The guest Gregg can be found on twitter at @greggawatt.
Live Like The World is Dying: Suburban Organizing
Margaretkilljoy Hello and welcome to Live Like The World Is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I'm your host Margaret Kiljoy, and I use she or they pronouns and this week I'll be talking to a friend of mine named Gregg about suburban organizing and suburban preparedness because we've had a bunch of episodes on urban stuff and we've had some episodes on rural stuff and those aren't the only places that people live. Some people live in the intersection between the rural and the urban or the sub-urban as it is sometimes referred to. In fact, a lot of people live there. I grew up there. Which, I guess I should just own. I think I say that in the episode, so you know it's like supposed to be this like dirty secret, but the suburbs are are far more interesting and complex than people give them credit for in media. And so here is going to be Gregg talking about that, and I think you'll get a lot out of it, even if it's not where you live. 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 duh duuuh.
00:00.00 Margaretkilljoy Okay if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess kind of a little bit about your story. How did you come into suburban organizing?
00:53.82 Gregg Yeah, my name's Gregg. I go by Greggawatt on the internet, most places. My pronouns are he/him, and yeah, I have been a lifelong anarchist. I don't want to call myself an organizer, but I have been somebody who is always...I cannot stand still and I always have to be doing something and getting involved in some project, and during the pandemic I decided to move out to a little bit further out from the the city and move into the suburbs, mainly to get more space, to garden, and of course it didn't last long until I was trying to figure out like, “Okay, how do I find people I can connect with to work on stuff.”
01:38.60 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, and and I mean it's it's funny because one of the main questions I get asked all the time at my show I'm always talking about the importance of community and and for the most part I mean my neighbors know who I am, but I don't like hang out with them all that much. You know, I'm sort of a shy, introverted transgirl in a rural environment personally, and and so people always ask “How do you talk to the people around you?” and there's it's sort of an implied difference between the sort of the political radical and then the people around you. And, everyone no matter your environment, you always think it's sort of unique to your environment. You know the, the main concern people have in rural environments is, you know the Trump supporters who live around you or something like that and and my rude assumption is that what you have around you would be like sort of do-good-er liberals who are on like Next Door too much or something, and so I guess I'm wondering, what is the political environment that you're around and and how does that influence talking to people and how do you deal with that?
02:43.89 Gregg Yeah, so I'm in the Bay area so that makes the the conversation a little bit different than it might be in in some other areas, but it's it's definitely it's a mix. So, there is your Liberals. The mayor of the the city that I'm in is a Progressive. And you know, advocates for affordable housing. That's his, has been his whole job, his whole life. He's working in affordable housing. So you have like a mayor who's very progressive. Um, and then you have liberals. You have Biden supporters, and then you also have your Blue Lives Matter types.
03:11.72 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
03:22.36 Gregg They have….There's Blue Lives Matter flags in my neighborhood. You know and they, and and there's a lot of American flags, more American flags than I think I've ever seen in my life, but you know, especially around the fourth of July, and you know then every once in a while there'll be a gay flag. You know, a rainbow flag, or there's, there was a lot of Black Lives Matter signs last year when in 2020, Summer 2020, when we first moved here. Um, and that I think was just like the whole country was sort of getting, getting on board with that. But, there is also a good contingent of like your anti-vaxer Q'anon Trump supporter types, who you know, for example...so one of, one of the things that I've gotten involved in doing organizing out here is there is a Black Lives Matter group that is local. One of the projects that they've taken on is trying to get the 1619 Project to be taught in the schools. Well, if you know anything about the current environment of like school board politics, the Right is crying about teaching kids critical race theory, which the 1619 Project is not critical race theory. Critical race theory isn't even taught in in schools in any form, but it raises this this tension now like where you know, one of the main organizing tools right now is to go to school board meetings, and make sure that you have a voice there every single meeting, to have somebody there who's like "Yes, you should still be doing this this project. Yes, you should still be looking at the curriculum, and making it more true to the American history." And then you have people on the Right who are against masks who ah, who use the the the keywords of like critical race theory and what-not. So yeah, it's kind of a wild ah mix of of people,and so like you have to deal with with people who are never going to be on your side, and that's a difficult thing to deal with coming from like a more urban center where like the worst you would have to deal with is like a Democrat who's a little bit too much into Hillary.
05:46.43 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, yeah, I think suburban Blue Lives Matter people are like scarier to me than rural ones and I...you know, it's like I've had these conversations with like my neighbors where like, I'm wearing a dress and they have a gun on their hip, and I'm like “Ahh, this is fine," but I feel like in my head the suburban ones, and maybe this is, I don't know, I have this presumption that they would be... uhhh... that I would have less class alignment with them or that, you know like, like people talk about Trump's base as the rural white poor, and my impression is that Trump's base, like in terms of actually who got him elected is the upper middle class rural and suburban white you know folks. Is that, is that accurate? I mean am I completely off... Ah, like the idea of suburban Blue Lives Matter people just actually are way scarier to me.
06:42.97 Gregg Yeah, when you're in the suburbs you're going to be coming across people who are more affluent and so yeah, you had, you would hit the nail on the head there. There is, there's like much less, you would have much less in common with somebody who is a a suburban Blue Lives Matter type. Because they they are well off, they, you know, they have they have a house, and they pay their taxes, and they you know support their police, and like it's it's a little scarier I would say. And I think that you get less of that feeling of like, and I'm talking out of never been living in in rural America, but like I get this feeling, more feeling, of like there's a self, there's a self-reliance aspect that I as an Anarchist can like vibe with.
07:32.89 Margaretkilljoy Yeah.
07:38.50 Gregg I can be like "Yeah, you just want people to leave you alone and like do your own thing.” That's cool, but I get like in the suburbs, there's like a feeling that everything should cater to you and that's from the schools, to the city, to the police, to all of these city services that like you... It's very individualistic. Like to get anywhere you have to get in a car and drive
07:58.85 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
07:59.00 Gregg Unless you just want to walk around your neighborhood. And that I think really changes your outlook in some ways. Yeah.
