessarily tell people all of their business either. So yeah, you might have a guy that, you know, we were talking about access to equipment can be a huge limitation to this hobby. If you find an Elmer, and a lot of these guys have old equipment or they have just, they've accumulated equipment, they might just give you an old radio they're not using anymore which could be huge, you know, and you can develop like these relationships that they don't have to be, like, your best friend, like—or you know, maybe they are your best friend. I don't know. Like, they can, you know, they don't—not all HAMs are like out to get you or trying to like find all the—they're not all just trying to find the person messing up so they can report them to the FCC. There's actually, with a license change, I've been reading a few things in HAM radio community and one HAM was so upset that he was like if I hear somebody transmitting and they're made up a license, like, I'm not going to report it. Because he's, like, he just doesn't think people should pay $35 to the FCC. So I mean, like, not everyone is not everyone in the HAM community is like, "Oh, we're gonna get you." But also, yeah, I would also say, share what knowledge you have. One of the things that I think, like, if you are somebody that does have a little bit more money, or maybe you do have a little bit of, I don't know, you could buy 10 Baofengs, you can give them out, teach people how to tune them into the police station—a lot of police have, they basically have it where you can actually listen to them. A lot of people actually do this, not just for political reasons but just to, you know, they just want to know why there's a million sirens going off. As long as you don't transmit and as long as you don't jam the signal, you can listen all day long. And that can be helpful. Listen, see what's going on, call your friends being like, this is where they're going to be at or this is what's happening. As far as the licensing goes, part of the reason people get licenses is so they don't accidentally do stuff. For instance, like if you were listening into like a ambulance, or like a health—like something for, like, EMTs—you don't want to accidentally interfere with them. Like, obviously, they're going to go help people who are in like medical distress. So like, you want to make sure that you know how to use the Baofeng but that's kind of what Eepa was saying. Like, if you have access to where you can get equipment to people, and you can teach them. "Look, I've already programmed this for you. I've already set it up to the frequency. This is how to change the frequency if you need to. But in general, like, just listening and if youm you know, want to let somebody know what you hear just, you know, call somebody." That's great. Like, no one is expected to know everything in this hobby. So like, yeah, if you can help somebody who—I actually don't know a lot about Baofengs. I've been focusing on other stuff. So like, I'd love for someone to help me do things that are more like VH VHF type of technologies. So...

Margaret 1:22:18 Well, do y'all have any—we're kind of running out of time and it's funny cuz there's so much about radios that I can easily talk with us forever. But are there any last thoughts that we—or things that we haven't covered that you want people to know?

Cici 1:22:35 Ah, I didn't mention this earlier, but I'm actually a volunteer examiner. I mentioned earlier, like ham radio people are the ones who actually give the exams. If people are interested in getting licensed, either now or in the future—I don't know I didn't put out any contact information, but feel free to let get in touch with me. I'm actually currently studying for the extra license. I want to do it before they have to pay the FCC $35. But once I get the extra license—one of the things the licenses actually let you do is test other people to get licensed. So maybe you're in an area where, again, the HAM club sucks, they're really reactionary, they don't want to help new HAMS, they're just mean, whatever, but you still want to get licensed. If you have a friend that can help, like, basically a—you need three VEs to do a test. But like, if you have three people in your community who could basically be those VEs and help you get tested—

Margaret 1:23:32 What does that mean? Oh, a volunteer examiner?

Cici 1:23:35 Oh, yeah, volunteer diameter. Yeah, sorry, VE. That can help tremendously. One of the things that pandemic's actually done is that you used to have to do that in person but now there's actually a whole system of people doing this remotely. So you can actually take your tests on Zoom, you don't have to show up anywhere. So that's great if you're, you know, you're homebound, or you know, it's a pandemic and you just don't want to leave your house because you're quarantining. So yeah, that's actually one of the benefits that's happened recently. Like, this is recent in terms of, like, I think, April they—the FCC authorized like 14 groups to give remote exams. So yeah, if people have questions about getting licensed, questions about QRP which was the low power stuff, questions about Morse code, please get in touch with me. It can feel very overwhelming but I want people to know that they're not—they don't have to sit there and struggle. I'm actually also trying to learn how to do antenna stuff—antenna stuff's just one of the coolest things. But yeah, I guess that's my last little bit.

Eepa 1:24:40 Um yeah, for me, basically, I want to encourage people to check out the Javelina project. This is something that we have launched together, basically a bunch of decolonial, anti authoritarian kind of people who are interested in building autonomous communications, building networks, creating ways for us to basically keeping in touch and to get information in and out of places as time goes on. You know, we want to be the kind of people that help, you know, next time there's a Standing Rock or Wet'suwet'en and actually set up indigenous communication networks in and out. So that way, you know, when you're frozen out of any type of other media, you can still get media in and out. And we're trying to create resources for, you know, like, a how-to guide of how to set up digital modes on your Baofeng, that's gonna be an article that's gonna be coming out soon.

Margaret 1:25:30 Cool.

Eepa 1:25:31 We're going to be doing an article soon about pirate radio, how to set up a pirate radio station. We're going to be doing articles about, you know, like JS8Call. So I definitely encourage people to stay tuned for that. We already have a guide up on the Indigenous Anarchist Federation website called Skills for Revolutionary Survival: Communication Equipment for Rebels. And that has information, all the basic information about what radios are, what radio you need depending on what situation you expect to be in, recommendations based off of price and like weatherproofing, things like that. And then video resources that you can watch to not only start studying for your test if that's what you're interested in, but also to look at kind of the logistical side of communication. So those videos are a part of that article as well. And basically, you know, just get out there and you can start working with a very cheap radio very fast, use a shortwave radio scanner and start listening to all your local channels. If you want to be the person in your, in your little anarchist cell or in your community who's, you know, next time there's a big storm system that comes through and you want to listen to weather bands, you can learn how to do that. Learn how to listen to it on your radio. And that's a skill you can start developing right now. So there's no time to wait. You can always start the next day that you have access to it and get involved.

Margaret 1:27:00 Yeah. Okay. And then how can folks find you all online?

Eepa 1:27:05 So for the Javelina Network, our Twitter literally just got launched. And it is @JavelinaNetwork which is spelled like the animal: J-A-V-E-L-I-N-A-Network. We decided to go with Javelina because, you know, instead of being hams from Europe, we're the Indigenous little pig so. We're the Javelinas is on the air.

Cici 1:27:36 I love that, by the way. I didn't even think about like people contacting me.

Margaret 1:27:43 You don't have to say it if you don't want, but you just—you said earlier that people should contact you. So I'm giving you a chance if you want.

Cici 1:27:49 I guess Twitter but, like, I don't know if people should contact me on Twitter. I'll go ahead and put my Twitter, why not? I think @postleftprole I think?

Margaret 1:27:59 That sounds right.

Cici 1:28:03 Yeah. Get in touch with me I guess. Just, I guess, request to send me a DM. I guess you can't like to send a DM if I haven't friended you or whatever. But just send a friend request be like, "Hey, I listened to the podcast, I'm curious." I'll, we can talk further. So. I'm not always online but uh, I try to respond—I'm actually on Twitter a fair bit so I guess I'll try to respond. I'm not always on Reddit, or at least I'm not always checking my messages on Reddit. So Twitter's probably more reliable. Right now I'm not a—I don't have any official channels. I should probably think about that. In the future, actually, I hope to put up some videos and stuff to help people do radio stuff. So if people want to get in touch with me to see if when I get that going, like, I'd be happy to let people know.

Margaret 1:28:55 I'm really excited about that work.

Eepa 1:28:56 And you can contact both of us. I was gonna say basically you you can contact both of us at [email protected] That's an email that all of us that are part of the Javelina Network more generally have access to. And so, like, if you're interested in something as well, that's a—if you're just want to use email, that's a good way to get in contact with us as well.

Margaret 1:29:20 Cool. All right. Well, thank you all so much for your time, and I've been I've been looking forward to this conversation for a long time. And I—you've really helped break the, like—I'm like, okay, I was like, I came into this with practically a spreadsheet being like, "Alright, this thing maps to this thing. And then this thing has 40 channels and blah, blah, blah." And then you're all like, "No, no, no, you just, you find something you're interested in and you go with it. " It's brilliant. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed that, or at least got something out of it. And if you want to support the podcast you can do so by telling people about it, you can tell people on the internet, you can even tell people about it in person, although you should tell them from far away—so you should probably shout about it from far away. Like walk up to strangers and scream, "Hey, Live Like the World is Dying!" That would actually be pretty cool if it became the new YOLO... because everything is YOLO. Anyway. But yeah, people have been doing an amazing job of telling people about the podcast, and it's been really wonderful bringing in new listeners. It makes doing this podcast feel worth it. And if you want to support me more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. If you support me on Patreon, it's how I pay for the podcast. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And I put up zines ostensibly every month but I am very far behind because of the pandemic and my resultant complicated ability to interact with my own mental space and the amount of work I have to do—which I'm sure no one else is dealing with, it's a thing with the pandemic that actually only affects me. I'm the only person who is dealing with it. [chuckling] Anyway, sorry. But yeah, and you can support me there. And if you live off of less money than I make on Patreon, don't support me there. Just contact me and I'll get you access to all of the information, all of the stuff that's behind the paywall of Patreon, I can give that to you for free. But in particular, I'd like to thank Eleanor and Mike and Satara and Kat J and The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the Dog, Nora, and Chris. Thank you all so much for making this possible. I never expected to get as much—anywhere near as much support as I do get from people. And I've been able to start passing that along and, you know, hire a transcriptionist to keep this podcast more accessible and hopefully start looking into other ways to expand this content beyond just me in the near future. So thank you. Thank you all so much for listening, and I hope you're doing as well as you can with everything that's going on.

S1E24 - Philip on Security Culture

how we can keep ourselves safe from repression

Episode Notes

The guest, Philip, has compiled this list of further resources and encourages people to check out look into them because there are a lot of good lessons about how counterinsurgency has operated historically that can help us resist today. Know Your Rights trainings are available from the CLDC and ACLU [including the Live Like the World is Dying episode on the subject] For the history of police and state repression

  • "Our Enemies in Blue": "Secret Police, Red Squads, and the Strategy of Permanent Repression"
  • "Life During Wartime" - Kristian Williams, Lara Messersmith-Glavin, William Munger
  • "Witness to Betrayal / Profiles of Provocateurs" - Kristian Williams
  • "Basic Politics of Movement Security" - J Sakai
  • "Policing Indigenous Movements" - Andrew Crosby & Jeffery Monaghan good for Canadian context
  • Intercept article on TigerSwan surveillance of Standing Rock:
  • "New State Repression" Ken Lawrence
  • "War at Home: Covert Action Against US Activists and What We Can Do About It"- Brian Glick

Government resources on counterintelligence

  • Church Committee Report (federal committee on FBI COINTELPRO ops)
  • "Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency, Peace-Keeping" Frank Kitson

The host, Margaret Killjoy, can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy, instagram @margaretkilljoy, and on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

Transcript:

Margaret 00:14 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy, and I use she or they pronouns. This week I'm talking with Philip who, among many other things, teaches security culture trainings. And I first was introduced to Philip's work on it when we had a conversation about the complexities of security culture. Security culture—we'll go over in this episode—is basically the idea of creating a culture of security, a culture of a way—creating a culture by which people don't get caught as much for the types of things that they may choose to want to do in order to advance, you know, their desires. It's for activists and revolutionaries and shit to not get fucking caught. It has lot of good tools around how to do that kind of culturally. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And—but for this week, and next week, I'm going to do it a little bit differently, and instead of running a jingle for another show on the network, I'm just gonna tell you about another show on the network because I don't think they have a jingle yet. And basically say that the Maroon Cast is now a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts and I'm very excited about that. And you all should go check it out. Also, the Institute for Anarchist Studies is an organization that gives grants to people who—well, I'm just about to play a fucking jingle for it. So I'll just fuckin play the jingle for it—da daaaa!

Jingle 01:40 Hey, radicals, anarchists, and all of you liberatory leftists: Are you a podcaster, video maker, multimedia artist, or writer? The Institute for Anarchist Studies wants to let you know we have grants available for projects focusing on Black and indigenous anarchisms, police abolition and alternatives, and mutual aid. For details and how to apply visit anarchiststudies.org and click on the grants application post on our main page. That's anarchiststudies.org. Anarchist-studies-dot-O-R-G. Applications close January 31, 2021. Spread the word and tell your friends.

Margaret 02:24 Okay, so if you could introduce yourself with whatever name you want to go by, your pronouns, and I guess kind of a little bit about what brought you to this work of teaching and security culture trainings?

Philip 02:35 Yeah, my name is Philip, I use they/them pronouns. I'm living in Suquamish Territory and the Salish Sea. I've been involved in a lot of solidarity work with Indigenous liberation movements and Black liberation movements that have exposed me to a lot of frontline experiences and experiences with state repression, both immediately and down the line. And in response to those encounters with law enforcement with legal repression, and with the effect that that has on our movements, me and a lot of friends and comrades have dived into learning about security culture, learning about the tools and the techniques that we can all use to keep each other safe. And also learning about the ways that the state works to isolate our movements, to discredit our movements—basically, to disempower us—so that we're able to be more informed about how to take care of each other. So I'm definitely deeply indebted to a lot of Black and Indigenous liberation movements for developing these skills and passing them on. And I'm here to just try to contribute now what I've been taught and foster a conversation about how we can be moving into this, like, pretty unprecedented territory in the world of new state surveillance, expanding state surveillance, more encounters with police, but also with right-wing vigilantes, paramilitary groups, white supremacists, and some of the tools we can use.

Margaret 04:07 That makes sense. Yeah, one of the reasons that I wanted to have you on in particular is a conversation that we had about the nuances of security culture, and I'm really excited to get into that stuff. But for people who have no idea what we're talking about, could you introduce the concept of security culture?

Philip 04:26 Yeah, that's a great question. I feel like there's a lot of intersections between security culture and a lot of other topics that you've had on this show or that you might have on in the future. Ultimately, I think of security culture as this big framework. And it's a framework that helps us reduce risk for ourselves when we're engaging in social movement work, basically by protecting sensitive information. So one definition might be: It's like a mix of interpersonal and organizational and technical practices that help us be more resilient to state repression. It's a shared set of customs, that helps us minimize risk by explicitly naming some norms, over our boundaries and over our communication and that helps us lessen our paranoia, reducing ambiguity, and feeling more secure as we're engaging with the inherently risky work of challenging unjust power systems.

Margaret 05:31 So what are some of the examples of that when you talk about, like, changing social norms in order to accommodate security culture? Like, you know, what comes to mind with that?

Philip 05:43 Yeah, well, I think that the first thing to say is, intentionally or unintentionally, we all have a set of security practices that we do as human beings. We all have boundaries with each other, intentional or unintentional. And the point of security culture is really to be explicit about those boundaries. I, you know, I really want to do a shout out that a lot of people already practice security, culture, and situational awareness in their daily lives, you know, especially trauma survivors, people who are targeted by police and state surveillance. But some of those specific boundaries and norms that we might use would be having, you know, a clear idea of what information is sensitive, and then not sharing that information with people who don't need to know it, to protect yourself and to protect them.

Margaret 06:37 Like so concretely like—

Philip 06:38 That—

Margaret 06:38 Go ahead.

Philip 06:40 Yeah, so that would, you know, a big, obvious one is like, don't talk about illegal activities that you have done, or that you're thinking about doing or asking someone else if they've done it. A big thing might be like, "Oh, yeah, I thought I saw you at this protest the other week doing this illegal action. Was that you? How does that feel to you?" That's a big thing that we wouldn't do. That's a pretty clear violation of norms and boundaries over not wanting people to expose themselves in that way.

Margaret 07:09 But what if you want to change your profile picture to, like, you throw in a brick on, like, Facebook?

Philip 07:15 And that's another one, you know, it's not only the explicit things that we share with each other, but also what is available to the outside world, to law enforcement, or to right wing groups through our social media presences, through, you know, just things that are immediately perceptible like bumper stickers or, like, the Antifa uniform that we're wearing. Being aware of the information that we're communicating, even if it's non-verbal.

Margaret 07:45 One of the—

Philip 07:45 Though I do wanna say— One of the main things is we should be aware of the sensitivity of the information and limit the information that's sensitive. And then the flip side of that is not stressing about information that is not sensitive. So it's not only, you know, being discreet and confidential about things that could expose us to legal targeting, but also then shedding the worry and anxiety of, "Oh, do I need to be lying to everyone in my life because they asked me what kind of coffee I like, and they're trying to build a case against me?"

Margaret 07:47 Go ahead. Mm hmm. Yeah, that makes sense. I—you know, it's like, when people first started talking about security culture around me, I ran into a lot of—we kind of all ran into a lot of issues of it with it, where it would cause, like, a lot of paranoia and then also a lot of like bravado and, like, it definitely, when practiced poorly, can be kind of not a very pleasant culture to be in. Like, it can become a culture of paranoia. But one of the things that I always really liked doing, you know, okay, so it's like—Alright, if you engage in a culture where you just don't talk about crime, like, you kind of have the sense that everyone around you is doing crime and that's cool (assuming they're doing cool crime, because lots of good things and bad things are crime). You can kind of just like—like, one of the things that I try and tell people is just, like, assume that everyone is a secret badass. Like, the shitty kid has been like sleeping on your couch for two weeks and like, doesn't do her dishes enough or whatever. Like, maybe she's getting up to, like, really wild shit. Or maybe she's on the run, you know, and kind of just assuming that everyone is up to something cool. And therefore you just don't need to know it. I don't know. That's something that's always worked for me. Yeah. Yeah, and I think there's absolutely something to be said there about—it takes a lot of intentional work to sort of decouple these practices from some of the, just the other cultural norms that we all have. And that being a big thing of social clout.

Philip 10:00 Of, you know, wanting—especially in a movement space—to be able to, like, celebrate the badass shit that we're doing. And one of the awkward things about security culture, or that makes it a little counterintuitive to people who are just learning it is that a lot of times the things that maybe have the biggest impact on our lives, or that we're spending lots of time or energy working on, or that were these really activating, or traumatizing, or fun and exciting experiences we had, we can't really talk about with other people, both for our safety and their safety. And so it's really nice, then, to think, not only, you know, is that something that we shouldn't do, but then also allowing us to think about, well, what are some of the positive ways that we can still be fostering community connection, and, you know, healthy, strong relationships and trust with people where we're not having to communicate about risky things that could implicate us in, like, all sorts of legal entanglements, but instead we can be still be building vulnerability and trust with each other. And that's a really big, important part of security culture that I think gets missed by a lot of people is that this is a great opportunity, actually, for us to think about what are our community norms around communication and interpersonal dynamics? And what are some of the ways that we can shape those intentionally to, like, really build trust and group cohesion and the ability to make us all feel like we're able to do the things that we need to do to survive in this world while staying safe?

Margaret 10:00 Yeah. Okay, so what are some of those things?

Philip 11:32 So I think a big one is that building trust with each other is an active process that we all need to be doing, especially in movement work. One of the big things that I think is really important is being able to, you know, talk about harmful and difficult dynamics that come up about conflict that comes up, about addressing accountability, and how much of state repression is able to impact movements by fracturing us along pre-existing tensions that we aren't able to work through. So there's a lot of examples in that historically, of state targeting movements, basically, where there was already distrust that was unable to be resolved, and fracturing movements by encouraging people to distrust each other because they weren't able to work through conflict.

Margaret 12:25 So you're basically talks about how the way that the state will essentially, like, bad-jacket or fed-jacket people, like, in order to sow distrust. Like basically, like, pick apart, like, so-and-so is unpopular, or maybe so-and-so actually caused harm, right? Like, so-and-so abuse someone or assaulted someone or is, you know, in accountability around it, or evading accountability around it, basically like sowing distrust about therefore, like, that person doing state work? Or what do you what do you mean by that?

Philip 13:00 Yeah, I think that is one popular example. We can definitely talk about that—about both how the state uses false accusations, you know, maybe to break trust—but also how real continued harm, real accusations, are then downplayed when we're existing in this like defensive, reactive space of being, "Oh, well, if, you know, we're going to be talking about these things then it's obviously a bad-jacketing." And so our movements are put in between a rock and a hard place because of just the widespread norm that exists of not being able to address the conflict when it comes up. But another way that that also happens is just how not only direct state intervention can fracture movements, but even the perception of state intervention, the fear and paranoia that gets spread through knowing that we're surveilled, through knowing that there's all these historical examples of actual state harm and us imagining then that we are being actively targeted at that time and us fracturing under that stress, even when there's not active state repression happening to our specific movements. And so it ends up that we almost start policing and repressing ourselves. And we're doing the state's work for it.

Margaret 14:20 I guess, like, one of the things that I think about this is I try to use history and awareness of that connection to actually—hm, how to I want to say this? It's like, I assume everyone's a cop and that makes me not paranoid. And I feel like there's a right way and a wrong way to do this. But for me, and the security culture that I practice—and this might be wildly unpopular—I just I assume that a decent portion of the people that I'm friends with and am close with, so possibly people I've been known and working with for decades, might be state agents. Or I've certainly had a lot of friends, a lot of people very close to me, become state agents, become informants in different cases. And because I'm able to do that, it kind of doesn't break my trust. Because I know that I'm, like, firewalling, all the information that I'm putting out there, right? I'm thinking about what I say to whom and because of that, you know, when someone turns out to be a state agent, I'm like, "Well, okay, like, I didn't trust them anyway so I was careful about what I said to them." And, you know, and obviously, this can be done in a very bad way. But, I don't know, I find it really useful to study basically, like—like, we can look at the history of COINTELPRO and it can, like, you know, drive us into a lot of fear and a lot of, like, just looking over our shoulders constantly, right? Or we can look at it and be like, "Okay, this is the situation that we may or may not be in, and what are the right steps to take if that's the situation we're in." And I think, for me, I mostly watch this be much harder on people for whom it's a shock, for people who come in and are like, "Wow, we're all doing this wild shit together and this is so great." And then it turns out that you're all being surveilled, or, you know, two of you are cops or something like that. And it's kind of heartbreaking and causes more fear as compared to if you just enter it knowing that that's going to be the case.

Philip 16:36 Absolutely, and I think you highlight two things there that feel really important to me in a security culture practice. So one is just having those proactive boundaries and that discretion, and just making that part of your everyday life—part of your way of relating with people and not this whole other mindset that you're adopting just in moments of direct action. Basically assuming, like, I just don't want to publicly share anything that I don't want read back to me at a grand jury hearing.

Margaret 17:10 Right.

Philip 17:12 I think another thing that is really important with what you just said is how important learning from history and looking at the concrete and well-documented examples of state repression that we can learn from prepares us to be able to be more resilient. And that that is an actually really important part of being able to evaluate risk and being able to care for ourselves and being able to know what's coming down the line. And that that should be something that we're constantly doing. And it's a lot of work but I think that's one of the things that I've been really excited by, it's just thinking about all these different resources and tracking the terrain of state repression and being able to then sort of stay ahead of the ball as best we can with thinking about what sort of terrain we have to be working in, and the actual tools and maneuverability that the state has, or that right-wing groups have to be interfacing with us. You know, it feels—not to minimize the very real risks that many people are experiencing by confronting white supremacy and capitalism and state violence.—but thinking about this on a little bit more exploded of a level, it feels like we're, you know, kind of playing this like big elaborate board game. And that state repression isn't functioning in the way of just pure unbridled force being exacted on any sort of social movement. There are absolutely moments of that. You know, we have seen assassinations, we have seen brutalization, there are many historical examples, you know, bombs were dropped on the MOVE collective in Philadelphia, police assassinated Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers while he slept in his bed. There are big examples of that. But by and large, at least as far as, you know, the material that is publicly available to reflect from, the way that state repression happens is more by controlling dissent through these sort of like light touches, by erecting the container that social movements and public opinion exist in, and trying to have that subtle touch, you know, that sort of negotiated management or that controlled management, similar to a lot of ways of how street protests are handled by police. Now, instead of it just being an outright brutality, it's more of negotiating with movement leaders, shutting the terrain, and if we're able to track that and we're able to keep a good tab on where public opinion is at, keep a good tab on what sort of restraints the state has for interacting with us for not trying to move public opinion towards supporting popular movements, you know, we're able to then track the sort of tools that we have available to be able to challenge these systems and have a little more strategy, a little more creativity, you know, thinking outside of the box and really engaging with this in a very adaptive and flexible and, like, spontaneous way. And I think that's one of the greatest strengths of decentralized movements is being able to be really flexible and responsive in a way that the state and other authoritarian or hierarchically-organized systems aren't able to keep up with.

Margaret 20:25 To keep asking you kind of the same question over and over again, but can you give examples of that? Like, what is it about decentralization that gives us that kind of advantage, like, or what are some examples of people using that advantage?

Philip 20:40 So I mean, one great example is just looking at the trove of documents that gets produced through surveillance of movements, and realizing how little these different analysts and intelligence agencies actually understand about social movements and about organizing. And so one example of that is specifically, there was a great series published by The Intercept after Standing Rock about this intelligence agency, Tiger Swan, and all the surveillance that they did on the Standing Rock movement. And this is an enormous cache of documents. You know, the state spent millions of dollars surveilling and compiling networks and trying to understand how these movements were working on the ground to be able to contain them and neutralize them. And yet, at the same time, the state just didn't seem to fundamentally understand how it was possible that such a large movement wasn't operating along, like, traditional military structuring. They were naming people who were, you know, a media spokesperson, or someone who had a popular Instagram feed who was documenting a lot of it, as the leader of the movement or as supplying arms, when that was so clearly not the case to anyone who was able to participate on the ground. And so that smokescreen of the state not understanding the organic flows of movements or how it's possible for things to exist in a [inaudible] fashion, it creates this haze that allows us to kind of keep, you know, the specifics of how we're relating with each other protected from that surveillance and allows us to remain safe.

Margaret 22:23 Yeah, I had a—Go ahead.

Philip 22:25 I mean, the counterpoint to that is just when states—when militaries are engaging with traditionally organized enemies, you know, whatever might be a centrally-commanded military unit, it's really easy to, you know, be able to identify the central command and eliminate it. Versus, you know, states, armies, militaries engaging with irregular guerrilla warfare is a very difficult situation to be able to differentiate between combatants and non-combatants. And, you know, I really love to point at the example of the United States military losing to the Vietcong, you know, the greatest military empire power on the planet losing to some communist guerrillas in the jungle who, you know, were able to operate in a way that this empire was just not able to respond.

Margaret 23:21 Yeah, so that's like, one of the things I like about security culture is it helps create that smokescreen because—and I like the way that phrasing it as a smokescreen—where they have a hard time seeing what a decentralized movement is doing. And a lot of times we don't understand what a decentralized movement is doing. It's like, I feel like whenever I'm engaged in a very chaotic and organic situation, I spend about half my time just trying to figure out what's going on, right? And—in order to understand what's happening so I can figure out how to best engage with it. But on the other hand, I like how a security culture—it's like, I don't know which of my friends are up to things besides what they talk about. And I don't need to know and it also it helps—it helps to minimize—I mean, like, you brought up earlier about the like social clout and, like, I think one of the things that destroys movements is social capitalism, is the idea of, like, everyone's trying to gain clout, everyone's trying to, you know, I mean, to say it cynically, you know, like, have the coolest podcast and get everyone to support your Patreon or whatever the fuck, right? But—and even if you're trying to do that for the best of reasons, even if you're trying to do that in order to like, you know, get out good ideas or whatever, social capital ends up playing a lot into it and social capital games are really dangerous. and way more than like being a cool podcaster or whatever, being a cool militant is like—to the people who know—that's like extra cool. And you get way too much say and what's going on if everyone like is, like, "Oh, yeah, like, she's doing all this like crazy shit," right? And it's kind of this thing, it's like a little bit hard, but you kind of like learn to just accept like, "Oh, alright, well, like I'm a secret badass and no one knows." Well like, not me, but like, you know, maybe when I was younger, I don't know. But like, I don't know—you talk about the smokescreen thing, it's just like, I literally don't know who's up to no good, you know, and that's great. It feels really good. I'm like, I literally can't snitch because I have no fucking clue. One of the things that you were talking about earlier, or that we were talking about earlier, that I feel like is worth breaking down for people who are, you know—I mean, obviously, this podcast is about preparedness, right? And I believe that revolt is an important part of preparedness. But people might not necessarily know what we're talking about when we talk about, like, snitch-jacketing, fed-jacketing, bad-jacketing, you know, which are like, slang terms or terms that we've come up with because this just happens over and over and over again and we want ways to be able to identify it quickly. But what the fuck did those mean? Are you able to break that down?

Philip 26:05 Sure. Yeah. Um, let me first—first, like, explicitly name some of the tools of state repression. I think that might be a helpful thing.

Margaret 26:14 Yeah. Explicit stuff.

Philip 26:15 So in my like conceptualization, ultimately, we have to recognize that challenging and unjust power system, that power system has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. So as we're challenging white supremacy, capitalism, militarism, you know, we are putting ourselves in a position where those systems are going to want to then minimize our ability to change them. And we get our power through working together collectively. And so I kind of see that fundamental tool of state repression has been isolation. A quote that I always go to of how clear that is from J. Edgar Hoover, who was the director of the FBI during the counterintelligence program against the Black Panthers, where his main objective—he, you know, writes that it's to expose, to disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize the activities of these black nationalist organizations. So there's a really intentional, conscious push from these state actors to isolate us and to neutralize us. And the ways that they do that historically has been through surveillance, both to gather information, but also as a sort of intimidation, you know, show of power through arrest, whether that's legitimate or illegitimate, through grand juries and legal intimidation, through smear campaigns in the media and discrediting movements, or, you know, saying these protesters are bad because they engage in these types of tactics, through disinformation and spreading paranoia within movements, promoting infighting, blackmail, infiltration, entrapment, threats, and you know, again, all the way up to police brutality and outright assassinations. But so a big way has been by planting informants, by planting undercover agents and those undercover agents either provoking people into committing acts of the state is then enabled us as justification for repression—so we've seen that with the RNC, the Republican National Convention, where an undercover agent encouraged two people to try to use Molotov cocktails and then that resulted in them getting arrested and facing lengthy prison sentences through federal court. But undercovers and informants also can be there to just spread misinformation to break trust, to disrupt group dynamics. And that's just been a really clear way that popular movements have been repressed historically. And so I think that's a reason that it's really easy for us now, as we're worried about security, to say, "Oh, there must be an informant," or like, "Oh, I know that this has happened in the past and so I'm extra aware of this possibility." And one of the outcomes of that is that people who are suspected of being involved in movements with bad intentions can be labeled as an informant, or as a snitch. And so that's basically snitch-jacketing is when you say, "I think this person is working for the police or is providing information," without having clear evidence. And this is something that's really personal to me because I, you know, I've learned a lot of my security practices through trial and error, and there's been error and I've messed up and I've hurt friends and I've hurt movements that have been a part of through dynamics just like this. And I think that's, you know, something I want to hold a lot of humility and hold a lot of accountability for is that I'm saying all these things, but these aren't easy things to implement.

Margaret 30:05 Yeah.

Philip 30:05 You know, the response to snitch-jacketing, or the response to thinking that someone might be a snitch, isn't to snitch-jacket, but to confront them directly with your concerns and be able to establish, you know, some way of trying to work through that conflict. Being able to address other people with your concerns, with your direct concerns, not things that you're assuming or projecting, and, you know, being able to name things directly, as they are. So saying, "Oh, I am skeptical of this person, because they are sketching me out by taking photos in times that I think are really inappropriate," or "Because they're always asking questions that kind of seem to be digging at trying to expose illegal activities," or "I'm not really sure if they are who they say they are because they're never telling me any information about where they're from or what they do."

Margaret 31:01 Right.

Philip 31:02 And so, therefore, this person clearly must be working for the FBI and is here as a plant to disrupt our movement. Therefore, this person is a snitch, and I mean, yes, sure, that has happened historically. But in my appraisal, labeling someone is a snitch does probably just as much if not more damage than just name—than that person actually being a snitch. Because it's all of a sudden creating a huge atmosphere of distrust.

Margaret 31:29 Right.

Philip 31:29 It's creating paranoia. It's exposing huge divisions within the movement. And so even if that person isn't a snitch, by labeling them as a snitch, you've essentially just done the state's work for them of spreading distrust and isolation within movement,

Margaret 31:45 Which is cool because then you can say, "Oh, that person's snitch-jacketing people, they must be a fed." You know, because if you're doing the state's work... Obviously don't do that. And that's called "fed-jacketing." The idea of saying instead of—it's the same fucking concept. It's like, you know, someone's probably a fed instead of—

Philip 32:04 Yeah.

Margaret 32:05 Yeah, one of the ways that I've always heard people talk about it that I've always appreciated is just: judge people by their behavior, not whether or not, like, they're a cop. Like, so rather than assuming, "I think that person's a cop," just be like, "This person is doing something that is making us all less safe." So address that, you know. Address the fact that this person is taking pictures at inappropriate times. Address your distrust of someone, right" But not by saying, like, "I think they're a cop," unless you have hard fucking evidence that they're a cop, you know?

Philip 32:41 Yeah, I really go back time and time again, in thinking about security culture, and seeing really clear intersections between security culture and harm reduction, and transformative justice and conflict resolution. You know, I think, in our society, we aren't given a lot of tools for working through conflict and that is especially aggravated by being in this very intense atmosphere that a lot of activists are existing under. But if we were able to—proactively, before engaging in movement work together, as much as possible—generate, what those norms are and what our shared agreements for how we're sharing space with each other are, then we're able to set the container. And then when someone steps over those boundaries, we're able to hold them accountable more directly. And that's ultimately what security culture is, you know, it's culture as a set of shared practices that are embodied, that we're using all the time. And I think it's really important, again, to just make that explicit. And I know that's not always possible, because sometimes we're working with people that we just met. But as much as we're able to, I really like to think about what it would look like if we were able to generate explicit norms and boundaries with each other, and then be able to hold each other to that and say, "Hey, you're making me uncomfortable right now because I told you earlier that I wasn't interested in talking about my historical involvement in that movement, and you're asking me a lot of questions about it. And so I'm just going to ask that you stop asking me those questions."

Margaret 34:20 Yeah.

Philip 34:21 Instead of saying, "Oh, well, this person is now a snitch."

Margaret 34:23 Right.

Philip 34:24 But that level of direct communication is challenging, and it's really challenging especially when we're all working in adrenalized frontline environments, or when we haven't gotten a lot of sleep and we're just existing up coffee and cigarettes. And it really speaks to me of just how much there needs to be this intentional push of like building in, like, a feminist ethic of care and of group cohesion and saying, like, we are going to work through this together.

Margaret 34:56 One of the things when you talk about holding people accountable to these new social norms that we create, this sort of brings up kind of the dark side of security culture, which is cliquishness. And, well, it's tto things: when I think of the downsides of security culture—I'm clearly a proponent of security culture, I'm trying to do an episode on it. But when I think of the things that we need to be aware of as we attempt to implement it, the two biggest downsides that I think about is creating cliquish, closed off social circles and basically making, you know, obviously, we would never want to be called a Vanguard, but you know, a revolutionary clique. And also, basically making ourselves ineffective. Those are the two biggest concerns that I have. And one of the things that I would say about it is that, like, if we hold people—and it's, actually what you're talking about is great for this, because you talk about, like, trying to set these social norms explicitly, instead of just having them be implicit, right? Because when we hold people accountable to social norms that they don't know about, like, that's not a good way to build a movement, you know? If people that come in and they act in ways that are totally normal for them and, like, you know, their culture, which isn't, like, cool kid anarchy or whatever the fuck, it's really quick—it's really easy if we take these—if we—if these social norms and if these boundaries are so important to us, and, you know, many of them should be very important to us. But if we see them as, like, something that of course people should just know and respect, then we just kick everyone out and get fucking nowhere.

Philip 36:41 Yeah, that is a really important thing to bring up. And, I think especially talking about security as this adaptive changing field, the practices we have in the way that we approach this work needs to change as the moment that we're organizing in changes. And I personally learned a lot of my security culture norms and practices through the lens of an anarchist punk subculture, specifically through the lens of frontline forest defense and other land defense campaigns. And the sort of tools and cultural norms that came out of that are ones that evolved really to protect people who were working in small groups or by themselves, engaging in very risky actions—you know, generally like under the cover of night, so to speak—and so it did lead to a set of practices that had a inherent cliquiness to them. I think we're in a really different historical moment right now. I think we're in a moment where mass unrest has spread all across the country in a way that I think is pretty historically unprecedented within the United States. And our security culture norms should change to reflect this mass moment we're in. So it's no longer the same situation as it was in the late 90s or early 2000s during the Green Scare. And one of the most important things that our movement can and needs to be doing during this time is being accessible to people who are newly becoming politically active, who don't have those sub cultural norms, and are coming into movement spaces for maybe the first time and are excited to be part of this huge uprising.

