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February 16, 2023 70 mins

The stories we’re told & tell about ourselves shape the ways we act and how we citizen. And the story we’ve been living in for decades now is one of consumerism and self-interest. Baratunde talks with reformed ad-man and author of CITIZENS: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us Jon Alexander about how we can tell a new story rooted in community and interdependence. 

 

SHOW ACTIONS 

Internally Reflect - Tell a new story 

Think about the three stories – Subject, Consumer, and Citizen. Where do they show up in your life? Maybe you’re a subject with your parents or a consumer in your neighborhood. In what spaces, communities or realms are you already living the Citizen Story? Where else could you show up that way?  

Become Informed - Learn about the Citizen Story

Check out Jon’s book CITIZENS: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us and this BBC article. Also, check out The New Citizenship Project to find out how you or your organization can learn to tell a different story. 

Publicly Participate - Practice asking for help
Think about Jon’s question: What are you trying to do in the world that’s so big, you actually need other people to do it with you? It can actually be small, but just too big for you alone. It could be fixing the fence around your yard, organizing a fundraiser at your school, or envisioning a future for your company. Ask someone to help you do it! We know asking for help can be hard, so start by asking those in your sphere, “is there something you’re trying to do that I can help you with?”

 

SHOW NOTES 

Check out our episode with Audrey Tang to hear more about how we can leverage tech & digital tools to strengthen democracy. 

Listen to the podcast episode where Baratunde and Jon first connected: From What If To What Next hosted by Rob Hopkins.

Read this New York Times article to learn more about the America In One Room experiment.

Find How To Citizen on Instagram or visit howtocitizen.com to join our mailing list and find ways to citizen besides listening to this podcast! 

Please show your support for the show by reviewing and rating. It makes a huge difference with the algorithmic overlords and helps others like you find the show!

How To Citizen is hosted by Baratunde Thurston. He’s also host and executive producer of the PBS series, America Outdoors as well as a founding partner and writer at Puck. You can find him all over the internet

 

CREDITS

How To Citizen with Baratunde is a production of iHeartRadio Podcasts and Rowhome Productions. Our Executive Producers are Baratunde Thurston and Elizabeth Stewart. Allie Graham is our Lead Producer and Danya AbdelHameid is our Associate Producer. Alex Lewis is our Managing Producer. John Myers is our Executive Editor. Original Music by Andrew Eapen and Blue Dot Sessions. Our Audience Engagement Fellows are Jasmine Lewis and Gabby Rodriguez. Special thanks to Joelle Smith from iHeartRadio and Layla Bina.

Additional thanks to our live audience voices Janine D., Martha T., Ray K., and Jonathan F. 

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
We just can't solve the challenges we face from within
the story that created them, right like we We can't
solve a crisis of loneliness and mental health from within
a story that says we're independent isolated individuals. Can't You
can't solve across of inequality from a story that says
that the society is a lot of you climb the

(00:22):
most important, like most viscerally to me. You can't solve
an ecological crisis from a story that says we're separate
from nature. Welcome to How does Citizen with Baritune Day,
a podcast that reimagine citizen as a verb, not a
legal status. This season is all about how we practice democracy,

(00:43):
what can we get rid of, what can we invent,
and how do we change the culture of democracy itself.
We're leaving the theoretical clouds and hitting the ground with
inspiring examples of people and institutions that are showing us
new ways to govern ourselves. If you're new to this podcast, Welcome,

(01:06):
make sure you check out the first episode of this
season with Adrian Marie Brown, the organizer, facilitator, and artist
who shared ways we can deepen our citizen practice and
bring it home In this episode, I'm joined by someone
who has spent a lot of time thinking about stories,
how they come into being, what they mean, and how
they informed the way we live with each other. The

(01:30):
first time I met John Alexander, we were both guested
on a podcast called From What If to What Next
with Rob Hopkins. Like me, John was also using citizen
in this inclusive, participatory sense, and we just clicked. He's
the author of citizens Why The Key to Fixing Everything
is all of Us? And he's also the founder of

(01:52):
the New Citizenship Project, a social innovation lab that works
with organizations to shift their culture and practice by helping
them think of people as citizens. First. It's one thing
to catalog projects. His book does that, and so do
we with this podcast, but it's a completely different thing
to have a staff, facilitators, workshops, and clients who are

(02:15):
really trying to implement things. I mean, there's no how
to citizen institute, not yet. I respect that. While John
is talking and writing about making citizenship a practice, he's
also practicing it himself, and it's a far cry from
the work he was doing before this. John Alexander is

(02:41):
a former admin. During his time in that world, he
won awards for telling the consumer story until it made
him sick, actually physically sick, and he couldn't continue selling
a narrative he didn't believe in, so he decided to
fight for a different story. John is helping us take
a narrative turn toward the citizens story, one where we're

(03:04):
not simply independent, but interdependent. We don't just compete, we collaborate,
and our leaders don't just serve, they facilitate our participation
in democracy. How would we show up? What would we
build together if we told ourselves we were citizens not consumers?
To find out, I met up with John in Los

(03:25):
Angeles along with our live studio audience. Be a zoom
who you are here from? At the end of the
episode After the break, John Alexander on why being a
conscious consumer is not the same as being a citizen y'all.

(03:46):
John Alexander is the author of Citizens Why the key
to fixing Everything is all of Us. He's the co
founder of the New Citizenship Project, a book and a
company that works to shift the dominant story of the
individual in society from consumer where two citizen. He began
his career with a decade in the advertising industry, so
he knows exactly what's wrong, and I'm so excited to

(04:08):
have him on how the Citizen. Welcome John, thank you
so much for having me. Let's start here. Your work
is about analyzing and reimagining the narratives that inform how
we live and relate to the world around us. And
you identified three stories. The story of the subject, the
story of the consumer, and the story of the citizen.