08:07.67 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, that ah, that entitlement, the 'entitled to everything working for you,' I think that's what makes it scary is because like, someone who is in the process of losing power is at their most volatile in a way where, I don't know, people who are sort of used to not really having power over the people around them probably are less interested in wielding power over the people around them. You know, as compared to I mean homeowners associations. I think my my first inkling of like Libertarianism as a kid... Definitely went through a teenage Libertarian phase until I found out what a horrible thing Capitalism was. It was the 90's. Whatever. And and the first thing that ever made me aware of it was homeowners associations, because when I was a kid I grew up in the suburbs and I was like, "Well what do you mean we can't paint our house like pink with purple polka dots. It's our, it's our house. Like why would that be anyone else's business?" And the idea of living somewhere where your business is everyone's business seems really weird to me. But...
09:13.86 Gregg Yeah, luck, Yeah luckily I don't have an HOA near me because I probably would have already pissed them off by by tearing up my lawn. But yeah, I mean, there's there's HOAs around here and so to go into some of the the organizing that I've been able to do is that there is a measure in the city to put up license plate readers and I am somebody who has been anti-surveillance for ever--
09:38.66 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
09:51.78 Gregg --And this was something that the local Black Lives Matter group was against. The Progressive groups saw a problem with it as well, and it was something that I was like "Okay I mean. I need to figure this out a little bit and see what what's going on," and so I just, I emailed the police department I was like "Hey, what's up with these cameras." And, um, it was a startup that they went with, and they answered some of my questions. But, then I like did a follow up of like "Hey, did you have a, uh, request for proposals? Did you talk to any other companies? And then he just stopped talking to me. I was like "Well guess what, I have the government on my side." So I did a Freedom Of Information Act request for this information and was able to get a lot of good data about the the relationship between the company and the, and the, and the City. And, uhm, the proposal still went through, sadly, but it was able to get people together, and posting about it online. You could see people in the city being like, "Yeah, I don't want these cameras around. Why do we even need these?" And, the HOAs actually were the ones to push for the cameras first, because the HOAs bought these cameras from this particular company.
10:58.14 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
10:59.92 Gregg And got them set up. And then the company used these HOAs as an example of like "Hey, we've already deployed these in your city in these HOAs. It's not that much more to do a few more around the city. So yeah, the surveillance company was able to actually, you know, win that contract with some of those arguments. Sadly.
But, it just shows that like HOAs are are sort of these entities that that can be testing grounds for increased policing and increased surveillance that is later going to be used as examples of like, "Hey this is something that works," especially in a suburban context where HOAs do have political power, and are able to kind of control space in that way. Yeah, that was interesting.
11:46.47 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, that I guess that doesn't surprise me that they they tie in together like that. But, with the organizing you did against it, I mean one of the things I think about as you say that it's like...like organizing isn't necessarily about winning. Winning is really nice, and we should always try to win. But, usually it seems to be about like bringing people together and sort of gathering power and recognizing the ways in which...so the fact that you can use that to make in-roads with different uhh parts of your community seems like, you know, "the real treasure was the friends we met along the way," or whatever is absolutely true with organizing.
12:23.52 Gregg Definitely, yeah, like, and again, I hate...I don't consider myself an activist. I don't. I have criticisms of of Activism, but I am like a Do-ist. Like, I want to be doing the work that I want to see in the world.
12:36.47 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
12:42.55 Gregg I Think like, 1) if if you're somebody who like finds yourself in an area where you have no people with your political affinity. I think part of it is just like finding people who are doing the thing. Like you don't necessarily need to find everybody who's like a Leftist or an Anarchist, but you know there are groups in my city who do, you know, sustainability gardening. So they go to people's houses and they rip up their lawns. That's extremely--
13:14.57 Margaretkilljoy That's cool.
13:18.86 Gregg --Yeah. That's extremely in my...in my interests. And when I first moved here I was like "Yes, that's something that I want to do. I want to learn about it," and so I did I went to one of their sessions and like ripped up somebody's lawn and spread mulch and that was like really satisfying and then like making those connections with people of just like yeah this is... we're building the world. We want to live in. We're planting fruit trees. We're, you know, bringing back the pollinators and whatnot. And like, it's also a two-edged situation that like this group doing this work is actually really important because the city itself raises their water rates, and is going to raise them again, and so people are now thinking about like "Oh crap. Like, I can't actually sustain the kind of water usage that I need. I need to actually change my...what I'm doing."
14:04.77 Margaretkilljoy Because like lawns are one of the biggest water sinks, right?
14:16.86 Gregg Yeah, and they're just useless, but like you know, and so like doing that work and connecting with those people I think is, is, was really important. And like it was also you know around the cameras . It was finding like, of course, like the the groups that cared about racial justice, of course they were going to be against this, because they don't want police to be able to harass people even though there's like stories in the New York Times about this particular camera company being used to harass people, Ah um, you know, um and get their data. But, and that's fine, and I was able to meet a lot of people through that process. And, it's like building those relationships with people who aren't like, they probably have never read Emma Goldman, and that's fine, but we're all we're all doing the same sort of work.
14:50.61 Margaretkilljoy Hahah
14:56.10 Gregg And they, and, when, when things get bad, which they will, having those connections I think is is really important. Like, I've been able to meet people around my neighborhood and and it's really important to just like we... I've just been like, "Hey, let's hang out." And, so we'll bring over food. We'll bri-- we'll, we'll bring over like you know some drink, and we'll just chat and be very cordial. But now it's like, "Okay I know you. I know where you're at we know each other. We recognize each other when we see each other we wave."
Like yeah, I've been able to meet like most of the the houses around me and especially like my next door neighbors, and be like "Hey, if you need anything, let me know. Hey are you doing okay? Oh, hey, you have fig trees or you have apple trees. Well, I have a fruit picker. Let me come over and pick some fruit for you and--
15:49.18 Margaretkilljoy Wait, what's a fruit picker? is it like a like a low robo arm thing that you like reach up and grab things with?
15:51.28 Gregg Oh, I wish. It's just a long pole with a basket on the end.
16:02.90 Margaretkilljoy Oh, cool.