Margaret 38:33 Yeah.

Philip 38:34 And so something I've experienced a lot of the time is, just as much as there's that social clout of, you know, being the badass militant, I think there's also social clout of being the super secure militant.

Margaret 38:47 Oh, yeah, totally.

Philip 38:48 Who doesn't answer any questions and it's super dodgy and you don't know anything about them. And that's, I think, a really alienating experience for people who are just coming to movements for the first time without having that sort of background, and it's almost as much of a risk as the state repression itself for isolating our movements. You know, we're not existing solely in a static confrontation with state repression. But the terrain is changing a lot. And so we need to be evaluating what the different risks of our actions are. And if the risk of state repression because our security culture is too weak is lower than the risk of isolation because our security culture is too strong, then we need to be changing our security culture.

Margaret 39:42 Yeah. Yeah, I um, you know, the less directly involved I am in the streets, the more I read history-which is sort of a classic getting older move, which I'm not super proud of, but whatever-and one of the things that I'm like learning more and more as I read through different revolutionary history is that, like, sometimes the only way to be safest is fucking win. Like, and there's the quote, shit. German person... I don't even remember what revolution it was from, it was like before the 1848 stuff, but it was—this revolutionist has a quote, 'Those who make half a revolution dig their own grave." And, you know, and that person watched their friends die in jail, right? And, like, because if we—if we go half way we're just gonna fucking lose and—or die or, you know, whatever. Like if, I don't know, I think about it a lot like this—in the current moment, like to just be like really concrete and to not—I am not giving advice at all. Like, I just I literally don't know what the best thing to do is, but I think we need to have a conversation about it—is that like, okay, so on one level, taking pictures of burning cop cars is a really good way to get someone sent to prison, right? Especially if you take pictures of people who are setting cop cars on fire, which I think you just shouldn't fucking do. But if it weren't—

Philip 41:19 Absolutely. For all listeners, don't take photos of people doing illegal activity.

Margaret 41:24 But it's also the pictures of cop cars on fire that are causing the revolt to spread, right? And a movement that says, "No journalists," or you know, certainly, like no, no—and I am not trying to fucking weigh in on this. I am way too armchair on this particular uprising because I live somewhere where it's not particularly conflictual. But it's not as simple as like, just like, no one ever take pictures of any of this, ever. No one talks about what's happening, ever. Because if people don't know that this shit is happening, no one's going to get inspired. And for me, that is always, that has always worked out to mean, take a picture of, like, the broken window rather than the person breaking the window, you know? There's like,

Philip 42:19 Yeah.

Margaret 42:22 But it's...

Philip 42:24 Which is aa security culture tool right there of, your recognizing the different risks inherent in each activity, the risk of someone getting legally implicated through a photo, or the risk of your movement getting drowned out in the media cycle because there isn't popular media representing what we're doing.

Margaret 42:45 Yeah.

Philip 42:45 And then specifically, you're talking about our intentional ability to choose how to navigate those risks, and doing something that gives us the benefit of having our own popular media, of being able to build the movement while doing our best to protect people from the like actual legal evidence of, "Oh, here is this photo of you doing such and such action."

Margaret 43:07 Yeah.

Philip 43:07 And again, it's hard to know specifically what kind of photos might lead to incriminating evidence, hypothetically, but we can make educated guesses. And really, it is all about risk management and knowing the risks and it's not a one-sided risk. It's not, there's just the risk of state repression. You're absolutely right, that the risk of isolation and of getting swept under the rug is going to be a huge thing. And I, you know, again, it feels difficult to try to talk about this in an hour-long podcast because it feels like so many very large, important intersections between security culture and all these other fields that you could, you know, have an entire 'nother interview about. But I think one important one is movement strategy. And, you know, so being another armchair philosopher with you here. Looking at the historical moment of Biden about to enter the White House, you know, for the last four years, there's been this coalition of middle class liberals aligning themselves more actively with antifascist and radical left movements because there's been this clear enemy in the eyes of a Trump presidency. And I think historically we can see that once there's a return to quote/unquote "normalcy," you know, to attempt to reestablish the neoliberal order, there's going to be a move by the Democratic Party, by the centrists and the liberals, to separate themselves from the radical anarchists, the radical left, the militant component that has been supporting their return to power in some ways by being positioned against Trump. And I think it's really important to think about what that means for us practicing security at this time, of trying to weigh the pros and the risks of maintaining that relationship. And trying to use this as a time to continue to build power and not sort of go back to the edges of the social sphere because there's a Democrat process. Again, I'm not providing any concrete recommendations, but I think we should think about the implications of our actions. And, you know, one big place of this is thinking about how, in different contexts, militant actions can be really inspiring, or they can be really alienating for the rest of the population. And there are times that militant action can totally fractionalize and destroy a movement. And, potentially, this could be one of those times. You know, again, I'm not trying to say that people should or shouldn't do anything, but I think we should think about the coalition that has been being built for the last four years and how we can try to use this time to strengthen it and try to build more collective power with people who are shifting further and further to the left from the centrist position, instead of holing up in our militancy, in our purity of our anarchist movement, because that is going to leave us high and dry to fascists and then to state repression. And so it's going to be a good cop/bad cop of the liberals and the fascists against us.

Margaret 46:20 When you talk about, like, there are times when militant action will inspire people and their time where it'll divide people, I think about, like, people often make one claim or the other, you know? They'll say like, "Oh, violence alienates people," or, "Fighting the police alienates people." And it's like, first of all, it's like, yeah, probably alienates certain people but there's other people who certainly are like, "Oh, these people are, like, actually fucking about it and they're willing to, like, defend themselves and each other." And that's really inspiring, right? It's gonna be different with different people. But I think about it when I, like—just talk about survival bullshit that I think about way too often—when I'm building a fire in a precarious situation and you, know, building a campfire in a precarious situation, there are times when if you blow on the fire, it goes out. And, but also, if you never blow on the fire, you'll never have a fire and it'll go out. And, you know, that's the main metaphor that I think of when I think of that shit. When—you just have to know the right moments. You have to know the right moments, both like sort of on a tactical level of like reading the crowd around you, and also on a strategic level. I personally think that the main way to not go back to the margins is to, like, not be fucking shy about what we believe in, and that it's a reasonable thing to believe.

Philip 47:44 Yeah.

Margaret 47:45 And to like—

Philip 47:46 Absolutely.

Margaret 47:47 —avoid cliquishness. And it even gets into some of the security culture stuff you're talking about arlier. I was thinking about it where it was like—like, I have these like fucking Nazis. Hey Nazis listening to this show. Hello. And I'm just so impressed with the fact that people might hate listen to a podcast. And you know, and like one of the things that like Nazis always try and do when they doxx people or whatever is their like, they're gonna, like, tell people, right? They're gonna be like—and like, you can't fucking call my family and be like, "Did you know your daughter's an anarchist?" You know? You can't even call the local cops and be like, "Did you know Margaret Killjoy is an anarchist?" Right? And I'm in a different position than most people, right, because I intentionally do a lot of public facing work. But still on like an interpersonal level, just fucking be about what you're about and don't be ashamed of being about what you're about without shaming other people for being about what they're about. And that's how you find common ground. And that's how you, like, one of my goals is I want people to be like—like, I know, people who don't shit on the anarchists when all this stuff started because they, like, know some good anarchists who are nice to them.

Philip 48:54 Yeah.

Margaret 48:55 And so a lot of people want to hide the fact that they're anarchists or whatever other given, like, radical leftist position. And sometimes that's necessary from a security point of view. But you brought it up earlier when you were talking about how there's certain things you do have to keep hush hush, right? Like, like, no one should specifically know, like—actually, it's funny. I just like basically don't commit crime. But no one should specifically know I, like, you know, graffiti-ed to building in 2002—which I actually didn't do. But, like, they don't need to know that. Right? But I'm gonna be like, "Yeah, I was involved in anti war movement in 2002," or whatever the fuck to date myself, you know. And like, it's useful, and I don't know. It's just stuff I think about way too much. And the other part of it that you were talking about that I want to bring up is that when I first got into anarchism my friend was, like, "Oh, anarchists, you're the berserkers of the peace movement." And I was like, "What?" And he was like, "Yeah, when they need people to go run at the front and die, that's you." And he was talking shit. But more and more I see that like radicals have a high risk tolerance, right? And anti-authoritarians in particular have often been willing to build coalitions with people and willing to put ourselves at risk for broader movement goals with people who turn around and, like, turn their backs on us and let us go to jail or whatever. And I don't think that means that we shouldn't be risk tolerant. I don't think that it means, like, in some ways this is our advantage. But we do have to learn how to not be useful idiots. I don't know.

Philip 50:47 Yeah, and especially right now as there's a nationwide conversation about defunding and abolishing the police, it feels like such an important time to be putting these anarchist perspectives forward in a way that's actually contributing to people within the broader community being able to see us publicly and proudly, showing that we can live our values in this way. And it also, I think, is worth noting that different people have different stakes, whether that's based on social location, or the activities were involved in, the types of projects we're doing. But, personally speaking, as a white person, you know, I've got different social privileges and resources that I'm able to use. And so being able to mobilize a lot of the social capital I have and then add that with a layer of saying, "Oh, and actually I do fully believe that we should abolish the police and abolish prisons and implement transformative justice frameworks." Doing that doesn't really pose much of a risk to me. And it makes this entire project a lot more legible. And I do feel like there's been a big concern I've seen in a lot of anarchist communities about being authentic with our politics. You know, there's sort of been an emphasis that I've experienced of people, maybe downplaying their politics and trying to more just live their politics directly through the actions they do. And that's important. Of course that's important. But I do think that we're in a very different moment right now. And you're right that I think it's a bit of a sink or swim time.

Margaret 52:24 Yeah. Yeah, I think that we even see this—like, to take anarchism out of it for a second—like Antifa Or, you know, antifascism. Like, they really tried to Red Scare that shit really fucking hard in the past couple years. And it clearly worked for a large minority of the population, right? Antifa is like, code for terrorists to a huge chunk of the population, but only a minority of the population. And I think it's the reason is only a minority population is that so many people of all walks of life were just like, "What? Yeah, that's normal. It's totally normal to be against fascism." And like, watching Richard Spencer get punched and then having the whole world just be like, "Ya know, that tracks. I dunno. Punch white supremacists. That make sense to me," And so when we refuse to—when we when we're about what we're about, like, I think it fucking helps. Yeah.

Philip 53:30 Yeah, absolutely. And, I mean, again, I want to just go back to security culture having risk management as one of its core goals and aims. And I come from a background of doing a lot of, like, large management-type projects, where I interact with all these sort of tools that get developed in like the business world or the nonprofit world for making decisions. It's actually a really helpful, like, resource bin to go and get stuff from. And one of those tools is a risk matrix. So it's basically a graph where you have likelihood of something happening on one side, and then severity if this thing did happen or, you know, negative impact if this thing did happen. And then you can kind of plot different scenarios on their, on how likely they are to happen versus the negative impact. So the likelihood of the problem versus the severity of the problem helps us make decisions about how to approach all those problems. So like one thing would be driving is something that we do every day, it happens very frequently, and the possibility of you getting into a car crash would have really high, you know, potentially lethal consequences. And so as a result, car companies put all of this energy into safety mechanisms and airbags and all that. So thinking about this in security context situation, by actually quantifying, by explicitly naming the different potential outcomes of the work we're doing and the risks associated with them, I think it helps us visualize it more. And so the risk of us being authentic about our politics, and of then experiencing state repression, seems like a very high impact risk. And so we are risk adverse to that, or I historically have been risk adverse to being authentic about my politics. But the much higher likelihood—although lower risk—much higher likelihood outcome, is that being isolated, and not being able to build our movements has resulted in anarchism being socially isolated historically and, you know, of neoliberalism or centrist regimes being able to just marginalize them invisiblize these groups. And I know that these are things that we've already been talking about, but I think that that same sort of risk matrix can help us similarly with maybe smaller decisions. If we're making a decision about what types of actions we feel comfortable personally engaging in during a campaign, you know, we can think about, okay, these are the different frameworks that we have for what capacity the local police have, the amount of surveillance that we feel we're being under, the likelihood of this action succeeding, and actually being able to graph all these things can help us make informed decisions in a way that just thinking about or just talking about it, sometimes you can get lost.

Margaret 56:50 Yeah.

Philip 56:53 Another tool that I really appreciate using a little bit is kind of on that same note, it's the spectrum of risk. I think it came from CrimethInc, but it talks about different vulnerabilities of actions to state repression. Or like different levels of, like, illicit-ness of actions. So, you know, from the most mainstream and acceptable of a permitted march to, you know, the most nefarious, evil, militant anarchist thing you can imagine, and a whole spectrum in between them. And then for those different actions or activities, there's a different accompanying level of security discretion that we can use where with the mainstream march, you want to be as public as possible about it, because your objective is to get the message out, to get people out to make a big strong showing. Whereas with the evil, nefarious nighttime plot, you don't want any public attention on it whatsoever until it's completed.

Margaret 57:56 Right.

Philip 57:56 Theoretically, you know, whatever the objectives are. And again, a whole spectrum in the middle. And so, especially at this time, is showing us the strength of popular movements getting hundreds of 1000s of people out in the street, I do think that we're leaning maybe more towards the wanting to be public side of things. And if we're using security tools, if we're using discretion that limits the reach, then we're actually inflicting harm upon ourselves by being overly cautious. And so we are then engaging in, again, the isolation that counterintelligence is trying to inflict on us the whole time.

Margaret 58:37 Yeah, and then—sorry, it's like every—I'm thinking about all this shit wile are you talking about this stuff. I was gonna make a joke earlier while you were talking about how, like, what, no, we shouldn't just make decisions about what crimes to commit based on peer pressure. And then I kind of, like, get lost in this rabbit hole, where I'm thinking about how like so much of our movement historically bases its decisions on what crimes to commit, basically, by peer pressure, which you could also call social capital, or whatever, you know. And I was thinking about in the context of, like, you know, you and I addressing the fact that like, "Hey, anyone listening to this, like, don't fucking take our word for it." Like, I really like that the way that you're describing security culture is a set of tools that people can use to make their own decisions about what risks they want to do—they want to tolerate personally. And I actually think that a security culture tool might be basically, like, if you feel like you're being peer pressured into committing a crime, that's a huge red flag, right? Like, so many of the different infiltrations that have happened, you know—the FBI fucking loves infiltrating radical movements of different types, especially at the moment Islam, you know, like, what it considers, like, Islamic movements or whatever—and manufacturing criminals to then, you know, persecute, right? You know, there's been so many instances of a lot of the actions that people go down for were always the FBI idea in the first place. And one of the main tools, I think, that that happens through is social pressure. And basically, like, I'm now turning this into the ad of like, where like, the kid walks up and is like, "Come on, man, don't you wanna be cool and, like, do drugs or whatever?" Like, no do drugs only if you want to do drugs, and if you want to do drugs, that's fucking cool. If you want to commit crimes, like, you know, whatever, think about the ethics of your actions. Make your decisions based on ethics and risk, not based on crime. Crime just affects the risk part of it. And I don't know, yeah, just like fuckin—like way too often when I meet, like, younger radicals, I just kind of want to be like, "Look, like, I'm not saying be careful but, like, be a little bit careful. And like, don't jump off a bridge because your best friends that you met two months ago are doing it." You know?

Philip 1:01:12 Yeah. And I think a healthy way of doing that is really cultivating a good self-awareness of what your skills and your experience and your acceptable level of involvement is with different kinds of activities and of what you are willing to participate in, you know, ahead of time as much as possible. And being really secure in that and not feeling peer pressure. And again, I think it's easiest and healthiest if we're able to do this in our movement of making that norm established from the get-go in a really clearly articulated way of we're respecting each other's boundaries over what they do or do not want to participate in. And we aren't going to encourage people to do things that they're not comfortable in. But also being able to know what feels right or what feels wrong, having that situational awareness of, "Oh, this feels off to me." And being able to trust our gut instinct, or at least—or at least listen to our gut instinct—at least, you know, give it the time to think about the impact. Because, you know, because—and I do want to again say that, um, you know, I've made poor decisions, solely listening to my gut instinct and not thinking about the other power dynamics that were at play. And that's a real thing, too. But situational awareness and tracking how a situation feels is a big way that our bodies intuitively know to manage risk. I mean, we're living creatures who have existed in a risky world. And we do have ways that we know how to move through that world and keep ourselves safe. And obviously, we're in a totally different context. But trying to tap in to our intuitions is a really helpful way. And I think, you know, again, that goes a lot back to people already practicing security culture on a regular basis, especially people who have experienced trauma or who are targeted by violence and brutality, having a heightened awareness of their surroundings and of the risks that they're being exposed to, and making decisions in a much more intentional and active way than someone who is not at all needing to think about those things because they come from a social location and a privileged background that has insulated them.

Margaret 1:03:36 Could you—like basically saying that, like, if you're a rich kid, you're a lot more—you're a lot safer from—a rich kid, or white or, you know, have different sets of privileges, you're less at risk with the decisions that you're making is that...?

Philip 1:03:52 Um, well, a little bit. I mean, I am saying, if you're a rich white kid, you should go commit crime.

Margaret 1:03:56 [Laughing]

Philip 1:03:59 I am saying that people who have experienced marginalization and brutality, you know, oftentimes will have more situational awareness and will have just like a more natural set of security practices that they're doing to keep themselves safe than someone who hasn't experienced those things. And so being able to cultivate that awareness of what we're interacting with, with who we're interacting with, with our read on the situation, if something feels out of place, if there's a car parked behind the march with unmarked license plates, that looks brand new, and it's got tinted windows, and "Oh, that seems out of place. I wonder if I should keep an eye on that because it's either an undercover cop or a right wing vigilante who's about to drive into the crowd."

Margaret 1:04:49 Right.

Philip 1:04:49 You know, that is security culture and cultivating that awareness of who we're interacting with and how we're interacting with and the different risks is an important tool to just integrate into our everyday practice.

Margaret 1:05:05 No, I like tha. I like this idea that being, like, conscious—like as like a personal security culture technique or whatever—being conscious about what's happening and being conscious about your own choice in the decision or whatever... [Sighs] What am I trying to say? It's like, the people who do shit because they're swept up in it—it's okay to be swept up in what's happening sometimes, right? And I'm not trying to say like, never, like, go with the crowd. Because sometimes also, like going with the crowd'a literally the safest thing. Like, even if like—like, sometimes when all your friends are jumping off a bridge you should probably fucking jump off a bridge. Like, because if you chose your friends carefully—like sometimes I pick—I think about how I like pick my friends very carefully. And so therefore, sometimes I trust their judgment more than my own. And sometimes solidarity, like, requires that. But if you're doing shit just because you're swept up in it, especially a crowd of strangers, especially something you're new to. It's not as good of a scene. And also like the people who do that are like literally more likely to roll. Like, you know, some of the people that I've seen turn state's evidence after, you know, felony arrests or whatever are the people who were just, like, kind of in it for the social capital, they were in it as a social scene. They were, like, you know, like, "Oh, I guess all my friends are an anarchist so I'm an anarchist too," or whatever the fuck, you know? Which is a great way to start getting involved in radical politics is, like, pick cool friends. And, you know, they do cool shit, break the law, breaking the laws, cool. I think I'm allowed to?—I don't know, whatever. And, but the people who don't mean it, I don't trust them as much. And I worry about, like, expressing who I do and don't trust on this show because, like, I just don't trust anyone. But that works for me, but apparently it doesn't work for most people. So, but okay, to run with this paranoia thing for a minute: Like, one of the reasons I think that way is that, like, you know, when I first got involved in political activism or whatever, you know, I was involved in forest defense community in the Pacific Northwest. And I went to some of the last meetings of this particular forest defense crew. And they were just like, tree sitters and shit, right? It was like, it was illegalism but it's, like, above ground illegalism. Like people who sit in a tree are, like, "Hey, I fuckin sit in trees." You know? Like, that's like, one thing I'll like admit to, right? I've like sat in trees. And so it's not—they're not, like, the super sketchy arsonists or whatever running around at night. They're not the ELF. But they certainly were infiltrated as though they were. And I went to some of the last meetings of this organization because I joined it near the end of its time. And then during a FOIA request—a Freedom of Information Act request where you send off to the government and say, "Please give us information about this." Or maybe it was during court discovery, I can't remember which—it came out that, like, I think about 3 out of 8 or 9 people in that meeting were informants or cops of one style or another. And so it's just like, okay. 30% of the people in this movement are informants, you know? And that is, like, the wrong sample to pick from, right? Very few movements—there certainly have been movements that have been as heavily infiltrated as this—but most social movements are not as heavily infiltrated as the environmental movement was during the early 00s. But... I don't know. I don't know why I'm talking about that. I'm not specifically—

Philip 1:08:56 No, that's, um, that's an important point of—I mean, tracking, that not only is it the immediate moment, that you're doing whatever action you're trying to protect through security culture, that discretion is important, but that it's something that you're then carrying with you forever.

Margaret 1:09:16 Yeah.

Philip 1:09:18 And, you know, whatever we want to say about statute of limitations or not, the point is that once you do something that you don't want to talk about, you should be fully prepared to not talk about that forever.

Margaret 1:09:32 Yeah.

Philip 1:09:33 Forever. And I think that's part of the process that maybe gets overlooked. Again, when we're checking in with ourselves about what our boundaries are, what we're comfortable doing and what we're able to do sustainably, think about, am I able to do this and am I able to then hold that with me and not be able to express, you know, "Oh, this specific thing that I did at this specific time gave me this lasting feeling that I really want to process through." And I think that's a really important and so so so frequently overlooked part is that we need to be prepared to be continuing our security culture practices indefinitely onwards.

Margaret 1:10:16 Yeah.

Philip 1:10:16 And so building in some rituals or some practices or some ways of being able to process through the intensity of what happened or to process through grief or honor that experience is I think, a really cool possibility to see emerge out of security culture becoming more sustainable.

Margaret 1:10:38 Yeah. Yeah, because it can—otherwise it can kind of sit in you and just make you, like... Yeah, I think that people don't recognize that when you make certain decisions you make are—especially younger people, she said, sometimes don't realize that, like, actions are permanent, you know? Or, like, decisions you make have permanent impacts, which actually, we forget about in the other direction, too. I think sometimes we forget that, like, the fires we light today are beacons for the future, you know, whatever. Don't start fires do whatever—I'm not trying to tell people what to fucking do. But like, it can—you know, it's like interesting to realize that you're also, like, part of fucking making history too, you know. And so the decisions we make have permanent impacts in positive and negative and more complicated than that ways.

Philip 1:11:39 Absolutely. And I think that's something that I lean in frequently of using security culture in the most dry, analytical way possible, of just thinking about this as a tool to mitigate risk. And that's such a cool thing to also be thinking about the activities we're involved in in the totally idealistic and romantic and visionary ways that they also are. And so security culture, by being so methodical and being able to give me that basis of security to act from, then allows me to be able to like fantasize about the world that I want to be a part of, and not be enmeshed in anxiety or paranoia over how the state is going to respond to me enacting that.

Margaret 1:12:26 Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, I think that having good security cultural practices is a good way to—well it's like prepping in general, right? Like, I have my to go bag or whatever. And it's not so that I can sit around and, like, freak out about what to do if the forest, I mean, catches fire, which is the most likely scenario by which I would need my go bag, right? But I now mostly put the thought of the fear of that out of my head, because I've done roughly the best I can. I have roughly what I would need, if that were the case. And in terms of, like, you know, having the pretense of being a revolutionist or whatever, just inherently by calling myself an anarchist, I—there's a, there is a certain amount of risk, like, you know, I remember trying to explain it to someone that I was like, yeah, if Antifa is designated a domestic terrorist organization or whatever, like, even though I don't do shit, that could really directly impact me personally, because I'm very public about, you know, my beliefs, right? And—but I can't worry about that. And so what I can do instead is come up with my best practices, put them into place, and then be like, you know, not wash my hands of it, but like, basically be like, "Alright, I'm doing the best I can on that front," and, like, yeah, if Biden lives up to his campaign promise of, like, prosecuting anarchists, like, that might impact me, you know. I don't know, we'll see. Like—but that's not within my control. And like, I—what's within my control is to just, like, you know, know who knows about when I graffiti-ed something in 2002, which I didn't do. I literally didn't. It's just a—I'm just trying to come up with a bullshit thing I can say on the show.

Philip 1:14:21 Yeah, but to just drive it home all the time. I mean that's, and that's great. And what you're doing is you're alleviating that possible concern or anxiety over not being prepared for the forest fire by just always being prepared for the forest fire.

Margaret 1:14:37 Yeah.

Philip 1:14:37 You know, you're just mitigating that risk ahead of time. And that's opening you up to being able to do what you really want to be doing safely and not being concerned about all the time because it's just your standard operating procedure.

Margaret 1:14:49 Yeah. Yeah. And then the other thing too with like security culture is just like we also have to make sure it doesn't give us a false sense of safety. And I think you brought this up earlier, but if there's like a point I want to like drive home as we're probably, you know, winding down or whatever is just, like, this isn't safe, right? But honestly, like, choosing to believe in revolution feels like the better when I look at the, like, the cost/benefit analysis. Like, it's safer to—like, we're more likely to survive to be old if we fucking overthrow capitalism and like halt climate change, you know? Even if it, like, brings with it short term risk.

Philip 1:15:36 Yeah. It's up to us to live.

Margaret 1:15:39 Yeah.

Philip 1:15:42 I guess I want to just end on some very specific, concrete things to do for security. This has been really great to talk with you about the overall picture, which I think oftentimes is missing. But it would feel a little remiss to not say some specifics like—

Margaret 1:15:58 Yeah.

Philip 1:15:58 One, don't cooperate with the police. Don't talk with law enforcement. You know, you have a right to remain silent, you have a right to a lawyer, don't answer questions, don't answer questions about your friends. Just be silent.

Margaret 1:16:13 Yeah.

Philip 1:16:14 And a great way to get more comfortable with that is to practice, you know, practice not answering a direct question from police. It's socially awkward, it takes energy. Also, you know, researching know your rights trainings, which are readily available online. And being more informed about some of the safeties that you do have, or some of the ways that you can interact with that is really important. That just feels like the foundational thing: don't talk to cops. Another simple thing would just be, you know, with so much going on digitally because of the pandemic, there's just been a lot going on through Zoom and Facebook and Google. And you should just always assume anything going on over social media or over a large email server is publicly available to right wing vigilantes and to the police. So, as best as you can, try to normalize using encrypted messaging like Signal, or encrypted email like Riseup or Proton Mail just for everything, not just for your activism. And even then don't share things online or over Signal that you wouldn't want read back to you in a courtroom in a criminal hearing.

Margaret 1:17:31 Right.

Philip 1:17:32 And, you know, ultimately I think that just staying abreast as much as possible and reading about counterinsurgency and about state repression and learning about how movements historically have responded is probably the best way to set yourself up. And so I compiled a bunch of resources that I found very helpful historically. Maybe you could list them in the show notes for people. But there's some great—there's some great manuals, both constructed by the state about how to implement counterinsurgency and how to manage popular movements, and then also lots of great books just looking at how social movements have resisted that and continue to win.

Margaret 1:18:15 Okay, is there any other—any other thing that we didn't talk about that we should have?

Philip 1:18:23 You know, there's a lot of talk of operational security in the prepper world, which is kind of the closest thing I found to right-winger security, culture, and timing and time again I'm just so surprised how, at the end of the day, their solution to security risks comes through stockpiling ammunition and being prepared to shoot your way out of any situation. And the thing that I love about being part of this community is how much of a focus we have on relationships and on community. And ultimately, I do think we get our security from each other. You know, we're only as strong as we're able to be with each other. And being able to work through conflict and being able to work with each other safely to create the kind of world is so much more transformative than stockpiling ammunition and dehydrated food in your basement.

Margaret 1:19:18 Yeah.

Philip 1:19:19 And, you know, at the same time, there's a lot of great stuff to be found through right-wing and prepper communities on operational security. That's especially a huge topic in military intelligence realms and is well worth researching. Also, again, looking at situational awareness tools and techniques, which is another big hub used by various prepper and right wing groups. Looking up different risk management tools, which is, you know, a huge field developed by like business leaders and techies and nonprofits. There's a lot of tools out there and we can apply them to do the good work that we need to be doing.

Margaret 1:20:01 That makes sense. Yeah, one of the—you know, just like reading about, um, just to continue with the like, the only way out is through kind of concept sometimes is I read about—when you're talking about how, like, the main way to stay safe is relationships, right? Like solidarity has always been our strongest weapon. And in a very, like, practical, direct way, even down to like when revolutionists all go to jail for trying to have a revolution, the main thing that gets them out of jail again is that when other people keep trying to have a revolution, and whether that revolution wins and frees the prisoners, or whether, basically, the existing system is like, "Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck. Maybe if we let some of these people out they'll like, you know." With the Frederick Douglass quote, "Power concedes nothing without a demand," you know?

Philip 1:21:01 Yeah.

Margaret 1:21:02 And yeah, just not abandoning people when they're inside or not abandoning people, just period, is our best bet even as individuals to stay safe.

Philip 1:21:20 Yeah, absolutely.

Margaret 1:21:22 Okay, so final thoughts?

Philip 1:21:26 I'm just happy to be able to be on here and share some of the tools that I've learned. But I really want to say I'm not an expert. And if you're in a different situation than me, you've got different tools to use, you've got different lessons to learn. You know, this is what we make of it. And I'm really excited to see the ways that people are going to continue to adapt these tools for their own circumstances.

Margaret 1:21:47 Yeah, totally. All right. Well, thanks so much for being on the show. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast you should tell people about it, because it's not a security culture that—I was supposed to try and make a joke about how it's, like, security culture as relates to telling people about things about the podcast, but I don't know how to land it. So I won't tell that joke. But you can tell people about the podcast and that would mean a lot. And people have been doing that and that means a lot to me. If you want to support the podcast more directly, you can do so by following me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And if you support me at any level, you get a bunch of access to zines and music and me writing, "I'm sorry I'm late on the following things" notes to you all that are painfully earnest and heartfelt. And if you support me at $10, I'll mail you a zine. If you support me at $20, I'll shout out your name in a minute like I'm about to shout out people's names in a minute. But also, if you live off of less money than I make on Patreon, please don't give your money to me. Give your money to yourself, because you need it more than I do. And if you want access to the content that I make that's behind that pay wall, just contact me and you can have access to that. You can contact me in general. You can contact me on Instagram, which is Instagram @margaretkilljoy, or I'm @magpiekilljoy on Twitter. Don't follow me on Facebook. I have—I hate Facebook. I use it. But it's weird. I don't know. I mean, they're all weird. You're not really waiting for me to talk about social media, you're waiting for me to end the episode. So in particular I would like to thank Eleanor and Mike and Satara and Kat J, The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, Nora, and Chris. Yeah, you all make this possible in a way that warms my heart and the aforementioned embarrassingly heartfelt and earnest ways. Anyway, thank you all so much for listening and I hope you're doing as well as you can with everything that's going on. And we keep us safe.

S1E23 - Dibs on Fitness for Every Body

Episode Notes

The guest, Dibs, runs a website called dibsfitness.com and can be found on Instagram at @dibs_pt.

The host, Margaret Killjoy, can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy, instagram @margaretkilljoy, and on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

Transcript:

Margaret 00:14 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast where it feels like the end times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy, and this week I'm going to be talking to Dibs who is a personal fitness trainer in Montreal. I'm going to be talking with them about personal fitness, obviously, I guess that's the name of the episode that you clicked on. And they have a lot of really useful and concrete tips for how people with different relationships to their body can engage in personal fitness and training. And of course, well, it's worth pointing out that this episode does come with a content warning. We do talk about eating disorders, and we talk about relationships to eating and fitness and the way that they can become obsessive. So—and that that question is pretty clearly marked. It doesn't come out of the blue. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And here's a jingle from another podcast on the network.

Jingle 01:12 Gooooood morning slaves! Looking for relief from the steaming hot plate of bullshit served up on the daily by the mainstream media? Are you thirsting for solid and reliable information to escape the mind-numbing vortex of corporate news and Trump tweets? Are you ready to check out every time you hear a despacito on the radio one more fucking time? Then tune your dial to sub.Media, a mouthwatering hub of infotainment and subversion that'll make you want to quit your job and join the motherfucking resistance. Dive into our newly designed website and gorge yourself on one of the 500+ videos and audio tracks from our vast library of anarchist films, hip hop, and riot porn, or choose from one of our original shows like Trouble, Burning Cop Car, A is for Anarchy, Video Ninja Reports, and the Stimulator. Fuck Netflix, watch sub.Media.

Margaret 02:07 Okay, and Dibs, if you would like to introduce yourself with your name, which I guess I just said, and your pronouns and any, you know, what you do for work, any political or organizational affiliations that make sense with what you're going to be talking about today? Also maybe, like, your identity as relates to some of what you're going to be talking about today?

Dibs 02:26 Sure, so I'm Dibs, my pronouns, they/them, I am a certified personal trainer or fitness instructor some might call it, so I have my certificate 3 and 4 in group fitness and one-on-one training. I identify as transgender, and I have ADHD, and I am sort of still recovering from an eating disorder. So I guess that's relevant to probably what will come up, maybe?

Margaret 02:57 Yeah, that actually-that is a lot, like-and that's actually something I'd love to talk to you about what we're talking about this is like food and our relationships to food. So I wanted to have you on because I spent a while looking around, I was—I wanted to get someone on who is a personal trainer. And, of course, one of the problems with personal trainers, not personal trainers themselves but the fitness industry, is that it is very ablest, very centering of cis people, very centering of like thin people, and also centering of the weight experience, and just has a lot of problems. And then you came highly-recommended through our mutual friend as a personal trainer who specifically works to kind of counteract that stuff. And the reason I want to have someone on is talking about personal fitness: one is just sort of selfish. I'm like, "Oh, I'm getting older, and I need to worry about this stuff more." But you know, it's like—okay, it's a weird tangent to start with. But the first time I really ever thought about this stuff was years ago I was playing accordion and Amsterdam and a friend of mine walked by, and he was this older, like, super tough anarchist guy. And, you know, maybe in his 40s or something—actually might have been much younger than thatb ut when you're young, everyone seems old—and he said, "Oh, what are you doing?" I was like, "Oh, I'm playing accordion." And he said, and I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm coming home from the gym." And I was like, "Why are you at the gym?" Because I was an idiot. And he was like, "Well, because we want to have a revolution and we need to be stronger than the police." And I was like "Shit."

Dibs 04:34 Great answer.

Margaret 04:35 I'd never thought about it from that point of view.

Dibs 04:38 Yeah.

Margaret 04:40 And that's kind of where I'm coming from personally about a lot of like fitness goals. And I think that a lot of people are looking at this, as the world becomes more conflictual, they might be more interested in personal fitness. As the world gets a little crazier, they might be more interested in personal fitness. Would you be able to talk about your own experiences where you're coming from about personal fitness and kind of what got you engaged with it?

Dibs 05:04 Yeah. I mean, I've always been an active kid. I definitely have, you know, some symptoms of ADHD just have many hobbies, try all the things, like, as a child in like primary school, I did everything from like tap dancing, to soccer, to softball to netball to guitar lessons. Like, I always had, like, something that made me need to want to move. And then, so I played team sports for a while. And then when I left school and I became an adult, that's sort of when I looked at the gym for exercise. And at the same time of leaving school is when I started to think about my gender. And I've spoken about this to many people with, like, how my sort of gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia is very much intertwined. And so I don't know, you know, what led me more down the path of wanting to lift weights and stuff. But, you know, wanting—having—being transgender and wanting to change your body. Before I started HRT, and before I had top surgery or anything, like, my only option or what I saw was to train so I started doing weightlifting. And then my dad passed away when I was 19 from heart disease. Suddenly, just one night, he went to bed and didn't wake up. And that scared me.

Margaret 06:29 Yeah.

Dibs 06:30 And I was like, well, I, you know, I want to live longer than 44 maybe. I mean, now I'm not so sure. But, you know, I was like, okay well, these are the things that led to that for him. What can I do to change my lifestyle? And yeah, and then I went from gym to gym, and I've done the fad, you know, lose nine kilos in six weeks, I've done those dumb challenges a couple times. And I've done—you know, and then I became a personal trainer and I found a gym to work at and that was a whole—that's a big story itself. It was very culty and so toxic and weird and straight and suburbian—suburban, sorry. But uh, yeah. So that's sort of where my journey—my fitness journey in a nutshell.