(04:29):
I want to start with a focus on the first two.
What is the subject story and where did it begin?
The subject story begins all the way back with the
first name king in Sunario in two thousand BC. And
with the first king came the first wolves came, the
first writing that was initially used to time to track
how much people owed tax and these kinds of things.
And that story started with this idea that the god

(04:51):
given few no best and if the rest of us
keep our heads down there's we're told, get what we're
given and do as the God given a few tell us,
then that is how the best society will result, the
best benevolent dictator idea. But we all know where that
usually ends up. Ultimately, this is the story that leads
you into colonialism and patriarchy and all those big things,

(05:14):
and it goes a long way back, and it was
dominant for an awful long time. And when we are
in times of uncertainty, in times of chaos, in times
when we don't know exactly what to do, then the
subject story has a powerful attraction, right because we want
to find some safety, we want to find some securities
and certainty. Well we might think we want someone to

(05:35):
tell us what to do. And in those moments like
the possibility, the promise of the kind of strongman leader
vibe is really strong, and I think that's a big
part of what we're seeing in this moment in time.
So the subject story lasted an awful long time, intensified
around the world. Really only became properly dominant in the
kind of sixteen hundreds with the age of Discovery, and
then after the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the middle class,

(05:58):
that the idea that there were a god given you
who knew best and they would tell us what to
do kind of fell in on itself, and in many
ways I believe that the two World wars resulted from
that breakdown of story, resulted from that kind of collapse
of the systems and structures by which we organized ourselves
and out of them we stepped into what was a
better story, right Like from the subject story, the consumer

(06:19):
story is a liberating shift. So the subject story and
effective goes to a made up sounding king and a
made up sounding place argon of Sarka had or something
like that. What is this consumer story then, and so
when does it emerge? The consumer story is the story
that's I think still dominant in our world today. The
consumer story is the story that says that, actually, the

(06:40):
right thing to do is to pursue self interest on
the basis that if everyone pursues self interest, if everyone
chooses the option that suits them best from those that
are offered, that will add up to the collective interest
that by pursuing self interest we will create the best
society that's possible as a whole. I mean the Milton
Friedman famous Milton Friedman is and the social responsibilit te
of businesses to maximize its profits is a perfect articulation

(07:03):
of of consumer morality. Actually, like it's saying the right
thing to do really explicitly, the right thing to do
is to pursue self interest on the behalf of the corporation,
on the behalf of the individual, because that is what
will add up to the best society. Yeah. So it's
not just an economic incentive. It's a patriotic incentive, right,
you serve best, you support your nation best by buying stuff.

(07:24):
I mean, you could even say it's a kind of
human incentive. The reason why I went into the advertising
industry in the first place. I was nineteen at university
trying to figure out what to do with my life
when the World Trade Center came down yea, and the
leaders of the free world came out and told us
to go shopping right, right, And at some level I
think I went into the advertising industry thinking unconsciously, conscious

(07:47):
that I was making a contribution. Wow. The kind of
key moment actually was my first boss described my job
to me by saying, what you've got to remember, as
the average consumer see something like three thousand commercial messages
a day. This was back in two thousand three, and
he said, your job is to cut through that. You've
got to make yours the best. And did you feel
motivated by that? Was it to do that? Yeah? And

(08:09):
it's hugely intellectually stimulating, right, You're like, oh, there's all
this stuff out there, there's so much noise and I'm
going to make mind the thing. I mean, I'm look,
I'm a six ft athletic white guy, Like that's what
I like to do, right, It's another conquest and attention
conquest a man. And then over time and probably it
took me longer than it should have. In retrospect, I've

(08:30):
started to ask what are we doing to ourselves when
we tell ourselves we're consumers? Three thousands of times a day?
What does that do to us? What does it do
to our relationships with one another? What does it do
to what we think is possible, what we think humans
are capable of? Yeah, what are the sort of products
and services you were advertising? All sorts of stuff, man,
I mean I worked on big brands in the UK,

(08:50):
particularly like Cadbury and Orange, like a big phone company.
Was at the agency where we we produced the Cadbury Gorilla,
which was like a big moment, a grilla playing the
drums to Phil Collins. That was we go. My friend,
I worked on Sony like we were Agency of the
year a couple of years that I was there, Like,
these were the big brands, This was the big stuff

(09:11):
in the Consumers story. You point out the four was
a key moment. What was it about? I mean? And
it starts with the launch of the Apple Macintosh with
the most famous ad in history, which is the takeoff
of All Worlds eighty four, like troops training down a
corridor and Big Brother's voice and then a woman in
glorious technicolor runs onto the screen, smashes the screen big

(09:33):
Brothers talking from and you get this voice over that
concludes and I'm going to do a horrendous American accent
in the US here it comes. On January, Apple will
release Macintosh and you'll see why four won't be four
this moment. But also that year you had two other
of the great super brands arrived. So Nike sold the

(09:53):
first pair of Air Jordan's Virgin Atlantic, so the virgin
brand arrived on the global stage. But then the pick
your thickens because you get body Shop floated on the
Stock Exchange, bringing the idea you can buy stuff to
save the planet. You get band Aid that year, the
idea you can buy stuff to solve global poverty. You
get the minor strike and the first privatization in the UK.
So politics shifting in this kind of consumer direction. And