16:13.72 Gregg And like, I, I bought one years ago just because I would... in my old neighborhood, I would just walk around and and find fruit trees and if anything was hanging off the edge I'd pick it.
16:15.00 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
16:15.60 Gregg But like you know tool offering. You're creating that like, "Oh yeah, we have, we have things we can trade." And just the other week, a woman who is like, "Oh, I Love your garden out front. You should come over and see my garden," and she had I want to say fifteen fruit trees in her backyard.
16:35.73 Margaretkilljoy Whoa.
16:49.67 Gregg And like, she's like, "Oh yeah, my husband's a master gardener," and like she's a pastor. Like she's, she's you know, she's, in in the religious realm, but like she's liberal. She's like….she cares about helping people, of course, and like it was like, ‘Oh yeah, we have this shared interest.’ We both really like gardening. We we want...we could talk about like similar foods we wanted to plant or do, and now like okay now we have that connection. So if things are bad, we can interact in that way.
17:07.90 Margaretkilljoy Yeah.
17:08.36 Gregg Like, I think that suburban life wants you to be isolated. It, It thrives in isolation. That's why it was created. But, I think that there are ways to break that isolation. I think it's just as simple as just like making yourself more available. And it's hard. We, You know, we all have lives. I have a full time job, and you know, I'm raising a family and all that stuff. So, it is hard to make the time. But yeah, I feel better when I when I do make that time.
17:38.64 Margaretkilljoy No, this is really interesting to me because one of the things that I always present or that I think about a lot is like one of the things I think this sort of the Anarchist role is sort of the the anti-organizer or something, the... Okay people always say when the apocalypse comes like some you know strong man will take over, and there's a certain amount of truth to that when you have a power vacuum, kind of the first person to present an organizing model that sounds halfway reasonable like people tend to go with.
18:10.64 Gregg Yeah
18:15.70 Margaretkilljoy And I've seen this in small scales where I'm aro--You know, hanging out with like 20 people or something and none of us know each other, the first person to be like, "Hey this is what we should do," kind of wins, right?
18:19.00 Gregg Yeah
18:20.00 Margaretkilljoy And, and what anarchists I've always felt should do is, and even those of us who hate organizing like me, is present present an organizational model that is non-hierarchical, basically like being like, "Oh, well, this is what we should do not like 'I'm in charge.' But here's a means by which we can make decisions. Here's a means by which we can come up with what we want to do collectively, like you know, and it's interesting to me because I hadn't quite thought about this but one of the big things about the white American settler project is to create these like unmarked spaces, you know--
18:54.58 Gregg Yeah
19:11.79 Margaretkilljoy --this like place that is devoid of culture and devoid of interpersonal relations and things like that and the so the suburbs sort of exemplify that, so it actually sort of makes sense ah in some ways that's an organizational void that if you step in and say like, "Oh, well we can...we can share tools," You know it's like, where I grew up, you know when I was younger, there would be block parties because someone on the block organized a block party, right?
19:55.10 Gregg Yeah.
20:08.43 Margaretkilljoy And then I don't know what happened maybe that person stopped or moved or I'm I'm not sure, and we just stopped having block parties, and, and so the barriers come back up between people. But, they, but they can go away. I don't know this is just... sorry I'm almost like I'm not nostalgic, but it's like it's just really interesting to think about the suburbs as this void that therefore is like fertile ground in a way that I hadn't really thought before we started this conversation.
20:10.14 Gregg Yeah, I'm not convinced that it necessarily is--
20:14.91 Margaretkilljoy Mmm, okay.
20:27.60 Gregg --but I think it is an area that is ignored often.
20:31.80 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
20:31.5 Gregg You never hear the cool kids saying, "Let's go move to the burbs!" But like people live here. And actually a lot of people that you may want to be around live in the suburbs.
20:42.64 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
20:46.40 Gregg Like, I feel I feel like as white people overwhelmingly re-enter like urban spaces there are are families who you know who are pushed out to the suburbs and that's where they're living and it's like if you want to actually be around people who aren't just like rich white people who are… who want you know coffee shops up and down everywhere, like that's one place you can find it. There's something, I think there's something to that and, you brought up block parties and it got me thinking about like, there's this, there's this, so there's this phenomenon that's like the National Night Out. Do you know about this?
21:15.95 Margaretkilljoy No, I don't.
21:23.23 Gregg So, there's... it's a pro cop thing. It's like the National Night Out where they throw block parties all over the neighborhood to essentially like, they bring the police, and they bring the fire truck out and they they have like you know, ah somebody dressed in a furry suit that has like you know a fireman outfit on or whatever, and it's like trying to get like the community out to, so you can meet your neighbors, but it's like it's still is mediated by the State because it's like used as this way to like promote, you know, either fire safety, or public safety, or all these myriad of things, or like community or Neighborhood Watch type things. Um, and I was talking with another person I know in town who who does organizing and I was like, "We need to have something that's not this. Like we need to have a counter for next year," and and she was like, "Yeah, definitely." So, I think that like block parties are definitely a way, and like if you already know people who are like, "Yeah, I don't really like the cops,” having something that's like counter to that, that's just like, "This is, this is our community. This is our way how we keep our say... ourselves safe," like and, kind of have the anti- Neighborhood Watch contingent--
22:41.97 Margaretkilljoy Have you done that? Have you gone to do that yet, or is that that this year, next year or something?
Gregg Not Yet, it will probably be next year--
Gregg --because the the day's already passed for that one and so we'd probably do something you know along that lines. But yeah, like yeah, I don't know. Um, yeah I think that there's there's also like a fertileness of like there is, there's more space that you can kind of um, like there's more physical space.
23:08.93 Margaretkilljoy Yeah.
23:17.30 Gregg I think out here. When you're in an urban environment, everything is, is definitely overwhelmingly like built up, but like where I'm at I have very quick access to like pretty intense nature. Like there's coyotes who come into the neighborhood, and deer who regularly walk around, and um I don't know, that kind of access is nice.
23:33.87 Margaretkilljoy Yeah I actually see more wildlife on a regular basis when I visit my parents, even though I literally live in the woods.