Margaret 07:20 No, that makes sense. And it brings up a ton of things that I'm really curious to ask you about. Because I've had some of those same experiences of like, you know, when I would go and study martial arts, I would go and study martial arts like, "Hello, fellow cisgendered men," and like, it would never really work, you know, like, people couldn't quite figure out what to make of me. And usually, I didn't get along very socially in any of the martial arts gyms that I've trained in. So, for listeners who are just starting to want to get into personal fitness, I guess, where do you begin? And I know that obviously, like, hiring you, for example, would be a good way to start. But that isn't going to be available for everyone. And, you know, like, how do you begin? How do you assess where you're at? How do you start building program that works for you?

Dibs 08:19 Yeah, it's, uh, it's tough. Like, I think the overwhelm is in the choice because anyone can go on the internet and look up, you know, "home workout program," or "three day home workout program," or whatever. And there's so much free stuff out there that's just copy and paste, cookie cutter bs that, like could work for some people, but it's not going to work for the majority of people. So I guess, like, start—there's a lot—there's so much on social media right now that's for queer people and for people of all different bodies and abilities, especially like on YouTube as well, you can find little communities of people who were various abilities and various backgrounds showing what you can use with just your body or like very cheap pieces of equipment. So, you know, using the internet is great, but then where do you start? And then if that's overwhelming you, I guess like, if you've done something in the past and you've sort of fallen off the wagon, you can go back to that thing. So like did you use to cycle? Did used to swim? Did you used to play team sports? What about that sport did you like or what muscle groups did you like working the most, you know? Like, was it your agility and your hand/eye coordination if you're playing tennis, and what can you sort of relate that to? That's another thing that you can start practicing if you don't necessarily have a tennis court near where you live in, you know? So it's like, you have to be—start slow and be really kind to yourself to not expect too much too soon. And the act of just making something a small habit that you maintain through, you know, half the year or year is a massive goal in massive achievement in itself. So, you know, if you don't know—if you really want to learn how to squat or do a push up, you can—there are so many articles on working your way up to a push up or working your way up to a chin up or something like that. Everything can be broken down into much smaller steps in fitness. But my sort of mantra is—what I what I like to promote to everyone is joyful movement, and you find the movement that brings you joy, and you're going to do it, and it's not going to be like that daunting task that hangs over your head.

Margaret 10:35 So rather than like, you know, screaming, "I'm doing this for Sparta!" and then doing like 50 pushups every morning or whatever, like...

Dibs 10:43 Yeah, like—because yeah I know, like so many people, like, "Oh, I just do 20 push ups and 50 sit ups before I go to bed every night." And that's—like, my mom says that. She's like, "I do my 20 sit ups before bed and like 20 squats, and that's how I'm gonna keep my belly fat away." And I'm like, oh my God. Like you don't—and that's not fun for her. She doesn't like doing it. She just thinks that's what she has to do to look hot for her boyfriend. And, you know, like you—but now she plays—or well, before the pandemic—she played adults all-gender soccer. And she—that was what she was what she thought was fun, because she played with some people from that she worked with so she got to see her work colleagues, she got to, you know, have fun in a non-competitive teamsport environment. Like, yeah, basically—I mean, I know, even if we are doing this for serious business, because we want to, you know, fight off police and survive the apocalypse. You can still, while the world is still [inaudible] have fun. Find the thing that brings you joy and, you know, make light of it. Because that's the only way you're going to commit to it before the end times when you're like, "Oh, shit." You'd rather be prepared—this is the whole point. Yes. You're preparing now.

Margaret 12:01 Yeah. Oh, that's actually that's really interesting because I, you know—um, before COVID and things like that I would go boff, I would run around in a park with foam swords and shields and—actually turns out that learning how to fight with sticks and shields is way more of a life skill than I expected. But, um, but you know, that's not happening right now, because of COVID. And a lot of, like, team or group exercise stuff obviously isn't happening right now. And what are some ways that people can find joyful movement in isolation or in greater isolation?

Dibs 12:40 Yeah, so I guess if you're one of those people who is really just not leaving your house at all for—unless, you know, you need groceries, or even then you're just getting someone else to send you stuff and you're stuck at home: I've been leading online aerobics dance classes, which are quite fun. Or, you know, if you can't find one of those and you don't know—if the time is not good for you—like, put on some music and dance because cardio is so important, like your cardiovascular health is gonna—that's what's going to help you run and keep running and not stop. So dancing for, you know, an hour non-stop, like, that is a hardcore workout. People who have gone to raves, I'm sure you know how sore your body is the next day. Like, dancing is really, really good for you and it's going to help you build stamina. So that's one thing. Just putting together a little routine at home is quite easy. I like to tell people, there's a form of exercise routine called an AMRAP: as many rounds as possible. And so I say, you know, find five exercises that you know, you've been taught before, do 20 of them all in a row as many times as you can in 10 minutes, or 15 minutes, or 25 minutes. So say you're doing 20 squats, 20 push ups, 20 mountain climbers, 20 burpees, 20 lunges, and then go back to the top of the list and keep going, top of the list, keep going, work your way through until your timer goes off on your phone, and boom! You've done a workout. It's—there's so many different ways that you can do it and to keep you motivated and to remove the thinking out of it. You don't have to make it complicated. It can be quite simple. And, you know, if you can't do push ups, do them on your knees. If you can't do knee push ups, lean against the wall and do them on the wall or the door until you build up your strength or lean on your kitchen counter or your couch or something. There's so many things you can do just at home to-you know, or follow along YouTube workouts. If you just type on YouTube "follow along workout." I know they're not the best because they're always just demonstrated by people who were ripped in bikinis. I'm gonna try and put some out online to try and show some diversity. But, you know, there's different ways at home that you can find-or like find your favorite person on the internet. Copy what they're putting out. But yeah, like, dancing is my favorite. And then creating your own routine and, you know, maybe put on a podcast where you're doing it or put on music that you like and work through your 15 minutes, and then you're done.

Margaret 15:12 Okay, that makes sense to me. That's, um, that's like stuff that I feel like, on some level, is like what I was subconsciously drawn to when I was trying to become more in shape. I was like, "Oh, I'll just, I'll dance more, you know, while like working at a standing desk I'll, like, play music and then, like, walk away from the computer or something." But then, as I find myself being like, "No, I must be serious about fitness" instead, I kind of find myself moving away from that kind of stuff and more back into the, like, you know, "I must do yeah, 20 squats every morning" or whatever.

Dibs 15:45 Yeah, yeah, it can come in whatever shape you want. Because even within dance, you know, if you're dropping it low, you're doing a squat. Like, there are many ways to do the typical fitness movements like the patterns that you use, like a push, a press, a squat, a deadlift—there's so many ways to do that, that are not, like, regimented and formal in everyday life, like when you're cleaning or you're gardening. Gardening is great exercise, as long as you keep good posture and you're not hurting your back. Like, that's another way to get those movement patterns in.

Margaret 16:22 So that's—that brings up something that I think about a lot. Most of my exercise at the moment—obviously, everything—I think about everything through the lens of myself, but whatever, that's totally normal, you know, it's not like people listen to this. Um, okay, so like, most of my exercise comes from construction and building and crafting, right? Because I live, you know, in the woods alone. And so, like, I feel like most of my exercise is like carrying heavy shit up the hill to my house, right? And I often wonder to what degree I'm like getting exercise and to what degree I'm just like hurting myself. And, like, when you're talking about gardening and being good exercise as long as you maintain good posture, like, it seems like maybe that's useful across the board is like—where is the line between getting stronger and more fit and wearing yourself down?

Dibs 17:18 Yeah, it's—that's a hard one, especially if you're doing something out of necessity, like, if you're building stuff and you need to get the materials, you know, before it rains or whatever, like, you're not going to stop when when you reach that limit, you're just going to keep going. So then you just have to know how to look after yourself afterwards. Like, the line is different for everyone depending on, you know, depending on what you've built up before and you're—like, I love that that's how you get your exercise because I love functional fitness. I've been, you know, rummaging through curbside trash way more often than the last three months that I have in my entire life. And I've been—I've found four cinder blocks in the last four weeks and I've carried them home like four blocks to my house because I wanted to make a bench seat out of them. And like, you know, I—by the third one that I found, I figured out the correct posture and the way to hold it that wasn't going to make my biceps feel like this snapping off. So sometimes it's trial and error. But, you know, and sometimes you pay for it afterwards and you just have to make sure you rest or stretch correctly. But the—it is such a fine line between totally wearing yourself out. But I guess, if you're doing something functional fitness-wise and it's taking you the whole day, like, you know, people who do landscaping and they're just slugging it out for six hours, eight hours, all day. And a lot of them have bad backs. But you can avoid that if you're using the right tools, like if you have things that help you lift and wheel things like a wheelbarrow or dolly or whatever. You just have to make sure you're taking breaks intermittently, like think—stop and think. "How am I holding this? Like, where's the weight? Where can I feel the most strain? Is it in my back? Is it in my biceps? Is it in my core?" You really want to feel things in your abs the most when you're holding them rather than your back. And then, you know, if one bicep is straining more than the other change the bottom arm and the top arm so you're evening yourself out. Cuz you just have to be more attuned to your body and take time and do a little scan and think, "Where am I feeling this?" I know it's hard because when you're in the moment and just want to get stuff done, you're not going to stop, but I find that difficult as well. And then maybe when I get home I realized that I was carrying it wrong. But to people have a much better attention span than than me, that's something that you can do is stop, scan your body, where am I feeling this? Can I readjust? Can I change hands or or change my stride somehow or change my posture? Do I lift it closer to my chest? Do I hold it down below my legs? Do I lifted it up above my head with my elbows locked out if it's light enough to give my back a rest? Those—you just carry things in a different way each time to give different body parts the load.

Margaret 20:02 Okay. Yeah, it's funny, I have—there's sort of a joke that, you know, if you're like punk past 30 you have to like pick between your options and it's like CrossFit, or knitting, or whatever. And I didn't pick either of those, I guess I picked podcasting and that's probably on there too. And sometimes my friends who do deadlifts and stuff, I'm kind of jealous because I'm like, "Oh, I should probably know how to do that really well because I like, later today I'm going to go have to drag my 50 pound generator to a different spot and hook it up to a 20 pound propane tank to get enough power to, you know, edit this interview. And I don't know, this is like cliche, right? But what I was like younger, I didn't really think about this stuff. And now I'm, like, I always make sure I put down heavy things, not on the ground but have thing's at about waist level.

Dibs 20:56 Yeah

Margaret 20:57 You know? And am I like, am I doing myself a disservice by doing that? You know, like, am I reducing my ability to learn how to deadlift? I don't know.

Dibs 21:07 I think you're saving your back in a long time. Because especially like, deadlifts are really good, they're an amazing full-body exercise. But if you’re having something with an awkward shape that prevents you from doing it with the correct form, then it's not going to be good to do so I think you're correct in putting it up higher so you don't have to go all the way down if it's a weird-shaped thing.

Margaret 21:27 Okay. Cool. Glad to hear my laziness is good. You mentioned food and eating disorder stuff. Is that is that okay to talk about?

Dibs 21:38 Yeah, we can dig into that.

Margaret 21:40 Um and, you know, content warning for anyone who's listening, obviously, we'll talk some about eating disorder stuff and I know that that can be very hard for a lot of people. So how does one—one of the things that I also worry about as I do this, right, um—again, to just use myself as the example for everything—I didn't think a ton about food until I came out as trans. And now I think about food way more than I would like to just because of the way that my body puts on weight being in a sort of masculine way, right? And both the combination of aging and suddenly holding myself to like feminine beauty standards are—is a wonderful one/two punch to deal with. But it's hard because I also want to become more fit. But I also really don't want to fall into what I can really easily see as disordered eating and just obsession about food. And I'm wondering how you manage or how you would recommend to people to manage dealing with fitness and as relates to food and how awful our society is about food and body image?

Dibs 23:01 Yeah, it's pretty terrible because, you know, a lot of the things out there are all about eliminating a certain either food group, or food source, or whatever. And it's all about eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. So the way I reframe it is don't think about what to cut out thinking about more about what you want to add to your diet to help you either feel fuller, or to help you get the nutrients that you need. So, you know, if you're a person that doesn't drink any water, start by adding an extra glass of water to your daily intake until that becomes a habit then add another until you're drinking, you know, at least 2-3 liters a day. Yes, good job drinking your water. So (laughing) she takes a sip. Yeah, so, you know, adding things like that. So it doesn't have to be food, it can be water. It can be, you know, if you're someone that only eats two colors, brown and white, maybe start adding a yellow thing or a green thing or a red thing to your plate. So, you know, add a sweet potato if you really hate vegetables, I know mushrooms are also black and white and brown, but there a vegetables so you can add mushrooms to your plate. I, you know, I used to hate sa—I probably only started eating salad when I was like 18, maybe 19. I used to never eat any vegetables and then I realized the certain ways that I like them cooked or prepared that will make me eat them more. So, you know, add—when I have now my bacon and eggs for breakfast I will put, like, a handful of baby spinach on top. And, you know, the way that that tastes is delicious is because it's smothered in bacon juice. Sorry, the vegan. But, like, that's how I deal with it and that's how I add my vegetables in so when you're thinking about like food and eating for your body type, like, there's a couple of TED Talks out there actually that are that are titled, you know, "The Perfect Diet," or "What is the perfect diet?" And I quite liked them. I watched them all because I wanted to see what they, what dumb stuff they said. But it's actually quite good because at the end, they're all like, "The perfect diet is the one that feels the best for your body or like what makes you feel the best." Because the Mediterranean diet's not everyone, keto is not for everyone, intermittent fasting is just dumb—unless, you know, unless you are experiencing food scarcity and then, you know, of course, you're going to not eat for 12 hours, and then you have your little window of eating time or whatever. But you know, a lot of us try all these things that were just not made for us. And instead of listening to what someone else's is spouting on the newest Instagram trend of the newest juice cleanse or whatever, like, just listen to your body more and think, "Okay, do I feel bloated when I eat beans? Do I feel bloated when I eat dairy? Do I feel bloated when I eat this? Like, do I have diarrhea or gas? Or like, what is this food making you feel?" I realize I get real gassy and I get an upset tummy when I have dairy, so I try and reduce that. Like it's—if you stop—and stress is something that helps you hold weight too that is—prevents you from digesting properly, right? Because you're in fight or flight, you're not going to digest your nutrients and absorb them. So if you're stressing less about, "Oh I can't eat this, or I can't that," and you're just, you know, you're not being too hard on yourself, that's also going to benefit you because you're going to be more calm. So I like to go at it thinking of what can I add? What's something easy, just one thing at a time, to add to my routine, to add to my grocery list or when I go out dumpster diving, what's the ingredient I'm going to add—you know, add a new vegetable a week, or whatever, a new legume or bean or whatever to try if you need to color your plate, and then pay attention to what foods make you feel like crap.

Margaret 26:57 Okay, I like that idea of the adding and sort of—that's—it's one of those things that probably should have been obvious. But, I mean, I spend a a not tiny amount of time like—I mean, I do the same thing that I think a lot of people do where I kind of go through a, "Oh crap, I'm out of shape, I better go figure out what will suddenly make me better," and then get into it for about three weeks and then drop it. And so I've, clearly, I've read a lot of fitness blogs and diet blogs and things like that as a result. And I haven't run across that and it seems so obvious. One of the things, you brought up dumpster rain, and I was thinking about how I actually ate better back when I dumpster dove for more of my meals then when I stopped dumpstering. I stopped dumpstering personally because of anxiety, I have a lot of food anxiety issues. And—but then what would happen is I didn't have much money and it's really hard to prioritize greens, it's really hard to prioritize things with no caloric content to speak of, right? You know, when I—if I have $8 to spend at a restaurant or something like that, there's no way that I'm buying the $8 salad, I'm buying the $8 burrito, you know. And it's interesting because that habit stayed with me after I no longer have the same, like, financial issues. Yeah, it was only very recently that I was like, "I'm ordering a salad at a restaurant." And it was very, it was a—a whole new world.

Dibs 28:27 Delicious?

Margaret 28:28 No, it was—it was good but it was like I still have kind of this, like, yeah, but if I'm paying at a restaurant, I want to be stupidly full. Like I want to, I want to look at the last bite of food and be like, "Can I do it?" You know? And I don't know maybe that's just from, like, food insecurity. I'm not sure.

Dibs 28:49 I'm like the opposite. I'm like, "I'm paying for the salad. I must eat all of my vegetables. I have paid for it." But uh, yeah, no, I get what you mean about that habit and you want to you want to spend your money on what's going to make you feel the most full, which is totally fine. And, so hot tip to anyone who has minimal income to spend on food and wants to feel full: potatoes, white potatoes are the most satiating food on the planet. I'm sure you've seen [inaudible] this fact. Probably many times.

Margaret 29:17 I haven't. No, go ahead.

Dibs 29:19 Yeah, well, fun fact: most satiating food on the planet like per gram, what you put in your mouth is it fills you up more than anything else. So you're—I mean, they have a decent amount of vitamins and minerals in them but, you know, you want to mix it up. If you want to, like, if you find potatoes or buy potatoes, and then you find other green things like zucchini or asparagus or bell peppers, capsicums, whatever you want to call them. I call them capsicums. You North Americans very strange. "Peppers."

Margaret 29:51 I was thinking that your accent didn't sound very Canadian.

Dibs 29:54 Yes, I'm from Australia. I now live in Canada. Mysterious So, you know, you can mix that potato with other things and then hopefully it still comes out tasting like potato because obviously that's going to be the most tasty thing in your meal. But I like to just heat up a skillet, grate some potato, and then grate some other veggies on top. And then you've got this big mishmash of delicious, mushy—or crispy depending on how you cook it—vegetables to put in your facehole. And, you know, it's—so if you want something to feel full, like, don't feel—be ashamed of not eating that many green things, but have your base, you know, starchy carbs that's going to make you feel full like beans, or rice, or potatoes, or pasta, and then throw some green things on top. Like it doesn't occur to many people when they're making pasta to do more than just the pasta and the sauce, like, you can throw baby spinach leaves in your sauce or you can throw like chopped up asparagus or mushrooms or whatever other vegetable to like, fatten it up, you know, make it really chunky and more filling. And then you'll—the pasta won't sustain you for that long, but the vegetables will help you keep—stay feeling fuller for longer. So you want to eat things that are full of fiber, right, that's what's going to make you full. If you go to, like, a juice bar. And, you know, you order a tropical juice, whatever, they're going to put things through the juicer, they're going to remove the skin and you're basically getting like the sugar from three apples and a banana and a pineapple, half a pineapple, or whatever. And none of the fiber or the really good chunky nutrients that are gonna fill you up. If you actually eat—physically eat an apple and bite into it—you can't eat more than like one and a half, two apples max before you feel like you're gonna explode because you're super full. Because you're getting all the fiber and you're getting the gut, like the guts of it. You're getting the meaty part of the fruit. So it's—that's another hot tip is don't juice things, like, you want the skin you want the flesh, that's what's going to feel you—make you feel awful.

Margaret 31:59 Okay. Yeah, I like that. It seems like a lot of food stuff comes down to, like, eating simpler—like not eating like less things, but eating like—not like raw food, but like, closer to—like less, I dunno, less processed.

Dibs 32:15 Less processed. Yeah, I mean, I know it's not easy for everyone to find that, to do the, you know, no processing. Like, some people want to get a $2 burger from In and Out Burger or A&W or whatever because that's what they have access to and that's what's going to be their meal for the day and that's fine. But, like, if you—you know, dumpster diving, or you have a local grocer, or a local farm, veggie and fruit distributor down the road from you, and you want to spend a couple bucks, like, that's the best way to do it is, like the closer—the less stages from earth to you to your mouth the better, right? If it's fall off a tree, it's grown from the ground, it's come straight off an animal's back, like, eat it. Fantastic. It's going to fill you up and it's going to be cheaper than if you've gotten something that's been picked from a tree, put on a truck, gone into a factory, run on a conveyor belt four times, got put in packaging, got on another truck, and onto a shelf, and then into your hand. You're going to be paying more for it and you're going to be getting less nutritional benefit from the thing.

Margaret 33:21 Okay. So in the meals that you're describing, which are very similar to the meals that I eat, but they don't have a lot of protein in them, as far as I can tell. And I'm curious your take on the—you know, I ran across the idea that you're supposed to eat, what, half your body weight in protein every day or something? Well, not half your body weight...

Dibs 33:41 Yeah, there's a formula where you measure your body weight and then divide it by 2, and then there's—you times that by 0.8 grams, and that's the amount of protein that you—that is a minimum, quote/unquote, "minimum intake." And that's, you know, if you're like lifting weights, if you're trading. So obviously it's going to be different depending on your hormones, because estrogen and testosterone do affect us differently and how our body deals with proteins and how it synthesizes muscle and stuff like that. So it's going to change depending on your hormones, it's gonna change depending on your weight, how much weight is muscle, how much of your weight is fat, what exercise you're doing. So like, those calculators are sort of helpful for trainers as a base level so you can look at your client and—but then you have to put in all these other factors around that. So I'd say for the average person looking at that calculation, don't worry about it. We—there's so much protein—like I'm not advocating veganism, vegetarianism, or being carnivore or whatever, like, whatever you have access to, it's great. I've tried so many different diets, like, I've tried all those things. And right now I just eat what I can get my hands on and what's cheap. Um, because that's what works for me. But you can get, you know, there's so much protein in a handful of spinach or, like, you know, peanut butter or eggs—eggs or protein and fat. So if you just survive on eggs, like, I used to have a 5 egg omelet every morning. Like, if you can get your hands on meat, you don't need that much, like, I used to—when I was doing like that stupid "lose nine kilos in six weeks challenge" like, what we're eating every day was like 160 grams/180 grams of cooked meat. So like, one quarter has been removed, like 180 grams cooked meat and then 2 cups of veggies for 3 meals a day. And then, yeah, of course you're going to get thin because you're not like eating. And there was like no carbs. They were like, you have like a pinky-sized pile of mashed potato or whatever. Like that's, you know, of course you're gonna get skinny if you're not eating any carbs and you're and you're in a calorie deficit so. But you can survive on not much protein and you can also build muscle on not much protein. Like, there are so many vegan bodybuilders out there and vegan athletes. And you can—there are many sources of protein and I think we don't get taught enough about where our food comes from and what's in our food in school. You know, I think there was a video—a viral video that went around of kids being asked, you know, "Where does the potato come from? Or where does this not come from?" And they couldn't tell you whether it was a tree, the ground or, you know, they're like, "The shop? I don't know." So I think we—it's definitely important to learn more about food and what macronutrients are and what micronutrients are. So macros are your protein, fats, and carbs. Micronutrients are all the vitamins and minerals that are inside food as well. So it's important to learn about that and to know what you're getting from each different thing because you need, like, you know, life's all about balance. You want—and your body craves variety. That's why, you know, when you stop yourself silly with your main meal, your brain's, like, "Hey, you still got room for dessert." Because that's a different nutrient for your body to absorb, its sugar. So you've just filled yourself up with, you know, some vitamin A, some vitamin C, some carbohydrates, like blah, blah, blah, and then you body's like, "Hey, but you haven't had that sugary, milky thing over there." Like, that's why we can still eat something different when we feel so full, because your body knows that you need a variety of different nutrients to keep yourself going. And it sees the benefit in all of them. So, you know, eating as many different things as you can is always better than, "This is my one food that I eat every day all the time."

Margaret 37:49 Mmhmm. That's something that I'm very bad at and I have inherited been very bad at. At one point my dad who I don't think listens to this podcast, I'm not sure—went to the doctor and was like, "I don't feel good." And the doctor was like, "What do you eat?" My dad explained exactly what he eats. And the doctor said, "Every day?" My dad was like, "Yeah." You know, it was very carefully thought out thing. It wasn't like, he wasn't eating junk. You know?

Dibs 38:12 Yeah.

Margaret 38:14 And I have a similar habit that I have to fight the desire to just eat the same thing every day.

Dibs 38:22 Well, because it's easy, right? Like, that's why a lot of people do it. And I used to do it and a lot of people with anxiety do it too because it's something that you can control and you know it doesn't make your stomach upset, you know, you can be full on it. Yeah, do you, how many meals do you have a day?

Margaret 38:40 Two and a half?

Dibs 38:43 More in the afternoon? Or do you like wait a bit after you wake up?

Margaret 38:48 Yeah, I mean, okay, so—I eat a Builder Bar for breakfast or some other protein bar, which is another long standing habit of sloth, I guess. And then for lunch, you know—or sometimes a bowl of cereal or something. And then for lunch I'll eat—if I'm feeling fancy I'll cook like, you know, potatoes and some greens or something. But usually it'll be, I don't know, oatmeal or something like that for lunch.

Dibs 39:19 Yeah.

Margaret 39:19 And then dinner is like the meal that I'm like—I can't be fucked to cook. And the worst thing about—well can't be fun to cook for myself. Like I enjoy cooking with other people, but I have a very hard time convincing myself that like I'm worth the effort of, like, taking an hour out of my day, like, three times in one day.

Dibs 39:41 Yeah.

Margaret 39:42 Just to like eat food when there's this packaged thing that will make me not hungry that says it has all the things I need in it. And obviously this is sustainable for the long term. Oh...

Dibs 39:56 Well that's where, like—you know, speaking of long-term prepping, short-term prepping comes in handy. So like, you know, cooking more rice than you need and then having it in the fridge and then, you know, you can have rice as your side for the next three or four days with your dinner. Or when you make a big salad or you make a big tray of roasted vegetables in the oven, make enough so you have, you know, enough for your sides for the next three or four days. So that's something that you can do to help combat the time spent so then it's like, "Okay, this one day, I'll spend an hour or an hour and a half prepping and then tomorrow, the next day, the next day, I'm gonna thank myself because I'm gonna have to do is put it—warm it up somehow or a eat it cold." And it's done.

Margaret 40:38 That makes sense. But um, it's also a reason that I need to expand my solar bank to get a freezer.

Dibs 40:45 Yeah.

Margaret 40:46 At the moment, I have a very small fridge. And because it's winter, I don't even really successfully have a fridge because there's not enough solar power. So now I have a cooler on my porch, which is perfectly good for vegetables, but I don't know whether I would trust cooked rice to it.

Dibs 41:04 Not sure. Maybe, I've always wondered that because it doesn't get that cold in Australia. So I've come here and I'm like, "Wow, my outside is cold that my fridge. Do I need a fridge? Can I can I rent out my fridge in winter to someone else I just use outside for myself?"

Margaret 41:19 Yes, but then it's harder to keep it from freezing. The cooler on my porch is actually—at the moment it exists to keep my stuff from freezing, not to keep my stuff... Yeah, it's interesting.

Dibs 41:29 Yeah. But yeah, like it's—then it becomes hard because if you don't have storage space, or, you know, if you live with a bunch of roommates, it's hard to put put things in a fridge for yourself. But yeah, you just have to pick the thing that's small and easy to put in a little container and just pick one thing to prep that takes the longest time and then cook the other things the day of or whatever.

Margaret 41:51 No, that makes sense.

Dibs 41:52 Yeah.

Margaret 41:53 Um, so you talked about how hormones affect your body differently, right—or different hormones will affect bodies differently. And I was wondering if you could talk about that, because I think that a lot of people who are listening are trans or have other reasons why they take hormones or hormone blockers. And not all trans people take hormones, I actually personally don't take hormones. And I'm wondering if you could talk about how different hormonal systems affect your decisions about fitness and how to, how to work to the advantages of of any given hormonal system.

Dibs 42:33 Well, so I've also trained myself before I started testosterone, and I was training when I was on testosterone, and now I'm off it again. And so I've experienced what training is like with all the different hormones—hormonal combinations. So you know, testosterone will turn you into a furnace, and so you're burning calories a lot quicker then someone who runs on estrogen. Your—you build muscle a lot quicker as well. You know, lucky bastards. But, uh, so you need more food generally. So someone on testosterone is going to have a higher caloric intake to just maintain and it's going to be easier to put on muscle. But the actual training regime, or like the exercise selection, should be exactly the same. You shouldn't have any need to do a specific type of exercise or type of training because of your hormones. So a lot of—that's why I think it's such BS to put like gender on intake forms for gyms or trainers or whatever, because, like it actually doesn't affect the training that much. If you're giving someone nutritional advice, yes, you're going to need to know that. But for the exercise prescription, we can pretty much do the same thing depending on your time available and your energy levels, you're just maybe going to be lifting a different weight depending on how much experience or how much practice you put in. And, you know, I hate that standard barbells now, standard Olympic barbells, are categorized into the men's barbell and the women's barbell, because they have a 5 kilo difference—weight difference.

Margaret 44:21 Lord, just...

Dibs 44:21 If you'd—like it's so silly. If you've ever watched like, you know, a CrossFit competition, those women very strong, can probably lift more than a lot of cis men who don't work out. So like, really, strength depends on how much time you put into it. Like if you're someone that's lifting a lot, doesn't matter what hormonal makeup you have. Strength is about your body weight and, you know, how much practice you put in. So that's why like powerlifting competitions are broken up into weight classes because it's all about your power to weight ratio. It's not fair if you know a 300 pound person is lifting against a 500 pound person because they're gonna have just different power to weight ratios naturally no matter how much they practice. And so, as a, you know, as a trans person, and even as a cis person, you don't have to worry about what trainings for men and what training so women or what trainings people on testosterone or not. It is does affect, you know, the amount of calories you're burning at rest. And it'll affect your progress timeline a little bit. But you don't really have to take that into consideration when choosing your exercises. Like I always say, the perfect exercise is the one that you do, and the one that doesn't injure you. So if you're like, "Oh, I must do this specific type of training," but you're on the couch every day because you're dreading doing high intensity workout. Obviously, that's not the one for you, because you're sitting on your ass. If you're like, "F yeah! I'm gonna do boxing today because I love boxing, like, I'm gonna do some sparring or some shadow boxing," and you get up because that excites you, then that's the exercise that works for you. But yeah, like, hormones are really such a small player and, like, they choose—they decide where your body fat is, is the biggest thing that they do, right? So like, if you are a trans person not on hormones, and you want to make your chest look bigger, then you're going to just do exercises that workout your chest. If you want to make your ass look better, you're going to do exercises that target you butt. You cannot target where fat comes off your body. That's just not a thing we can decide as human beings, it just happens randomly, just depending on your genetics. But you can decide where you target the muscle growth because you do exercises for those muscles and the surrounding muscles—the surrounding like assisting muscles. Okay. Yeah, one time I was—before I came out as trans even to myself, but I, you know, it was maybe one of the first really obvious signs—I was doing weightlifting and I stopped because I started having veins in my arms.

Margaret 47:07 You know, like, muscle—like, in my, like, vein sticking out of my muscles or whatever. And I was like, "Oh, no, that is not an acceptable thing for me. I would definitely rather be a little bit weaker than have my veins popping out." So I just stopped weightlifting. Probably should have just start eating more fat maybe? I'm not sure. But it wasn't really the—I mean, okay, so that actually ties into something that I want to bring up is that—and I guess I've been kind of trying to—in the same way that obsessing about food can be really bad, ut does also seem like obsessing about fitness can be really bad. When I think about, personally, probably the time that I was physically healthiest was the time that I was mentally the least healthy, where I was incredibly obsessive about what I ate and about exercising, but it was absolutely obsessive. And I'm wondering if you have ideas about preventing fitness from being obsessive and like maybe, like, understanding like realistic goals or something? I don't quite know how to phrase what I'm trying to get at.

Dibs 47:07 Yeah. Well, that's a hard one. Because, you know, that's what happened to me and I don't know if there was any way to prevent it, but at some point you catch yourself and I think it's just one of those rock bottom moments where you're like, okay, yeah, this is a problem. I'm—you know, because I had the similar thing to you as when I was at my physical peak and I thought I was looking great and I was trading all the time, but I was obsessing over what I was eating. Like, I ended up going to hospital with a stress condition that affect my guts. And I had—I was at a festival over a New Year's and I missed the countdown, I missed the New Year's Eve party, because I was in like excruciating pain and couldn't get out of bed because I had, like, a gastro problem of like, cramping, like, all in my entire torso. It was like, terrible, because I was eating the wrong makeup of food and I was literally just stressed all the time because I was—it was—I was also working a really intense, demanding job which was in the gym. And so you have to have that moment where you're like, "Okay, cool. Well, you know, I've missed this socialization with my friends, or I'm not going to parties, or I'm, you know, I'm stressing about pre-packing food to a wedding because I don't know what they're going to serve." Like when you get to that point. Like, seriously, like, that's what I was doing. Like, I was, you know, you don't want to go out because you know there's going to be cake and someone's gonna offer you at the end and you're gonna have to deny it, like say no, like, you shouldn't get to that point. And that's when you know, things have gone too far. So like, I mean, it is really hard to avoid that but you need to just go into any sort of exercise routine or nutritional change thinking that—or knowing that it could be sustained thing, or maybe you're gonna try this and it's not going to be for you, and that's okay. And it's totally fine to not have fitness, you know, not have your life revolve around fitness. Because, like, I like to come at it as a holistic thing, like, fitness is not gonna work on its own. If you're smashing yourself in the gym six days a week, or you know, you're going for runs every day, or you're doing your home workout six, seven days a week, that itself is not going to help you holistically if you're then not sleeping because you're stressed, or you're not sleeping because your body is ruined because of all the work you're doing. You're not hydrated, you're not stretching, you're not—you just can't be calm because your heart rates always elevated because you're always moving or, you know, cooking or whatever, like, it has to be a holistic thing for your body to be working properly and for you to make it sustainable. So if—something's always going to give, you know, if you're sacrificing too much for this fitness lifestyle or this diet that you're following, it's not going to be sustainable. And then it's going to cause you problems in the long-term. So you want to think about, okay, well, I'm smashing all this protein powder and all these like supplements all the time. What about when your, like liver, it gives out later? Or what if, you know, you end up getting heart disease or you have a heart attack because you're always stressed? Like, you have to think about long-term, what's going to put the least amount of stress and strain on your body and your internal organs.

Margaret 51:34 Okay. Yeah, I've always found—it's funny, because I end up using like muscle building, for example, as an analogy when I think about different—the way that different systems work. About, you know, as far as I understand it, you need to like work out the muscle group until you damage it a little bit, but not a lot a bit?

Dibs 51:52 Yeah.

Margaret 51:53 You know, in order to trick your body into building it back stronger. And it seems like a lot of mental health stuff for me has been that way. Where like, you know, cognitive behavioral therapy, the behavioral aspects of it with like exposure therapy will be like, well expose yourself to the thing that makes you anxious, but not go overboard with it, right? Because if you go overboard with it, you just make it worse. And that's how exercise feels like, is like, you know, you could be like, "Oh, I need to get stronger." So you could damage yourself versus like, I don't know, it's an analogy I use for way too much of my life.

Dibs 52:30 I like it. No, it's good. Yeah, you need it—you need to challenge yourself a little bit, but not too much. Yes, I guess, that.

Margaret 52:38 So one of the things that I want to talk to you about because I think that—one of the things that I've run into a lot when I talk about, you know, the end of the world and fitness—and obviously, anyone who's listened to many episodes of podcast knows I'm not necessarily talking about, like, the nukes drop and everyone runs around in Mad Max cars or whatever. But actually, you know, I'd argue that we're dealing with a version of the apocalypse right now, in that it is the possible death throes of a system that has currently sustained some of us and not others of us. But a lot of people feel like anything that talks about like disaster preparation excludes them because of especially disability. And also, things around fitness I feel like tie into both disability and like size-ism. And I really want to like separate out the two because I don't believe that size is like a disability, you know, like being fat or whatever. But both of those things seem to come up a lot in fitness discussions. And I'm wondering if you have opinions about how to navigate this—how to navigate fitness from the perspective of someone who's been basically told fitness isn't for them or feels personally that fitness might not be for them.

Dibs 53:53 Yeah. Well, yeah. And that's something I'm really passionate about and I'm trying to get more into with the content that I'm putting out on my social media channels is to target those audiences who feel like, you know, the fitness industry is against them. But there is, you know, there's a tiny mini little fitness industry revolution happening right now. And there are certainly people in my in my circles who I follow who are fat trainers, who are trainers with disabilities, who are, you know—or who are then specifically targeting those minorities and saying like, "This is for you. This is your time, like you can do this, we can all do it together." And it's not that hard to change, you know, if you have a class of people of different abilities of different sizes, like it's not hard to accommodate those—that mix group as a trainer. And, you know, a lot of trainers—to be fair, like, these days, you know, a lot of degrees you just pay for, right? So it's not hard to be a personal trainer. There are so many people out there who are a fitness conditional, like, you know, it's—so a lot of them don't know, they don't have the ability, that haven't been taught, or they haven't tried to think for themselves, "How do I include these other types of people in my class." So then, you know, a few people from those memories have gone and gotten their certification and have been, you know, the role model for everyone else. So, I like to, yeah, say that I—my tagline for my businesses is "fitness for every body," as in every

S1E22 - Walidah Imarisha on Envisioning the Future

Episode Notes

The guest Walidah Imarisha can be found online at walidah.com. Her books referenced in this episode are Angels With Dirty Faces and Octavia's Brood, both published by AK Press.