(10:17):
my favorite actually of all of them, the l A Olympics,
which were the first Olympics ever to be funded by
commercial sponsorship. L A was the only city to apply
to host the eight four Olympics because other cities have
made such a financial loss, and they had the IOC
over a barrel and the rules changed and suddenly you
could buy stuff to fund global sporting culture. So that

(10:38):
consumer story is winding its way into so many different
areas of our lives. We're liberating so many of our
activities allegedly through this, and you're involved in it, right
and later in this timeline, you're involved in crafting these
stories and selling these products, and there's an adrenaline rush,
and there's excabining, there's true creativity, and it's exciting until

(10:59):
until it is it right? So when did your excitement
to get involved and serve in some way through advertising
start to crack? I remember being in a meeting talking
through hero products for a big retailer's Christmas advertising in May,
which was a bad start, and we got to the
one pound Christmas tree bary tune day here with a

(11:23):
very quick explainer. Tunday, we're talking about pounds as in
the British currency, not the way now back to John's
story and we got to the one pound Christmas tree
and someone at the table said, the one pound Christmas tree,
you can almost smell the exploitation, and everyone laughed and
it was and it was just this moment of like

(11:44):
feeling the flame inside you turned down. Like it was
really like a series of kind of investigations. I worked
on her on a report on ethics and advertising. Um,
I pretty much got sacked off the back of that,
but really interrogating this question ultimate of what are we
doing to ourselves when when we're surrounded with this story
and coming to the understanding that actually I was essentially

(12:07):
kind of preaching up what's the religion that I didn't
believe in? Not championing values that I did. And I
went through a like super dark period at this time,
and I wasn't the most constructive individual around this period.
Like I sometimes think if I started a company at
this point, it would have been called the Consumer Doom Project,
not the New Citizenship Project, right, Like I was staring
into the chasm, which I think so many of us

(12:28):
are trapped doing now in these darker period was this
physical you were you ill? Where was the behavior that
you weren't proud of like what did the manifest? But
there was a day, there was well there was a week,
actually week I ended up resigning where I stood on
the platform Oxford Circus tube station and in my office
and just watched tubes come and go and like felt

(12:49):
this like revulsion inside me. I honestly don't remember what
exactly I was. And then I was physically sick, like
I threw up on the platform and it was just
like this feeling of of just I mean, I guess
kind of self hatred actually, like a real kind of
rejection of the role I was playing and what I
was doing. And I kind of had to get out
at that point. It sounds like an overdose almost like

(13:13):
you over you oded on the consumer story. Maybe you
got high on your own supply, right, and some part
of your body maybe new this isn't for me anymore.
I can't, you know, I can't separate the kind of
intellectual journey from the from the physical rights. You're asking
deep enough questions and you've just got to a point
where I was overwhelming. But yeah, I was a difficult
guy to be around all that time. Can I talk

(13:35):
to those people? Yeah, Well, you know that some of
the best of them are are still closest friends now
and some of them are still working in the ad industry.
And look, I'm not trying to demonize all of those guys,
Like I think the the important thing to recognize when
you start to see these as stories, when you start
to see it in this way, is that you're not
just talking about like it's the problem is consumption, The

(13:57):
problem is advertising, Like, it's much more about the storytelling
of our society. It's the fact that what I would
describe what we live in today as a consumer democracy
where our only agencies to choose between a fix set
of options that are offered to us, where we're actually
encouraged to make that choice on the basis of our
own individual self interest. Like it's infused that that story
is pervaded everything. And I guess I focus on advertising

(14:21):
because it was the part I played, and your focus
on advertising it resonates with me because I spent a
lot of time in media and in advertising, which is inseparable.
And I remember realizing at a certain point that the
folks who were making the ads felt as legitimate as
storytellers as the content they were sitting next to. And

(14:42):
it's true. I mean they're selling and telling the story
of who we can be through our purchases, and there's
so much more money in that than just the art world.
So you are I think we're at the kind of
the eye of the storm for the story, because ads
are little stories that try to nudgest into thinking differently.
We're behaving differently, and all of them have that kind
of underlying or overarching kind of meta frame that you

(15:07):
are a consumer, you are an individual. Your agency has
to choose between things in these choices. And in one
meeting years ago, I remember stopping and saying, can we
just call them people? Just that the links on the
slides on the wall. It was just like consumers consumers
and the conductingsumer wants this and the consumer wants there.
And when I repeat that word, it consumes me. It

(15:30):
makes me think of consumption, not the active eating food,
but the disease and as we used to refer to it,
and so we will devour ourselves by referring to ourselves
in that way. And there's actually a heap of evidence
that even the word is damaging. Right. So there's a
couple of different studies, one one where you were involved
in replicating where like, So you give two thousand people

(15:54):
of resourced dilema scenario. You say you're one of four
households depending on a single wealthyr water supply and the
world is starting to run dry, so you need to
use less water. Okay, So you're asked two questions, to
what extent are you prepared to use less water? And
to what extent you trust the other three households to
use less water? Clever bit is, for half the sample,
the word household is replaced with the word consumer. And

(16:14):
for people for whom the word is consumer, to what
extent you prepared to compromise, to what extent you trust
the other three consumers? That's lower, significantly lower. So when
we use that language, even the word and it's not
again it's not just the word, it's the story. But
the word carries the story. Right, when we use that
word inside organizations were effectively I think of it like

(16:38):
as the scaffolding, right, like or the or the train
tracks or something like. There is no other possible we
are thinking, right, that's right. We limit our imaginations, right,
and we can only see a person as this subset
of themselves, this function and the only path we can
imagine to a better society is channeling people's self interest