23:42.40 Gregg Yeah.
23:53.12 Margaretkilljoy When I see deer near my house I get really excited. I mean, I see them once a week or something like that, But you can, but the…the wildlife, there's some word for this that I don't remember right now, the like where the wild and the suburban encroachment overlap is a place that wildlife is very visible I think partly because the habitat has been cut away but also because there's all that physical space.
24:05.62 Gregg Yeah.
24:12.73 Margaretkilljoy I Guess I do want to walk back like what I was saying earlier about like, "Oh the suburbs is this like white void." I Definitely don't mean to like paint all suburbs like that and I actually um, certainly the, the one where I grew up, was fairly racially diverse and actually fairly class diverse. And, it's incr... well's not increasingly class diverse. It's increasingly lower class as working class, as people move out of the city because of displacement because of rich white people who want to move into the city. So, so, I wonder whether we have like more... There's like the suburban ideal, the sort of like 1950 s you know, housewife vibe whiteness, no culture thing, and then there's the actual lived experience of the suburbs which I guess is is fairly different from that for.
25:04.98 Gregg Yeah. Yeah, I mean I grew up kind of in the suburbs like part of my growing up was in, was in the suburbs as well. It was, ah it was a place as a child to get bored, umm.
25:21.37 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
25:24.21 Gregg And like I, there's a lot of opportunity in boredom.
25:28.31 Margaretkilljoy Yeeeah.
25:43.73 Gregg And, and, and, I think that even as an adult like there is opportunities in boredom that, you know it's like, "Oh, today I'm going to find out like what this weird plant I came across was." Instead of like constantly being inundated with like activities or social engagements like there was, there is some advantage to being like more alone and I guess you, you get this being in a cabin in the in the wilderness, but like there's being in a more Urban center, you're so busy. And now I feel, I feel very un busy now in a way that's like, "Oh, I can get into the more deep work that I've wanted to do for a very long time," but also just like exploring these spaces that I just didn't have access to. I don't know what I'm saying there exactly, but like it. Yeah.
26:17.50 Margaretkilljoy No no, that's it, it’s slower I mean and that is like part of what appeals about... I think one of the things That's so annoying about the American myth of the suburb is that like the way the American suburbs were largely constructed as as far as I understand them, I mean 1) There's a lot of racism built into it and specifically like, "We Don't want to pay taxes but we want access to the city," You know, and like the wealth fleeing the city or whatever you know and all this terrible stuff. But, the the actual physical infrastructure of the suburb, of like having homes and yards and parks and you know there's a lot to recommend about living in some kind of population density, and being able to share and centralize some types of you know, power systems and and sewer systems and things like that, while at the same time... I don't know, I mean like honestly just like straight up if someone was like, "Where, where would I, where is like the easiest place to survive the apocalypse?" Besides the people, and actually depending on the suburb maybe including the people, I'd probably pick the suburbs, because in you're like well I I have all of the space to grow food. But I also have access to people who are one of the other main resources. People are not resources, but you know one of the main other advantages that we could have in any kind of bad situation. A completely different structure. I mean, I guess the actual better structure is the sort of village thing. Of course then you run into the weird the way the suburbs are being redeveloped into these like corporate villages or whatever is also kind of gross. So I don't know there's nothing that can't be made gross. I don't know where I'm going with this.
28:00.63 Gregg So, I feel like in the suburbs. There's a lot of opportunities for like...that that have been taken, of course this is by, not by by organizers or radicals, but like there's like different ways of living and that have been tested in the suburbs and one example is like the Eusonian model that Frank Lloyd Wright built where he attempted to, he made these very pretty houses, being an architect, but they had a model of like how a space should be designed like it was very open styles. It was like this. The kitchen was de-emphasized because they didn't think that the kitchen mattered that much. I'm not saying that these these were good, but I think that we're heading into a new era that like we're going to have to start rethinking how houses actually exist. And, like these suburban houses that exist right? now are extremely inefficient. Like my house right now is a two-story home and the top half gets hot, while the bottom stays very cool and it's like well great good job there thinking of that thirty years ago.
29:58.72 Margaretkilljoy Yeah.
30:13.34 Gregg You know, and like being somewhere where it's going to get affected by global warming. If we're, if we're all thinking about like, "Okay we all have these same homes," like when you're in a suburb, at Least mine, there's only like 5 different homes that exist. So like if you can connect with your with your neighbors and in a way and they're like, "Hey, you have the same home I do. I do. What modifications have you made to make it more energy efficient? What things have you done?" Because you have these templates that you can go like okay like,"These are exactly the same," and I think that like maybe there's a way that we could start experimenting just because there's more similarity and I've thought about that a lot I haven't done any like major renovations yet. But, we have these buildings. We're not turning them down anytime soon. How can we make them more efficient. I Think that what most people do is they just slap solar panels on top and and some batteries, and call it a day. But, yeah.
30:57.86 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, the the mass-produced house thing. It's interesting to find an advantage to that right? Because I mostly see this as this like major disadvantage. I remember when I moved into a barn that my friends built, where the the top half was finished. And had like a proper attic and everything I was like, "This building regulates temperature better than the house I grew up in," you know, and this was just like built by my friends, and because it...and it was built cheaply, but it was built cheaply through like DIY scrappiness, not. "How can I maximize my profit extraction of building this structure," you know and um, like no one's going to accuse these suburban homes of being overbuilt anytime soon, you know, and I read all of these construction forums all the time and you can tell who's like the homeowner versus who's the the contractor because the...or the ‘home builder’, because the home builder is like, "Oh yeah and in this place, in this place you can get away by using with 2x3s, and you know or whatever possible cost savings that they can build into it versus the like you know here's how to put hurricane ties on everything, and you know versus, as compared to people like, "Oh, you have to put hurricane ties on if you're below the such and such latitude line," or whatever. Um, so it's it's interesting to me to see these advantages, because yeah I wouldn't think throwing solar panels on it is the way to go, and I mean I guess you could put a battery on it. But, it's like grid tie solar to me makes more sense anyway, because from my point of view battery storage is the big ecological downside of Solar. But okay, so so what would you do? What would you do to this kind of house? I assume like blow in more insulation in the attic or like what what can you do to a house?