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy and on instagram @margaretkilljoy. You can support her and this podcast through her patreon.

Transcription:

LLWD - 22 - Walidah on Envisioning the Future 1:21:45 SPEAKERS Margaret, Walidah Imarisha

Margaret 00:14 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy, and this week I'll be talking to an author and activist and poet and just a historian—I'll be talking to will Walidah Imarisha who is, just, I think is absolutely wonderful. And that'll probably come across way too much in this episode. But I'm talking to her because I'm interested in talking about—well, this week is a little bit of a departure from usual, instead of just talking about the end of all things, right, we'll be talking about envisioning better things. And we'll be talking about how important—how necessary it is—to be able to imagine better things in order to make those better things real. And so we'll be talking about the importance of fiction, but we'll also be talking about what it means to envision a world, say for example, without police and prisons and how we can move towards that. And, yeah, I'm just really excited for y'all to hear this episode. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And here's a jingle from another show on the network. Duh da duh daaa...

Jingle Speaker 1 01:28 Kite Line is a weekly 30 minute radio program focusing on issues in the prison system. You'll hear news along with stories from prisoners and former prisoners as well as their loved ones. You'll learn what prison is, how it functions, and how it impacts all of us.

Jingle Speaker 2 01:39 Behind the prison walls a message is called a kite—whispered words, a note passed hand to hand, a request submitted to the guards for medical care. Illicit or not, sending a cadence trusting that other people will bear it farther along until it reaches its destination. Here on Kite Line we hope to share these words across the prison walls.

Jingle Speaker 1 01:55 You can hear us on the Channel Zero Network and find out more at kitelineradio.noblogs.org

Margaret 02:06 Okay, so if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then like political or organizational affiliations that kind of concern what you're going to be talking about, or maybe like the books that you've written that are about what we're going to be talking about.

Walidah 02:22 My name is Walidah Imarisha, she and her pronouns. I am a writer and an educator. I have done a lot of work on science fiction and social change, culminating in co-editing Octavius Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. I've also written the creative nonfiction book Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption.

Margaret 02:46 Oh, the fact—I've been telling people for years that my favorite book against prison is Angels with Dirty Faces. And I actually have a really hard time reading nonfiction, which is kind of embarrassing because I'm an author. And the fact that you describe it as creative nonfiction really helps explain part of why. For anyone who hasn't read it yet Angels with Dirty Faces is like, um... it's talking about prisons, but it's talking about prisons from the point of view of, like, several specific people who are in prison and, well, your interactions with them. So the reason I have you on this, like, community and individual preparation podcast is—the important—I kind of want to talk to you about the importance of actually, like, envisioning something better. And because it's this kind of cliché that, like, we know what we're against, but do we know what we're for? And sometimes I kind of hate when people ask—I actually almost always hate when people ask that—because my argument is that if you're being hit with a baseball bat, you don't actually have to articulate what you would like society to be like without someone hitting you with a baseball bat before you can get someone to stop hitting you with a baseball bat. But yet at the same time I do personally want a much better society and I know that you've done this work also, yeah, with Octavius Brood, which is just labeled visionary fiction. Is that right?

Walidah 04:13 Yeah.

Margaret 04:14 Um, could you talk about visionary fiction? And could you talk about what draws you to that? And what draws you to painting better worlds and resistance?

Walidah 04:24 Sure. Yeah. I mean, I feel—I agree with you. And I think it's a, you know, it's yes/and. And so, I also think it's really important who's asking these questions, right? Are we asking these questions of each other or people from outside being like, "Well, what do you want then?" Like, I don't really owe you anything if you're coming with that tone. Um, you know, for me, "visionary fiction," I started using that term to refer to the intersection of science fiction or imaginative fiction, fantastical art, and social change. It's deeply steeped in, you know, radical organizing, in thinking and building liberated futures. It's not a utopian project, it's really more about how can we imagine the futures we want to figure out new ways to build them into existence. So we're never going to get to those perfect futures because as science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler said, we're not going to have a utopia until we have a few perfect humans and that seems unlikely. So we won't reach utopia. But I think the practice of utopia is the useful one. And really, I mean, that is what organizing is, is thinking about this world around us and how we actually want it to be and, you know, that's the foundation of Octavia's Brood, which I co edited with Adrienne Maree Brown. The premise is all organizing is science fiction. And we believe that anytime you imagine a world without the ills we fight against, without borders, without prisons without police, that is science fiction because we haven't seen that world. But we can't build what we can't imagine. And so Octavia's Brood is fantastical writing, visionary fiction, specifically written by organizers, activists, and change-makers, the folks who are, you know, in the world trying to make it a better place. And I think that intersection of imaginative spaces and social change is not just useful, but it's absolutely imperative for us to build something other than this world around us.

Margaret 06:50 No, that makes sense. I really like the quote that you just had of, we can't build what we can imagine. That—I don't know. I like that a lot. It ties into a lot of what I what I think about with my own writing. And so this is a weird tangent, but okay, so like, so you're saying it's not a utopian project, right, even though it's sort of in some ways about envisioning utopia. And utopia has this like really mixed reputation, right? And I think some of your work, you've talked about how Oregon was developed as a white utopia, for example. And, you know, I remember doing a talk—I think I've even said this on the podcast before, I'm not sure—I was doing a talk about A Country of Ghosts, an anarchist utopian novel that I wrote. And I was doing it at Táala Hooghan, an Indigenous info shop. And someone who was there was like, "Yeah, you know, that white people with utopian ideas destroyed everything, right?" And I was like, "Yeah, no, you're just right. I don't have a counter argument. Like, you're just correct." And so I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about that, about like the idea—maybe the difference between like utopia as a thing that you're specifically trying to create versus utopia as like a direction to walk or something like that? I don't know. I don't know how to phrase this.

Walidah 08:21 No, I think that's I think that's a really useful differentiation. I think the idea—the sort of arrogance and audacity to think that we could create a perfect society, I think is rooted in, you know, everything that is against what we are wanting to build. It's, you know, it does result in, you know, in these projects, I mean, you know, Adrienne often quotes Terry Marshall talking about, you know, that we are in an imagination battle, that we are living in someone else's—specifically as black people—living in other people's imaginations. And this is the result of that— of us, you know, the world being manifested through this white supremacist imagination. And I do think it's important to talk about utopias because, I mean, so much of the goal of white supremacist hetero patriarchal, you know, capitalism has been to create their vision of utopia and to, you know, impress upon it, and press it upon the rest of the world. And so I think it's important to talk about that as utopia because it complicates the notion of utopias you're talking about, but I do think the sort of thought exercise of utopia is useful. I often quote, Eduardo Galeano and his quote of saying, "What is the purpose of utopia then, it is to cause us to advance."

Margaret 10:03 Yeah.

Walidah 10:05 Yeah, I think if we frame it in that way it becomes incredibly useful. Because as a thought experiment, to me, it roots very much in, you know, in Ursula K LeGuin's The Dispossessed, the subtitle of which is "An Ambiguous Utopia." The foundation of that ideas is these folks think they have built the perfect, you know, anarchist society and then realize, you know, the liberation we want is not a destination. And if we ever think we have reached perfection, that is the very moment that we begin to replicate the very systems of dystopian domination that we fought and give our lives for. And so I think it's important to continually think of this as, you know, as a process and a practice rather than a destination. And to continually get to ask the question, "What is our ideal world?" knowing that we won't reach it, but we will continually not only better ourselves and society, but we will create space to reimagine what we consider to be utopia. I mean, we're all growing. I'm growing. We're all messing up every day. We're all learning how to do better every day, hopefully. And, you know, so to imagine that the destination that we set at some fixed point in the past is the destination we want to go to today is—it actually does a disservice to ourselves, because it stops us from being able to grow and to continue to imagine beyond what we're told as possible.

Margaret 11:52 Wait, I thought we were just following the blueprints that Bakunin laid out. Is that not? Like? Yeah, no, I really like that. I really like this idea of that—I mean, for me, it's one of the reasons why, you know, personally, I'm an anarchist but I'm—just in general anti authoritarianism appeals to me is because to me it's this, it's a little bit clear to say like, no, no, no, no, there's not a "perfect." There's not a like, a system that you create, and then enforce on everyone, you know? It's a—instead it's always gonna be messy, it's always gonna be this process.

Walidah 12:31 Yeah. I mean, it's rebelling against the tyranny even of our past selves really. Right? Like, the plan that I laid out for myself when I was 20, you know, is certainly not the plan, you know—And even if the destination of this—even if I'm heading the same way on the horizon, certainly the lessons that I've learned along the way have deeply impacted, shifted, and changed. And if I don't allow myself the space to do that, then I've locked myself into a moment that has then become just my life.

Margaret 13:06 Yeah.

Walidah 13:07 But we do that with our movements every day.

Margaret 13:11 I like this idea. So—because it's like, we need the plans. We just—to even think of it like in terms of the individual, like you were saying, like the plan of what you were going to do when you were 20. It's like, we always need to have these plans so that we can do anything, right, otherwise—like, if I didn't have an idea of like, what I want it to be and what I wanted to do, I wouldn't make any progress. But yeah, no, that makes sense to be able to, like completely readdress it at any point.

Walidah 13:39 Well and just recognize that, you know, I mean, that the world is so much larger than we imagined, that the sky seems vast. And one point on the horizon that seems like the end point, when we reach it we recognize, oh, there is a whole infinity of sky beyond that. So why would we just stop when we've reached that point if our goal was to just continue exploring and seeing and experiencing and doing as much as possible.

Margaret 14:10 That's so good. I like, I love all that shit so much. Okay, so why then fiction? Why choosing to express that specifically through fiction, as you all did with Octavius Brood?

Walidah 14:31 Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I think again, for me, visionary fiction is about creating possibilities and as many entry points. So, you know, I think fiction is one way to do it. I think you can do it in any genre and whatever messy intersections between genres, the infinite intersections of

S1E21 - Petra on Camping Equipment

how to sleep warm and comfortable

Episode Notes

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy, instagram @margaretkilljoy, and on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

Transcript:

1:16:39 SPEAKERS Margaret, Petra

Margaret 00:15 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy, and I use she or they pronouns. This week I'm talking to my friend Petra, who is a wilderness instructor, basically about camping, about sleeping bags and tents and tarps and how to stay warm and the fact that you need to keep your lithium batteries in your sleeping bag with you and things like that. From the context of, in case you needed to move over land in a hurry. And well, originally, I was going to interview her about both what to do in terms of when you have the right stuff to be prepared and what to do when you don't have the right stuff to be prepared. We actually ran out of time just talking about all the stuff to have in order to be prepared. So consider this the episode about going camping when you have time to gather the materials that you need, which is most of the time, right? You probably have that time right now while you're listening. Because there's one kind of interesting thing is that, as bad as things seem, they're probably always going to get worse, and like basically this is the time to get ready. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And here's another podcast from the network, jingle?—Here's a jingle for another podcast on the network. For some reason, I can never get the nouns right in the order of the sentences when I say this particular part of the show. I... here's the jingle:

Jingle Speaker 1 01:44 Where did you get this?

Jingle Speaker 2 01:45 Your friendly neighborhood anarchist.

Jingle Speaker 3 01:50 More of an anarchist militant.

Jingle Speaker 4 01:52 People involved in social struggles, everybody else.

Jingle Speaker 5 01:55 People have been waiting for some content radio show.

Jingle Speaker 6 01:58 The Final Straw. Thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org.

Jingle Speaker 7 02:01 If you're listening, you are the resistance.

Margaret 02:12 Okay, my guest this week is Petra. And if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then maybe any political or organizational affiliations or just what you do for a living as relates to what we're going to be talking about on the show today?

Petra 02:26 Yeah, so my name is Petra LeBaron-Botts and I live in Portland, Oregon, my pronouns are she/her/hers. I try to not have any political affiliations, actually. I find that my politics, although pretty consistent in overarching theories are sort of constantly mutating in specifics. And so I find that, and have found over the past several years, that not having any political affiliation seems to serve me better. So it's also something that, you know, and every job I've had, we've been very discouraged in terms of talking about it. But I am a wilderness educator, I guess, in the most basic of terms, lead trips, and currently teach for a community college in Portland.

Margaret 03:22 Cool. Okay, so I guess the main thing that I kind of want to talk to you about is how to camp when you're prepared to camp—so the framing that I'm imagining this particular conversation in is, you know, I reached out to you in a rush in the middle of the night during the uprising when I was like, "What would I need if I suddenly needed to move over land?" Like if suddenly the American South became a dramatically inhospitable place and I, you know, there were militia checkpoints on the roads or whatever—whatever the reasoning would be, I was like, "What would I need to get out on foot?" And, you know, I've camped a bit my life, right, and I, you know, live off grid, but there's still a lot of stuff. Like I said—I think I specifically called you to be like, "What kind of camping pad do I actually need? And also, are poles actually worth it?" And because, you know, I did most of my more active outdoors-ing while I was a younger woman, and was a little bit more physically resilient to sleeping on the ground and stuff. And so, so yeah, I guess I wanted to talk to you. We'll get into some other stuff about what to do when you don't have what you need. But I wanted to talk to you about like, when you have what you need, how do you go about camping or thru-hiking? Like, what's some of the stuff?

Petra 04:54 Yeah, I think that in planning for trips and planning for camping, there's a lot of working backwards, sort of, where do I envision myself going? How far do I envision myself going? What sort of tolerance for misery do I know that I have or not have? And working backwards, therefore, what kind of gear do I need or what kind of gear can I jettison? So I don't know that there's like a really easy answer to that. I think that being prepared tends to look like knowing the weight of your gear, knowing the number of miles that you can travel with a full backpack—and a full backpack, I mean, that's a pretty broad term because they're full backpacks that are, you know, 20 pounds and full backpacks that are 80 pounds. So, you know, how much weight can I personally comfortably carry according to the number of miles I want to travel? So yeah, a lot of working backwards and a lot of sort of not having a strict formula to work with.

Margaret 05:58 How would you gauge that if you are like, let's say you are a modestly physically active person who does not make a habit of thru-hiking or, you know, overnight backpacking or anything like that? What—how would people start getting a sense of—or people have different levels of ability, you know, I was just going to start using myself as an example. But how would you start gauging how much weight you would consider carrying and how far you think that you would try to push yourself on a given day?

Petra 06:34 I think one of the important things is to get a baseline understanding for how far you can travel before you start to feel really miserable. So that might look like, you know, in your initial stages, especially if you're not used to, say, walking up a lot of hills, is going out with very minimal equipment, going out with a bunch of water and maybe, you know, a couple of extra clothing layers, and going and walking up, you know, maybe 1000 feet of elevation gain, you know, maybe over two or three miles and seeing how that feels to your body. You know, is that already pushing it or not. And then I think another great step to take is getting everything that you think you're going to need—so there are sort of infinite packing lists that you can find online for back country trips—sort of getting together everything that you think you need, putting it all in a backpack, and then just taking that on a walk for even just a couple miles around your neighborhood or the place where you live and start to see how that feels. Because a lot of people the—when that you make the jump from day hiking to overnight backpacking, it's a pretty steep learning curve. And I think people tend to underestimate how much things weigh and they also tend to overestimate how much weight they can carry before they start to feel really miserable. So if you tell the average person you know, you're going to have to carry, you know, 35 pounds of gear on your back. 35 pounds doesn't necessarily sound like a lot of weight. But as soon as you put it on and start to move at a, you know, reasonably fast hiking pace over several miles, that weight tends to add up really quickly and start to feel real heavy.

Margaret 08:23 Yeah, that makes sense. When I was, you know, when I was younger, and lived out of a backpack, I felt like people always started by putting like, kind of, as much weight as they could possibly have in their backpacks. And then would kind of like, like, people who are hitchhiking and hopping freight trains and stuff. And then would slowly kind of just slimming down and getting rid of everything extra and then actually would then move back up to being like, well, now I want bolt cutters or some other fucking stupid heavy thing. Because they kind of know what they do and don't need by that point. But okay, well, to start with like, kind of the basics from my point of view—and please correct me if I'm wrong—the one thing that I always considered indispensable was a sleeping bag. Like, I always felt like no matter what, like, my backpack could just be a damn sleeping bag. And now I wasn't in the wilderness. I was like, in cities, so things like getting water and food were like more available. But um, yeah, I don't know. You know, it's like, I don't want to turn the show into just like a—just gear talk, right? Like, what's the best sleeping bag and stuff like that. But I—sometimes some of the gear stuff is important. And I guess it's like, not necessarily like what's like the best top of the line sleeping bag, but what's like, what's a baseline that people would be looking for? And I know it has to do with environment, but...

Petra 09:57 Totally. Sort of a few—kind of a few big characteristics I guess, to look at: The first one is, you know, if you go to like Dick's Sporting Goods and you pull a backpack off one of the—or a sleeping bag off one of the shelves, it's probably going to be one of those rectangular synthetic sleeping bags. Or they might even have like a, you know, like a fleece lining on the inside of it. You definitely want to get away from those rectangular sleeping bags, and go for something that's a mummy fit sleeping bag. So that's the one that's, you know, tapered the feet to narrower down there and then it sort of flares out around where the shoulders and torso are. And you want to do that just because you want to minimize the amount of space that your body has to heat up. So in rectangular sleeping bags, you have a lot more dead space, a lot more airspace inside the sleeping bag, which means it's harder for your body to heat up all of that air. So you're just kind of wasting heat. So mummy cut or mummy fit sleeping bags are important to look at. And then sleeping bags are rated according to their survival temperature. Which is to say, when a sleeping bag has a listed, you know, temperature rating, you should be safe, you should not die, down to that temperature. One thing that's really important to remember is that that's not a comfort rating. And so one thing that I really encourage people to think about is, do you tend to sleep really cold? You know, are you always cold when you're sleeping? Or are you the kind of person who's, you know, waking up and sweating in the middle of the night. And that's going to make a difference in terms of, you know, what kind of temperature you might opt for. I would say, you know, if I were going to pick one sleeping bag that would, you know, get me through the vast majority of conditions all the time, I would say a 20 degree synthetic bag.

Margaret 11:58 Okay.

Petra 11:59 20 degrees is, you know, that'll keep you alive through, you know, most certainly Pacific Northwest weather, you know, not being in the mountains. And you can always add in, you know, like a liner or, you know, have a hot water bottle or some of those chemical heat packs to make it a little bit warmer. But that'll keep you alive and reasonably comfortable in a lot of conditions. And then I always recommend the synthetic. They are bulkier and they are heavy, but they'll also continue to insulate even when they're wet. Which down sleeping bags won't. and especially here in the Pacific Northwest, eight months of rain, that's eight months of potentially having a not insulating sleeping bag.

Margaret 12:43 Yeah, that's actually really interesting. I'm happy to hear that because I tend to recommend synthetic sleeping bags, but the reason that I do it—and this is just to my best knowledge—is that synthetic sleeping bags are happier compacted, like, all day long. As compared to down sleeping bags need to be stored, like, outside of their stuff sack. And, you know, most people don't do what I do, which is sleep in a sleeping bag every night. It's an old habit. Dies hard. I've like—it takes so many comforters to be warm in a bed but it just takes one 0 degree sleeping bag and you're fine. And, you know, but most people probably are going to be keeping their sleeping bags like packed away, right? And if it's going to be living in the bottom of your pack, then—is that true? That synthetic is happier compacted?

Petra 13:38 Yes, well I don't know if it's happier compacted it's just less miserable when it's compacted because, yeah, if you're storing a down sleeping bag compacted, you know, in a stuff sack you're going to end up with clumping feathers and you're going to end up with inconsistent distribution of the down and so it's—you know, you're going to have sort of spots that feel really cold and that, it doesn't take a terribly long time for a down sleeping bag to end up with that clumping if it's been stored compacted.

Margaret 14:09 Okay. Cool yeah, and synthetic sleeping bags also cheaper so that's also nice.

Petra 14:16 Also that.

Margaret 14:17 And I literally don't know how down—what geese are treated—I have no idea.

Petra 14:24 Yeah, you know, there's this certified cruelty0free down now and I think it's probably bullshit, so yeah.

Margaret 14:32 Yeah, that wouldn't surprise me.

Petra 14:34 No geese had to suffer for those synthetic sleeping bags.

Margaret 14:37 So one thing I learned about sleeping in sleeping bags only more recently, which is embarrassing because again, that's been about half my life now has been the primary thing that I sleep in. It's that the loft of the sleeping bag, the like puffiness of it, is so crucial to its warming value. And so I was learning that like you shouldn't put a blanket over a sleeping bag if you're trying to maximize the efficacy of a sleeping bag. Is that something you know much about?

Petra 15:06 I wish I could comment more on sort of the physics of it. But yes, I will say that one of the reasons for that—one reason that I do know—is that the way that—the reason that down or synthetic fill, you know, the reason that it's effective is because there's air trapped in between feathers or sort of in that synthetic fill. And your—that trapped air is being heated up by your body. So your body is not only heating up sort of the airspace inside of your sleeping bag, but also in the air that's contained in the fill.

Margaret 15:43 Yeah.

Petra 15:43 And so when you compress that you are reducing the amount of warm air that can be held close to your body. So it's ultimately just making it a little bit colder for you.

Margaret 15:55 Yeah, that makes sense. Do you know if the rating of—Oh, and another question that I get asked and I, I think I have an answer to but I'm not entirely certain is, there's a rumor that goes around that sleeping in a sleeping bag with clothes on reduces the efficacy of a sleeping bag.

Petra 16:16 It's kind of half true. It's totally fine to sleep in clothes. But kind of, you know, just like we've been talking about this trapped airspace, if you are wearing a ton of clothing, then the airspace—there's just this little tiny sort of layer of air right around you between sort of your body and your clothes that you're eating up. But it's preventing your body heat from fully radiating into the airspace inside the sleeping bag. And then to that, you know, down or synthetic fill. So you can—you know, I sleep in like wool long johns and like a long sleeve base layer. But, you know, often when people are cold they'll say, "Well, I'm just going to put on all of my clothing and wear it to bed and then it'll be even warmer," which is not true. The better way if you have a bunch of extra clothing and you are cold at night is actually just to take that clothing and ball it up and stuff it inside your sleeping bag with you. Because that's just, again, reducing the amount of airspace that your body needs to heat up in order to make the sleeping bag warm.

Margaret 17:27 Okay. Yeah, and I also kind of recommend to people—like it's just something that I learned from a long habit—is that you put the clothes that you want to wear the next day, if they fit, into your sleeping bag so that they're not freezing in the morning and your life is like slightly less miserable. And then a weird random thing I've learned in the sort of modern era: I learned a long time ago that modern electronics are not designed with squatters in mind. And lithium batteries are not happy when it's cold out.

Petra 17:59 Correct.

Margaret 18:00 And so I also put my phone in my sleeping bag at night so that the battery's dead in the morning, and may or may not have occasionally put an entire fucking laptop in my sleep for the same purpose.

Petra 18:01 Yeah. When I used to work for—I used to guide for a wilderness therapy program. And, you know, we had radios that we had to carry and bags full of medication. Another thing that's really good if people don't already know is if you carry epinephrine, epinephrine can freeze and once it freezes it loses its potency. So if you have like an epi pen or epinephrine that could go in your sleeping bag with you as well. So I used to have a sleeping bag full of like epi pens and radios and batteries and then my spare radio batteries. And so every time I would roll around at night you're like, "Clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk," and all my shit just, like, rolling over my sleeping bag with me.

Margaret 19:00 Uh huh. Yeah, and then also a ceramic water filters are—you have to like drain them. You can't let them freeze or whatever.

Petra 19:11 Right, because if there's water in there and it freezes it expands and it can crack the filter.

Margaret 19:16 Yeah. And I haven't had that. I haven't, like, had that happen to me yet in my personal life, but my water filter is no longer a ceramic water filter, the one on my house.

Petra 19:28 Yeah, that's why I don't—you know, it's for your house so it's a little bit different, but that's why on my personal trips I don't carry a filter anymore. I don't ever filter.

Margaret 19:37 Oh, interesting. What do you do for drinking water?

Petra 19:42 I do chemical treatment instead. So—and chemical treatment can sort of run the gamut from really super incredibly cheap up to, you know, not expensive but definitely more expensive. I use Aqua Mira which basically creates chlorine. And I like Aqua Mira because there's relatively little aftertaste. And sometimes in the outdoors I have a hard time drinking enough water, especially when it's cold. And if it's cold and my water tastes like shit, I'm definitely not going to drink it. So I use Aqua Mira, but you can use bleach. Bleach is an incredibly effective and super cheap way of chemically treating your water.

Margaret 20:27 So you should just drink bleach if—if you drink bad water, and then you just drink some bleach?

Petra 20:32 Yeah, I hear that will also solve COVID-19 too. So yeah, it's the one-two punch.

Margaret 20:38 Okay, so—no, it's actually interesting about water filters. Because I've been putting little tiny vials of chemical treatment into, like, any kind of survival kit that I pack for anybody. But for me—and I keep one like in my, you know, my day pack that goes with me everywhere, or whatever, right? Because I really like light, cheap, useful things that just, like, don't take up any space and you can forget about them. And,—but then when I imagine, like, actually, camping, I've always ended up using, you know, like, I use the mini Sawyer, that was like, the ceramic filter that I used on my house when pandemic started because I, you know, wasn't leaving my house because there was a pandemic. And so I've always seen the ceramic filters as like kind of the step up from the chemical treatment. So that's interesting to hear that you prefer the chemical treatment.

Petra 21:32 they definitely make water tastes a lot better when you filter it. I just—I, you know, they're bulky and I just often don't want to take the time to filter water. So chemical filtration—you know, and let me say this—it really depends on where I'm going. You know, I used to work in southeastern Utah, and we largely—and Southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah—and our water sources are all cow ponds. So you know, imagine brown water that you cannot see through with floating mounds of cow shit in it.

Margaret 22:08 Oh, god.

Petra 22:09 I'm gonna filter that.

Margaret 22:10 Yeah.

Petra 22:11 Definitely filter that water. But for anything, you know, in most of the Pacific Northwest, up in the Cascades, the water—I mean, we're so lucky out here, the water is so great. So I don't bother filtering that and I just will do chemical treatment.

Margaret 22:25 Okay. And for anyone who's listening who is like, "But the water so natural, I want to just drink it." You ever had Giardia? I had it once.

Petra 22:35 I have and it's horrendous.

Margaret 22:37 Yeah. It's a real bad scene. And I kind of think it would murder you if it happened in a situation where you couldn't, you know, have access to ways to get food and water in you.

Petra 22:53 Yeah, that becomes a really dangerous situation, actually, especially if you're pretty far out. Because, I guess for anyone who doesn't know, the biggest symptom, biggest sign for Giardia is really terrible diarrhea. So vomiting and diarrhea. And so you're just losing so much fluid from your body. And that just very quickly becomes really dangerous and then you're not able to walk very far. So yeah, I highly recommend—please, please do something to make your water drinkable.

Margaret 23:24 Yeah. Yeah, it's like, we think we're in a more—when you're out in the woods you think you're in a more pure environment than you are. And I've seen so many times, like, forest defense camps, or, you know, kind of more hippie backpacker types or whatever, who just are like, "Oh, no, it's cool because we're so far away from civilization, you could just drink right out of the stream." And I've seen those people get very sick. And I've been sickened by someone who I chose to trust and drink her water. And it was a poor decision because it was unfiltered water. And yeah, I've never had an experience of my life where I had to shit and throw up at the same time.

Petra 24:01 At the same time. It's so incredible. It just comes out really aggressively.

Margaret 24:06 Yeah

Petra 24:06 From both ends.

Margaret 24:07 So anyway, water. Water. Take care of your water. Okay, so so back to sleeping. You know, because this is one of the things I called you about, right, is because imagining, okay, like—I've done some cold weather camping, but I haven't like, done a ton of it. Right? I you know, I grew up in a place that has four seasons, but winter is not six months long, you know. And so—and I used to just never fuck with sleeping pads. Like, again, I was usually in an urban environment so I just find a cardboard dumpster and get a ton of cardboard and sleep on it. Which is incredibly uncomfortable. And one of the reasons it's so uncomfortable is that if you sleep outside all the time, you kind of have to—maybe everyone's body is different about this, right? But like if I sleep on my side and I do don't have enough padding, I just I toss and turn all night, right, because the grounds too hard on my hips and so I can only sleep on my back or on my belly. But then that isn't warm enough when you're cold, right? If you're sleeping and it's slightly cold, you don't want to sleep on your back, like your body will just get mad at you for sleeping on your back. And so sleeping pads, someone invented this wonderful thing called portable mattresses that should have occurred to me much younger than they did. What kind of sleeping pad do you use or recommend?

Petra 25:34 Yeah, so sleeping bags come in—or sorry, sleeping pads come in two basic varieties, two basic overarching varieties. One is a closed cell and one's an inflatable or an open cell. So a closed cell sleeping pad is like the ubiquitous, you know, yellow accordion fold sleeping pad that looks like an egg crate that you've seen, probably, you know, everybody using. So that is, that's great if you are a person who generally doesn't have any trouble sleeping, regardless of where you are. I personally would never take just that. But I have a lot of trouble sleeping to begin with even when I'm, you know, at home in my own bed. And so that sort of becomes, you know, that trouble becomes, you know, exponentially worse when I'm in the back country. So I personally take—always, regardless of where I am, but especially in the cold—I take both. I take a foam—I take that accordion fold egg crate yellow foam sleeping pad, and I also take an inflatable one. And that is just extra comfort for me, which I really appreciate because, you know, especially in the context of, you know, being outdoors for my work, work tends to feel a lot easier and I tend to be a much nicer person if a reasonable amount of sleep the night before, especially when I'm in charge of people's well-being, you know, I try to be well rested. Um, the combination of the two is, I would say, really important in the cold. Foam, you know, closed cell sleeping pads, they'll give you some insulation from the cold ground, which is great, but they don't provide a lot of comfort, you know, it's basically kind of a step up from cardboard, right? It's not that much softer or thicker. And then using an inflatable one, that's going to give you the extra comfort but using an inflatable sleeping pad directly on cold ground, all you're going to end up with is that cold ground, cooling that air inside of the inflatable sleeping pad and it's going to—it's going to draw away your—it's going to try to basically draw away your body heat until your temperature, your body temperature, is the same as the temperature of that air. So if you use the two, you have the insulation from the ground, you're not cooling down that airspace inside the inflatable pad as quickly and you're just that much more comfortable overnight.

Margaret 28:08 Okay. Yeah, I actually I tried this for the first time after talking to you.

Petra 28:13 And?

Margaret 28:14 It was great. I had just finished—I managed to maybe get trapped in a blizzard in what I thought was early fall—well actually is was mid fall—because I confusingly decided that I should drive a loan through, what's that state that's really cold? North Dakota and Montana. I don't remember which one I got stuck in the blizzard in. It was a very long day. And so I slept in my car that day, which is not particularly comfortable. And then the night after, I was like, I'm going to just fucking camp, you know. I made it somewhere a little bit warmer. And yeah, it was really, it was really comfortable is one of the nicer sleeping out moments I've had.

Petra 29:00 Yes. That's so great. Yeah, it's—for me, you know, there are lots of places where people are willing to shave off ounces and gear that people are willing to leave behind. For me, the combination, I just, it's unmatched. The quality of sleep that I get, and the comfort that I get from the combination is so worth the extra weight to me.

Margaret 29:24 Yeah, when you're talking about being grouchy in the morning, right? Like, it's like one of these things that people like laugh about, like they're like, "Oh, yeah, haha, I'm like really unhappy." But like, I hadn't quite realized, you know, how important morale is, you know?

Petra 29:41 Oh my god. Yeah.

Margaret 29:42 Like, I actually think it's probably on a regular basis the difference between life or death is like, just like, some vague level of comfort in a bad situation. You know?

Petra 29:55 Totally. Oh, 100%. You know, in all of the really terrible situations that I've ever been in, yeah, I think the reason that all of them didn't end with severe injury or death was because of some kind of comfort, whether that's physical comfort or emotional comfort, but you know, doing whatever the hell you can to try to keep morale up.

Margaret 30:16 Yeah, I could really see myself like, um, you know, you know, one of those movies where you're like trapped under a boulder and waiting for rescue or whatever? I could definitely see myself just, like, pulling out Nintendo Switch and playing Skyrim until the battery dies. You know?

Petra 30:32 Yeah.

Margaret 30:34 Because, like, yeah, morale is so much more vital than I would have expected, you know? And I—it's that kind of macho attitude of like, you know, doing without anything or whatever, right? Okay, so what is—speaking of stuff that people bring and don't bring, like, what some of the bullshit? Like, okay, so you're clearly like, for example, not—certainly in terms of your sleeping arrangements you're more maximalist than some, you know, campers and backpackers, but what some of the stuff that people think they need, that they don't?

Petra 31:19 Um, you know, gosh, a lot? I—there are all sorts of things that I think fall into this, and it kind of depends on what people are hoping to do, or sort of what kind of trip they're trying to have. So, you know, there are all kinds of really fancy gadgets that you can get, you know, I think there's now like a back country french press that you can get and, you know, a back country pour overs so you can have your perfectly brewed cup of coffee. So there's stuff like that, but I also kind of don't hold that against people because I get it, like, you know, at some point you're willing to carry the extra weight for the things that matter the most to you. One thing though is excessive toiletries. Every time—and this happens all the time—people are always trying to bring full size sticks of deodorant. I just don't get it. Because I get that there's this, you know, we have a lot of sort of cultural norms around, you know, how you smell and what you smell like. But I never really understood that. I just think, you know, we're outdoors, just embrace the fact that you're going to stink and the more smelly items that you bring, the more attractive you are to bears. It's just one more thing you got to protect from bears at night. So there's that, you know, some people will bring full-on camping pillows that are really bulky and quite heavy. People bring chairs a lot. And I think, you know, if you have back issues then that's great, whatever, do your thing. A lot of that—there are a lot of stools and chairs that are being made now that are really pretty cool and don't weigh all that much. I'm trying to think of what else people really are attached to. People tend to bring more clothing than they need. It's been pretty—I've been pretty impressed actually, I haven't seen people bring a whole lot of really absurd stuff on the trips that I've led, which is pretty good after I think 600 days working outdoors now that I have.

Margaret 33:30 Yeah.

Petra 33:32 Yeah, that's a really disappointing answer. I'm sorry.

Margaret 33:36 No, no, it's okay. Cuz I mean, that's like, I was just saying that I'm gonna bring a Nintendo Switch, right? So like—and I, you know, the things that I most immediately think of are like, I think I've talked shit on wire saws before on the show. The like, sort of like, gadgets, the like, kind of like, "tactical cool," like...

Petra 34:02 Yeah.

Margaret 34:03 You know, like, I don't know, that's the kind of stuff that I when I think of—besides, I don't know, besides, yeah, too much clothing. People don't realize that when you just go camping, you just don't change your shirt which actually has some problems down the road eventually, but...

Petra 34:18 Eventually. Do you know what a Woodsman's Pal is?

Margaret 34:22 I do not.

Petra 34:23 It's like—Oh, I wish I could—it's kind of like a smaller machete.

Margaret 34:28 Mm hmm.

Petra 34:30 Well I guess machetes come in all come in all sorts of sizes. It's basically designed for chopping wood but also sort of shaving strips of wood for tender. People have tried to bring those and, you know, really, just a just a regular knife will do. I, you know, people trying to backpack with axes and hatchets and—I mean good for you but I would say, you know, A) you shouldn't be chopping anything off of trees and B) If a log is so big that you need to chop it down in order to burn it, it's probably just too big to begin with.

Margaret 35:06 Yeah, no, that makes sense. I, yeah, a hatchet has not made any kind of level of my cut. I could imagine situations where like a machete might be useful, but like, I'm pretty into the just, like, one fuck off knife, you know, one fixed blade knife. But I know a lot of people are into folding saws, like, again, this is kind of less like three-day trip kind of thing and more a little bit of like, you know, I'm off to go start my new life in the forest eating squirrels or whatever. Um, but I feel like I would bring a folding saw in a lot of environments like to cut wood with, but I don't know.

Petra 35:53 They work pretty well. I did I have a pretty limited lifespan.

Margaret 35:57 Oh, interesting.

Petra 35:58 At least for me, you know, I've found that with heavy use, you know, six months before that thing is really warped or not really working well or part of the handle breaks off.

Margaret 36:10 Mm hmm. Okay, what do you recommend? What do you use instead? Or do you just replace them every six months?

Petra 36:18 You know, I don't these days find a lot of occasions to really take a folding saw—doesn't really feel necessary for where I'd go or where I work. So I just sort of the one standalone fuck off knife. That really does it for me. Mm hmm.