(16:59):
in the service of because we assume people are only
capable of that. I've come to think of consumers and
essentially as a kind of species level self hatred complex.
It's like, it's like we're telling ourselves we're not good
enough to deal with this stuff. It's giving away some power.
It's like, all I have is this right, I'm gonna
I'm gonna do. I'm gonna lean into this. I'm gonna
be the best version of this I can. But I'm

(17:20):
not going to think of it all the other things
that could be because I don't have the language for it. Language.
A third story. We've talked subject, we've talked consumer, the
citizens story. When does this as an alternate frame occur
to you? The citizens story occur to me personally? And
what does it? What does it mean? Give me a
brief overview, and then tell me when it enters your mind. So,

(17:44):
in the subject story, people are dependent, they have stuff
done to them. The role of organizations and leaders us
to come on them, and the role of subjects is
to obey and receive. And the consumer story, people are independent,
they have stuff done for them. They demand and choose,
and the role of organizations and does is to serve them.
In the citizens story, we're interdependent. We do stuff together

(18:06):
with and through organizations. The role of organizations and leaders
is to facilitate and hold the space for that. And
what we most deeply want to do and are capable
of doing is participate and create and that structure. When
you start to see that and think like that, I
think you start to see this story everywhere, like just
beneath the surface. But to your question before, like living

(18:30):
and working in the ad industry, I couldn't really see
it because I was so in so in frame, and
so when the first place I came across it was
weirdly like an ideal we came up with. I'm still
not sure quite how we did. And this is the
idea that one that creative idea of the year old,
which is an idea called my Farm, where we tried
to hand over decision making on a real working farm

(18:50):
to the public by online voting debate. This is back
in nearly killed me in several animals. Maybe what's interesting
about this is it is it did actually come out
of trying to think of ways to build an organization,
ways to sell an organization. Oddly, I was working on
the National Trust, which is a big conservation organization in

(19:10):
the UK. They own and run five odd places of
historic interest and natural beauty all over the country, and
we were going like, how do we how do we
get people to understand and value this organization and sort
of accidentally stumbled into this idea before I have this
language of consumer and citizen that was like, what if
we involve people in it rather than just do it

(19:33):
for them. Let's not just sell people sustainable food, Let's
involve them in sustainable food production. And the model and
the approach. I mean, we've had crowdfunding, crowdsourced ideas, we've
had participatory all kinds of things, but in that world
like inside the consumer story, that's a very radical approach
because you're seeing people as something other than purchasers. You're

(19:54):
seeing them as producers and contributors and creators and collaborators
and just competitors right in testing. Are there villains and
heroes in the citizens story? I think there are, but
I think they're more people who are an organizations who
are co opting the the modes of the citizens story

(20:18):
and service of something else example, what does that mean?
So one of the like craziest experiences of the research
for the book was I went not very deep, but
deep enough into the into the q and On world.
And the starting point of that journey is we need

(20:40):
you mm hmm, come help. Yeah, we need your energy,
we need your resources, we need your ideas. And I
mean that's coming from that's coming from subject story world.
It's coming from a desire to take charge and create
tribe and tell people what to do. But it's wearing
the clothes of participation. And I think that speaks a

(21:01):
lot to the moment in time we find ourselves in. Right,
Like the way I would describe it, I've already mentioned
this idea of like consumer democracy, like I think, I
think too many of those in the positions of parent
influence in our society today can only see two stories.
They can see the consumer story as the status quo,

(21:22):
and they can see the subject story rising and they
see the authoritarianism. But as a result, they see their
role as being to defend the consumer story. And the
danger of that is that we just can't solve the
challenges we face from within the story that created them.
Right like we we can't solve a crisis of loneliness

(21:46):
and mental health from within a story that says we're independent,
isolated individuals. You can't solve across of inequality from a
story that says that the society is a ladder you climb.
And most important, like most viscerally to me, you can't
solve an ecological christ. It's from a story that says
we're separate from nature right in. Our only way forward
is to destroy the thing we depend on most. And

(22:08):
so that story, the consumer story, is crumbling, like it's
falling apart, and you can't. Ultimately, we're going to have
to shift. And so the danger of this moment, I think,
is that these these tools and approaches of the citizen
world are kind of emerging, and they're so powerful and
so exciting and so creative, and if we don't adopt them,

(22:32):
then those who would actually create a subject world will
coop them, will steal those clothes. When you told the
story of Q and I, I think you started hinting
at what some of these tools of the citizens story are.
Can you be a bit more specific about it. If
we don't pick these up, someone else, well, what are
what are the things? What are the tools are the
citizens story? Well, I mean it's the stuff you talked

(22:55):
to her. It's like crowdsourcing, crowd funding, It's like it's
like inviting people in. I mean, you've talked to Audrey Tang,
I know, on this podcast and like what the Taiwanese
government did in their response to COVID that fast funfair.
Listen to that episode, my friends. But the tools begin
with asking people a question and saying like so in
the Taiwanese example, it was, we don't know how to

(23:16):
get through this challenge of the pandemic. What we do
know is that we'll get through it best if we
tap into the ideas and energy and resources of everyone,
Like we know we'll do it best together. That's the stop.
Then the challenges, how do you create the structures and
process of that enable people to contribute and make it
meaningful and joyful for people to get involved. In taime On,
they did some lovely stuff, like high tech stuff like