32:43.41 Gregg Yeah, yeah, I think the first thing that I that I would...big project that I'd like to take care of is like water reclamation, and figuring out like where, how things go because all the all the down spouts are have to get into the weeds, but like having downspouts on every single corner of your of your property, it's like, "Oh yeah, how do we, how do we pipe this all together?
33:07.90 Margaretkilljoy Oh yeah, totally.
33:22.14 Gregg Instead of just like gathering things in a bucket. But like yeah, the heat, the heat situation I haven't really figured out too well, and it's something that I just need to do more research on, along with all the other projects that I have, so I don't have anything specific yet. But it's something that I think about, and like as I get to know more people around me and be like, "Oh..." like I for, okay so here's ah, here's a good example. So I went into a a a friend's house down the street, they have the exact same house, and I'm like, "Oh, your house is a lot...brings in a lot more light than mine." All they had is different paint and different paint on their walls I was like, "Of course, we need to paint the walls, so we can bring in more in natural light. And it's just like stuff like that that makes you think of like other things that like, you could get this from just like going to random people's houses and be like, "Oh yeah, that, you're doing this this way I'm doing this this way." Then I can get ideas off of it. But, I don't know, it just interesting to see like the exact same house and like see okay here's the different ways you can make it work for you.
34:13.00 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, no, I was interested because I have a feeling that people in the city can do kind of similar things with apartments and I know that, you know, where I live, it's like all of our houses are totally, all the cabins and stuff that people I know build are all pretty different from each other in a lot of ways. But then we all are constantly like learning from each other about like how to wire solar, or what kinds of insulation actually work, or which natural building methods are total garbage, and which ones actually make sense in our climate and, it's cool. I Don't know I I kind of have this like happy little vision of like a permacultured suburb as like ah you know all the lawns ripped up, and fruit trees everywhere, and water reclamation, and all this stuff that HOAs always would you know absolutely despise.
35:03.57 Gregg Yes.
35:07.74 Margaretkilljoy It's a little like dystopian versus utopian conflict within this ah very separated space and again I don't know, I don't spend much time in suburbs anymore, so it's it's hard for me to totally conceptualize.
35:19.22 Gregg Yeah, and along with that like the the place where I'm in, the having the water situation makes everybody thinking thinking about like, "Oh, I'm going to turn up my lawn," and like that, having that shared narrative of like, "There used to be lawns. There are no longer lawns, because it is financially not feasible anymore, because water is costing more and we're in global, global warming times," makes everybody start being like, "Oh, what are you doing with your yard? What kind of trees are you putting in?" You can kind of get ideas off of people and like some people are like, "Oh yeah I really like cactuses," or I personally I like doing fruit trees and and native pollinators if I can do it. So yeah, yeah, so like that idea of like the permaculture suburban life, I think that it's going to have to happen out of necessity when like this the suburb becomes unsustainable as it is. Like the suburbs are, as they were built they're pretty unsustainable. You need a vehicle to get into them. That like every house was given a tree that like was not a native tree, lots of lawns, no real good ways to reclaim the water. A lot of the water just goes right into the sewer. I was talking about water reclamation earlier and to do one of the pipes I would have to dig up the ground. Like the people who built these houses were not thinking about like, "Oh we need to collect this water someday." Yeah, but I think that that's... especially here that's going to change and as that changes we're going to have to come up with with more and better ideas about how to, how to reconfigure these houses so we can survive here for the long term.
37:27.40 Margaretkilljoy Yeah. What do people make of you, like when you're coming around and and trying to organize with people. Yeah, what do people make of you?
37:49.23 Gregg Ah, I don't know, I don't really ask people what they make of me, but I but I get the I like I've I've just been able to connect with other people working on on organizing projects, and I think people are appreciative that they, that somebody is around who kind of gets it. I don't need to be told that you know white supremacy exists. I'm not in there trying to be like, "Oh yeah, some cops are our friends," and so that I think that like is refreshing for people who are normally working with people who are like not not even day one type of stuff. And, I feel like currently though, it's like I'm still getting my footing. I've only been here a year. I'm still kind of gaining, I feel like a lot of it is still like gaining trust and the pandemic has made it super hard to just like... you just want to be in the same room as people, and like interact and like have a potluck or like you know, share food or share ideas and like that's been a lot more difficult. It's going to get easier as we hopefully get out of this. But, yeah, I get the feeling that that people are appreciative of the work that I've done and of my contributions, because like again talking about the FOIA thing, that has gotten me to get in contact with like reporters who are reporting on like the city and the police departments that are in the city and county that I'm in, which have some pretty corrupt stuff coming out, and so like having that ability to to network with not only reporters who have been doing this work forever and exposing some of the the injustices here, but like organizers and activists who have been on the ground doing that work as well. I think it shows that like you can find a way to do, to fit in with whatever skills that you have, and people are going to be appreciative of you. Like one of the big things about like being in an area where you're relatively new is like, and especially during a pandemic, it's like how do you find the people who who are like working on the stuff that you want to work on. They exist. Every city is going to have somebody who has been trying for years to get some project off the ground, or stop something that's going on in their city, or either, even like get the ear of city council, and if you can be that extra voice, or that extra person to call in and be like, "Hey, stop this," that can be worth a lot especially in a city where maybe the population is not so engaged.
40:39.44 Margaretkilljoy Yeah.
40:58.38 Gregg Even, even if the population is like engaged in the opposite direction, if there's somebody else saying that, you're gonna find those people I think. Yeah, and like I hate to say it but like one of the, one of the places I've been able to gauge like where people's energies are is actually through Facebook. Like there's multiple different Facebook groups that are focused in the city, and like that's where most people do their organizing work.
41:15.48 Margaretkilljoy Okay.