Margaret 36:34 Yeah. I love my fuck off knife. I also—I made my fuck off knife. I like was living with a knife maker and I was like watching over their shoulder for a long time. And then I was like, "Can I make one now?"

Petra 36:49 That's awesome. Has it—have you managed to get it and keep it pretty sharp?

Margaret 36:55 I am not incredibly good at sharpening knives. This is uh—I'm glad—this is the skill set that I'm like, very embarrassed that I seem to lack. It's a very fine dexterous thing. I got it very sharp when I first did it, very carefully. And then since then, honestly, I don't really sharpen it. And it still does the stuff that I need a knife to do, which is like, cut open boxes and make people not fuck with me when I'm wearing a miniskirt and have a giant knife.

Petra 37:28 Yeah.

Margaret 37:30 So like, I really need to sharpen it. Like I—you know, it's like, I can't shave with it, right?

Petra 37:38 Right.

Margaret 37:39 And I've definitely had knives when I could—I could shave with this knife when I, you know, when it first came out of the sharpening or whatever. But I don't know, what kind of fuck off knife do you like?

Petra 37:52 I carry a Mora knife, which is a pretty—it's just a pretty standard knife. I don't know, I made a new handle for it, which I really like. Because it comes with like a shitty plastic handle, you know, and I wanted something that's wood. They're relatively easy to sharpen. And I say that as a person who really sucks at sharpening things. They're pretty easy to sharpen. It's a good size. I like it, because you can both cut things and, like, whittle with it pretty well. So it's not an enormous blade. But I found it to be a good sort of all-purpose knife.

Margaret 38:29 Okay, that's cool. So what do people forget to bring all the time? Like, what are some of the things where people are like, "Oh, gee, I—" you know, I don't know, you would know the answer to this. And I could conjecture, but I'll be wrong.

Petra 38:45 Yeah, I there kind of three things that come to mind. One is, you know, people are really great about packing a stove, but are way less good about packing lighters. So you know, because then just sort of, I don't know, becomes less obvious as something that you would need. So people will always, you know, they'll have their fuel bottles and they'll have their stoves but they won't actually check to make sure that they have a lighter. Always have a lighter, always. Another thing is—sort of broadly I'm going to say something to protect your skin. And sort of two different areas of that. One is people always forget sun protection like sunscreen which, you know, and a lot of people are like, "Oh, well, you know, I don't really, you know, I just tan really quickly or whatever." Being significantly sunburned in the back country on a long trip is so shitty, it's so terrible. So even if you know you have like a broad brimmed hat, I think having that sort of extra sunscreen on top of that is great. The other thing is, if you're going to be traveling on snow, you needs some really burly sunscreen or you need something with zinc oxide in it that creates like an actual physical barrier on your skin. Because the combination of the sunlight and the reflection of the sunlight off of the snow becomes really intense. And people, you know, I personally have repeatedly burned the inside of my nose, the roof of my mouth.

Margaret 40:26 Whoa, okay.

Petra 40:26 Like all of these places that are so bad to have a sunburn. And so—and for me at least, you know, sunscreen, most sunscreen won't cut it because I'm sweating all the time. And so for that, you know, like diaper rash cream, which is like basically pure zinc oxide, is really great. It sits on the skin, it doesn't rub in, you're going to look really silly because you've got this white junk all over your face. But it's an actual barrier and also, you know, it protects you a little bit from wind burn and all of this just is such an important thing just for comfort and longevity in the back country and I think people tend to overlook that. Because they sort of figure, you know, well, as long as it's not a debilitating burn, then I'll be fine.

Margaret 41:13 Okay, that is absolutely something that I regularly overlook, so.

Petra 41:18 Yeah.

Margaret 41:19 I can't imagine the inside of my nose burning.

Petra 41:23 Oh, it's so bad. And I don't—have you ever had a second degree sunburn?

Margaret 41:27 No.

Petra 41:29 So second degree sunburn. You know, a second degree burn is when you have the formation of blisters. And as soon as you have blisters anywhere on your body in the back country it's a chance for infection. You know, depending on how bad they are, you're losing fluid from your body. So I've had many a second degree sunburn on my face.

Margaret 41:50 That's a terrible.

Petra 41:51 And it's just not fun to walk around with your face leaking fluid through your blisters.

Margaret 41:56 That would make me never go outside again. I would be like—

Petra 41:58 I know. It's really terrible.

Margaret 42:00 There's a murder orb in the sky and it's trying to murder me. That's its job.

Petra 42:05 The cursed a day star.

Margaret 42:06 Yeah. Wow. Okay, so people forget sunscreen. Yeah, it's interesting. I've been running across the like—there's like a list of like The 10 Essentials and it's like 8 years old and I could not tell you it off the top of my head. But sun protection always seems to make the list of, like, the absolute bare essentials before going out into the woods. And it has never been an essential for me. And I—but I think that's because I'm not—I mean, you know, because I haven't pushed this. I don't do multi day thru-hikes and stuff, you know?

Petra 42:44 Yeah.

Margaret 42:45 So.

Petra 42:47 Um, you know, there's one other thing—you just got me thinking about The 10 Essentials—another thing that people tend to forget, or they overlook, or they just convince themselves that they don't need it, is an actual compass, versus just your phone map. You know, I think we can do we can do so much with our phones now. And we have all of these, you know, neat devices that we can carry, that people assume that if they have, you know, a GPS, then they're never going to be lost. But there are so many limitations, so many ways that that can go wrong. And so I think people forget and overlook the fact that you need to have a map and a compass, and you need to be able to know how to use them together.

Margaret 43:31 Okay. Yeah, I was thinking about campuses as like—I mean, it's funny because compasses also fall into the, like, realm of like, if I see a knife with a compass in the handle of it, I assume it's a garbage knife and a garbage compass and like—

Petra 43:45 Correct.

Margaret 43:47 So like a compass embedded into another object is like almost always a bad scene. It seems like it's not inherently wrong, right? But there's just—if it's gonna be a quality compass, it seems like it's gonna be standalone is that—?

Petra 44:01 The tough thing is, especially if you're trying to navigate over any kind of distance, you have to—so depending on where you are in the world, there's going to be a difference between where true north is in relation to you, and where the needle of your compass points to. So there's a difference between true north and magnetic north. And that difference can be up to like 40 degrees difference. So you can probably start to see, if you don't have the knowledge of the declination, that difference between true north and magnetic north, and if you don't have a compass that has sort of clear individually marked degrees, then you can end up 40 degrees off of where you're actually trying to travel to.

Margaret 44:47 Okay. One of the reasons that I pitch people carrying a compass even if they kind of either suck at navigating like I do—because I haven't done it since I was a boy scout, which, you know, was a long time ago—or who just have no idea about navigation, is it seems to me to be like a kind of useful thing. And maybe, I don't know, this is like my own conjecture, basically to be like, well, at least I'm walking the same goddamn way.

Petra 45:14 Yes.

Margaret 45:14 So like, that was always my like, "I should carry a compass so that if I'm lost, I'm at least fucking walk in the same direction."

Petra 45:22 Totally. Even if you don't know how to do anything with your compass, if you can walk and keep—basically keep the needle pointing towards the same degree marking or pointing in the same direction, then yeah, you're more or less walking a straight line. And you're going to do better at walking a straight line with that than if you had nothing.

Margaret 45:43 Okay. Cool. I'm glad to hear that this—one of the things that I realize is that a lot of like—the things that scare people off of prepping—one thing that scares people off of prepping is that, like, it's so gear-oriented that it like, seems like it's only for antisocial people with lots of money and storage space, which is obviously like, not true, right? Those people are actually less likely to be in bad situations than the rest of us. But then also, even after that, it can be very skill-oriented. And sometimes that takes time that we can't always dedicate to this stuff, right? Like, I want to learn navigation again, for real. I couldn't do it again, you know, and I learned it 25 years ago or something. But I would love to, right? But there's just also so much other shit that I would love to do. And like, it's really interesting to learn which things you could use whether or not you have some skill and like figure it out in the woods and which things that you, like, actually probably need to figure out ahead of time. And I'm wondering, because you were telling me before we started recording that what you do is um—well here, do you want to explain the difference between being a guide and an instructor? And then the reason I'm going to ask is because I want to ask if there's things that people assume that they will be able to do that they cannot do or vice versa, things that people assume they can't do that they can do.

Petra 47:16 Yeah, absolutely. So I guess in sort of pretty brief terms, guides—in the sort of traditional sense—wilderness guides are people who take paying clients out and sort of facilitate an outdoor experience for them. That could be a backpacking trip that could be, you know, you kind of see them—I associate them the most with climbing mountains, you know, you can pay a guide who will basically close the gap, the knowledge gap, right? Will take you, a person with no, you know, background or skill in climbing mountains, and get you to the top of a, you know, relatively technical peak, get you back down safely, and will sort of cook all of your meals as you go. So I—the reason I shied away from guiding is because I find that when people are paying a guide, you know, guides are not inexpensive, right? And so I think when people pay a guide they sort of expect, "Well, you know, you are going to set up my sleeping, or you're going to set up my tent, you're going to cook meals, you're going to do all the technical stuff so that I don't have to worry about it." Right, and I just really kind of hate that. I do—I knew that if I went into that, that I would become really jaded and really cynical and really antisocial. And so what I do instead, and what I've done ever since I got into working outdoors in 2011, is I've been an instructor. So I take people who want to learn the skills into the back country and we do some, you know—I used to work courses that were 30 days long. So we'll do some really long 30 day trip, or we'll do like a—you know, we'll climb a mountain or we'll go snow camping. And I'm there to teach people how to do it as they are kind of immersed in the situation. And I really love what I do just because I—because there's a curiosity, because people feel some responsibility for their own well-being, and it feels much more like we're sort of a functioning team versus, I don't know, like a mother duck and a bunch of ducklings.

Margaret 49:37 Okay. That's cool. Okay, so when you do that, what are the things that—like, what are some of the skills that people can pick up easier than they think they can? Or what are some of the skills that people like—you actually probably need to study ahead of time? Basically, like, almost, where can you cut corners in your preparation in terms of skills, and where do you really have to focus in?

Petra 50:05 I think most outdoor living things can be picked up on the fly, you know, you can learn how to cook over a backpacking stove and even make, you know, some pretty awesome meals. And you can figure it out sort of in the back country. You can figure out, you know, how to put up a tent, you can figure out how to, you know, keep yourself relatively comfortable during the day, you can figure out how to make a fire kind of on the fly. You know, that—there are definitely some tips that make it easier, but you know, that's not something that you need to, you know, study beforehand. The two things that I would say really do require some forethought or some planning or some training is navigation, right? A lot of people think that they know how to navigate with a map and compass, but when it comes down to it, they have no idea. And I see this again and again, even in the sort of people I've worked with. And the other thing is building shelter. So putting up a tent is one thing, but trying to create a shelter, even like a tarp shelter, has more kind of nuance than you might expect. Anybody can put up a tarp shelter that, you know, kind of looks like shit and definitely won't last the night, but it takes a little more planning to sort of get a really nice weatherproof tarp shelter. And then, you know, something that I teach people in the context of my job right now and also, you know, has personally saved my life in the past is snow shelters. Digging a snow shelter is not intuitive. It's not intuitive. It's not. There are a lot of things to think about that you might not immediately think about. And that's one thing where I do think that if people are going to be in a remote situation in the snow, you oughta know how to build a snow shelter.

Margaret 52:06 Okay, that's good to know. I have no idea—I mean, I have an idea of how to build snow shelter in that I've, like, seen some diagrams and some very nice books. But you know, I have always just had tents if I'm—well, I've mostly avoided the snow because I didn't need to not avoid the snow so I would just hitchhike south because it was cold. But so okay, in terms of what you can cut corners with and what you can't, what about with gear? Like, you know, there's so much stuff that's marketed to, like, as soon as anyone who's listening, this podcast starts googling any of this shit, your ads are gonna be full of like all kinds of garbage, right? And they're gonna be like, "If you're a real man you're gonna get this real man box. And once a month, we send you a man tool." And it's always, like, some random fucking bullshit and like—and a lot of the shits, like, really expensive, right? Like, I've definitely learned—but then some of it's so fucking cheap. And like my one example that I use personally all the time is that, like, I swear by $5 folding knives.

Petra 53:15 Oh, yeah.

Margaret 53:16 Like, I have a hard time envisioning what an $80 folding knife is for. Like, I just—like, maybe it would just last me the rest of my life but I'm not convinced by that.

Petra 53:31 Yeah, you know, I think for some of these companies you do pay a premium for a lifetime guarantee, which is pretty nice.

Margaret 53:39 Yeah.

Petra 53:40 But I'd say you know, it kind of depends on how much you envision using that particular thing. Like, yeah, I might spend $80 on a knife if this knife is exactly the kind of knife that I want and I use a knife all the time.

Margaret 53:53 Right.

Petra 53:53 But personally, I just—that's not really worth it to me.

Margaret 53:57 Right.

Petra 53:58 But I will say like, I don't know if you know the company Darn Tough that makes socks. They're from Vermont.

Margaret 54:03 No.

Petra 54:04 They have a lifetime warranty on all their socks.

Margaret 54:07 Whoa. Okay, so you—

Petra 54:08 I have tested this and it's a real thing. If you develop a hole in one of your socks, you can take a picture, you can send it to the company, and they will send you a new pair of socks. Lifetime warranty.

Margaret 54:19 Okay, that's cool.

Petra 54:21 Totally worth the extra money.

Margaret 54:23 Yeah. Okay. What about like tents and—like what gear—because so much of this gear is so fuck off expensive. And yet so much of it is also available. It's funny when you're talking about the ubiquitous camping mat. And I'm like, in my mind, the ubiquitous camping mat is a blue foam mat from Walmart.

Petra 54:48 Yeah.

Margaret 54:50 Which I think is just ready to—go ahead.

Petra 54:52 I was just gonna say maybe ubiquitous just in the circles that I've been in for a decade now.

Margaret 54:57 Yeah. I have an accordion fold one now cuz I'm a fancy bitch but like, yeah, I'm curious what—if you have any other ideas of like gear that you can and can't cut corners with.

Petra 55:14 Yeah, um, you know, tents are kind of a weird story. Like the sort of cheapest tent that you can buy at like a, you know, an army navy surplus store or like Walmart or anything like that—those tents will work for sure, you know, they might even hold up to some, you know, some high winds, relatively high winds or some hard rain. They're just much less durable, and they're much heavier. So I guess really any gear can work if you don't mind carrying the weight. Because a lot of those tents that you can find at, you know, at Walmart or, you know, any like sporting goods store, or those like sort of cheaper, more basic tents. They're like 6 pounds, 7 pounds. And you know, in comparison, you know, if you buy like a really fancy tent, you can get one that's, you know, under a pound. But that's like a $900 tent. And I don't know about you, I'm never gonna fucking buy at $900 tent.

Margaret 56:21 No.

Petra 56:22 No, so—

Margaret 56:24 If I did, it'd be one of those giant camp, like, army ones that you like put a wood burning stove in and then you, like, stand outside with spears.

Petra 56:31 Like, can I have my horses inside of it? If so, great. $900.

Margaret 56:36 Yeah.

Petra 56:37 Kidding, I don't have horses. But if I did, I'd want to fit them in there.

Margaret 56:40 Yeah. Okay. Anyway, sorry, you were saying...

Petra 56:43 Oh I just said, you know, you can make a whole lot of gear work.

Margaret 56:46 Yeah.

Petra 56:47 And it's just, you know, there are going to be trade offs just because the cheaper models are going to be a little less durable, they're going to be heavier, they're not going to just last you as long, they're not going to hold up as well to extreme weather. But if you don't intend on, you know, walking a ton of miles, or you're not going to be in really crazy weather. You know, that's fine. You can get by with a tent like that, you know, that's absolutely fine. And you know, now—there are a lot of websites that are springing up now that are discount gear sites and they are absolutely worth checking, you know, if you think that you want one of these lighter weight, more durable tents. There are lots of them that pop up on these discount gear sites for, you know, 50–60% off.

Margaret 57:36 Okay.

Petra 57:36 So the the cheaper gear that's still, you know, pretty high quality—it's definitely out there. It just takes some some searching.

Margaret 57:45 Okay. Yeah, I guess it maybe on some level a tent then ends up kind of similar to, like, what I say about helmets with a demonstration. Which is, like, the best helmet is the one that you're wearing, you know?

Petra 57:55 Yeah, absolutely.

Margaret 57:56 And so, yeah, it seems like maybe some stuff you can get the nicer of. I do like all the things that like the nicer one is like not actually quite as good, like a down sleeping bag. I mean, like down sleeping bags are really—I'm certain they're great for very specific situations, you know. But, and speaking of another one, the other thing that I called you anxious about was hiking poles, and I called you about hiking poles because I basically was like, I am not as—I mean, it's funny cuz I'm in some ways more fit than I used to be in that I work on physical things all the time because I have to fix my stupid house constantly. You know, but I'm just, like, 20 years older than I used to be—well actually I'm 37 years older than I used to be if you're counting far enough back. But, uh, you know, anyway, um... Now just think about how old I am, god dammit. So I called you basically being like, "Oh, I might need poles, like, it seems like if I'm going to be carrying a lot of weight or moving across treacherous terrain, these poles seemed like a good idea." And could you tell me what you think about trekking poles?

Petra 59:07 Yeah, I am 2,000% on Team Trekking Pole. I love them. And I basically never hike without them. And even if I'm not using them while hiking, I'm always carrying them with me. So actually this kind of relates back to your question about, you know, where you can cut corners. One thing that I totally failed to mention is that if you don't need a completely enclosed tent, there are great lightweight tarps out there that are really affordable, you know, especially for something that's so compatible and so lightweight. You know, you can buy a super ultra lightweight tarp for like $30 which is just a lot cheaper than your average tent which is, you know, going to run you at least like $100 up to, you know, $900. So, lightweight tarps are great option and a lot of those can be pitched between trekking poles.

Margaret 1:00:04 Okay.

Petra 1:00:04 So you don't have to carry, you know, special tent poles or anything like that. And, you know, speaking of, you know, things that sort of serve multiple functions, the trekking pole is the unsung hero because you can use it to put up your tent. You can—they're incredibly, incredibly helpful for taking weight off of your joints. So, going uphill, they take, you know, they give you sort of a little extra momentum going uphill. And on the downhill, especially if you're like me and you have really busted knees after a lot of years of treating them very badly.

Margaret 1:00:39 Uh, huh.

Petra 1:00:40 They take a ton of weight off of that. And if you tend to end hikes with sore knees, trekking poles might really significantly help you.

Margaret 1:00:48 Okay.

Petra 1:00:49 They're also, you know, I used to be a wilderness EMT. And my favorite part of becoming an EMT, or, you know, any sort of wilderness first, you know, medical first response is first aid arts and crafts—or learning how to splint a broken bone. When you split a broken bone, you know, you need something that's rigid, that's going to, you know—that you basically strap to that injured extremity so you can prevent it from moving around. And trekking poles are so great, especially if you get ones that are collapsible, because then you can custom, you know, you can adjust the length of them. So, you know, you can fully extend them if it's a broken leg, or you can make them really short if it's a broken arm. So they're really great for that. And there's also a really hilarious story about Andrew Skurka, who's like this really famous thru-hiker and backpacker, who had a grizzly bear running at him. And he threw his trekking pole at this bear, and the bear turns around and ran away while shitting himself.

Margaret 1:01:59 Damn.

Petra 1:02:02 Scared the shit out of this grizzly bear with this trekking pole. Which I just love the visual of that so much.

Margaret 1:02:12 Yeah, I um—I hope I am never in a situation where I ever have to consider this.

Petra 1:02:18 Me neither! So yeah, I think trekking poles are absolutely worth it.

Margaret 1:02:25 Okay. Yeah, when I was younger I would, like, seek adventure, you know? Being like, "Adventure. That's cool." And now I'm like, "No adventure is when bad stuff happens, that's what makes it adventure." I'm like, if I go hiking, and all I can say is like, "Man, that waterfall was amazing." You know, like, that's a better trip.

Petra 1:02:46 It's been great.

Margaret 1:02:48 Yeah. Okay, the one other gear question—I mean, I'm sure I could talk to you gear way longer than this. The one other thing that I wanted to ask you about because I've been trying to look into for my own work is—"work," work have been prepared.

Petra 1:03:06 It's work.

Margaret 1:03:06 Yeah, well especially now that I do this podcast. Um, do you carry an emergency radio of any kind?

Petra 1:03:12 I don't. But let me say that that is something that I feel really terrible about. And I—that's sort of my next gear purchase, is a radio. There are a bunch of different kinds. And they're—one of the reasons that I haven't gotten one yet is that this is one technology where it feels like—or sort of one back country technology—where it feels like the technology is improving so quickly, that I keep waiting because I don't know, you know, the next iteration is going to be able to like microwave a bag of popcorn for me while I'm out. But, you know, there's a spot, there's a personal locator beacon, there's the Garmin inReach, they're all of these different options. And they kind of differ in terms of, you know, some of them just allow you to alert, you know, search and rescue, and you know, sort of your designated emergency contact when there's an emergency. So basically just has like a big red panic button, more or less. And then there are ones that let you text people and receive texts, which is nice, especially if you need to—you know, one problem with, like, the big red panic button scenario is that you can't actually tell search and rescue what's going on. They can pinpoint your location, but they don't know if it's, you know, is this a heart attack? Is that a broken bone? Can you be evacuated on foot? Do you need a helicopter, all of that.

Margaret 1:04:40 Right.

Petra 1:04:40 And so it's nice to have the text capacity so you can say, you know, one patient, 30 years old, broken femur, need a helicopter.

Margaret 1:04:53 Yeah. I—it's funny because I worry about that kind of stuff. Mostly because my version of—well I mean I like camping and from a camping and backpacking point of view, those make a ton of sense. But if I'm, like, right wing militias have taken over the region that I live in and I would like to leave. I don't imagine carrying, like, anything that locates me being a positive to my my health and safety. But I'm—but I could imagine either wanting a radio that can transmit, or even just like the like, the little like portable shortwave and FM and weather and whatever, radios. I don't know. Have you messed with any of those at all, or?

Petra 1:05:38 Not a lot. No, I really haven't. I think it's a great idea, though, sort of, as you mentioned, you know, it all kind of depends on what function you specifically need. And I think having some kind of communication that is not reliant on cell service is is great, you know, and that is another one of the 10 Essentials, right, is some sort of emergency communication device. And, you know, our phones are great, but our phones also tend to not, you know, work terribly reliably. So yeah, I don't have any great words of advice with those particular things. But I do think that having something like that is critical.

Margaret 1:06:18 Okay. Well, you know, I had this whole section prepared of asking what to do when you don't have all the stuff with you that you want to have. But we're coming up on an hour already and I guess maybe this is a conversation mostly about how to, you know, the gear that you might want to bring with you when you're preparing rather than what to do when you're, you know, surviving with just a fuck off knife and whatever. Is there anything, like, anything that you want to bring up—last words of advice, things that you think the listeners should hear? Or that I should hear?

Petra 1:07:00 Not really, I think that I do—I guess there is one thing I want to say, which is just that there's a whole lot of material out there that's going to tell you, you know, what you should bring what you shouldn't bring. And I think that people really just figure out what works for you. Because it might be something you know, maybe a tarp, a lightweight, tarp, works great for you. And great, like, that's what you should take. Or maybe you are the kind of person who needs, you know, sleep is really difficult for you. And you need a little bit of extra luxury when it comes to your sleeping setup. And that's great. You know, have that. Because I think, as you, I think, so correctly pointed out, right, morale is so important. And if we—I think the outdoor community, right, we're obsessed with gear, but we're also really obsessed with like denial and denying ourselves comfort, right? Which is great in some situations, right? If you're a thru-hiker and you want to hike 50 miles a day, great, you're probably going to have to ditch a lot of gear.

Margaret 1:08:06 Oh God.

Petra 1:08:06 But for most of us, for most of us, we're not going to be traveling that kind of distance, and bring some things that make you feel comfortable because that is ultimately going to keep you safe, right, is if you've had enough sleep, you've had enough calories, you've had enough water. You know, if you chemically treat your water and you hate the way it tastes, and that makes you drink less water, bring a filter, you know, then it's really worth it. So I think for a lot of these things, just like test out different sleeping situations, try different methods of treating your water, figure out what kind of food you like when you're hiking because there are lots of things that I like when I'm hiking that I really don't like at all at home.

Margaret 1:08:50 Like what?

Petra 1:08:50 So you know, figure out what those things are.

Margaret 1:08:53 What are they for you?

Petra 1:08:55 I—so I'm like not a candy person at all. But Sour Patch Kids in the back country are like the greatest thing in the world. And also just, like, regular—I think now they call it—hopefully they have changed it away from calling it "Oriental" ramen, because who approved that?

Margaret 1:09:15 Yeah.

Petra 1:09:16 I think now they're calling it their soy sauce flavor. But the soy sauce ramen, I can't get enough of it in the back country, and instant mashed potatoes.

Margaret 1:09:24 Oh, okay.

Petra 1:09:26 Yeah.

Margaret 1:09:27 That's cool.

Petra 1:09:28 And especially when you mix the two of them together.

Margaret 1:09:30 Yeah. I'm trying to think of like, yeah, when we would do forest defense basically like as soon as the food supply runs would come, all of the sugar just gets eaten right away. And at some point, people developed a rule where only tree sitters are allowed to get candy just because like to get people to do tree sitting, right? You know, you like, you need something nice dude.

Petra 1:09:57 And it's funny because I have such a—I normally have such sweet tooth, but not in the back country. I am just like all salt all the time.

Margaret 1:10:05 Okay. This is because you're sweating more you think?

Petra 1:10:09 Yeah, I think so. I assume that that's what it is, and so my body just permanently craves sodium. But yeah, and—oh, and potato chips, even if they're like crushed all to hell, like, potato chips in the outdoors are so great and I never eat potato chips at home. So yeah, just figure out what you like and what you crave when you're outdoors.

Margaret 1:10:31 Yeah, that makes sense. And, you know, now you have a good excuse whoever's listening to go camping and go hiking and learn more about this stuff. You know, learn what you prefer. Oh, I wanted to ask you, are you a tent, bivy, or tarp sleeper?

Petra 1:10:51 Tarp if it's—if the weather's nice. Tent in sort of snow and alpine situations. I hate bivies. I hate them. Some people really like them. They're lightweight. They pack down really small. But I don't know if you've ever had an MRI before. An MRI is like my worst nightmare, right? Because your in this tube that you can't escape from and it makes a shit ton of noise and that's basically the same.

Margaret 1:11:23 Okay.

Petra 1:11:24 So I hate them. But what—my perfect shelter actually, which is something that I don't, doesn't really fit into any one category that you mentioned, is a pyramid tent, which is kind of like a cross between a tarp and a tent.

Margaret 1:11:42 I have no idea what this is.

Petra 1:11:44 Okay, look it up. It's my favorite shelter.

Margaret 1:11:48 Okay.

Petra 1:11:49 Absolute favorite shelter because it's really roomy, it's really small, and it's really light.

Margaret 1:11:54 Okay, cool. That sounds great. Yeah, I never fucked with tents, because my threat model was always not animals, or even necessarily weather, it was like people, right? Because I'm sleeping places that either I'm not supposed to be or I just don't want anyone to see me anyway because people are incredibly cruel to, you know, people who are sleeping places that they should—you know, that aren't in houses or whatever. And so I just never fucked with tents because I was like, "No, that's the way you get caught, right?" And so a bivy to me seems like the best of all worlds, right? But I've only slept in one once. I just finally got one. And you know, I always just slept like out with no shelter or under a tarp. And then—if it's gonna be raining—and then—but now I have a bivy. And I've only got to sleep with it once and I'm like, I don't know. I haven't figured it out yet. And I haven't slept in the rain with it yet. I think I might hate it in the rain. But I don't know. And that's the whole point of it.

Petra 1:13:01 Yeah, they're really miserable in the rain, at least in my experience, and in the wind. The other thing that I really don't like is you can't keep anything dry. Like, if you have gear—the thing I like about tense is, you know, if the weather's really miserable, you either have a vestibule created by your rain, you know, your rain fly that you could put your gear underneath, or you bring your gear into your shelter with you, With a baby, you're just shit out of luck, man. I hope the weather is not going to be bad because everything's going to be out in the elements and I find that whenever I sleep in a bivy, I wake up to like a totally soaked backpack.

Margaret 1:13:40 Even with like the cover over the backpack or whatever.

Petra 1:13:45 I use a—I don't use a rain fly or rain cover for my pack. I use a like a trash compactor bag inside it.

Margaret 1:13:55 Okay,

Petra 1:13:56 Which is way cheaper and way more durable, but then also just allows for the sleeping bag to get totally—or the backpack to get totally soaked.

Margaret 1:14:04 Cool. Yeah, nope. That actually, that makes sense about bivies. I'm so sad. Why did you killjoy my perfect solution to all problems? Well, now I have a new perfect solution, it's a pyramid tent.

Petra 1:14:15 I thought you liked the killjoy.

Margaret 1:14:18 Aaaaaaah I see. Yeah, it's almost like I took it as my last name. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing all this knowledge. And, yeah, I hope that you're doing as well as you can, as things go wild in this world. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell people about it on various social media or even in person. Although right now it's not a good time to talk to people in person. You should avoid all people all the time, because no one should have a pod. If I don't get to have a pod, no one gets to have a pod, but you should tell people about the show. If you liked it. If you don't like it, you probably didn't make it this far. I don't know, unless you hate listen to podcasts. What a strange thing to do. You need to reconsider your life choices. If you want to support the podcast more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And I ostensibly put up a scene every month. But actually now I've been so focused on this podcast that I've fallen pretty far behind. But I do put music up there and I do put up zines and there's also a whole backlog of, like, almost 40 zines and a bunch of songs and things like that from my various bands. And there's no behind the scenes content for the podcast. There just isn't. Sorry. I already feel weird doing exclusive content at all. And actually, it's not actually particularly exclusive content if you live off of less money than I make on Patreon, just messaged me and I'll get you all of the content there for free. But, yeah, in particular, I'd like to thank Chris and Nora and Hoss the Dog, Kirk, Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher, Shane, the Compound. Thanks just for making this possible. And thanks to you all for listening. And I hope you're doing as well as you can all things considered. I need to come up with another way to say that instead of all things considered because I think that some radio people have already taken that particular phrase. Anyway. Be well.

S1E20 - Deviant on How to Let Yourself In

lockpicking, lock bypass, and physical security for times of crisis

Episode Notes

Our guest Deviant Ollam can be found on twitter @deviantollam.

Our host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy, on instagram @margaretkilljoy, and on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

Some (but not all of the links) and such referenced in this show:

the "Deviant Keyring" includes: FEO-K1, EK333, 222343, C415A, CH751, 16120, 1284X, plus Jiggler Tools

Transcript:

1:16:11 SPEAKERS Margaret, Deviant

Margaret 00:14 Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I'm your host Margaret Killjoy. I use she and they pronouns. This week I'm talking to Deviant Ollam, who's a security researcher—a hacker basically—only instead of just hacking computers, Deviant hacks his way into buildings as part of, doing physical pen testing of—basically breaking into buildings to see how it's done. I'm excited to have Deviant on the podcast for a lot of reasons, and I think that you'll get a lot out of what he has to say about how so many keys, you know, so many locks in this world all use the same keys and what those keys are, and learning how to let yourself in. And also a lot of this is really useful when you think about your own security, when you think about the ways in which people might be able to access you through your various means of physical security. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And here's another podcast from the network. Well, it's on another podcasts jingle. It's like a little well teaser for another podcast on the network. Doo doo da doooo!

Jingle 01:22 Kite Line is a weekly 30 minute radio program focusing on issues in the prison system. You'll hear news along with stories from prisoners and former prisoners as well as their loved ones. You'll learn what prison is, how it functions and how it impacts all of us. Behind the prison walls, a message is called a kite. Whispered words a note passed hand-to-hand, a request submitted to the guards for medical care. Illicit or not, sending a kite means trusting that other people will be farther along until it reaches its destination. Here on Kite Line we hope to share these words across the prison walls. You can hear us on the Channel Zero Network and find out more at kitelineradio.noblogs.org.

Margaret 02:02 So this week I'm talking to Deviant Ollam, and if you could introduce yourself with your name, which I guess I just said, and your pronouns and any political or organizational affiliations—maybe what you do for a living might be relevant to this particular episode.

Deviant 02:17 Sure, so thank you for having me on. I'm Deviant Ollam, I use he/him pronouns, and I show up a lot in odd places in the hacker world and on the internet. Most people who have ever come across me or my work probably know me for something relating to the physical security space that can stem from locks and lock picking where I am on the board of the Open Organization of Lock Pickers. TOOOL is a nonprofit that has been teaching about locks and lock picking to people for decades now it seems. And we run the Lockpick Village at major events like DEFCON and a lot of smaller regional events as well. I own companies that work in this space. I am a consultant and covert entry technician. I'm a locksmith, I'm a safe technician. But the physical security world is pretty broad. So it gets into matters of, you know, maybe security on the road and security moving around in cities. I have plenty of affiliation, as do other people in my family, with people who are, we'll say sometimes disadvantaged in the security side of things, either people who are housing insecure, or I do a ton of work with the Sex Workers Outreach Project—so SWOP and SWOP Behind Bars. I have lectured and talked to sex workers and other people in the communities that have to kind of move through cities in ways that either they are not noticed—so you don't want to stand out—or they have to position themselves in environments that their security might not be 100%. So I have a whole talk, actually, that's just called "From Street to Suite." And it's like, imagine, you know, a high rise building and there's this room up in a nice high floor that seems safe. What are all of the steps from the curbside all the way up to that room and all the barriers that should protect you or inhibit someone from getting up there? And let's walk through, like, knocking each one of them down. And that goes hand-in-hand with a lot of the work I've done that isn't really lockpicking but has to do with lock bypassing or bypassing of access control systems. Things like key to like systems people have this famous key ring that they've been building now in the community. I gave this talk in South Dakota once and people like always freeze frame right at around the half hour markm like 30 minutes 30 seconds in, where there's this list of keys that I always carry—it's a small list, right? But now there's—it started, like, eBay auctions which show up and it was calling it like Deviance Key Ring. And then there were on Amazon, like, frequently bought together. And now there's just a locksmith in Portland, Oregon area who just runs hooligankeys.com and it's a list of like my keys and other keys. I don't make these keys, right, but I'm kind of popularized the idea of having a go kit with a certain set of keys in them, cuz why pick the locks when you can just operate them like an authorized user.

Margaret 05:08 Yeah.

Deviant 05:09 And we can get into the other side of the more kinetic physical security of firearms and the like. I've been a frequent participant in the firearm community for ages and ages. I think much of the gun culture is a dumpster fire. But friends of mine, like my buddy, Ian, who runs Forgotten Weapons, is just a very mellow, very happy, kind guy. My buddy Karl— Who runs In Range TV. Yeah, Gun Jesus and the sauerkraut? Absolutely. Yeah, Carl has always taken tons of incoming fire from a lot of the edge floor type gun community people because he speaks out very plainly and very loudly about Black Lives Matter, about fighting against racism and fascism. He's the one who runs to gun matches where, like, furries will routinely show up. "Oh, hello, nice to see you again. You're gonna run the whole course of fire in the first full suit? It's pretty hot today."

Margaret 05:29 Gun Jesus. That's the most 2020 shit I think I've heard all week. Yeah, I wanted to have you on the show because, you know, I was reaching out to one of our friends in common. And I was like, well, who does physical pen testing, you know, who does this stuff of basically figuring out how to get into places that either you're not supposed to be or maybe have been abandoned? And, you know, and my friend said, "Oh, you need to talk to Deviant." And I was like, okay, and so I looked you up and I was like, oh, this is literally the person that I've been watching the YouTube videos of for the past—you know, it's not like—about once a year I guess I'll watch a talk of you talking about how to spit your drink through doors to trigger motion sensors.

Deviant 06:44 A lot of people have seen that opening the bank late at night.

Margaret 06:47 Yeah.

Deviant 06:48 With a glass of whiskey.

Margaret 06:49 Yeah. So from a prepping point of view, you know, you said that you have these these keys on your go kit. Would you consider yourself a prepper?