(23:38):
challenge prizes and these sorts of things, but they also
my favorite story, they created a phone line where any
citizen could ring in with ideas, right like I'm working
suggestion box, and then they actually listen to the messages
and adopted them. And it's so this stuff is not
rocket science, a lot of it, right, but but it's
most fundamentally that shift in mindset, and then the shifting

(24:00):
tools kind of follows from that. The other example I'm
thinking of when I when I think about the framework
that we've tried to hold too with our principles, which
overlap so much participation, investing in relationships, understanding power of
value in the collective. And I look at our school
board meetings in the US, which have become so violent
and the sight of intimidation physically, and I look at

(24:21):
who's showing up to political rallies and it's armed people.
I'm like, well, they're showing up and participating. They're invested
in relationships. People go to Trump rallies over and over
again and know each other and build friendships. They're understanding
their power. The attacks on education in our country in
terms of not teaching our real history is well funded
and distributed to the very edges of society. It doesn't

(24:44):
just live inside of our belt way. It's my friends
who live in the suburbs and somewhere in Texas are
getting mailings at home scaring them and then telling them
who to harass. So that's in a very effective model,
but in service in your words, of a subject model. Right,
So it's it's in cheap's clothing, right in the in
the sheep is the citizens story. This is where like

(25:07):
the process design of this stuff is so crucial, right,
and particularly to those who fear that in in the
U s maybe things are two polarized for this sort
of approach to work. My favorite example of of really
clear kind of process design and doing this really powerfully November,
just before the impeachment proceedings began, Like like the US

(25:28):
was super polarised the first impeachment. There you go, I'd like,
forget about it. You're back, You're back fifty years ago,
I know. But there was a there was a project
called America in a room, you know about this. So
they got five d and twenty six American citizens represented
in the national population on all key demographics including political affiliation,

(25:51):
thirty self identified as extremely liberal, thirty odds self identified
as extremely conservative. Came together in a conference suite in
Dallas for four days, split into small groups, deliberated on
all sorts of all the issues of the day. Basically
a whole load of like consensus emerged like lightly. There
were shifts away a little bit from a high federal

(26:13):
minimum wage because people are like engaging with the diversity
of the economic conditions across America. But the critical finding
the most powerful thing. So in the literature on polarization,
there are two different types of polarization, right there's issue
polarization where I disagree with you, barton and then there's
effective polarization, which is you're evil barton By. And what

(26:37):
they found in this process was that affective polarization went
through the floor. Okay, they rehumanized each other, even to
the extent where I was told that in some of
the communities that people were going back to these individual participants,
they saw affective polarization drop. There's a great New York
Times piece on it actually, m so if you want
to check it out there, And it was run by

(26:57):
a gang called the Hellna Projects stand for the University
James Fishkin was involved in it was it was in
the process that's called deliberative polling, was the kind of
methodology underpinning it. When I think about corporations, most governments,
it seems to me there'll be a lot of risk
to them in embracing a citizens story that tries to

(27:19):
facilitate and that dominate, that tries to encourage participation. Wrangle
so many different opinions heard cats. What reasons do they
have to make the shift into this different story and potentially,
at least in a short term view, give up some power. Well,
there's two things I would say that it's. The first
is just a kind of set the premise a little bit.

(27:43):
So I think we talk a lot about people trusting
government right and trying to get people to trust government
more and the sort of thing, And ultimately I think
that's a flawed premise. Like what we have to understand
is that what we're trapped in at the moment as
a vicious circle, Like we're trapped in a in a
state where people because our institutions are trapped within the
consumer story, they're trying to solve the problems of our

(28:04):
time from within that story, and you can't. People are
seeing that our institutions aren't up to the tasks and
that's why they're losing trust in them, and then they're
behaving a little angrily, and institutions again understandably see that
and respond by withdrawing, by bringing power in and then

(28:28):
people get angrier because right, and then you're in a loop.
And that is the way I think we need to
understand the moment in time we're in and so that
the task and the only place, Like Audrey says this again,
this this idea that actually it's not about people trusting
government so much. That is about government trusting people. It's

(28:48):
about institutions trusting people, which is difficult and that needs
to be met people, right, and some of them the worst.
But understanding that anger and frustration is comes from something.
And I really want to be clear, I am like,
I'm not. It's kind of easy for me to say, right,
like I'm I don't want to be that guy. But

(29:09):
there is a reason why that's happening, and we're certain
way down that cycle. So a part of the answer
to your question is I think we have to we
have to break the cycle somehow, and that I think
is the intervention point. The second part, and maybe the
more kind of hopeful and joyful part, is to say
it just works. If you're into things that work, try this,

(29:32):
like there's a reason why, Like the business world is
going in this direction actually, like we're seeing big corporations
like ge use crowdsourcing processes. We're seeing NASA use it.
We're seeing some of the fastest growing businesses in the
world like that. I talked in the book about a
company called brew Dog, which is started in Scotland with
two guys and a dog bringing their own beer and

(29:53):
is now it was the only company to be in
the Sunday Times a hundred fastest Growing Companies eight years
in a row, I think it was. And what they're
doing is crowd sourcing their recipes, Like they have a
thing called d i y Dog where they open source
those recipes once they crowd sourced them and then sell
brewing kits as well as beer and even train people
to be like a Samelio but for beer like that again,

(30:14):
like what that's doing is powering that organization because people
are buying into a cause in the in the world,
buying into something that can drive energy, build energy. And
then look at Taiwan. It's the most successful codd response
in the world. Right fast, funfair second lost death rate
never went into lockdown. Do you see examples of the
citizens story masquerading as a consumer story maybe for increased