41:17.19 Gregg Like Facebook and like Next Door. And I'm not just talking like organizing from like a Leftist or a radical perspective. But I'm talking more like even the Right wingers, and so it... joining these different groups, you get...ah you get a taste of like, "Okay, who are these people? What are they working towards? What do you need to be paying attention to? What are people angry about?" You know you can figure out that's like, "Oh people don't like that their their roads are taking forever to get fixed," which is like you know, typical weird suburban like complaint is like okay, but like, also you go, "Oh there, there was a school board recall this past year that failed miraculously, like very badly failed, but there was um connection between one of the school board people and one of the organizers of the recall, and you know like you could get from Facebook of like them... how that connection worked and so you were able to see, "Oh, actually this person who's on the school board is is related to somebody who's actually running the recall."
42:34.55 Margaretkilljoy Ah, so there's a very like transparent organizing happening from probably both the Right and the Left.
42:40.74 Gregg Yeah, exactly and so like you can kind of see it's like, "Okay, what are... where are people at?" and like you don't even have to participate. I don't suggest that people participate in Facebook. I loathe it as a platform. But, it is wherever the people are, so it's like you're trying to find like friends and enemies, that's the place to do it, and you know I would also suggest getting on Next Door. I... it is a terrible platform as well, but I think it also is another one of those things that like gives you an idea of like, "Okay, where are people at? What are the issues that matter in this city, and where are people doing the work that I want to be involved in?" And people respond really well to just reaching out. Like I do... I Just like email people and like, "Hey, what are you doing? And this is who I am, and like that's...I admit that that's kind of a unique thing of of mine, like I don't mind making making a fool of myself, but like that is a way to to get involved to just like emailing people who you see are doing this kind of organizing, and like some people might be be trepidatcious of you and so there may be a, a period of time where you have to prove yourself--
43:53.20 Margaretkilljoy Yeah.
43:54.92 Gregg --Of like not being you know a a bad person, and that's totally fine, and I get that from doing Anarchist organizing where we can be paranoid about every...any new person who comes in.
43:58.74 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, I was about to say we have that problem as a specific major problem in the Anarchist Movement, so.
44:09.72 Gregg Yeah, so when people like you know email me back and then, and don't touch base for months I'm like, "Okay that's fine, I get it," or and also like there's a real problem of like everybody also has their whole lives going on. This isn't like organizing when you know I was 20 and like that's all we did. We went to the Food Not Bombs, and then we went to the info shop, and then we went to the Critical Mass. Like it's much more. There's much more things that have to happen on a daily basis, so things move a lot slower. And I think they would move a lot slower than they would in an urban environment too, because there's just like people are busy. There's less people working on things as well.
44:52.18 Margaretkilljoy And it might be like a less of a sense of... precarity tends to cause people to act much more quickly sometimes right, like I imagine suburban organizing as it being like, "Oh, we should stop this thing," but it's a little bit less like, "I'm a starve to death if we don't stop this thing."
45:00.00 Gregg Yeah, yeah.
45:02.00 Margaretkilljoy I have a question about Next Door. So I only know of Next Door is this like panopticon.. decentralized panopticon, where it just encourages neighbors to snitch on each other and be racist and stuff, right. And the closest I've ever experienced is like you know in Asheville there's a Facebook group that's like basically just nosy neighbors, and but, it turns into this like argument where you know, for example, someone will like make fun of a person who doesn't know house right? And then a lot of people will be like, "What are you doing? Like stop taking a picture of someone's tent and putting it on here. That's like where they live. You're endangering them," and the the push back seems to work a little bit. Not always, but. Can you can you push back on Next Door? And, if so does it look like, "Hey. Ah. I Appreciate you're concerned about your safety, but maybe don't report every single person you see to the police," or whatever. Like, like what is the culture of resisting a Right-wing echo chamber on a social media platform like that?
46:23.63 Gregg Yeah, good question. I think that it's difficult, but it's, but it's, but it's possible like I think that like um, being on these platforms, and like this is totally like not a 'have to', you have to have the energy for this sort of thing. I Think it can be, especially if you're in an area that's like extremely like always talking down about houseless people, or like always being racist and What not, it's like sometimes removing yourself from the platform is totally fine.
46:58.53 Margaretkilljoy Yeah.
47:00.50 Gregg But if you have the energy for it, I think that it's useful to not only like for information gathering, which is like, "seeing where people are at. What are what are people mad about?" But then like yeah, being that voice of like, "Hey this sucks." And like, there was, there's a situation in town with the kids on bicycles, and it's like very, it's a very you know Suburban concern. It's like, "These kids are riding their bikes, and they're riding them recklessly up and down the main street,
47:29.72 Margaretkilljoy God forbid.
47:30.00 Gregg And like, you have you have, like you know people being like, "They just need a spanking."
47:20.42 Margaretkilljoy Oh my God.
47:36.54 Gregg And I like you know, I Just like couldn't help myself. I was just like, "Do you just... you think that hitting kids is okay?" and and they're like, "Well no, and like maybe you can go talk to them because you're a man," because whatever. And it's just like weird. Yeah, it was gross. Um, but it's like getting it out there just to be like, "No, actually like leave these kids alone. And like you don't need to be like this," and having that that voice. And like maybe it's doing nothing and the the most effective thing is that the kids are still out there and they don't care.
Like they don't care about the online conversations. And like maybe we should care less about the online conversations. But I think that like there there is this sense of like... there can be like this like... there's a complaint and then the complaint happens again, and then people get into the complaint, and the complaint becomes this like fuel, and then that fuel can lead to something in the real world. And, I think being somebody who couldn't be there and just be the water to just be like, "I'm going to put this out," or I'm going at least like tell people to like take take it down the notch is maybe effective. I don't know. But, it's something that I that I try to do. But, I also don't want to waste my time online and I'd rather be outside. So.