Deviant 07:02 So yeah, it's one of those very loaded terms, where, if you if you use the phrase "prepper," on paper that can just mean a certain set of skills—collecting certain skills, collecting certain tools. But if you use it in conversation, a lot of people attach a bunch of politics to that and a bunch of worldview to that. There's some people who are, you know, if you hear someone's a "prepper", you might think, well, they're planning for something they think is coming. As opposed to, if you tell someone, well, yeah, I mean, I learned first aid because I hike and, you know, I learned gun skills because personal security and maybe I'm going to go hunting, people attach different meaning to why are you learning these things. So on paper I could certainly be described as having a prepper's mindset. My wife and I, for example, will toe in the water gently on this one, right? Every six months we do an evac drill from house, right? We live in a major metropolitan area. It's relatively geologically stable—not like when I was in Montana, where nothing will ever hit Montana. But let's say there was climatologically a really bad flood that were in a coastal area. If you just had to leave, fast. Well, you can do the run around your house like a nincompoop thing. Or what we have is we have a large bag with, like, plenty of, you know, clothes for a few days, you know, some medical supplies, duplicates of medicines, but we also have in the small guns safe—because like the bulk of the guns are all in the basement or in the cabin or somewhere else—like the bedroom gun safe contains within it some household valuables, the bedroom gun, and a list. And it's just literally the comfort of: okay, you open the gun safe, there's a backpack underneath it. Step one is if you have to—like if the house is on fire, throw everything from that little lockbox, which is about all the bits of precious in the house, and the gun in the backpack, get the hell out of the house. If you have another five minutes, well then you grab items like two and three, you know, you go—you step it down. The cats are like items two and three, basically. And, you know, then if you have another five minutes, well then there's, you get some art off the walls. She's created a lot of art over the years and I have, you know, I went on Amazon, I got $7 little zipper art sleeves. So within 20–30 minutes, the truck could be meaningfully loaded in a way that if we had to like leave the house and potentially never come back or not get back for six months to a year, we'd be okay. Like, better than if we ran out of the house with mismatched socks, one boot, and a magazine of ammo for gun we didn't grab. Like, so just doing that every six months. And it's a pain right? Like, it's a pain to load all this heavy crap into the truck. Because the last things on the list tend to be, like—if you have five more minutes, just grab more ammo, grab more ammo and then drive, you know, grab a couple fuel cans and throw throw them on on the roof rack. Don't even strap them down. So it's a pain, but each time we do it, we iterate for better.

Margaret 10:09 Yeah.

Deviant 10:10 We're like, oh, wow, why is number seven—that's back upstairs. I should have grabbed that first. If I was running downstairs, I should just grabbed like her flight bag. She's a pilot, you know? So grab her flight bag. Because if we ever need to rent an aircraft, get on a plane, leave. So iterating for better, it's soothing to me. It's very calming. Now, does that make me a prepper? Because I have done probably way more than most of the population for a disaster that I don't think is ever coming.

Margaret 10:35 Right.

Deviant 10:35 I think we're a very resilient region out here. We have a very strong municipal infrastructure, we have a very nice culture. People are pretty easygoing in the Pacific Northwest. And, yeah, do I think anything's gonna really ever jump off horribly? No. But if that makes me a prepper, because I want to just know that I, you know, could leave if I had to? Sure. I'll wear that label.

Margaret 10:59 Yeah, I mean, that that actually, that's one of the whole kind of points of the show is to—I don't, I guess I'll use the word "prepper," a lot just as a shorthand, but then, you know, usually I pretty much just talking about individual and community preparedness, because I throw in the community in there, because otherwise I'm just talking about a different thing than people think that I might otherwise be talking about. But I really like this idea that your "toe in the water" about it, and you're like, "Oh, I mean, don't get me wrong, we have our list and the priorities written then we do drills." That is more than I think that most people, even people who sort of would identify as preppers, or are being really into preparedness, bother doing.

Deviant 11:38 Probably. Because I think that doesn't cost me anything, right, two days out of the year? And it's not like it's a day-long activity, literally it's a half hour fire drill.

Margaret 11:47 Right.

Deviant 11:47 Versus people who literally tie up a lot of their personal resources and space with stuff, Like this—a lot of people think of prepping as stockpiling with no skill-building and no community-building. In fact, that was really—I think it's a profound statement about society and how the certain mindset is that when the pandemic hit a lot of people who were that kind of like Burt Gummer, in the movie Tremors, right, like that generation of prepper. They were preparing all their life for a disaster that didn't come

Margaret 12:20 Right.

Deviant 12:20 The disaster wasn't, you become a warlord up in the pines in the hills and have, what, a harem of like disaffected citizens who turn to you as a warlord god, and they bow down for your spare beans and guns. That wasn't the that wasn't the disaster we got, we got a disaster that basically said, you have to look out for your neighbors and watch out for one another and be kind.

Margaret 12:42 Right.

Deviant 12:42 And in community.

Margaret 12:43 Right.

Deviant 12:44 And it made a lot of people really frickin sore about that fact. Because they're like, oh, that's not the disaster I wanted.

Margaret 12:53 So to shift into the—one of the things you mentioned is that, you know, things are key to, like, and this is something that I think I really lit up about. I mean, I've known how to lockpick for a while, like, I'm not, I'm no expert at it, but you know, occasionally it's very nice to get into public restrooms or dumpsters or things like that. I would never obviously advocate anyone do those sorts of things. But um, but I was reading the story the other week about wildfire out west. And it was talking about how at one point in order to get emergency crews out of an area they had to use heavy equipment to push all the abandoned cars out of the road. And I was thinking about heavy equipment. And then I was, I knew I was going to be interviewing you, and I was thinking about how apparently most CAT equipment all uses the same key. Is that, is that true?

Deviant 13:41 Oh yeah. That is very, very similar. Caterpillar, Kubota, like all these major brands, Genie Lifts, Sunbelt, a lot of them tend to have uniform keys—not even a key series of a small number, but like a key. And if you ever see a lot of equipment, the keys—we're using key in a broad sense—a lot of them are barely more than safety interlock switches with a little widget that's kind of a little fork of metal or something. The Caterpillar one looks more key-like than others.

Margaret 14:13 Okay.

Deviant 14:14 But yeah, a lot of these devices, they just have—this really gets into a term that I love. And I've been meaning to do a video on this for ages. It was inspired by—every time someone posts like a clip on Twitter or on Instagram of like a fence. They're like, "Oh, I'm going to my neighbor's apartment building. Look at this fence, I can reach right over it and I can hit the latch from the other side." There's a concept that I wish society understood better, especially in the security world, which is that there can be security products, security, meaningful locks, and then there can be symbolic locks.

Margaret 14:51 Yeah.

Deviant 14:52 The fact that someone has a perimeter fence around their apartment complex, and yeah, like you could reach over the bar or they can reach through the bars and hit the thing on the other side. It's not that no one can get past it, it might not even be that high a fence, right? It might be a five, six foot fence. The point is, it's a demonstration of commitment. If you are discovered on the other side of that fence, you can't pretend that it was an accident. You could go, "Oh, I just wandered through here. This isn't the way to shop?" Like, you did that, you know you did that. So a symbolic lock, in many of these devices, it represents a moment of commitment, like, I'm going to operate this machine now. You didn't just bump or flip a button, like no, you took a key and stuck it in a hole and turned it.

Margaret 15:39 Right. And you were carrying it.

Deviant 15:41 That's, yeah, that's what those, a lot of the heavy equipment really is. They're safety interlocks and they are positive confirmation that you are asserting, "I am supposed to be doing what I'm doing," even if you're just asserting it to yourself or the ones around you. But that's why these keys don't have to be outrageously complex. And in fact, the customer service side of things would be a nightmare. They don't want to have customers calling and saying, wait, I need to order another key. What's your serial number? Well, it's on a data plate that's long been scraped away by gravel and rust.

Margaret 16:13 Right.

Deviant 16:13 Like, I don't know, my serial number to my front end loader is you know, so yeah, a lot of these large pieces of equipment in our world are in fact all very, very keyed alike, and anyone who wants to poke about this some more, you can look on Amazon right now. Tornado is the vendor. Tornado makes the heavy equipment key set. And it comes in different iterations, different sizes of key set. The largest one is almost like 100-some keys. But it's not an unattainable price, right, these aren't complex keys. A lot of them are just stamped pieces of metal. So yeah, we have that in our bag on our covert entry jobs. And we've been able to—I've never taken like a boom lift and gotten on a roof just that way. There's probably some OSHA violation involved if I do that. But I could. I've demonstrated to clients walking around job sites, I'm like, so if you want to turn this key you can. For liability I shouldn't, but if you want to start trying to start that up, Oh, look at that it started up. Okay, turn that off. Turn that off. Turn the oil pressure off too. Okay. You know, but uh, yeah, like just having a giant tea set that opens a ton of stuff, that's nice to have around.

Margaret 17:19 What is the um, you know, so I've looked into this key set, and I've done literally the same thing where I googled, you know, "Deviant key ring," and, you know, yeah, I found lots of spare keys here and there on Amazon with like, notes about sell only to locksmiths. And then eBay has like "pen tester key ring" where you can buy, you know, for pretty cheap you can buy like a whole bunch of elevator keys and RV keys and I don't know whether the heavy equipment keys are on there, including some stuff that's like, the Ford police cruisers, for example. And—

Deviant 17:55 Oh yeah,.

Margaret 17:55 To be real, the reason I didn't buy the key ring is because it had the Ford police cruisers on it and I, I think about my own threat modeling. And I personally think it is more likely that the police are going to be curious about the things that I own, then that I'm going to have an opportunity after the apocalypse to need to pilot a vehicle that is part of the Ford fleet series. But I'm curious if you know much about the legality of acquiring, owning, using keys like this.

Deviant 18:29 Right, so the main part that can trip you up—so almost in any instance keys are not defined—now I'm not a lawyer—but in my readings of most statutes, keys are not defined in the same way that lockpicks are defined under the law.

Margaret 18:47 Interesting.

Deviant 18:48 For those who don't know, and TOOL, the 501C3 has actually done legal research. Our lawyers have pulled the lock picking laws and all states. So most states have a burglary tools statute and that is, you know, tools or implements that could be used to commit burglarious offenses and things like that, and felonious entry, and it's very flowery language that's often outdated to our ears today. Most states will have an intent clause for any type of multi-purpose item. So for example, burglary tools aren't just lockpicks. A crowbar can be a burglary tool. A pipe wrench can be a burglary tool. But those, you know, they sell those at Home Depot. People own those and don't go to jail. How is this possible? Because intent. If the circumstances of the situation demonstrate that you may have criminal intent, you're facing different legal ramifications for owning that crowbar.

Margaret 19:41 Yeah.

Deviant 19:42 Now lockpicks, specifically, we start to get into items that aren't necessarily multipurpose items. They're not multi-use. Lockpicks kind of only have one real use. So again, in many burglary tools statutes, lockpicks are called out specifically as greater scrutiny. And there's a handful of states, the most famous for would be Virginia, Mississippi, Nevada, and oh, it's killing me here. Is it? Is it Ohio? Oh my god. There's one other state that has uh... Yeah, there's one other state where it is prima facie evidence—on its face this is evidence of your ill-intent because these tools, hey, come on now, this is not a crowbar that can do many things.

Margaret 20:23 Right.

Deviant 20:24 You know, this is obviously criminal. Now, keys on the other hand, keys are on the other side of the coin. Keys are much more likely to have a legitimate purpose than they are to have an illegitimate purpose. And if you can demonstrate any kind, you could say no, like, I have a product that this key opens, you know, this is my key. It's one of the funny things about—do you know, this is another key to like fact. I know we're jumping around but the listeners are tracking hopefully. When properties are abandoned and they fall into the control of HUD or a number of other agencies that have to do foreclosure work. If a property is semi-derelict, or at the very least, if a contractor is brought in to assess the condition of a property before a bank sale, most of those properties get rekeyed. They get rekeyed to a set of standard lock and keys. So a standard set of Quick Set locks, a standard set of padlock key—there's one padlock key is literally—I did a video about this on my channel—it is the most common Master Lock key in the world. Because there's just oodles and oodles and oodles and oodles of locks with this one key because all across this country properties that are abandoned have padlocks on gates and other entrances. They're all the same key. Now, if you own that key, and only the key, that's a bit of a noodle scratcher. Someone might say, you know, why do you have this key? What are you doing with this? But remember, I said it's also the most common frickin lock.

Margaret 21:50 Right.

Deviant 21:51 Because they're vendors on—if you look on Amazon I found these locks for $1. Because they have to sell tons of them to contractors. Well, if you own the lock and the key, then it's a lot more plausible why you own that key. Well, this is the key to my lock. So the idea of a police cruiser, you know, key. And this, we're talking about the Ford Motor Company, as most automotive manufacturers, they have what's called fleet keying is an option for many—if you want to buy a bunch of models of car from one vendor, they say, "Can you keep them all alike?" A vendor can do that. And they have a key series, like the 1284X, the most common one, is just the first entry in that key series, the 1294X the I think C101 C102. But if you own no Ford vehicles and you've never even worked for a company that drove Ford vehicles, again, someone might say, "Well, why do you have this one particular key?"

Margaret 22:42 Right.

Deviant 22:43 If however, someone had ever in the course of their employment been a taxi driver, been any kind of delivery, any kind of vehicle driver where you might have used a key because that was the key—if you had a fleet keyed vehicle, that's a person who might have a plausible explanation as to why they have that key. So everyone's life is different. And everyone as you point, everyone's kind of risk profile is different for what questions they may have to answer based on the things they own.

Margaret 23:09 Yeah, yeah, I sometimes—it's kind of awful, but sometimes I see people with really cool lockpick earrings and I think to myself, "You don't interact with police very often."

Deviant 23:20 Yeah.

Margaret 23:21 And maybe that's unfair.

Deviant 23:22 And custodial—oh, yeah, and custodial detention is a special animal under the law. Again, not a criminal lawyer. But I do know that there are certain things like duty to inform where if you have keys or lockpicks or anything on you, or possession of a handcuff key—there was a famous case—famous for the lockpicking world—just some poor unhoused person who was getting rousted about by the police. I think he was known to the area he was, they were just one of these people that just get targeted and harassed routinely, right? And the cops had them in their cruiser again, but he had a piece of jewelry. He had like a necklace that included odd stuff on it. One of them was a handcuff key.

Margaret 23:59 Mm hmm.

Deviant 23:59 Well, that was considered evidence of attempted escape from police custody, the mere possession of the key.

Margaret 24:05 Yeah.

Deviant 24:07 Without informing them, and how quickly was he arrested? How quickly was he processed and detained and then left alone? Did he even have an opportunity to say, "Hey, I have this key on me"? That's unknown. Right? That's interesting. I only know about duty to inform on like, you know, in North Carolina where I live I have a duty to inform officers that I'm armed as a concealed carry holder.

Margaret 24:28 Yeah.

Deviant 24:29 And the idea of having a duty—I mean, you know, it changes my, again, it changes my threat assessment. I'm like, am I more likely to be in a situation in which I need to tell a cop that I'm armed and therefore see a potential escalation in that entire encounter? Or do I, you know, it makes me wonder whether I should carry a gun on a given day as someone who carries a gun for self-defense. And so that's interesting to see that applied to locks and these—you know, because in some ways I want to say, like, these pen testing key rings seem like brilliant Bug Out Bag items, right? Like just—now of course you have, you figured out the best deal of all, which is that your job is that you get hired—correct me if I'm wrong—your job is that companies come and say, "Hey, can anyone break into our servers, including physically?" And your job is to break into their server rooms. And in which case owning all of this stuff is actually like, I mean, you get to write the stuff off on your taxes, like I, I assume it's kind of just chill for you. For the most part, and also I'm not at all blind to the fact that I just walked through the world in a much, much more of a friction-free state because I, the way I present, like I have a very frictionless interaction with most parts of society. I have a lot of privilege. But even if I didn't have that, having the job—as you point out—having the job, being a locksmith, being a safe technician, having things that are just, well, it's the same reason that a chef might have chef's knives on them. Like, why are you carrying a bunch of knives? Oh, that they're a chef. Okay. I guess so. Why not?

Margaret 26:11 So what do you carry in your like, in your day-to-day?

Deviant 26:17 Sure. So we'll start with the sort of most minimal. I have a smartphone, right? And I started adding—there's a little, like a little pouch. It's not one of those fold-open wallets that holds my phone. But there's just stuck adhesive stuck to the back of my phone case, there's a little pouch that contains one credit card and my passport card. And this is the thing, like, if I grab my smartphone and just leave the house I can meaningfully have an entire day out and about because I have one piece of ID—and it's my favorite piece of ID, by the way. Whenever I get a new passport I always get the passport card as well because it is, like, it's the most ironclad government ID. It's a passport, literally, but it has no address on it. So you know it's your it's your passport, it's just here's your passport number and here's you. So it says yes, I am an American, this is my age, this is this is my name, and then you can—I can say "fuck right off" if you want to know anything else. You know, I don't want a bar that I'm going into to know where I live, I don't want, it's not their business, right? If I were to ever interact with an authority figure in a state that requires you to show ID after, you know, Bellevue, Nevada, like, here's my ID. I have identified myself and that is all.

Margaret 27:35 Yeah.

Deviant 27:36 But that phone which I said is in a phone case, inside of my phone case, if I peel the phone case open, I have a couple more things. I have some very thin bypass and decoding tools that can be used to work on—there's a very popular style padlock, this little multi-wheel brass-colored padlock that Masterlock makes—a billion people have clone this padlock at this point. But that, you can just bypass those, you can pop them open. And, for example, when I lived in Montana there was a gun range that I had, I was able to go shoot at this gun range. And that was what their gate was always locked with. Well, every now and then they would change the combination. And they were not always great about communicating that combination change and it was a rusty old lock it didn't work well, I didn't like run—and it's cold. It's frickin Montana—bringing gloves off. But I could bypass the lock faster than I could try to fiddle with the combination,

Margaret 28:30 Right. What is the bypass—

Deviant 28:33 So go ahead.

Margaret 28:33 What is a bypass for a combination lock?

Deviant 28:36 So that particular lock, the multi-wheel lock, the original of which was called the Sesame lock, like "open sesame." And then Master cloned it and other people have cloned the design. That would be called either the Sesame Lock Bypass or the Master 175 Bypass. That's the model of Master makes. It is just inserting this thin blade into the body of the lock next to one of the wheels and rocking it, you're trying to rock a little plate of metal on the inside and springs a lock right open.

Margaret 29:05 So it's like carving a door kind of.

Deviant 29:08 Almost, almost. You're triggering a release in a way. That same little mini tool, that same thin blade of metal, can be used to decode many, many multi-wheel locks. So if you've ever seen properties that have locked boxes outside—very popular is a, probably again, the most market penetration you're going to see is Masterlock and they're competing clones that are this sort of gray and black, vaguely trapezoidal, pear shaped lump that's either mounted to a wall or it has a little horseshoe on top, you know, a shackles, it's mounted to like a doorknob or a handle, as the Master 5400 series key box. That and all of its clones, by sticking a blade of metal in next to the wheels I can run the wheels and you can feel where they catch and you can pop key boxes open. So again, I've gone to air bnbs for—I've been traveling and the host didn't send the check in email, or you know, I love being way out the middle of nowhere so I'll get cabin with Tara or something. You drive out, it's late at night, the host has long since gone to bed, no cell service. And you're like, ah shit I didn't get the combination for that. But it's one of those dumbass key boxes. So I'm like, alright, well, I could decode this. And then get inside the cabin. And now there's WiFi, great. Oh, now I can get the connection. Oh, well, that was the combination that I found. So I have tools like that under my phone case. I have a little piece of, you know, soda can metal, like the soda can padlock shame, right? I have a couple—

Margaret 30:35 Is that something that goes in between the—it goes, like, into where the, what the shackle, the U at the top of a lock?

Deviant 30:43 Mm hmm.

Margaret 30:43 Is that what that is?

Deviant 30:44 Yeah, so slipping a piece of metal—and people have talked about this online and you can google "beer can padlock shim" and you'll see people doing this. It's putting a piece of metal, a thin piece of metal, in just the right spot next to the shackle and jamming it down into the lock body will—as you analogized, it's like credit carding a door—you can slip the latch on the lock to spring the catch open. Okay, now, what I'll do is I don't always walk around with a multi-tool with scissors on it. But I don't need scissors if I've already cut the metal. So I'll pre-cut the metal, a couple of them, and leave them under my phone case and I haven't folded them into shapes. So they're nice and flat, they take up no space. So I have a variety of little tools like that under my phone case. I have, you know, SIM card, tool, and some other stuff.

Margaret 31:29 Okay.

Deviant 31:30 So that's my most basic, at my most basic, every everyday carry because I always have a phone on me. And those basic tools are in my phone case. Now if we were to move it into my pockets, I always have a very tiny lockpick set. In fact, my buddy of mine, lockpicking lawyer, and he's done a lot of multi-wheel lock decoding, it's one of his specialties that he'll scramble the wheels on camera and then flip the lock back over and decode it rapidly with or without bypass tools.

Margaret 31:58 Okay.

Deviant 31:59 He's done a little pocket set video that he has. I've got a similar pocket-sized set. It's basically chopped down lockpicks. And there are, there are some other folding pocket sets that are popular for people to have. Mine just happened to be a set that I'd evolved over the years.

Margaret 32:15 I can—my one thing I can brag about having picked a lock once in my life, I mean, I was ah, I was living in this squat in the South Bronx and someone booked a show. But all the PA was locked in his room. And then he was late to the show and the show wasn't gonna be able to start. And so I walked around and looked in the gutter until I found a street cleaner bristle that wasn't old and rusty.

Deviant 32:41 Yeah.

Margaret 32:41 I bent into a tension wrench and then use a safety pin as a pick.

Deviant 32:47 Hell yeah!

Margaret 32:47 And I picked the padlock and saved the show. And it was like, of all of the locks I've picked in my life, which is not a ton, right? I was like, this is it. It was all worth it. I did something good. He was really mad when he came home and then I broke into his room. But I feel perfectly justified.

Deviant 33:06 Absolutely. I think that's a win in my book. That goes really well. Because this person had an obligation to others and, you know, that people, friends got to step in and make sure the show must go on.

Margaret 33:15 Yeah. Okay, so you carry the tiny chopped down lockpick set.

Deviant 33:20 Mm hmm.

Margaret 33:21 And so of course lockpick set you need like all of the different weird things, right? It needs to be at least like, like 15 or different lockpicks, right?

Deviant 33:28 It's pretty minimal. It's just a couple of rakes, a little, a little hook and a little diamond. And a variety of turner tools. I have more turner tools jammed into that than I have pick tools. Because, again, most situations that—these are expedient situations where, like, maybe I'll throw this at the situation, see what happens. And if it doesn't work in a few minutes, I'm probably going to pivot to try something else, either go get proper tools or what have you. And this—it's funny, this loops back around to sort of that other prepper thing where I said a lot of preppers are just collectors of stuff. Where, like, this is my go bag and you start putting more and more crap in it so you can't even carry it around.

Margaret 34:07 Right.

Deviant 34:08 Then like, how useful is it? So yeah, I've tried to keep my stuff that's on me as minimal as possible.

Margaret 34:13 Right.

Deviant 34:14 I've taken things off of my everyday carry key ring in the past, as opposed to trying to add to it with every new whiz bang fun thing. And that everyday carry key ring is the one that shows up—uh, it's shown up in a few talks. But the one that everyone shares is this talk I gave called "I'll Let Myself In." It's about halfway through that talk that you see this set of keys, which we can talk about now. I can rattle them off by memory.

Margaret 34:39 Yeah, if you want to talk about what they open too. I found that that's kind of, is the most handy of these talks, you know, because if you just—I think people like these talks because they like to imagine, like, the power that access grants them, you know?

Deviant 34:55 Oh, absolutely.

Margaret 34:56 So, so sure, what's on your everyday carry key ring?

Deviant 35:00 Sure, so there is—and this is the one that I would use the least, I actually have just demonstrated it so often that I carry it with me—there's an elevator key called the FEOK1. This is, if anyone has seen a lot of talks about elevator hacking, this comes up a lot. Most elevators, much like heavy equipment, have industry default keys. Each brand of elevator will have their unique set of keys that their fixtures just tend to be key alike. Well, the FEOK1 was meant to be a superseding standard that across brands of elevator, this would be the emergency fire service operation key. This was pushed as a standard in the past and has later been walked back because people realize it's a huge security risk. But being able to demonstrate to clients rapidly, hey, this key probably puts your elevators in fire service mode, you got a good chance of it, here to want to try it? That key—which also, this is another interesting thing about moving around buildings. Elevators, if you're in an area that has by code adopted the FEOK1, well, it costs money to rekey your elevator, and you have to recertify it if you start tinkering with it, you know, the panel, right? So it's a solution that many buildings—and you start noticing this, I'll say this and then people listeners will be like, oh, oh, man, I think I've seen that, and they're gonna start seeing it more. Let's say you own a building, and you have Otis elevators—big name in the industry, right? Well, your default Otis elevators going to have a fire key that's going to be the UTF key, that's Otis's fire key. And maybe you've got eight elevators in a bank and you've got another elevator down in the parking garage. You don't want to rekey all these elevators, that's big bucks.

Margaret 36:42 Right.

Deviant 36:42 But you've got to comply with that FEOK1 thing. Well, you can call up supplier like Vader Products are Adams or some other company that supplies the elevator industry and get a little red box and mount that in your lobby. And if you start walking into big buildings and offices and hotels, you might start seeing these little red boxes on the wall. That box can be keyed to FEOK1. And inside that box is your building's fire key and a lot of times other stuff. The elevator equipment room key, the key to the roof, the key to the sprinkler valves, and a lot of stuff just winds up in those red boxes. So on penetration jobs, I have my elevator key but I've never had to futz with the elevator that's, you know, a thing we don't do without special permission. But if I could pop that red box on the wall, suddenly I've got half the keys to the building.

Margaret 37:33 Right.

Deviant 37:34 So that FEOK1 is always with me. Available online, if you ever search for it online and you see a lot of different vendors selling it, you're not sure who's who. I'll tell you this, I don't work for them. Ultimate Security Devices is this sort of scandal of the industry. This is the real—here's the tea, let's dish out the scandal of the gossip world, right? Ultimate Security Devices is Northeast Lock. Northeast Lock, huge vendor, huge vendor and supplier—aboveboard vendor and supplier in the elevator industry. Ultimate Security Devices is them selling stuff out the back door. It's literally like the owner's wife who started an eBay account and then started a website, and the industry gives them a ton of shit for it.

Margaret 38:19 Mm hmm.

Deviant 38:20 And every now and then their site kind of like went away and then it comes back. They move a lot of product out the back door to not anybody, they'll sell to anybody. Okay, so that's your FEOK1. There are two keys that I always have for access control boxes. One is a company called Linear. The Linear company has a lot of press—these are like the sort of telephony boxes that, were there like an intercom system and you usually dial through a directory and they're, they're popular on, like, multi-tenant buildings, either apartments or office buildings.

Margaret 38:55 Okay.

Deviant 38:56 Linear. The official key to all the Linear boxes is the 222343 key, which, again, if we dig into my talk, it's not always sold into that name. It's sold under older obscure names, but Linear has one key and if you get it that opens a lot of Linear boxes. But the big one for these telephony boxes that people, again, like if they see my talks, they've seen some slides. You can spot them a mile away. Doorking systems.

Margaret 39:23 Yeah.

Deviant 39:23 Doorking is this vendor that has a very distinctive feature. On their boxes they have these three big buttons, the A, Z, and call. They have these scrolling, you know, to dial through the directory buttons, these big round silver buttons. And you start spotting those, you know, from your bike just going down the block. You can look and be like oh, Doorking, Doorking, another Doorking. All Doorkings from the factory since I think the 90s have been keyed to the 16-120 key. That is the Doorking key. They have more keys in the series. There's a young kid who got in touch with me, his name is Austin, Austin Tipo. He reached out and he's like, hey, look, there's all these other keys. There's the 16-122, the 16-123. And he found, you know, he ordered them from a supplier, we were comparing the bidding on them. Like, fascinating, there's a whole key series. Never in my f-ing life have I seen anything else used except the first one in the key series.

Margaret 40:14 Uh huh.

Deviant 40:16 So I have that on me. And then the real other last couple of winners are what we'll call cabinet keys. If I'm doing jobs and server rooms and technical spaces, the EK333 key, the MK333 key, is just a very popular server rack key. It opens a ton of stuff in data centers and servers, which is useful if I want to look like I belong there. If I've broken in or there's some other technician doing something, I can just turn to any direction to a big rack of stuff and start shoving this key and it's probably gonna open it. And I just look like I'm servicing something and they're like, "That guy must work here."

Margaret 40:52 Right.

Deviant 40:52 "Is he with Verizon, what does that guy? Johnson Controls?" So yeah, the EK333. Um, C415A is an older key. I've started to drop it from some of my key rings. But that used to be, it would just open a lot of dumb wafer locks, it would open cabinets and locked panels. But the big one, the end-all-be-all, is the CH751. The CH751 key. And there's a whole like subreddit just for CH751 people sharing photos of where it works. That is the everything key in North America. Every rinky dink wafer lock, which is a type of very cheap cabinet-style lock. Every rinky dink lock that's just holding shut everything from toilet paper storage in the bathroom to, like, the phone cabinet over here, to this little locked panel on the outside of a, you know, building that has the water control for the faucet. It's a good chance that it might be CH751. It's the most overused key in America. Say again?

Margaret 41:54 A lot of RVs also, right?

Deviant 41:56 Oh god. Yeah, the default key for RV is not for the ignition typically. But for all the panels, all the outside panels and doors and patches.

Margaret 42:06 Okay.

Deviant 42:08 Yeah, so that's my default loadout.

Margaret 42:11 Yes. So a lot of your work it seems like one of the things that you're trying to do is be invisible in the various places that you go, you know, you're talking about how like, as soon as you start opening, opening things with keys, everyone just assumes you're supposed to be there. I suppose that's the, the idea is that rather than walking around with a crowbar, which probably doesn't look as good to bystanders?

Deviant 42:31 Yeah. But yeah, there's something that comes from having the confidence of someone who just looks like they belong there. Someone who looks cool as a cucumber. And I have the—it's like rock climbing if you're free climbing versus rock climbing on a belay rake, right? If you know you're not going to die, you might make that very perilous leap to get another handhold because you're emboldened by the sense that no harm can befall you.

Margaret 42:57 Mm hmm.

Deviant 42:58 The fact that on jobs I know I'm not going to get in trouble, I'm literally supposed to be there even though I'm doing things that would otherwise be illegal. It allows me to present this air of—like, even when security guards interface with me.

Margaret 43:11 Right.

Deviant 43:11 They say, "What are you doing here?" And time—there was a job that again—we've told this story on some other show long ago, my buddy Rob and I were literally breaking in—like we're using bypass tools. We had just set off an alarm and we're trying to get through another door. And these security guards kind of come into this big warehouse space. And Rob just thinks we are roasted. As security guards like, "Oh, well could you put that stuff down?" These big under door bypass tools. "What do you guys doing here?" And I just looked at him I was like, "Well what does it look like we're doing here?" That was just like—I just clap back with, "What does it look like we're doing?" And it broke his brain because we didn't try to run. We didn't Thumper and offer like, "Oh, well you see my sister sick and I got—" we just, we could not be arsed to care. Which is what your average, like, you know, Verizon guy or Comcast technician would do if you caught caught him on the job like, "Hey, what are we doing that wiring boxes?" "What do you need me for? Is this your wiring box? Get on my way," you know?

Margaret 44:11 Yeah.

Deviant 44:11 So being nonchalant is a form of invisibility.

Margaret 44:15 Mm hmm.

Deviant 44:16 And this is, you know, if you're in a bar, and someone next to you is acting all shifty and touching their pockets and looking at you and looking away, you'd be like, what did this person put something in my drink?

Margaret 44:26 Right.

Deviant 44:26 But if the person next to you in the bar is staring off into the middle distance, half the cigarette is ash because they're stuck in their own brain and they're not caring about whatever you're doing. That's the person that drops your threat radar usually, like well, they clearly don't look like a threat there. They don't care about me. I shouldn't care about them. So yeah, being able to look like you're just preoccupied with whatever mundane task you're doing, it makes other people more dismissive of you.

Margaret 44:51 Yeah. No that makes sense. It also it—I'm glad you brought up the fact that, like, it's probably a lot easier for you to be cool as a cucumber when you know that at the end of the day you're not going to jail because you've, you know, been hired to break into this place. But I bet it's still probably good training, good practice, to learn how to interface with folks.

Deviant 45:14 Oh, yeah.

Margaret 45:15 One of the things that I—

Deviant 45:15 Lie. Lie all the time for no reason because it's just practice.

Margaret 45:22 One of the things that we used to always do is, you know, I—for a while I would make my living as a busker. I would play accordion on the street. And it's really good cover. You know, if my friends are hanging a banner down the street and they need someone to look out, you just—two crusty kids sitting by the side of the road, they get ignored by—I mean, they don't get ignored by cops. But cops aren't coming up being like, "You all are involved with this direct action that's happening," you know, they're just gonna harass you about anything else. It's kind of awful but like, there's just so many different ways to sort of be part of the landscape in people's minds.

Deviant 46:01 It feels especially insidious to—it almost feels like appropriating a space that's not ours. But we have absolutely done sort of stakeouts of target buildings wanting to see like when employees come and go, wanting to see when their guards are there when—maybe they don't guards at night—and adopting either that sort of posture or, not all of our team are musically inclined, right? But adopting the posture of someone who's unhoused.

Margaret 46:27 Yeah.

Deviant 46:28 We've had somebody just—because you actually, especially—look how many of our clients, as you point out, are tech firms, right? The biggest invisibility shield imaginable is being an unhoused person, a distressed person in San Francisco.

Margaret 46:41 Yeah.

Deviant 46:41 Because, quote unquote, we'll call it "respectable society," goes out of their way to not notice you.

Margaret 46:47 Yeah.

Deviant 46:48 And yeah, we've had teammates just kind of sit there under like a ratty blanket with a Starbucks cup with a couple coins in it. And they're mentally, like, literally on the back of a pizza box. One girl, she was just taking notes. This woman was taking notes of like, guard patterns on the back of this pizza box. And the front of the pizza box was, you know, "Came out to parents, kicked me out, anything helps, god bless."

Margaret 47:11 Right.

Deviant 47:12 Yeah, it—by all means, I never thought of the busking idea, too, because that is kind of—it's almost the societal equivalent of that whistling, like, whistling nonchalantly so as to not be thought of as a threat.

Margaret 47:24 Yeah, totally.

Deviant 47:26 Like whistling Row Row Your Boat or something.

Margaret 47:28 Yeah, what you do is you get one person playing the instrument and then the other person is just like, sitting next to them with a radio, you know, but they're just like, just sitting there. And they're the one keeping track of what's going on. And I, you know, I used to make a couple euros, whatever, to do that in Amsterdam.

Deviant 47:44 Oh, yeah.

Margaret 47:46 And yeah, actually, I was listening to this—I tried listening to an actual, like, a proper prepper podcast the other day while I was driving and it was this guy who had infiltrated Antifa. And the Proud Boys were good people but the Antifa in Portland, they would have killed him if they'd known who he was—and all this like just fucking bullshit. And I'm like, how do people take preparation advice from people who are so afraid of their neighbors? Because that's—anyway. But the way that he infiltrated the the Portland protests, this right wing journalist, this like right wing war correspondent guy, he dressed up, uh, you know, as a unhoused person. And what's funny is that he wasn't invisible to the protesters. The protesters were like, offering him like things and trying to talk to him and like, hey, this might not be a good space for you to be in right now but how are you doing? And of course, you know, he then goes on to demonize all of them. I didn't actually even make it all the way through it but I just thought—

Deviant 48:44 He's not that dickbag who did like, "I wardrove and I got all these sim, you know, IMEI," he's not that guy is he?

Margaret 48:50 No, although that person who was lying—

Deviant 48:53 Right.

Margaret 48:53 Just got doxxed today.

Deviant 48:56 I saw. None of that held water like, what they're claiming didn't make sense. And I'm not a real ones and zeros techno-head, but I was like, well that's bullshit.

Margaret 49:03 Yeah, I was caught up in all that. And they were like, trying to claim I'm a leader of Portland Antifa which is really interesting because I'm in southern Appalachia. And also, they claim they got it by wardriving. But my last name is spelled with one "L" on Facebook and nowhere else. And they doxxed me with one "L" and by doxx I mean my name is on a list. Like, sorry. Um, it makes me I mean—I don't know, I don't want to like—I need to knock on wood about some of this. But you know, they like to—I mean, they're fucking LARPing. They're trying to act like they're, like, super elite doing all this amazing stuff. And it was just like some guy in fucking North Carolina who sat at his day job and, like, you know, trolled people social media. Anyway, what would you—Oh, I actually have a question about a specific tool that I got really excited about but I've never had a chance to use. It's these eight-way keys, these like wrenches that are not really keys. It's like triangle wrenches and shit. And they're meant to open like gas lines and water lines. Have you seen these? They're like the little like cigar-shaped?

Deviant 50:18 Oh, yes.

Margaret 50:19 Are they? Are they what they're cracked up to be?

Deviant 50:23 Yes, they are really useful. In fact, I believe Silcox or Cel-Celox? Silox? That is one of the types of those, it's like the little square or triangle one. There is an eight way—It almost looks like a little ninja star.