(30:39):
palatability or comprehension. I think we can make the citizens story.
We can and should make the citizen story appealing and
joyful and creative, right, Like, that's not a bad thing
to do. I think there is a line where the
consumer story maybe can co opt the citizen story. Could it?
Could we end up with something like citizen washing happening,
like we could write. And I think brew Dog is

(31:01):
an interesting case in point because actually, like they've behaved
pretty badly in some ways recently. What they've found is
that the energy of this has grown the company so fast,
and then the founders started to kind of believe their
own hype. It's how I understand it, and they effectively
invented equity crowdfunding. Back in two thousand nine, they sold
a load of the company to their customers. They've now

(31:22):
got something like two hundred thousand equity punks, they call them,
so again, really creative, cool way of doing it. But
then they sold and they said they would never sell out,
and they sold a big portion of the company to
VC fund. And then there's there's been accusation from within
the company of them treating employees pretty badly. But what's
so interesting is the group of employees who are starting

(31:43):
to kind of fight back and hold them to account
and push them are calling themselves punks with purpose, So
they're sort of naming themselves from within the idea of
the organization and challenging the founders from that place. And
so the really interesting question in that organization is who's
co opting whom right like? And once you start to
authentically build a citizems story, you can't stop it right yeah,

(32:05):
and it'll it'll find a way, may be delayed, but
it may not be indefinitely deferred. One of the things
that I really admire about you is that you're not
just writing about these things. You're helping put them in
their practice. You've got the New Citizenship Project. You do reports,
but you also do like activations to take a word
from the brand and advertising world, workshops, tool kits. Have

(32:28):
you got boot camps? How do you go about helping
folks embrace and implement the citizens story? Can you walk
me through your design process to help folks take idea
into action and the new story. So it's basically one
of the tools, key tool really that we've created. The
three principles of participatory organizations. You can take the boy

(32:50):
out of advertising. You can't take the alliteration out of
the boy. Right. So, so the three principles of purpose,
platform and prototype. Okay, and actually just this is actually
a hack on one of the key kind of mental
models of the consumer story. So the first edition of
a marketing textbook was written that talked about the four
principles of the marketing mix, product, price, promotion, and place

(33:10):
here you go. And that is that the textbooks that
that's in is still taught in every embody course anywhere
in the world. And so the problem is even organizations
that are trying to think differently pulled back into that
story because the boxes. So the three principles, the three
piece purpose, platform, prototype is an attempt to sort of
offer a different front alternative. Yeah, so we help people

(33:33):
go Like the question for each purpose is, what are
you trying to do in the world that's so big
you actually need people to do it with you. You
can't do it for that's already. I just want to
parse you on that. What's an idea that's so big
that you need other people? What's something you can ask
of people. One of the things I feel is that

(33:54):
we haven't been asked to do very much. Maybe come
and vote every couple of years and at least spend
some money, take on debt, and otherwise kind of keep
your head down, protect yourself in your little homestead. And
that's that's all. That's all we got. Our list of
requests and demands and opportunities for your participation is very low.

(34:15):
So already starting with a big enough purpose that you
need other people. It's just a very dynamic shift from
what most of us experience. I think, keep going and
the power of a question in that space is really
huge as well, Right, how can we do this? We
we don't have the answers, we're not going to be
able to do it for you, but we can frame
the question that we can answer together purpose platform, What

(34:36):
are the structures and processes that you create to make
it meaningful and joyful for people to get involved in
that like not easy and convenient, not learningful and enjoy
meaningful and joyful. So again like the time one, stuff
that brew Dog, stuff like that, those are examples that
speak to that thing. And so we walk through with
organizations helping them develop their ideas to offer those opportunities.
And then the prototype one is really just how do

(34:57):
you build the energy for this? Because you can't flip
you to opien switch and become a completely different thing overnight.
So how do you build the energy? Is the third?
And are you generally working with young institutions, old institutions,
large or small? Like all of the above, it all
figures across every sector. Like the only thing you can't
do this stuff with is is something that doesn't really

(35:19):
have a purpose, right but without which nothing is something
that people want to participate in. Without which, Oh you
were using real English on me. I'm quite up to you.
I'm like people without it is the prower with target
to do a British game. Sorry, he uses the language
purposefully overly posh moments there it goes m I sometimes

(35:41):
like to think of myself as the kind of anti
Boris Johnson. His name is his name is actually Alexander Johnson.
I'm John Alexander with both the degrees in Ancient Greek
and Latin, like I can push it with the best
of them. So maybe what I'll say is because the
last four and a half weeks, like I'm in l A,
because I'm I'm going around the world right now, literally
around the world. I've been in Athens, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney,

(36:03):
New Zealand. And there's a couple of things I'm learning
through that and thinking about as a result. The first
is this is not a new story, and spending time
with first nation's philosophers, particularly in Australian New Zealand, and
going like, actually, the citizens story is not like a
new creation. It's deep in us UM. Guy called Tyson

(36:24):
Young Corporter, who you need to get on this, you
would love. Tyson wrote a book called sand Talk, How
Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, and he basically speaks
and sits in a sixty thousand year worldview just by default.
And the thing he said to me was like, don't
worry John. I was getting a little stressed because don't
worry John. Were you like it's going to take humans

(36:44):
a good bit longer to forget how to be human,
how to be the custodian species as the way he
called it. Thank you for that acknowledgment too, because I
think we're both pretty young, certainly relative to the human
experience where nets. But it can be very tempting to
think we need something new to get us out of

(37:05):
this new challenge. And the challenges really aren't that new.
They're repackaged, they're rebranded, and many of the solutions in
the pathways forward involve something we've lost or forgotten, but
not entirely new, is it. There's my yoda for you
after the break, more on making the shift to the

(37:25):
citizens story. For years, a lot of us have heard
this message that we should vote with our wallets become
a conscious consumer. Right, that's that's a better way forward.
What's the difference between conscious consumption and a full blown
citizens story? How close can they get to one another? Like,

(37:48):
I mean they all the calling the close. Um. The
way I would put it is that we all what
we are told to be. Um, you are what we
are told to be. And that is consumers who occasionally
vote and bring bring the identity construct and the mode
of the consumer to bear on the act of voting.