48:52.80 Margaretkilljoy Right. Also with those kids fortunately, and not to be like, "Kids are too online," I'm just very excited about the kids on bicycles because that was that was me. I wonder, I mean because the other advantage of doing what you're talking about doing is that there's a certain amount of...There's that bystander syndrome where when you see something bad happening, it's hard to be the first person to do something about it. And, I think that happens a lot on social media. I mean ironically, because and the other problem with social media is everyone feels very entitled to tell people exactly what they think. But, especially in a social media that's like 'place' specific or you know there's sort of an implication of non-anonymity if you see someone say something messed up. Or I mean I don't know I've had this up in social situations where someone says something kind of messed up, and no one wants to engage because it seems like a lot of work. And so the moment someone finally is like, "Hey, that's racist. Maybe don't talk like that or think like that." You know, it it allows other people to speak up, or even in this case as you as you mentioned it you know it got the person to change from saying, "Oh we should just you know beat these children," to, "Okay, maybe I don't think the solution is to beat these children." So, that's cool.
50:07.75 Gregg Yeah, yeah I mean we could We could talk all day about how the what the internet does to people. But, I think it it it affords people to like put their worst ideas out there because it's like it's reaction...I Think the internet is great for reactionary talk, you know? From from all sides. And then like having something that's place specific, and also non-anonymous, and also like you utilizing it for just like where you live. It's like, "Yeah. No, these people don't get to talk like that, and they don't get to be like that, and if they do like can go do it somewhere else on the internet." But, like, focusing on like your physical space is just like, "Yeah, stop." I don't know, you know?
50:52.90 Margaretkilljoy Yeah. Sorry, as a total tangential question: at the very beginning, you talked a little bit about preparedness in terms of how making these connections with other people is a very useful preparedness step, and I actually really appreciate that. Most most... obviously most conversations about preparedness don't talk enough about community and relationships, and talk too much about stuff. But I am curious what you have done from a preparedness point of view or what you would advocate is useful to do from a preparedness point of view in a suburban environment.
51:29.57 Gregg I think it's building the friendly relationships first before you need them. I think that's key, and because like even if you're not on the same page with all of your neighbors if you can have that sense of like, "I know you. I know your name. We see each other. I know your dogs. Whatever." I feel like you've mentioned this on the podcast a lot, but like when there's a disaster, we're not going to pick... We're not going to be able to pick who we're prepared with.
52:05.35 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
52:08.10 Gregg Like I can't like pick my five best friends to be the ones that are going to come, and we're going to do everything perfect, and like we're going to have all the right gear, and all the right ideas and be able to get it...out alive. You're probably going to have to work with people who you don't like, who you don't agree with politically.
And at least like if you're in... if you're living around people who you know are probably not Anarchists, are maybe not even Leftists, but they are nice to you. That's gonna that's gonna matter. So I think that's... like there's there's a limit I mean you can't...In my opinion, if you have a Blue Lives Matter flag up like, we're we're probably... we have irreconcilable differences.
52:54.65 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, you picked your team at that point.
53:05.43 Gregg Yeah like that... and okay, great. But like you know this person who puts their American flag out all the time. Okay. Maybe there's something there, you know? Like whatever. Like I think that there's like--
53:10.82 Margaretkilljoy God Someone invented a worse flag than the American flag I'm really impressed by that. Yeah.
53:25.25 Gregg I can't wait I can't wait till what what comes next. I mean there's yeah, the whole striping thing is so like the red, the green, blue... What are they yellow?
53:23.50 Margaretkilljoy I like the the fake Landlord one, the like beige one. Anyway, I didn't I didn't mean to derail you.
53:44.56 Gregg Yeah, that's fine. But yeah like, I think yeah, the stuff doesn't matter. It's the people, and it's like knowing the people around you that like when disaster strikes. And yep.
I do amateur radio as well, and that is, that is my community of people who I'm probably going to get on the radio with, and be like, "Hey, what needs to happen? What are we doing when when there's a disaster?" So yeah, I guess my my advice is just like build those friendly relationships now. Figure out where people are at, figure out who has the cool fruit trees, and like offer to help them out. And, like if your neighbors need things like be be there to support now. Because we are in a disaster situation. Like it, it is happening now. Like the past few days have been extremely smoky here, and like that's... you know... just checking in with the air. And I also live in a neighborhood that's like... it's generationally transitioning.
54:40.65 Margaretkilljoy Mhmm
54:42.50 Gregg So meaning that like there were a lot of people who bought their houses when they were first built, and they are older now. They don't have children, or they're just like alone, and I think that like making sure that your older neighbors are like... know that you're around, know that you know that you care is like important.
54:56.48 Margaretkilljoy Yeah. 55:00.63 Gregg And, I think that like a lot of times in our organizing or disaster preparedness, we don't really think about that. Like there are people who are going to need our help that are not you know, young able-bodied. Like you know, and like us.
55:10.90 Margaretkilljoy Yeah.
55:19.86 Gregg And how do, how do we better support that? And like, and disaster could not even be like a big situation, but it could be enough where like maybe they don't have medicine. Maybe they don't have the things that they normally need.
55:27.25 Margaretkilljoy Right.
55:38.82 Gregg So figuring that out, and like just...Yeah, like, my neighbor is like... has the ah... she has the squirrel feeding on lock. So I think we'll be good for for rations if we need that.
55:41.34 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, the making friends with, or at least getting to know your neighbors, especially folks who are yeah maybe older folks who live alone or something like that has been...it's so important because there's so many places... I mean there's this pandemic of loneliness. Obviously, we're in another pandemic right now, but one that clearly ties into loneliness. But, you know as a major problem in U.S. society as as I understand it, is is loneliness of people of all ages. But, but especially to my knowledge of older folks. And I don't know, I mean we have this like positive, this positive story about how there's a terrible flood on my land and my solar panels all washed away, and water got into a bunch of houses and I watched hundreds of dollars of my stuff float down the river...and but whatever. Um, this happened recently where I live, and yeah, we still had it better than many other people in our area who lost their entire homes and things like that. But when that was happening most of our neighbors are up on higher ground than us and you know our neighbors were like, "Cool, what do you need?" and all of our neighbors know we're weird queer people, you know? My name is Margaret and if you hear my voice you don't believe me that I was born with that name. You know? And you know, and realizing that like one of our neighbors who we had to like talk out of voting for Trump, you know?
57:26.60 Gregg But you were successful.
Margaretkilljoy Yeah, successfully, yes.
Gregg That's amazing.