Margaret 50:38 Yeah.

Deviant 50:39 There's an eight way, like, adapter that's the best one. It's again like cheap on Amazon. It's actually two cross-shaped ones that fit together. And they—because if you had eight points that close together be hard to get a lot them to stick into holes.

Margaret 50:52 Yeah.

Deviant 50:52 But yeah, that's the perfect kind of thing—we have one of those in our grab it and get out of the, you know, get out of the house—in that bag kind of tool. Because again, like you there's plenty of places where you go to a rest area and for no reason, like, the water fountain is turned off or the water faucet is turned off. And not because it's like cold in the winter, just because, well we—I don't know. Who knows. People might get free water, that would be terrible. But yeah, those kind of things. Those, I know hikers who carry them a lot.

Margaret 51:19 Right.

Deviant 51:20 Because they're in the middle of nowhere. They just want to refill their water and for some reason the water valve is turned off somewhere like with one of those non-handle, you have to stick a thing in a hole.

Margaret 51:30 Yeah.

Deviant 51:30 So I've known trail hikers who have those on them.

Margaret 51:33 Okay, yeah, because those are, you know, if I'm too nervous to walk around with a bunch of keys that operate heavy machinery when they clearly look like I'm up to no good. I do feel like something like that in a go bag, to me is just like—I mean, one of the reasons I think what having it is, yeah, turn on water, Or even like, turn off the gas lines in your building if you're leaving because of an earthquake or whatever, you know. And apparently they open maybe subway doors or something I'm not, I'm not sure.

Deviant 52:08 Like the cars, the subway cars?

Margaret 52:11 You know, they claim this and I'm imagining more like maybe the—like windows or something I don't know, you know, the ones that have—

Deviant 52:19 It might be the emergency—so a lot of like mechanical doors—door operators on subway car and things, there's an interlock, right? When there's no power the gears are statically stuck, they're like a screw cog gear, right? So if you can pop an interlock, then the door becomes free sliding. There might be something like that. I've never looked that closely but now it makes me curious if mass transit type doors have a little, a little hole next to them, that would make sense. And again, it's that little slightly extra level of commitment, where it's not just a thumb turn where any, any like 12-year-old kid waiting for like the trolley to start moving could just turn it and then bone the door. But these are the kind of keys that like every emergency vehicle has a little set of Silcox keys in it, you know, so that kind of makes sense to me.

Margaret 53:10 Yeah, the symbolic locks, I think about like, a lot of people who live on land will have gates, right and you know, a gate that has no camera on it or whatever, like anyone can get past them, a lot of them aren't even locked. But a lot of them are pretty much there just for the like, the security of like, you put up a no trespassing sign and a gate and even if the gate is unlocked—it depends. I think there's a state-by-state—the police can't come in without a warrant. Or if they do, you can say leave, you know. And so it's not about, no one can get past this gate, how would anyone ever figure out how to like drive around the gate or something, right? But it's still a useful thing. And it's funny to me because I don't love a world of like, locks and fences and gates and stuff. But, you know, while we live in this world, it seems to make sense to figure out how to keep ourselves safe.

Deviant 54:08 Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Barriers demarcate as much as they deny or delay entry.

Margaret 54:15 Yeah.

Deviant 54:15 And it's—as you point out the insidiousness—it's almost like copyright law. Like companies have to be dicks.

Margaret 54:22 Mm hmm.

Deviant 54:22 If they don't protect their patents and trademarks, they lose them. They're like, "Well, you didn't try to protect that." So they have to send all these cease and desist crap.

Margaret 54:28 Yeah.

Deviant 54:29 As you point out with your property, there's different protections under the Fourth Amendment for open fields versus curtilage. And curtilage is defined only by the boundaries that are, you know, enclosing it and a properly designate-able, like, this type of fence—and this was a very clear cut—not even like a barbed wire fence. But as a proper picket, you know, like you have a fence that limits visibility. These are all things that play into the factor of what level of privacy is someone trying to set for themselves. And that actually informs under the law what expectation of privacy or invasion of privacy is occurring under the Fourth Amendment?

Margaret 55:07 Okay. That shit's so wild. When you do your work or when you would imagine leaving and needing to be able to move through the world in a—where law looks very different—do you consider, like, most of what you do seems to be like non-destructive methods of entry, right? Do you also do destructive methods of entry like, you know, crowbars and bolt cutters and things like that?

Deviant 55:32 Yes. When authorized. We have definitely done that on different jobs. And sometimes, like it's—I just did a job on an army base last week where somebody—there was a GSA safe, like, wasn't operating correctly, I had to, as the sanitized language in our industry is, I had to "neutralize" the container. And it was very destructive, it was very loud in the middle of this like, you know, unit, I was just going to town with power tools.

Margaret 56:00 Okay.

Deviant 56:02 But outside—perimeter fence, we have definitely done some destructive work on perimeter fence when authorized. It's also really fun to trench under fences quietly or climb them. There are tools that are just known as "fence climbers," they look like these, oh, they're kind of J hook-looking tools where you can slip them through the fence on a chain link fence.

Margaret 56:23 Oh, interesting.

Deviant 56:23 And it just turns into a ladder instantly. It's, yeah, if you look up like, you know, "fence climbers" as a tool, you'll see that they're are these little folding feet that you can go boop, boop, boop, and then up over the fence, and boop, boop, boop, pull them out the other side.

Margaret 56:37 I miss being small enough that like, I remember when I suddenly was like, too large to just magically be able to climb chain link fences. You know?

Deviant 56:45 I have not been able to do so unaided for a while. I remember like, you know—

Margaret 56:50 I mean, when I was like a little kid. And yeah, your feet fit inside the link.

Deviant 56:56 Yeah. Your sneakers, you toes would be right in there, it was perfect.

Margaret 56:58 Yeah. Okay, yeah, because one of the reasons I asked about like, you know, people used to sort of laugh about it with dumpstering. I mean, most of the way that people get into dumpsters is usually sort of bypassing locks and things where you can like pull the hinge out of the back of the, you know, if it's locked in the front you just pull the hinge out, and then you pop it open the other way. Or, like, if it's a plastic lid, you can kind of just like, sometimes just jump on it, and it bends enough that it—

Deviant 57:23 Yeah.

Margaret 57:24 Goes through. But then you know, some people would be like, okay, we're gonna pick this lock. And then someone's like, well, it's a lot faster to just cut the lock. And now obviously you're changing your relationship with that particular grocery store when you cut the lock. But I just I think of like, I don't know, sometimes the expediency of destructive methods of entry seem um—okay, well, like another example of this: The first time I really hung out with locksmiths was when I was a squatter in Amsterdam and there would be—and squatting was legal. But it was only legal—so it's kind of similar to what you're talking about but like a hair more dangerous in that it's illegal to break into a building, even if it's empty, unless you successfully break in before the police stop you, and put a bed, table, and chair inside. And you can do all of that while the cops are outside trying to stop you as long as there's enough like people preventing the cops from getting to you. It was this weird game. It ended in about 2011 or so when they legalized squatting again.

Deviant 58:32 Oh, man, I never knew that.

Margaret 58:33 And so you'd have these teams of squatters who were mostly professional locksmiths. But it was interesting because they never picked locks. They would go the night before, they would check it out, and they would come back with crowbars and wedges. And they would break open the door because they have to do it in like 30 seconds while cops are trying to arrest them for doing exactly what they're doing, It's very... It's very weird. But so I grew up with that—I grew up? I was an adult—but like, you know, that—I came up into understanding physical security from this more destructive angle. I don't know, I was curious whether you had work with this kind of stuff.

Deviant 59:08 That's why—no, I mean, I'm not usually one to wish that any kind of destructive means was employed. I really do like the bypassing element because it splits those two worlds.

Margaret 59:20 Yeah.

Deviant 59:21 It's—bypassing can be as rapid as something destructive, but as light touch as a non-destructive entry, as a manipulation attack.

Margaret 59:31 No that makes sense. So you're not gonna throw a crowbar in your go bag?

Deviant 59:38 Probably not. I do in the truck. Like, in our truck we have, you know, bolt cutters and big pry bars and things. That's just because there's a job box in the back of the truck that has a bunch of different tools in it. And if you're in a situation where something is badly, you know, if literally, someone says hey, I need to get in this thing. I have no other way in. Well, okay, take out the bolt cutters with big cheater bars on them I guess.

Margaret 1:00:01 Yeah. Okay, so we're coming up on an hour. And so I guess I kind of wanted to ask whether you have any last thoughts or things about individual community preparedness or about physical security penetration. Including like, if someone's interested in knowing more about this or even getting into it professionally, do you have any advice for them?

Deviant 1:00:24 Sure, the real key word and that you've used there, and it's so very, very often absent from these discussions, is the word community.

Margaret 1:00:31 Mm hmm.

Deviant 1:00:32 You know, any kind of preparedness—it's like that whole, well, alright, I've got my gun with my magazine of ammo in it. Well, when you exhaust that magazine of ammo, either you better have really, really neutralized and like, prosecute every single threat in the vicinity. Because if you're out, you've just called a ton of attention to yourself and now all eyes on you. Like, what are you doing? You need to have your next move planned. The same thing holds true for any kind of preparedness, where, you know, much of what I said from the very beginning—Tara I, like, our plan is not, hey, let's get everything in the car and then what, like live in the car up front of the house? No, the whole idea is to get to the next place, get to the next page. Either get out to the cabin, get over to this person's house or that person's house. So having a community of people that expect, you that you say, if you ever picked up a phone and said something is bad, I'm coming, we would say, "Yeah, the guest room is ready, I'll pull down the Murphy bed." Or Likewise, if we call them and say, "Wow, it's no good here. Can we come out there?" They say, "Yeah, you know, we've got the whole separate property, you can take the tiny house on the east side of the property."

Margaret 1:01:38 Mhmm.

Deviant 1:01:40 So anyone who thinks that—and I think this is really the failing of that old generation of like, kind of 80s prepper, right?

Margaret 1:01:48 Yeah.

Deviant 1:01:48 That was a person who was in it for themselves. I don't want to paint any community with a broad brush like that. But a lot of that mindset was, "Well, I need to be ready. So I can withstand so that I can come out on top." Is really that—if you boil it down that's what a lot of I think the old mindset was.

Margaret 1:02:07 Yeah.

Deviant 1:02:08 And I really think that's dumber than shit.

Margaret 1:02:10 Yeah.

Deviant 1:02:11 Because it has to be: What do we do together?

Margaret 1:02:14 Yeah.

Deviant 1:02:14 Like, what tools do I have that you don't have? What skills do you have that I don't have? And having a network of people that you can turn to. If I encounter any—if I encounter a weird firearm I've never seen and I'm trying to figure out how to make it run right, I will call Carl is better than that at me—than me at that. Like he's just better. If someone else has, you know, dropped a deer, I can clean it, gut it, get prepared. But I say well, what else can I do with this deer? Well, Rich, you've been hunting deer since you are way younger than I ever have. What do I do with this deer? Having more people that you can turn to and having more skills—our brains can only learn so much so fast.

Margaret 1:02:52 Yeah.

Deviant 1:02:52 But someone else who knows music, someone else who knows medicine, that's how we—What's this? It's, um, hang on, I can check my notes... Oh, society! That's right. We've been doing this for a while. It's called fuckin society.

Margaret 1:03:06 Yeah. It's actually really good idea.

Deviant 1:03:09 Yeah.

Margaret 1:03:12 Yeah.

Deviant 1:03:13 Yeah. That's the part that gets lost in a lot of these weird Mad Max fantasy, "I'm the lone survivor" plans that people have. I don't get it.

Margaret 1:03:22 Yeah. I've talked a lot about how people and relationships are sort of the best resource that one could possibly have for almost every crisis situation.

Deviant 1:03:32 Yeah.

Margaret 1:03:33 And, yeah. Yeah, the bunker mentality is kind of what I usually end up calling it and it.

Deviant 1:03:40 Yeah, it's a good phrase.

Margaret 1:03:41 It's what turned me off of any of this stuff. But then at some point, I just was like, well, you know, I like being prepared for things. And, you know, a couple years ago a friend of mine, who I'm hoping to have on the show, is an environmental land use engineer. And she studies how food moves around the country and its environmental impact. And, you know, a couple years ago, like, she called me and she's like always the person that kind of calm me down for most of my, like, random political rants. But she was like, there's a decent chance that there's going to be interruptions in the food supply. And I was like, okay, like, at that point, you know, the thing that—that's when I started buying buckets of beans and rice. And I don't like, I haven't, like, filled, you know, sheds and sheds with them. But I'm like, "Well, I would like to be able to feed 10 people for six months in the worst case scenario," you know? And everyone's going to have different things that they're going to want to prepare with, but that's one that made sense to me. So.

Deviant 1:04:43 Yeah, were you speaking to her around like last March or April I guess?

Margaret 1:04:47 No, it was actually, it was about two years ago. It was a—well, maybe even a little bit longer than that, maybe three years ago. And it didn't come to pass but it was some stuff around drought that was happening a couple years ago that basically like, you know, and she called me back to be like, you know—okay, I don't think that that is actually happening this year. It wasn't like sound the alarm, you know? But yeah, no, it, it definitely—the sort of joke that I keep making is we're all preppers now, you know, and that, like, most people need to have at least three weeks of food at home now if they can afford it and have a good enough home to keep three weeks of food, you know?

Deviant 1:05:31 Yeah. And at the very beginning of the pandemic, when it was still—god I don't want to—I'm not dismissing this at all, but it was quirky fun to some people, like people called it "the breadmaking phase."

Margaret 1:05:44 Yeah.

Deviant 1:05:44 How many people were reaching out to—some people had starter for sourdough and some people didn't. And some people were sewing a lot more because they had a sewing machine and some people didn't. I personally was, like we had, we had plenty of yeast because Tara ordered it. We do have a sewing machine, but other people were borrowing it. And I was Johnny Ammo Seed around parts of Seattle because nobody could buy ammo. I was just giving away 556 to anybody. Like, just take these two mags and keep them around. Okay, get me back later. Get me back later. Yeah, I I share what I have and this is what I got.

Margaret 1:06:16 Yeah, no, it makes sense. It actually, it's funny, at the beginning of it all I was looking at my like, 400 rounds of 556. And I was like, well, ammo prices are up and 400 rounds is enough. Now I'm like, "Oh, god, I should have bought it when it was like only 50 cents a round."

Deviant 1:06:33 Yeah, that's perpetually—I mean, we all look back on what firearms used to cost and things that you could have bought them. That's a losing game in my mind to play. You fool yourself into thinking what we could have done. But thankfully—I've been divesting more and more of my ammo. I have been letting other people who go to the range with me—because up here in Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest, I've had a lot of people reach out to me from communities that aren't necessarily at home in the gun world. In fact, I just was on a podcast talking about this recently—Liberal Gun Club has a podcast—where I was talking about like a bunch of traditionally, like BIPOC people or LGBTQIA people have reached out like on DMs and said, "Hey, I'm interested in guns. I hate all the Trump bullshit at gun ranges, but you seem safe to talk to, can you tell me about guns." So a few of us will go to arrange us together. And these were folks who are just getting into shooting during the pandemic. And I was like, "Well, here, just, here's 50—box of 50 of 9 mil, like just use it and don't buy the $2 a round. Don't do that, please."

Margaret 1:06:44 Yeah. Yeah.

Deviant 1:07:38 I'd much rather it be purposed for this right now because I will always get some more later. And that same sort of mentality of, if I really get through two or three ammo, like a couple magazines with a pistol, you got to be on the next page. Because that's not a sustainable solution solving problems that way, right? Okay. Something's wrong if you haven't transitioned to the rifle or gotten the fuck out of dodge.

Margaret 1:08:03 Totally. No, that's actually—I really like that as a practical example of like, one of the things I talk about a lot in this show is that the reason to get the stuff while you can get it is so that you can get it to the people who need it when it's no longer available. And, you know, if nothing else, like, walking around a demo early on in the uprising handing out KN95 masks to people, you know, because it was like, well, I'm sitting on 100 of these and this is where they belong, and it just felt—I was like, ah! Cuz I had a hard time connecting, what do you do as like, when you're the person who thinks about preparedness, and it's hard to get your community to think about preparedness? Like, I remember at one point recently I was talking to my landmates and I was like, look like, if nothing else we have all that food. And my landmate was like, what, but did you stockpile salt? I'm like, yeah, of course, I have a giant can salt up—oh, you're making fun of me. And like, of course, I have a giant can of salt. I'm annoyed that I don't have like giant cans of coconut oil, you know? But that goes bad.

Deviant 1:09:10 That's true.

Margaret 1:09:11 But yeah no, so I really like that you been doing that. And I've had the same experience with firearms where people who I know from, like, you know, pretty strong liberal backgrounds are just like, well, I'm queer and don't want to die. What do I need? And then they hate that my answer is an AR 15. They hate it. But I explain why and then they think about it and they either do or don't, you know? Yeah.

Deviant 1:09:42 That's literally the the one-hour sort of talk that I give on a privately open/semi open sort of Zoom maybe once every month or so now. It's just people who are in that position where they're like, this isn't my community but I want this knowledge. I don't want to look foolish and waste money. What do I do?

Margaret 1:10:00 Yeah.

Deviant 1:10:00 And I have this whole little rundown of a talk.

Margaret 1:10:02 Yeah.

Deviant 1:10:03 There's a billion talks out there that are like, "Intro to Fire Arms."

Margaret 1:10:06 Yeah.

Deviant 1:10:06 That's fine. That's out there. I have what I call—it feels like, for many of us who weren't the popular kid because I certainly wasn't—it's like going to a new school, and you're in the lunchroom for the first time. And you're like, where do I sit? Am I gonna be an idiot? Am I gonna? Am I gonna have no friends? Am I gonna make a bad impression? It's little questions like 223 versus 556. Are they the same?

Margaret 1:10:27 Yeah.

Deviant 1:10:28 And I walk people through. I'm like, well, clearly they're not because they have different names.

Margaret 1:10:31 Right.

Deviant 1:10:32 But the technical answer is they effectively are except for small minutia.

Margaret 1:10:36 Yeah.

Deviant 1:10:36 And then the very technical answer is, but that small minutia means a whole lot to a few very serious people. And here's the details.

Margaret 1:10:44 Yeah. Oh god, yeah. And all that stuff, like turns people off anyway, I think, when you're just like, have to like, know, all of this super specialized vocabulary when it's like—but then it's funny, because then I, you know, I started off being like, "Oh, fuck all the super specialized vocabulary." And then the more I dive into it, the more I'm like, "Oh, that's actually kind of interesting," you know. But it's the same with all prepping shit. I'm like, mostly I just want people to fucking buy extras when they can of their food and like, have some plans and start talking to their friends and neighbors about what to do in terms of times of crisis, you know?

Deviant 1:11:22 Yeah.

Margaret 1:11:23 Well, I think I've probably stolen enough of your time. How can people who want to see more of these talks or—how can people find you online?

Deviant 1:11:34 Well, I am at davianollam, the unpronounceable, unspellable, you know, get it wrong easily name: D-E-V-I-A-N-T-O-L-L-A-M, or probably down in show notes or something. I am that on many platforms. I am on YouTube. I'm on Twitter, I'm on Instagram, I mostly just a professional swear word sayer on the internet. But I did have this blog post that I'll throw you a link to, it's kind of the—people often email me, I regularly get people who reach out and say, "Hey, you know, I really, thank you for this material. It's been really enlightening. But what you do is so cool. How do I get into that field? I think I might be able to do this." And I have a whole answer, it's like a very long answer that I've been tweaking and adding to over the years. And it's mostly sort of my own story of the path I took and everyone's path is different, but it's hopefully full of some guidance that people might have. And I'm happy to share that link to anyone who wants, and the industry is always growing. The tech community and the hacker world are nothing if not expanding and welcoming, I hop—if you talk to the right people. There's a few fashion hustle hackers, but fortunately, no one pays attention to them anymore. Yeah, this is a great community to be involved in. Don't be afraid to reach out, don't be afraid to ask questions. I think the hacker community is really defined as welcoming to those who come with a thirst for knowledge, not a pretense of "Oh I'm the biggest badass in the room." You're not gonna get traction with that. But, "Hey, what you're working on, it looks cool. Can you tell me about it?" Is a great way to start with a lot of people.

Margaret 1:13:09 Okay. All right. Well, thank you so much.

Deviant 1:13:13 Thank you for having me. This is wonderful.

Margaret 1:13:19 Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it, please post about it and tell people in person and stuff like that. Word has been going out about the show and that makes it kind of all feel worthwhile to me, because the goal of doing this is for people to hear it. And if you tell algorithms, the algorithms will tell other people that what you listen to is worth them listening to. So it's why liking and sharing and subscribing and rating and reviewing and all that bullshit has a really disproportionate impact in terms of, you know, the amount of time it takes to do those things—which is actually really fucked up and I feel really dirty every single time I advocate that people do all those things. But that's the way of it, at least right now. If you want to support the podcast more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. my Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And I put up a lot of scenes, although I'm pretty far behind on that because I've been focused so much on the podcast. But there's still like almost 40 I think scenes at this point they can go back through and read if you want and so put up different music from my various projects and things like that. And if you make less money than if you live off of less money than I make on Patreon, just messaged me and I'll get you everything I do for free because that's the direction that money should go in as much as money should exist. But in particular, I would like to thank Chris and Nora and Haas the dog, Kirk, Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher, Shane and the Compound for making this podcast possible. And I'm particularly excited for all the support I've been getting because now I'm able to hire transcriptions—a transcriptionist? Transcriber? I haven't actually asked her what her job title is. But I've been able to hire someone to transcribe the episodes and I hope that that makes it more accessible to more people. And I, you know, it's a lot of work to do that. And I'm really appreciative of the transcriber who's listening to me right now typing this—well, not literally right now, but will be listening to this later and typing it. So it's really funny to be typing about yourself, isn't it transcriber? (Transcriber note: yes it is.) Anyway, I hope everyone listening has a really great time in the near future, stays safe. Thanksgiving was always shit. It's never been anything but shit. And it's extra shit this year. And everyone has their own opinions about that. And the dark is coming for us, but then the sun will return.

S1E19 - Moira on Know Your Rights

Episode Notes

If you have been contacted by federal law enforcement as a result of the uprising, contact the National Lawyer Guild's federal defense hotline at 212-679-2811

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy and instagram @margaretkilljoy. You can also support her and this show by sponsoring her patreon at https://www.patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. Your support has allowed us to get transcriptions available of the podcast for folks who gain information better that way!

Transcript 1:13:23 SPEAKERS Margaret, Mo

Margaret 00:14 Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the End Times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy. I use she or they pronouns. In this week's episode I'm talking to Moira Meltzer-Cohen, who is a lawyer—not just any lawyer, but is my lawyer. It's kind of weird that you get to use the possessive on lawyers. We're going to be talking about repression and how the government likes to crack down on protest and revolt. And we're going to be talking about, basically, know your rights, like how to interact with the police and how to interact with the feds. We'll also be answering some questions that you all had from social media. And we keep referencing the fact that we're going to talk about grand juries in this episode, but during the course of the interview we don't in fact get to it because Mo is a remarkably busy person, as one might imagine, in this particular time in the world, and didn't have time. And also, the episode was already gone on for about an hour. We will almost certainly have her back at some point in to talk about grand juries because they're an important thing to understand from an anti repression point of view. However, at the moment, primarily, people are dealing with police and federal law enforcement. And so that's what we focus on. This podcast as a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And here's a jingle from another show on the network.

Jingle 01:39 Rebel Steps is a podcast about taking action. Season one offered insights into how individuals can join movements. Season two focuses on the ways people can work together to build these movements. Organizing in groups presents many challenges. How do you care for each other and protect each other in the midst of political struggle? How do you lift up the voices of everyone in your group? How do you work through the inevitable disagreements? All of these questions have complicated answers. As I explore these questions. You'll hear voices and stories from my community in New York City, spotlighting a range of organizers from the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council, Outlive Them, Pop Gem, Democratic Socialists of America, Libertarian Socialist Caucus, and more. Just like the first season, I returned Paulo Friere's quote, "What can we do today, so that we can do tomorrow what we cannot do today," but this time with the realization that building our capacity will necessarily happen alongside others. Find Rebel Steps on Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts and check us out on Twitter or Patreon.

Margaret 02:55 So, welcome to the show, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then any organizational or political affiliations that you feel like make sense with what you're going to talk about.

Mo 03:07 Sure. I'm Moira Meltzer-Cohen, everyone calls me Mo. I am—my pronouns are she are they and I am affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild, and I am a non-denominational anti-authoritarian.

Margaret 03:26 We seem to be getting a lot of those recently. I think that's good. So I first met Mo when we were both working on a campaign for someone named Jerry Koch who was a political prisoner who, I guess, is now a lawyer.

Mo 03:39 Yeah, he is.

Margaret 03:41 And that's amazing. And, and yeah, Mo was just out of law school and then managed to write a motion that got someone free in a way that I think, to my understanding, kind of changed some of the ways that grand jury defense is done in this country or is understood in this country. Is that overly hyperbolic, or?

Mo 04:03 That is hyperbolic. I wrote a motion that is a type of motion that has been used since I think the 60s or 70s called a grumbles motion. It just, it's unusual, partly because grand jury litigation is unusual. But I don't think it was precedent-setting but it was—I didn't expect it to work. And it did.

Margaret 04:32 Okay, so you saved, you changed everything and—but you did very specifically set someone free right out of law school, as I understand, or right after passing the bar. And so we met doing work on that campaign and then ever since then Mo has been kind of the card that I keep in my pocket and a literal and metaphorical sense of—I mean, I've literally had nightmares where the police are holding me and I'm like, "I have to call Mo, you have to let me call Mo!" And then like Mo has come in and saved me.

Mo 05:09 I promise I'll do my best.

Margaret 05:11 And Mo has also done a lot of work for a lot of trans prisoners, including you were part of the most recent campaign to get Chelsea Manning out of jail. Is that right?

Mo 05:21 That's right. I did not represent her while she was serving time after the court martial.

Margaret 05:28 Mm hmm.

Mo 05:29 I represented her more recently, when she was subpoenaed to give testimony before a federal grand jury, and was then confined as a result of her refusal to do so.

Margaret 05:40 Okay. And so I wanted to get Mo on the show because I mean, for one thing, you know, she's an amazing lawyer. And also because so much of her work has focused specifically on anti-repression work. And, you know, okay, so what am I doing talking to a lawyer on a show that's extensively about preparing for, you know, end times or bad times or crisis or disaster? And, I mean, if you're listening to the show, you probably understand that revolt is absolutely an essential part of individual community and even probably species survival at this point. And, of course, revolt will always come with legal consequences, because what does one revolt against but a system that usually has laws and things. And so that's why we have lawyers on our side. And so I want to talk to Mo today about—we're gonna talk about a couple specific things, and we're gonna answer some questions that came from you all. And some of the stuff that we're going to talk about is we're going to talk about what to do in terms of when the police—like how to interact with the police, how to interact with the feds, and then we're going to talk about grand juries, which are annoyingly complex and not a simple thing to wrap your head around. But I think a very important part of repression and anti-repression to understand. Does that kind of cover what you're hoping to talk about?

Mo 07:04 Sure.

Margaret 07:06 Okay, so let's start with the real basics. Let's start with a Know Your Rights. You know, I'm walking down the street, maybe I'm leaving a protest, and the police are like, "Hey, come over here, we want to talk to you." What do I do?

Mo 07:22 Um, I mean, the first thing that I want to say is some of this varies state by state. But by and large, you know, you do have some pretty established constitutional rights. And the first thing I would say is if you're approached by an officer, and they ask you a question, you know, in the same way that if some stranger walks up to you, and starts giving you the power quiz, you have no obligation to stick around and talk to them. You know, you have no obligation necessarily to stick around and talk to the police. So the very first thing that you would do is you would say, "Am I free to go? Or am I being detained?" And if they say, "Well, you're not being detained," then you bounce. If they say, "No, you are being detained." Ask why. They might not tell you, they might make fun of you, they might tell you something that's completely off the wall. They might say, "Well, you fit the description." But whatever they say or don't say, it's information. And I want to be very clear that, you know, asking these questions, it's not magic. Very often the police neither know nor care what your rights are, you know, most of this stuff that I'm going to say isn't particularly powerful in the moment of a law enforcement interaction. But it's still really important to ask these questions and invoke the rights that I'm going to try to teach you to invoke, because later when you're in front of a judge, if you have done this, then your lawyer can make certain kinds of arguments and try to mitigate the harm that can be caused by interactions with law enforcement in ways that, you know, your lawyer can't mitigate that harm if you have not invoked your rights.

Margaret 09:22 Okay.

Mo 09:23 So you want to say, "Am I free to go? Or am I being detained?" Because if you don't ask anything, you know, any further interaction that you end up having with that officer is going to be construed as something that you consented to.

Margaret 09:39 Right.

Mo 09:40 Right. And so if they say you're free to go, bounce, if they say you're being detained, ask why. Make a note of what the officer looks like. If you can see their badge number, make a note of it. If you can see their name, make a note of it. I mean, mentally obviously—you are probably not standing there with a notebook. If they ask if they can search you, say no. If they try to search you, say, "I do not consent to this search." Very often it can be really important to say, "I do not consent to this search," very loudly and clearly so that other people around you and their videos can pick it up. Right? Because an important part of being able to argue that you invoked your rights is being able to provide evidence that you invoked your rights.

Margaret 10:30 Right.

Mo 10:31 Right. So you want witnesses you want people's video to reflect that you said you didn't consent to a search.

Margaret 10:40 Yeah, one of the things... go ahead.

Mo 10:42 Well, again, this doesn't mean that they're not going to search you.

Margaret 10:45 Do they have a right to search you for like—like I used to, you know, when I was more of a street kid and squatter and things like that, I would be stopped by police on a regular basis, two or three times a day, at least twice a week for about a year or two. And one of the things that always seemed like it was part of that encounter was at the very least sort of their right to basically, like, pull the clip knife out of my pocket.

Mo 11:11 Mm hmm.

Margaret 11:11 And that kind of thing. Like, what are they allowed to do, regardless?

Mo 11:15 So they're allowed—if they have a reason to stop you, they're allowed to pat you down over your clothes to look for weapons in the event that they have a reasonable fear for their safety. Now, who gets to define reasonable?

Margaret 11:30 Them, I'm guessing.

Mo 11:31 Yes, they get to define reasonable and this is relevant, basically, you know, all the time, right? Who defines the word reasonable? It's going to be the police, at least until you get in front of a judge. This is relevant, for example, with another thing I was going to say, which is you have a right to film the police, you have a First Amendment right to film the police and the performance of their official duties from a reasonable distance.

Margaret 11:58 Mm hmm.

Mo 11:59 Right. So it's not a crime to film the police, it can be unlawful to do anything that the police can construe as interfering with their duties.

Margaret 12:09 Okay.

Mo 12:09 Right. So, you know, certainly I would advise someone against getting in between an officer and the person they're trying to arrest in order to get a better shot. You know, and if the police ask you to back up, what I think can be useful is to say out loud, I'm backing up and take one step back. Right.

Margaret 12:34 Yeah, that's usually what I've managed to do is basically be like, "Okay, how far do you want me to go," and then I walk like two feet. And I'm like, "This good? I'm here now." But that's actually usually me kind of often trying to—I would never interfere with the police, but maybe have the police pay more attention to me than the people that they would prefer to be paying attention to in that moment, is something that sometimes occurs to me. And so I try to play this very polite game of, you know, continuing to engage them to ask them very specific questions about how far I'm backing up.

Mo 13:12 Okay.

Margaret 13:14 This is gonna be an episode where I tell my lawyer many things that Mo probably wishes I didn't do. Now that I realized…

Mo 13:22 That—you know, just as long as you're aware that this conversation is not privileged.

Margaret 13:27 I don't have—Wait, no, but I thought this whole podcast was privileged now, I thought that was the whole thing?

Mo 13:34 Oh, I don't think there's a podcaster privilege.

Margaret 13:38 Interesting, interesting. But if I have enough clout, then I'm immune to the criminal justice system?

Mo 13:46 Well, I mean, I think that that's clear, because we can see what happened to certain Twitter accounts, once people stopped having enough clout.

Margaret 13:54 Mm hmm. Okay, so just to continue to interject with like, along the way of like—yeah, whenever I've done that, "Am I being detained?" I've actually had a much higher success rate than I initially thought I was going to have with that tactic.

Mo 14:12 I think that if you have an opportunity to ask, you may have pretty good success with it. The thing that usually happens with most of my clients is there's never an opportunity to ask, right? People are—I mean, I work a lot with protesters. So I do a lot of stuff with mass arrests. And in a mass arrest... You know, I have had one experience where I observed a group of people who were kettled, shouting in unison, "Are we being detained?" And the officers eventually determined that they didn't have a basis to detain them, and so they let them go.

Margaret 14:53 Amazing.

Mo 14:54 But typically in a mass arrest, cops show up, use arrest as a form of crowd control, and everybody sort of gets taken off the street with—and there's no opportunity to say, "Am I being detained?" You're just knocked to the ground and flex cuffed. But to the extent that you have an opportunity to ask these questions they can be, you know, it can sort of force a decision. And sometimes that decision will be, you know, we don't actually have enough cause to hold this person.

Margaret 15:27 Okay.

Mo 15:29 I think the more important stuff is being able to, you know that's—asking, "Am I being detained? And if so, why?" Is good for information gathering. Even if it doesn't result in you being released. Right? Saying, "I don't consent to a search," is really important down the road, because if you've explicitly said that you do not consent to a search, anything that may have been yielded or found in a search that you haven't consented to can be suppressed as evidence, right? It would be considered an unlawful search or it could be considered an unlawful search, a violation of your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. And a judge might say, "Well, yeah, okay, we found this thing on you during a search, but we can't use it as evidence against you because we obtained it— the police obtained it unlawfully."

Margaret 16:31 Okay.

Mo 16:32 Right,

Margaret 16:32 At what point are they allowed to—go ahead...

Mo 16:35 So they are allowed to pat you down over your clothes to check for weapons if they have a reasonable fear for their safety which, of course, they get to define. And that definition is expansive, you know, so in order to then search you, you will be—if you're arrested—you will be searched incident to arrest, okay, right? The circumstances under which they are, quote, "allowed" to search you are extremely complicated, extremely fact specific, can vary from state to state, are different depending on whether you are walking around, are in a car, are in your home, are in someone else's home, are in someone else's car. So I don't think it's particularly useful to get too into it, because in any event, you're not going to win an argument with a police officer who wants to search you.

Margaret 17:29 Right.

Mo 17:29 Right. The sort of bottom line here is to say, "I'm not consenting to any searches." Now that said, people know, really, what is safest for them. And sometimes, it can be safest to consent to a search. I'm not going to advise you to consent to a search, but I'm going to respect your expertise about your own safety.

Margaret 17:55 Okay.

Mo 17:56 And that's a personal decision that you're going to have to make in the moment.

Margaret 18:00 Right.

Mo 18:01 What I want you to understand is that you don't have an obligation—you don't have a legal obligation—to consent to a search, no matter what the police tell you.

Margaret 18:13 Right.

Mo 18:14 And ultimately, the question of the lawfulness of a search is not a question that could be answered by a police officer, or by you. It's a question that's going to be answered, if at all, by a judge. Later.

Margaret 18:28 Okay.

Mo 18:29 And so arguing about the lawfulness of a search is probably a great way to escalate things out of control.

Margaret 18:37 Right.

Mo 18:38 But if there's a way for you to say, safely, "I don't consent to this search." You can do that.

Margaret 18:45 Yeah, like kind of ah—when I talk to people, I personally—and this is clearly legal advice, because I'm not a lawyer—I basically tell people to try and be like, polite but firm with police. You know, my literal, like, thing I would just say constantly is, "I'm sorry, Officer, but am I being detained?" And I would like definitely say, "Sir," I would say like, "I'm sorry, Officer," I'd be very polite, but I would always be like, you know, "I do not consent to a search," or whatever.

Mo 19:18 And you and I have certain characteristics that make that less dangerous for us to say, than, you know, and so, you know, policing—the issue with policing, it's not about law, it's about power. And the distribution of power is uneven in very predictable ways. So when I'm talking about the law, I want to be very clear that the law is a separate thing from power. It's a separate thing from justice. You know, this is what your rights are, here's how you can invoke them.

Margaret 19:51 Right.

Mo 19:53 I cannot stress enough that there is a difference between what your rights are and what policing looks like.

Margaret 20:01 Yeah. Yep.

Mo 20:05 So I'm going to move on from searches. You know, just to reiterate this, again, it is a fool's errand to argue with a cop about whether a search is lawful. What you can do is invoke your right against unlawful searches or against unreasonable searches by saying, "I do not consent to this search." You need to know that if you are arrested, you will be searched when you get to the precinct. If you are arrested, the very first thing that you should do is start saying, "I am not resisting."