(38:09):
What we are becoming, I think, or rebecoming remembering into
the future is citizens who sometimes consume and might bring
the citizen orientation to bear on the act of consumption.
Like it's not like there's consumption is over right, Like
it's not. The problem is the story, not the act.

(38:30):
The problem is consumerism, not consumption. And so that's a
matter of degree, right, But then the other difference is
like it's just much more fun man like that trying
to be good within the consumer story is hard like
and guilt inducing, right, Like to be good within the
consumer story, like you have to never use a disposable cup,

(38:53):
never flood, never even and that stuff's important. Right, Don't
get me wrong. I'm not saying individual behavior change doesn't matter,
but atally, like our true agency is collective, right Like
if if individual behavior changes one plus one plus, it's collective.
Change is multiplies multipli and it's it's raised to something right, Right,
we're in the exponential realm now there you go. Yeah,

(39:13):
and it's just joyful, right, Like it's just good to
do stuff together. But maybe if I could, because I'd
love your view on this. Like one of the things
I'm thinking about as a result of this trip is
like I think increasingly I'm like, this is us, like
we are citizens by nature, Like people are doing it everywhere.
It's underneath the surface, but it's kind of happening. And

(39:37):
we saw it in COVID in particular. Right, you know
it's mutual A yeah, so what is it that that
flips the story? So there there is work of muscle building.
I love the frame, and I think, did you use
this citizenship as a muscle you build or is that yeah?
Maybe when we talked on the other show, I brought
it up because the gym metaphor was strong in me.

(39:57):
There you go, man, So the other up the work,
I think is is what I'm increasingly think about is
these like critical moments when the story can shift at
a societal level. What does it look like to two
more intentionally find or even create and kind of curate
those moments? Like how might we spot the opportunities for that?
So in Australia I ended up talking to loads of

(40:18):
people about the new government has committed to holding a
referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, the Indigenous Voice
to Parliament and when is that? So there was a
statement what's called the Statement from the Heart, a gathering
of First Nations leaders came together in Uluru in the
center of Australia and produced a set of recommendations for
how the voice of Indigenous people could be better heard

(40:40):
in Australian government. And they put that forward. The then
government rejected it out of hand. The new government has
said we want to do this. It's a constitutional shift,
so it requires referendum. So there will be some time
in the next few years there will be a referendum
on this at the moment. So that's a moment. So

(41:00):
how do you design for that? Because the referendum, trust me,
I'm British, can can take your country in a dark direction.
I'm a Californian. We have so many referenda out here.
Because the referendum in and of itself is a consumer moment, right,
Like it's just pick. But how you would lead up
to that, how you have conversations and deliberate there you
go over that moment could really shift the outcome and

(41:23):
the feeling you have about the outcome. Right, And then
I arrived in New Zealand and I look at like
the conversation about climate there is really ripening, and it's like,
how might we bring into that some of these ideas
but also like draw on the depth of the of
the Maori wisdoms and even the process that. One of
the lovely things I came across on this trip was

(41:44):
the Maori concept of pap and a hole, which is
the word for the joining space between the two holes
of an ocean going canoe and when when they had
a moment of uncertainty, they would gathering the space and
like and and draw on the wisdom of the people
who read the stars best and the people who read
the currents best, and figure out what to do together
in a process of storytelling and story sharing and wisdom sharing,

(42:04):
like how might we draw them back? And then here
in l A, I mean, this is the place of
story right, this is the global hub. And remember what
we said about the Olympics and four right, like yeah,
then twenty eight Like so we could we could have
a do over and do something different If if l
A helped accelerate the consumer story by bringing brands to

(42:25):
the Olympics, could it help accelerate the citizen story by
bringing people to it in a different way? And how
might we do that? And wouldn't it be great? Excited
to get local man? So, so what are some other ways?
Sadly our listeners do not all reside in l A
or New Zealand, which would be really really perfect ways
to help us make that mental shift into the citizens story.

(42:46):
Somebody is hearing this now and they're fired up, They're
ready to go. How do we help tell the story?
How do we help join in it? From where we're
at right now, what are some of the one ramps
you've seen? So? I mean I have a pretty simple
kind of three step thing which I've broadly stole from you.
I think a right here, we come from my way

(43:09):
of languages, so so you see what you make it
this one, But it's basically like step one, find home, like,
decide what the realm, whether it's your workplace, your local
place like, or something bigger or something we should we
You have to call it a realm though, It's just
it's more powerful when you refer to it as a
realm as opposed to a workplace or a neighborhood. Right, okay,
so find your home, find home, find home? Step to

(43:32):
find the others? M M, put up the bat signal,
right like? Who else is? Who else wants to make
this realm better? And then step three on only step
three like, decide what the first thing to do is together? Right?
I mean that that sequencing actually feels very important. It's
not I have an idea to fix X. I need