57:37.41 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, and just because it was like...well he doesn't have...I'm not trying to you know talk so much about this particular person's business, but you know he has a hard life right? And he lives alone. He's a bit older, and and... but he's also like... it's really good that we know him. You know? And it's really good that we're able to be neighborly with him. So I, yeah, I don't know. I just, I can't emphasize what you just said enough basically. Getting to know... well it gets into that thing too where if people...if people's needs are not being met by the system, which regardless of all the climate change apocalypses is an increasing problem anyway, is that when we organize to meet our needs collectively we just get stronger. And that absolutely needs to apply to people of different generations and things.
58:28.89 Gregg Yeah, definitely. But I...yeah and I will say I do not have the answers yet about you know, being in the 'burbs, like I'm still learning and this---
58:40.78 Margaretkilljoy Wait, that's why are you on the podcast. I thought you had all the answers.
58:46.46 Gregg Exactly. And,like I think that that's another big thing is just like there's a learning curve for learning how to operate in a different way, that I think like that if if people are listening to this trying to find all the answers to like, "Oh, I either am currently in the suburbs and stuck, or, and want to find other people, or like 1) just moved there because of different reasons and I'm trying to find other people. It's just like... different things are going to work for you. And like ah... it's a different way of of operating your life. You know?
59:22.78 Margaretkilljoy Yeah, what's what's changed? I'm I'm assuming you're coming out of a more urban environment.
59:27.54 Gregg Yeah, just having access to...to people. I think that's the big thing, is like there's no...I mean there's a downtown area, you know you can go hang out there, but there's no like very local coffee shop where you ran into...and you don't have that feeling of like constantly running into people you know. At least I don't yet. And that...that feels a little bit different when you're like...you feel more alone.
59:55.20 Margaretkilljoy Yeah.
01:00:04.15 Gregg And like, meeting... but meeting people and like trying to find people who are doing the same kinds of work that I want to be doing alleviates that a little bit. But yeah.
01:00:05.63 Margaretkilljoy Okay. Which, is I think what works for people in cities too, and I know a lot of people in cities also feel really isolated.
01:00:17.88 Gregg Yeah, yeah.
01:00:22.86 Margaretkilljoy Alright, well we're coming up on on on an hour and I I'm I'm wondering, do you have any any last thoughts, things that I didn't ask you that I should have asked you about suburban preparedness or organizing or life?
01:00:31.43 Gregg Um. Yeah I mean I would just, I would just reiterate: find the things you want to do, not necessarily the people yet. The people will come with the with the activities, and I think that that's like a big thing. It's like...and if you like gardening find the gardening organization in your town. If you like feeding people there are, there is probably an org around you that that likes to feed people. There is one here. I mean there is in this town. There is, there was an organization that got started during the pandemic that started free food shelves in people's yards. So, like there is I think there is opportunities for whatever the kind of work that you think is important is, and finding that first is gonna...the people will follow. And I think also don't be afraid to be the weirdo. I mean I put a "Nobody For President" sign in my yard last year, and you know I dug up my lawn and in in the middle of the night, and like, with a pic-axe, and like stuff like that. And I think that like people appreciate seeing somebody who is like being being their genuine selves. And like don't feel like you have to conform just because you moved somewhere that looks more conformed.
01:01:53.47 Margaretkilljoy People are like 1) like way more appreciative of a weirdo than we all think right, and 2) the myth of people who aren't weirdos is a myth, you know?
01:02:08.33 Gregg Yeah.
01:02:12.40 Margaretkilljoy And so just like when you wear that on on your sleeve...like one of the reasons I kind of like about being you know, visibly strange or whatever is that it kind of like sorts people out. I don't have to judge anyone based on how they look because like people who want to judge me on how they look will do so.
01:02:27.83 Gregg Yeah.
01:02:30.88 Margaretkilljoy And I can write them off. You know So someone who like looks normal, if they're willing to treat me like I'm a perfectly normal...if if they treat me like a peer, we're good. You know? And so it doesn't surprise me that you're "Nobody For President" sign and ripping up your lawn didn't like make you the pariah of the neighborhood. You know? Instead it was like...it gives something people to talk to you about, and I don't know I'm projecting here, but.
01:02:54.60 Gregg Yeah.
01:02:58.10 Margaretkilljoy Okay, well, um, I don't know, thanks so much for for coming on, and maybe next year after you have your block party we should ah we should talk about how that goes.
01:03:09.48 Gregg Definitely. Yeah and yes, anybody wants to hit me up on Twitter I'm Gregawatt and yeah, that's it.
01:03:13.10 Margaretkilljoy How do you spell that? Because, I'm under the impression there's a lot of G's
Gregg Oh yeah, G-R-E-G-G-A-W-A-T-T yeah. . 01:03:22.48 margaretkilljoy Also it was a good source to learn more about radio stuff, is following you on Twitter and and I actually that was my first thought is that we're gonna do a follow up radio episode. But then you, you pitched this, so I'm excited about this so.
01:03:34.49 Gregg Well, we can always talk about radio another time.
Margaretkilljoy Thanks so much.
Gregg Thank you have a good day.
01:05.79 Margaretkilljoy Thanks so much for listening if you enjoyed this podcast something is wrong with you... No wait. No if you enjoyed this podcast. You should tell people about it. You should tell people about it in person and on the internet and other places. I'm not sure what there is between In-person and in the internet. Sky writing? You should tell about people about it through skywriting. You probably shouldn't. I haven't really looked into this much. You can support this podcast by supporting our publisher Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness on Patreon which is http://patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness and if you do so you'll get access to some stuff earlier than other people. Not the podcast. Everyone gets at the same time. We don't really love paywalls. Paywalls aren't like the best thing that's ever happened to content or the world. So, there's not like a ton of pay walled stuff. But sometimes we communicate with people a little bit more on Patreon and we also have eternal gratitude for all the things that you all are are bringing to life including this podcast. And in particular I would love to thank: Nicole, and David, Dana, Chelsea, Starrow, Jennifer, Eleanor, Natalie, Kirk, Hugh, Nora, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog for making this podcast and so many other projects possible. Alright. That's it. Thanks so much and I hope you do well.
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