Margaret 20:40 Okay.

Mo 20:40 Because police officers almost universally will start screaming, "Stop resisting," whether or not you are resisting. And it can be really important, again, for evidence that's going to be gathered and presented later if there is evidence that you were saying, "I am not resisting."

Margaret 20:58 God, I fucking hate police. Yep. Okay.

Mo 21:03 The other thing that you need to say—and this is the one sort of invocation of rights that is powerful and that you do have control over—is I want you to say, and I want you to practice—everyone listening to this, I want you to practice ten times a day saying, "I am going to remain silent and I want to speak to a lawyer." You have to say that you're going to remain silent.

Margaret 21:30 Okay.

Mo 21:30 And then you'll have to actually remain silent. Because if you don't actually remain silent, you have waived your right against compelled self-incrimination. The Fifth Amendment is in the constitution for a reason. There is never a compelling reason to talk to a cop, before you have spoken to a lawyer.

Margaret 21:57 Okay.

Mo 21:59 It's okay to tell the cops things that they already know about you like your name, your date of birth, your address.

Margaret 22:09 Are you legally obliged to provide that information and or an ID?

Mo 22:13 It depends. It depends on what state you're in. Some states are what are called "stop and identify" states where it's an independent crime to refuse to show ID or to refuse to identify yourself. Other states, it's not a crime. But it's—it can make your life much harder. So for example, in the state of New York, if you're stopped on the street for something that would be considered a ticketable offense, a summonsable offense, a cop can write you a summons on the street and cut you loose if you show them your ID. And if you don't, they will take you in and process you until they can confirm your identity, which is, you know, four to eighteen hours out of your life that you're not getting back.

Margaret 23:01 Right.

Mo 23:02 So, you know, my advice is typically that anything you can do to abbreviate an interaction with law enforcement is desirable, like the longer and interaction with law enforcement goes on, the less good it is, the less safe you are.

Margaret 23:17 So my general understanding of like, where that would come in, and the process would be like, a cop is like, comes up to me and is like, "Let's see your ID." I say, "Am I being detained?" And if he says, "Yes, you're being detained," I ask, "What for?" And then he gives me a bullshit reason—I've literally been told because I don't know who you are. That was once the reason I was being detained. Which I was like, I had a feeling that wasn't gonna work well in court. But I also had a, like, at that point it seemed to me that there'd be no reason to argue, because a cop is allowed to say whatever they want, as far as I understand about why you're being detained, even if it's not later justifiable. So at that point, once I'm being detained and they want to see my ID, at that point I give them my ID. That's like the understanding that I've been under for a long time. Would that...

Mo 24:02 If they give you a chance. Right? I mean, this is all—I want to be really clear. again, like, when I'm saying, "Oh, these are the questions that you ask," a lot of times, you don't get an opportunity to ask all of these questions. Right? So even if you get a chance to say, "Am I being detained?" So for example, I was arrested once doing jail support. And what happened was that the cop rolled up and said, "Let me see some ID," and I said, "Am I being detained?" And then I got thrown in a van.

Margaret 24:34 Right.

Mo 24:35 Right. So...

Margaret 24:42 Yeah, so your mileage may vary. Yeah.

Mo 24:44 Yeah, mileage may vary. That's exactly right.

Margaret 24:47 Okay.

Mo 24:47 Um, again, the police very frequently neither know nor care what, what the sort of phases of an interaction are legally supposed to be. So, you know, I have a lot of people ask me things like, "Well, when can the cops kick in my door?" And, of course, the answer is: whenever they want to. The cops can kick in your door at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all. The question is, what do they say later to justify it? And again, that's sort of the same thing in this situation. So, if you are asked for ID, it can be really important to know, given what whatever state you're in, whether it is an independent crime to refuse to identify yourself. In some states it is and in some states it is not. In all states, I would venture to say, it can make your life much more difficult if you refuse to give ID. I want to take a second and talk about trans people and the apparent, you know, the inability of police to perceive gender non-conforming people as who they are based on their ID.

Margaret 26:09 Right.

Mo 26:12 You have a First Amendment right to use any name you want to use, whether or not it is your legal name, as long as you are not using that name to avoid civil or criminal liability.

Margaret 26:26 Okay

Mo 26:27 That said, if you're having an interaction with law enforcement, you know—again, this is a safety calculation that you are going to have to perform for yourself—it is not a crime to tell the police, you know, whatever your real name, the name that you use, to give them that name. It can make your life harder.

Margaret 26:53 Right.

Mo 26:54 And depending on what state you are in, there may or may not be any training or protocols for the detention of trans prisoners. Right? So you shouldn't get charged for giving the police a name that is not your dead name. But it can present some complications with respect to, like, what happens if they print you, or what happens if they look at your ID, or they demand your ID and the name is different and, you know, if your appearance is different than your ID.

Margaret 27:38 That's why I always refer to, instead of a dead name, I tend to think of it as my Fuck You name. Because the only people that I'm giving my legal name to are people like, fuck you, like, I don't care about you to tell you my actual name. And obviously every trans person is going to handle that differently, you know, in the same way of like navigating walking through this world. Like, if you go to a demonstration, choosing what your gender presentation is versus like what your ID says it's like, obviously, super complicated.

Mo 28:11 Yeah. I mean, it's a whole sort of separate thing that I could like, really get into, but I don't want to minimize it, right? I'm not want to say like, Oh, it's fine to just give the police to tell the police, you're not giving them your state name and to give them your real name. You know, do what feels safest. And I'm not saying that you never will be charged for, like, what would be called, like, false personation. I have certainly—not in quite a while—but I have seen people charged with false personation when they give their real name and not their dead name. It is always immediately dismissed.

Margaret 28:56 Cool.

Mo 28:58 But it's scary. And it's traumatizing. And it's, you know, it's an act of violence by the state that's targeted to be transphobic.

Margaret 29:11 Yeah.

Mo 29:11 And it's a shitty power move. I'm not going to say that there aren't consequences to it. Of course, there are. Cops are notoriously transphobic, as are many judges, as are many prosecutors. I suppose, as are many defense attorneys, I guess. But particularly depending on where you are in the country. But I do want to sort of reassure people that, you know, I don't think there are lasting legal consequences for just using whatever name it is that you use and the pronouns that you use,

Margaret 29:50 Okay.

Mo 29:51 Okay.

Margaret 29:52 So, to go back to—okay, in this situation, you're now in jail, and you're saying, "I would like to remain silent," if you do end up talking, you said that that ends up like ruining your—it gets rid of your your right to remain silent. Can you then—you can then re-invoke that?

Mo 30:10 Absolutely.

Margaret 30:11 Okay.

Mo 30:12 Absolutely. So this is really important. So you say, "I'm going to remain silent and I want to speak to a lawyer." Then you remain silent. If the police are asking you questions about, like, "Do you know, do you expect someone at your arraignment? Do you have a lawyer? Would you like a phone call?" Obviously, you know, answer those questions. If they start asking you questions about what you had for breakfast, what your favorite baseball team is, anything that is substantive, my advice would be to stay, "I'm going to remain silent and I want to speak to a lawyer." I genuinely do not think there is a reason to engage with police about sports, politics, music, the weather—literally anything, ever.

Margaret 30:55 What if they just want to be your friend? And then you can make friends with them? And then they'll just let you go?

Mo 30:59 Mm hmm. Yes, it has never worked. I very frequently say you cannot talk yourself out of an arrest, but you can always talk yourself into a conviction.

Margaret 31:11 Mm hmm.

Mo 31:13 Please don't talk to cops. Please just don't do it. We really, really want you to invoke your right to remain silent because you cannot unsay something you have said to a cop. Right? If you need to use the bathroom, say you need to use the bathroom. Okay, if you need a drink of water, so you need a drink of water. That said, if they give you a bottle of water, don't touch it to your lips, because they'll take it. They'll take that bottle and collect your DNA from it and put it in a database.

Margaret 31:47 Oh god.

Mo 31:49 So that's cool. And normal. And totally not dystopic.

Margaret 31:55 Yeah.

Mo 31:56 Anyway. But if you need, you know, if you have human needs: food, water, a phone call a bathroom, medical attention. Or if someone that you're in with needs those things, say so. Advocate for yourself. Do what you need to do. And then re invoke your right to remain silent. And if they start asking you questions about anything that happened leading up to your arrest, anyone you hang out with—if someone in your cell starts asking you those questions. You know? Don't answer those questions. That's nobody's business. That is information to which the state is not entitled.

Margaret 32:35 Mm hmm.

Mo 32:36 Right? We don't do their job for them. So invoke your right to remain silent, talk to the extent that you need to talk in order to get your needs met or in order to advocate for other people, and then re-invoke your right to remain silent.

Margaret 32:54 How do you get a lawyer in this situation?

Mo 32:57 Typically, you are either cut loose at the precinct with some kind of ticket that says, "Come back to court on this day," or you're going to be taken in front of a judge. Typically, if you're taken in front of a judge, you will have a lawyer appointed for you, either at that time or very shortly thereafter. There are states where you have to apply for a public defender. And that process sometimes is very onerous. You know, so you may not be given a lawyer before you, before—I would say—you need one. But you know, you're not going to be when you get in front of a judge, you shouldn't be asked any questions other than "How do you plead?" So there's not a lot of opportunity to incriminate yourself at that point. What I would say is, you need to understand that when I talk about invoking your right to silence, I'm not just talking about things that you say directly to cops. I'm talking about like, anything you say, quote "publicly," not just to a cop, but anything that a cop could discover can and very much will be used against you. So if you have been arrested, don't post about it necessarily on social media. Certainly don't do that before speaking to an attorney. Don't talk about anything that happened leading up to that arrest to anyone except your lawyer or maybe your doctor or your therapist, right? Because those are relationships where there is a privilege, right? Where the things that you say to those people don't have to be disclosed.

Margaret 34:40 Like this podcast.

Mo 34:42 Right. Like this podcast is totally privileged, Margaret. It falls under the attorney podcast or privilege.

Margaret 34:52 Yeah. Okay.

Mo 34:55 I'm going to get us fired.

Margaret 35:06 Does that kind of cover your rights in casual encounters, detainment, and arrest?

Mo 35:11 Yes.

Margaret 35:12 Okay.

Mo 35:12 Yes, I really cannot stress enough how important it is not to post about protests or unlawful activity or who you're hanging out with at the anarchist bookfair on social media. And if you're doing the live streaming thing, or taking photographs or trying to do some kind of documentation, the people who need to be observed in this situation are police officers because they are the people who have power that they abuse, right? So if you feel very strongly that you need to take pictures at protests, take pictures of the police. Because taking pictures of protesters, even if they're not doing anything unlawful, can have really serious legal consequences for them. So if you see somebody and, you know, the cops can see someone in a photograph who, you know, they believe might have witnessed something unlawful, that person then can be the target of a grand jury subpoena, right? Which we'll talk about in a minute. But I mean, it can be extremely disruptive to somebody to be called before a grand jury, even if they don't know anything about the crime that's supposed to be investigated. So, you know, I just—please, please stop posting pictures on social media. I would like fewer clients!

Margaret 36:45 That's how you know you're a lawyer on the good side. "I want fewer clients."

Mo 36:51 I want my whole profession to be obsolete.

Margaret 36:54 Yeah.

Mo 36:55 But in the meantime...

Margaret 36:56 Yeah. Um, should we talk about grand juries?

Mo 37:03 Yeah, I also wanted to talk about something... Oh, yeah. Don't take pictures of protesters, because, um, there's like a whole group of non state actors, who will doxx you. And we don't need that either.

Margaret 37:19 I think that there's somewhere—and it's probably more complex—and this really gets into the—maybe you're the wrong person since you're a lawyer and you have—where you're coming from about it. There is this like, awful balance between, on some level, the visibility of these demonstrations is what has allowed them to generalize. And there's a certain amount of safety that I think that can only be found through the generalization of revolt, right? And I feel like I want people to, like, do a better job of like—I mean, you kind of covered this. It's like if you're going to, you know, film these things, like film the cops instead of the protesters or whatever. But like, the pictures of the burning cop cars are a huge reason why these results are so big. On the other hand, people's lives are ruined, because there's pictures of ruined cop car—burned cop cars.

Mo 38:08 Look, I will say this. I say this a lot. People get to make their own decisions about the degree of visibility they want. And so when I'm saying don't take pictures of protesters, you know, what I really mean is like, consent is important. And maybe people who are in those group shots haven't—or those crowd shots—haven't consented to that.

Margaret 38:33 Totally.

Mo 38:34 And I think that, you know, you don't have to stop talking about your politics on social media. Like saying that you're an anarchist on social media at this point in history is not unlawful. It's still covered by the very First Amendment, and you can do that. And, you know, it doesn't mean—you know, anything that you put on social media, of course, has the potential to invite increased scrutiny of you and your community. And that doesn't mean that the solution is self-censorship. I think the solution is courage. But I want people to be aware of the risks that they may be running and the ways in which they may be inviting increased surveillance.

Margaret 39:22 Yeah.

Mo 39:23 Of not only themselves, but their friends.

Margaret 39:26 Yeah. And especially like, what were you talking about, about shooting pictures of crowds and things like that, you know, because it's a it's a different thing between someone who—and I even, I wouldn't... You know, it's a different thing between posing in front of a burned out cop car with no one else behind you. Which is a terrible idea, like, actually. But it's—obviously if you're taking pictures of people attacking a cop car, it's a very, very different situation. Okay, so we just took a break to talk about how we're going to how we're going to organize the rest of the episode and We determined it would be more fun to cut to some of the questions from Twitter and Facebook first. And because you all had a bunch of questions, and they're not quite the same script that Mo has to give to day in and day out to teach people their rights. So, let's see... So one person wanted to ask about jury nullification and what that concept is and whether or not that's like a useful thing we should be pursuing.

Mo 40:36 Um, I think that, as I said before, the law is not always consistent with justice, and certainly is not a one-to-one correspondence. And jury nullification is a concept that acknowledges that. And jury nullification is basically when a jury determines that the person who is on trial did, in fact, engage in the conduct alleged, and that that conduct was, strictly speaking unlawful, but they determined that they believe as a matter of conscience, that the law criminalizing whatever the behavior was is itself so unjust that they refuse to enforce it. And so they find the defendant not guilty, basically, as a matter of justice, even if they know very well that there's no serious debate that the defendant did, in fact, do whatever it is they were alleged to have done.

Margaret 41:44 Okay. That sounds gloriously optimistic in a way that I might not share. Okay.

Mo 41:49 I think it's—it is something that happens and certainly defense attorneys can advise juries that that is a that is a possibility. A defense attorney can certainly say, you know, you are not required as a jury to come to a unanimous conclusion and, in fact, you must vote your conscience. You are legally required to vote your conscience and so you cannot, you know, you must not allow yourself to be bullied into reaching a verdict or into agreeing with your fellow jurors. You know, I think there are—it has some utility. I think it's a really fascinating concept. I know there's a really lovely illustrated zine about jury nullification.

Margaret 42:40 Okay.

Mo 42:40 It's by the guy who wrote, "Go the Fuck to Sleep."

Margaret 42:43 Oh, wow. Okay.

Mo 42:46 Yeah. It's a fascinating concept. It is lawful for a jury to nullify.

Margaret 42:53 Okay. Does that take consensus of the entire jury?

Mo 42:56 Ah, no.

Margaret 42:57 Interesting. Cool. Okay. So then the next question, which I'll say how is was originally phrased and then possibly present a rephrasing? "How do I stop paying taxes entirely and never get caught in Minecraft?" Which I might—the question that I would maybe ask—I actually, I warned you ahead of time that I was gonna ask this question. I clearly am not advo—whatever. Anyway, I would, you know, the rephrasing might be, "What are the means by which tax evasion laws are enforced?"

Mo 43:29 The IRS has federal agents, and you can be federally charged for tax evasion. I am a lawyer and my job is not to advise people on what they should do or what they should not do, but to advise them of the potential consequences of various courses of action.

Margaret 43:50 Okay, and so the course of action is that if you evade paying taxes, and they can especially—I'm under the impression that if they can prove that you tried to evade paying taxes for like—that you actually, not that you like, fucked up and forgot to pay but that you like, consciously chose not to pay. That's when it becomes like, a bigger deal, right?

Mo 44:09 Yeah, I will say this: if you can't pay your taxes, and you are in touch with the IRS about that. They're—they will work with you. If you are trying to evade your taxes, you can end up doing some fairly serious time. So I think that's just a cost/benefit analysis if you're going to do for yourself, my man.

Margaret 44:38 Yeah,

Mo 44:39 Uh, you know, is it worth it to you to do a whole bunch of time in federal prison? Maybe it is. That's not a choice that I would probably make for myself. And that's not necessarily something that I want for you, question asker, but it's also not my decision.

Margaret 45:01 Okay. Yeah, I'm under the impression that especially like, sometimes higher profile people who don't like the government sometimes get audited more than other people. I don't know, this is—

Mo 45:14 Yeah they do.

Margaret 45:15 And so that is a good reason to consider your public nature versus how carefully you pay your taxes.

Mo 45:24 Yeah, I think it's really important to think through, you know, whether your goal is to be visibly smashing the state, or whether you feel more effective avoiding the state. And you often cannot do both.

Margaret 45:45 So it's the one crime at a time theory.

Mo 45:47 Hmm. I haven't heard that. I'm gonna have to think about that.

Margaret 45:52 One crime at a time is like, wear your seatbelt while you're like, have stuff in your car that you don't want anyone to know about. Don't j walk on your way to the demo. You know? That kind of thing

Mo 46:05 I, I think it's a—you know, this has to do with ethics, right? Like, what are your goals?

Margaret 46:12 Yeah.

Mo 46:14 What will help you achieve those goals? How badly will your objectives be undermined if you go to federal prison?

Margaret 46:20 Yeah.

Mo 46:21 Because unless your name is Mumia, you are not as effective in a jail cell as you are out of one.

Margaret 46:32 Yeah.

Mo 46:32 I mean, also, how effective could Mumia have been if he weren't in jail cell?

Margaret 46:36 Yeah. Okay, so—

Mo 46:41 —so that was depressing.

Margaret 46:42 Yeah. Let's move on to two related questions. Okay. Well, the first one is: any recommendations for pursuing a law career as a radical?

Mo 46:53 Be prepared to be really broke?

Margaret 46:55 Mhmm.

Mo 46:57 That's pretty much it. You got to love what you do. You got to love the people you're doing it with. Um, I think it's absolutely possible to be a radical and to be a lawyer, but it looks different than most law careers.

Margaret 47:15 Yeah.

Mo 47:16 The only lawyer I knew before going to law school was my grandfather, who had gone to law school for free at night at the Y in 1932. And he was a labor lawyer. And I didn't really know, up until I went to law school, that there were people who wanted to become lawyers for reasons other than standing up for justice, which is hilariously naive. But I just was like, very sheltered in this way. And so the only role model I had for what it meant to be a lawyer was someone who, you know, whose heroes were Sacco and Vanzetti.

Margaret 48:04 You do have a different background than most of my friends.

Mo 48:09 That's probably true.

Margaret 48:11 I think it's cool.

Mo 48:12 And so, you know, when I was deciding to go to law school, it didn't really cross my mind that there were other ways to be a lawyer than the way that I am currently a lawyer. But then, when I was in law school, I was sort of flabbergasted and demoralized by how committed to law people are.

Margaret 48:41 Would you say there's—in my head, I think of there's like three alignments of lawyers and like a DND. sense, and that there's people committed to law as like a principle—in the same way that I believe in anarchism, I believe that anarchism can never be attained, but you always strive for it. I've met lawyers who have the inverse of that, right? They're like—because in my mind I'm like, the law doesn't work. Look around. It's a terrible system. And then they're like, yeah, but we try and make it better. But like, not make it better in like a social justice way, but literally, like a law as an abstract concept way. Then there's the anti-authoritarian lawyers who go to law school to learn tools by which to navigate a system that we all have to run into. And then there's the like, in it for the money lawyers. Which is funny because when you're talking about like, if you want to go to law school, prepare to be poor. And it's like—I feel like the average person going to law school, in my head, is going to law school for the inverse of that. But maybe I have a misconception of...

Mo 49:46 I don't know. I don't know all the lawyers. I don't know. Sorry. You're gonna have to do some editing Margaret.

Margaret 49:53 Okay, that's fine. I'll just cut out my whole part of that—my whole alignment spiel.

Mo 49:56 No, I like your alignment. I actually really like your alignment.

Margaret 50:00 Okay.

Mo 50:00 Um, yeah, I mean, I don't know, if I have a ton of advice. I think it's really hard to be in a profession that incentivizes—frankly, that is like a harm-maximizing model where the law is truly set up almost universally to diminish the self-determination of my clients, and to maximize the self-determination and lack of accountability of the already powerful. And that does not draw meaningful distinctions between things that are unlawful and things that are harmful, such that people are punished for things that are not harmful, and cannot be held accountable for things that are. Like, that is a hard thing to deal with. And on the other hand, like, you know, I love my work. And I feel really fortunate to be able to work with the people that I work with. And be in a community of people who care about the same kinds of things I care about and who struggle along with me to make my job obsolete.

Margaret 51:19 Okay. So if you want to be very effective, work all of the time and be very tired, becoming a radical lawyer is a decent course of action.

Mo 51:31 Yes.

Margaret 51:33 That makes sense to me. That's probably part of why I didn't end up a lawyer. When we were doing that campaign for Jerry, Jerry ended up a lawyer. And I, you know, I toured around the country giving talks about grand jury processes, and lawyers would come some of the talks, and then be like, "Oh, you actually you did that better than they gave it to me in law school." Not to just like—because I'm actually an amazing lawyer, but I'm trying to say. But, um, and I was like, "Oh, maybe I should, maybe I should go into law." And then I was like, wait, no, I like I'm like, spending good chunk of the day, like, just like kind of staring at the leaves or, you know, not talking to people. Um, okay, so to tie into that question, what can non-lawyers do to aid and support a radical law agenda?

Mo 52:23 Be on support committees. Do jail support. Write letters to political prisoners—so write letters to prisoners! Join Anarchist Black Cross, join Black and Pink. Get involved with your local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. That's it. That's it. That's the end. There's no other things you can do.

Margaret 52:48 Emotionally support the already-tired lawyers that you know. Bring them food. I would bring you food right now. Before we had—before we started this talk, I was like, I am so tired—

Mo 53:00 I wish you could bring me a nap. My at-rest state that since June, is vibrating with exhaustion.

Margaret 53:11 Yeah, see, most people don't vibrate when they're tired.

Mo 53:16 I am actually, I'm fine. I don't want to I don't want to mislead you. I am generally fine. For some reason. I'm just very tired today.

Margaret 53:24 So okay, a couple people wanted to ask about basically how like, now that radicals have guns, now that like leftists have guns, which is sort of new on the scene in the past years or so. I mean, obviously, you know, that goes back way back. Right. IWW is perfectly content to have rifles and the Battle of Blair mountain and all those things. But there's been a lot of questions about how like, lawyers who know gun laws tend to not like leftists, and progressive lawyers tend to not like guns, or not know much about guns and gun law. And so there been some questions about basically how you find that—and because I know there's been a lot of, or at least I've been hearing that sometimes gun laws are being used against, like to target radical communities and things like that.

Mo 54:19 There was a lawsuit that was brought after Charlottesville that targeted a lot of the militias that had come down for that stupid rally. But then it also targeted Redneck Revolt, right? I mean, that's like the kind of liberal thinking in the law that like places a lot of faith in The Law without a lot of nuance that I think can be really damaging. So yeah, I mean, I think this question asker has a—it's a perspicacious question. I don't have a great solution. I mean, for example: So one thing I would say is that more radical lawyers in more rural areas are more likely to have a grip on this. Because there are, culturally, there's like, a lot of places in the United States where having guns is really very common, and is not necessarily a matter of political alignment. I would say like, in places like New York City, where the city itself, the municipality itself, has like extremely stringent gun laws. New Jersey also has extremely stringent gun laws. San Francisco, right? There are certain places where there is sort of this, like, liberal distaste for firearms that ends up being kind of a weird proxy for your politics.

Margaret 56:01 Hmm. So like, of you have a gun, and then therefore your right wing?

Mo 56:07 Yeah. And I don't think it's like—I don't think it's a good thing. And I don't think it's a necessary thing. So I think there are parts of the country where that's the case. But I also suspect that like, places that are more rural and places where it's like much more typical for people to own guns, gun ownership is not a proxy for your politics. And so I think that there are definitely parts of the country where you're not necessarily going to only find attorneys who are conversant with gun law who are NRA members.

Margaret 56:43 Right.

Mo 56:45 Right. I just, I think that's a problem that is born of a certain kind of geography more than a certain kind of politics.

Margaret 56:58 Yeah.

Mo 57:00 I don't know a ton about gun law. But I do think that there's—I think that there are attorneys who are not super conservative or like, explicitly white supremacist who do know about gun law. Okay. And I certainly think, you know, let's like actually look at the ways in which state repression has been brought to bear against black and brown communities by a gang law. There are definitely defense attorneys who work with communities that have been subject to intense state repression, that is basically on the basis of gun ownership, who definitely are going to know about self-defense law and gun law, who are not going to be super conservative. They're just not necessarily going to be working with like, ant-racist white people. So yeah, I think that, you know, when we're talking about like, radical attorneys, or movement attorneys, like, I think we are actually doing a disservice to the profession of defenders who might not be doing work that is explicitly politically motivated, but they're definitely defending against prosecutions that are politically and racially motivated. And they have that expertise and are useful resources to our communities. But like, they might not be visible to like anarchist communities because they're actually on the ground doing the work of like day-to-day defending against racialized state repression that maybe isn't legible to white anarchist groups.

Margaret 58:54 That's a really good point. And are there folks sort of within the framework of lawyers that I feel like most people in movement spaces that I'm and talk about is the NLG, the National Lawyers Guild—and are there lawyers within the nlg? Who might be more from one way or another versed with gun laws? Or is that still not really as much part of NLG culture?

Mo 59:24 I don't think it's super part of NLG culture at this point, because it's only pretty recently that we're seeing people at protests—the people who we defend at protests—being armed.

Margaret 59:43 Yeah.

Mo 59:44 Like, that's just a more recent development. But again, I think some of this is just about geography. I think like, guild lawyers in places like South Dakota and Oklahoma and West Virginia are probably going to have a lot more fluency with their gun laws than people in New York City or Newark.

Margaret 1:00:09 Right. Okay, so we just talked about what to do if the cops are stopping you if you're getting arrested. What about when feds are coming around and knocking on people's doors?

Mo 1:00:19 Yeah, so this is actually really important right now. We're seeing a lot of federal involvement in protest in what are more often and typically historically understood to be matters that would fall under state jurisdiction. So we're seeing federal agents policing protests, we're seeing the assertion of federal jurisdiction based on really tenuous grounds. And taken together with, you know, Trump's claims over the summer about Antifa as like a domestic terror organization, and Biden's sort of parallel identification of anarchists as categorically a criminal identity. Federal power is being consolidated and escalated to repress First Amendment protected activity nationwide. So the first thing that I want to say is, we started a hotline. The National Lawyers Guild started a federal defense national hotline, you can reach it at 212-679-2811. For folks to call in the event that they have an encounter with federal law enforcement.

Margaret 1:01:23 I'm just gonna say it again. It's 212-679-2811. Okay, sorry.

Mo 1:01:29 And so if you call that hotline, you're going to get me and you're gonna be able to have a privileged and confidential—and if you call me back on Signal—a secure conversation about this. What I mean by an encounter with federal law enforcement is not that you got hurt by a federal agent. That's kind of a different issue where you're going to want a civil rights lawyer.

Margaret 1:01:54 Okay.

Mo 1:01:55 What I mean by an encounter with federal law enforcement is, federal agents call you or visit your home or work, or you or someone close to you gets arrested by federal agents, or you are served a federal grand jury subpoena. This is not the right hotline to call if you've been hurt by police at a protest, although I will refer you appropriately.

Margaret 1:02:14 Okay.

Mo 1:02:15 And it is not the right hotline to call about whistleblower matters. But if you call this hotline, you can have a privileged conversation about your rights, risks, and responsibilities, and I will do my best to refer you to the most appropriate legal resources in your geographic area no matter where you are.

Margaret 1:02:32 Okay.

Mo 1:02:33 So the—basically, the most common kind of first contact folks have with law enforcement—with federal law enforcement—is a door knock. So historically, this is the most common way that federal agents interact with activists in person is via door knocks, where they just attempt to approach an individual in their home or work and see if they will speak to them voluntarily. I cannot stress enough that you have no obligation to let law enforcement into your home without a warrant and you have no obligation to cooperate with law enforcement investigation. Certainly not before talking to a lawyer. I am not being contrarian. Declining to answer questions is not evidence of guilt, whatever they may tell you. It is protected by the Constitution. And failing to exercise your rights can be extremely dangerous for yourself and others. There is just never a reason—never a compelling reason—not to consult with a lawyer before answering questions posed by law enforcement. So if an agent knocks on your door, get in the habit of finding out who was at the door before you answer it. If they say, "We just want to talk," it's cops. If it's law enforcement, ask if they have a warrant. And if you're able to do so call your lawyer or call that hotline immediately.

Margaret 1:03:58 Okay.

Mo 1:03:58 If they have a search warrant, ask them to slide it under the door.

Margaret 1:04:05 And then you're looking for a signature on that, right?

Mo 1:04:10 Yeah, you want it to have been signed by a judge within the last 10 days.

Margaret 1:04:13 Okay.

Mo 1:04:14 If it is an arrest warrant, you can walk outside and shut the door behind you. I honestly would say like, ask them if you can surrender yourself later with an attorney. And if they have a warrant and they say no, walk out and shut the door behind you. Because at the very least, you know, you can by surrendering probably avoid further violence and protect your home from intrusion. If it's a search warrant, stand back from the door and read it aloud so that you know what they're allowed to look for and where, and the agents know that you know what they're allowed to look for and where. If they don't have a warrant, you don't have to open the door.

Margaret 1:04:59 Okay.

Mo 1:05:00 What I want everyone to be able to truthfully say is, "I am represented by counsel, let me get your name and number and I will have my lawyer call you." The reason I want you to be able to say you're represented is that once law enforcement knows you're represented, they can't approach you directly without a warrant. So, you know, either say, "I'm represented by counsel, leave your name and number and I'll have my lawyer call you." Or if you don't yet have a lawyer, say, "Let me get your name and number and I'll have my lawyer call you." And then call the hotline.

Margaret 1:05:32 Okay.

Mo 1:05:34 So what will happen after that—what should happen after that is your attorney would call them try to figure out what they want, if there's a prosecutor who's working with the investigation, anything else we can find out. And then this attorney can be the sort of conduit between you and the state, to the extent that there needs to be any kind of communication and a bulwark against state intrusion. And honestly, typically, this is sufficient to put an end to the inquiry, because the feds often want low-hanging fruit. They don't like dealing with lawyers. They want to see if people will talk to them voluntarily, and if they won't, that's often the end of it.

Margaret 1:06:14 Okay.

Mo 1:06:15 If that isn't the end, the sort of two most likely outcomes are an arrest warrant, in which case, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney—preferably one who is really able to listen to your goals, which in the event that you are someone who's like being targeted because of your participation in a social movement, your goals may be less self-interested then defense attorneys are kind of used to or are trained to assume.

Margaret 1:06:41 Right.

Mo 1:06:44 So your, you know, first most likely outcome if the fed doesn't just go away after hearing from your lawyer is that they issue an arrest warrant. And otherwise, another possible outcome is that you get a grand jury subpoena. And so we'll talk about grand juries in a little bit.

Margaret 1:07:05 Okay. And then... So one of the things that I try to talk to you about with people is to remember, don't like, like, really, really don't lie or tell the truth, especially to feds?

Mo 1:07:19 Yes.

Margaret 1:07:19 Like, it's always best to just never lie or tell the truth. Like, I mean—

Mo 1:07:23 It's extremely dangerous to talk to federal law enforcement.

Margaret 1:07:27 Yeah.

Mo 1:07:31 It's extremely dangerous to talk to federal law enforcement because it is a federal offense to lie to federal agents. And they're, you know, trained to elicit things that can be construed as lies. And if you do lie to them and aren't able to correct, like whatever material misrepresentation of fact, then they can use that as leverage against you to try to get you to cooperate in their investigation. Because they'll say, well, you lied to us and that's a five year mandatory minimum. But if you cooperate, we won't prosecute you for the perjury or for the material misrepresentation.

Margaret 1:08:13 Right. Which includes like—

Mo 1:08:15 So the best thing is to just say nothing, to say, "I'm represented, leave your name and number, and I'll have my lawyer call you."

Margaret 1:08:23 Which includes even stuff like, if they ask about your roommate, don't say like, "Oh, she doesn't live here."

Mo 1:08:28 Right?

Margaret 1:08:29 You know, just literally just the like, shut—you know, ask for a card or whatever, right?

Mo 1:08:35 Yeah, no matter what they say, no matter what they say to you: "Leave your name and number and I will have my lawyer call you."

Margaret 1:08:42 Okay. And then at that point, they call the hotline, and everything works out well, from then on.

Mo 1:08:49 I cannot anticipate the behavior of police and prosecutors.

Margaret 1:08:54 Ah, interesting. Okay.

Mo 1:08:55 But I will say that typically, in my experience, things work out less badly if you call a lawyer. Yeah. Than if you talk to federal agents on your own.

Margaret 1:09:08 Is there from a legal point of view—a lot of the advice that's going around right now in social movement circles that I tend to appreciate is the idea that if you get visited federally, there's no reason to keep that to yourself.

Mo 1:09:19 No, absolutely not.

Margaret 1:09:20 Because they know they visited you, so...

Mo 1:09:23 Of course.

Margaret 1:09:25 And letting people know that you got visited I think helps make people paranoid and then make bad decision—no, um, help people like be aware of their own risks.

Mo 1:09:34 Here's the thing, state repression exists 100% of the time. Sometimes you're fortunate enough to get a reminder.

Margaret 1:09:41 Yeah. That's so dark. Is that the note we're ending on?

Mo 1:09:47 Sorry.

Margaret 1:09:47 No, it's okay. It might be the note we're ending on.

Mo 1:09:50 Oh, I'm so sorry.

Margaret 1:09:55 Well, thanks for being on and we'll try and have you on in the future when you have a chance to talk about grand juries. But for now it seems like police and federal agents seem to be the primary things we're dealing with, at least at this moment. So.

Mo 1:10:08 Yeah, in most parts of the country, that's the case. I think that might change.

Margaret 1:10:11 Yeah.

Mo 1:10:12 In the coming months, but yeah, we'll see.

Margaret 1:10:20 Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, then please tell people about it. Actually, also write down the NLG federal defense hotline number, which is 212-679-2811. And it'll be in the show notes. But you know, write that shit down. I guess, keep it by your door. God, what a dark time. But, you know, that's a thing. And so if you enjoyed listening to this episode, please tell people about it. Please tell people about it on social media, please like and comment and review and subscribe and do all the things that tell algorithms to tell other people to listen to it. And also just, you know, tell people in person. That's been happening more and more, and it's really heartening to see. It makes the effort of this worth it. And also this week is the first week that we have transcription that's coming out alongside the episode and I'm very proud of that and very excited about that. And that's I've been able to hire someone to do the transcription who is a single parent and certainly could use the work and that's thanks to y'alls support. If y'all want to support financially, you can. You can support this podcast by supporting me directly on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And if you back me there, then there's all kinds of zines and music and various things up there. And also, if you make less money than I do, like, if you live off of less money than I make on Patreon in a month, don't back me on Patreon unless you really want to but, you can just message me and I'll get you all of my stuff for free. Because that's the way that money should work. And as much as money should—money really shouldn't exist—but that's completely beside the point. In particular, I would like to thank Chris and Nora and Hass the dog, Kirk, Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher, Shane and The Compound for making this episode and the show possible. Yeah, that's all I got. Stay as safe as you can. Actually, you know, there's one thing that I want to focus on, there's like something that that most that really gets at something where, you know, what matters is courage. And courage is not—this is my own words of it or probably some shit I stole off a meme on the internet or something—but courage is not the absence of fear. It's the overcoming of fear. And in order to stay safe, we need to stay brave. The bunker mentality is the cowards mentality. I should stop recording now. Have a good week.

S1E18 - The Basics, pt 1

Episode Notes

On this episode, host Margaret Killjoy ruminates on the philosophical ideas of how and why to get involved in prepping from a non-individualistic point of view. She also answers questions!

You can follow Margaret on twitter @magpiekilljoy and instagram @margaretkilljoy or support her on patreon at https://www.patreon.com/margaretkilljoy