(43:57):
you to help me get it done, right. It's hi,
I'm here, you're here too. Where are we? Now? What
do we want to do? What's important to us, not
just to me, and just establishing that shared reality, that
shared narrative, that shared story, with the sequencing of that
just it actually feels really important because I know so
many people, including myself, who are like, that's wrong. I

(44:20):
got an idea. Let's go, here's my petition, here's my
sign up sheet to join me and my thing, and
hopefully you'll feel like it's you're a thing too. Whereas
if you develop it in community, then it has a
different potency, in a different sense of co investment. Okay,
when you think about because so much of the new
Citizenship project work that I've seen is institutional. So let's

(44:43):
say my realm is my neighborhood. And okay, so I've
I've chosen my home. Find others am I am? I
calling a meeting and I inviting people over for cupcakes?
How specific is my invit tation to these others before
we decide what it is we might want to affect

(45:05):
or change. I mean, it's it really varies. It's what
feels feels right to the group, I guess. I mean,
I think maybe a couple of examples from my sort
of story gathering that speak most powerfully to this. One
of my favorites is the story of a place called
Grimsby and on the northeast coast of England. That's like
the place that's been most screwed over over the last

(45:25):
fifty years or so. And what happened there was the
council called a meeting and there's a couple of guys,
this guy Billy, who wasn't going to go because he said, like,
it will just be people complaining and the council saying
they can't do anything. So what's the point of our
seen that meeting? We've all seen that meeting. And a
friend of his said, our moms would have gone, and

(45:45):
guilt tripped him into it, and he went to the
meeting and like got so frustrated that he stood up
in the meeting and said, look, I'm just going to
go clear one Street tomorrow. Anyone who wants to join me,
I'd love you to join me, and then we'll just
see what we do from there, because this is too
much like dwelling in the pain. I think it was
like I didn't get the numbers wrong, but let's say

(46:06):
it was like fifteen people turned up. Next day they
agreed to do it again two weeks later, on different streets.
Thirty came fast forward four years. These guys now have
a magazine called The Proud East Marshan. This is in
the East Marsh in Grimsby. They have a six monthly
arts festival called the Sun and Moon Arts Festival, and
they've just closed pretty recently a half million pounds community
share offer raising money, and that amount of money in

(46:29):
Grimsby will buy ten houses, refit them, using good local
jobs and let them out as a social landlord. Creating
a sustainable revenue stream for the rest of the organization.
Started with a litter pick and then another in a
totally different realm. There's a thing that I believe is
still live right now. Last time I checked to a
group of McKinsey consultants. Yeah, man, see this is the

(46:53):
Range East Marjians, the Mackensey. There we go a group
of I think it was eleven of them, originally an
open letter to the partners calling them to discuss the
fossil fuel relationships kind of ignored to start with. Last
time I heard McKinsey consultants had like signed up to
this letter. So to your thing, like those eleven might

(47:19):
be enough, fifteen might be enough. Like, it doesn't necessarily
mean like you have to find all of the others
some others. You're such a storyteller and the story gatherer,
as you just called yourself. Are there certain phrases, certain
narrative bullet points, certain language choices that you've seen people

(47:42):
using consistently across these examples when they make that invitation,
when they try to show up, when they try to
establish the WII, that tends to be successful more than
a different set of language choices. I'm literally thinking about
the sign on Facebook or master done that Twitter, or
on the posts you know, the power line that the

(48:05):
powerpoll in my neighborhood. It's a great question and when
I want to think about more, and but my immediate
reaction is that spirit of question and that language of
like of being needed briefly to kind of theory that's like,
there's a really powerful concept called safe uncertainty. And the
idea here so it comes from therapy, originally a guy

(48:27):
called Barry Mace And and the idea essentially is that
anyone who comes to therapy is in one of two places.
They're either unsafe uncertain I don't know what to do,
or unsafe certain I'm bad, and I know I am.
And what they think they want is safe certainty. Tell
me what to do to fix it. You can see
this right, This is the subject story, the consumer story.
Both play in that space. By this or do this.

(48:50):
And what this guy says as safe uncertainty is about
holding the space, standing the side rather than in front
of and saying we don't know exactly what's gonna happen,
and I'm not going to pretend to you that we do.
It's a billion Grimsby didn't stand up and say, if
we go and pick the litter off one street, will
have solved Grimsby in full years time. We'll have will
have bought some house this and will be a social

(49:12):
landlord and will be we'll be breaking it down. He said,
there are some things we can do. Oh man, Yeah,
you're blowing my mind a bit, just connecting to the
consumer stories, infiltration of philanthropy and the need for returns
and business plans and projections and scale and people with

(49:33):
significant resources only funding things that can prove all these
other downstream effects. Whereas they would have ignored the guy
in Grimsby, Right, you don't have a plan, right, what
are you gonna show me. You're gonna show me your metrics,
show me. I need to just see your deck and
and the intention of just gathering, which we have pre
a Parker in this season as well, And so there's

(49:55):
a there's a beautiful overlap with some of these thoughts
to kind of find their way into a person who
was like, all right, I think I know how I
might start this. What do you think the world would
look like if we made the transition to living in
the citizens story? What would be practically different? What would
our experience feel like? I find this question kind of

(50:16):
hard because it's like, no, but I'm at a level
where I'm like, some of it is that I don't
think we exactly know. Are you practicing safe uncertainty with
you right now? Working on you? But but it is
like I'm kind of serious, right, Like a big part
of the joy of this whole thing is the act

(50:36):
of creating it. Yeah, I hear you on on truly
on the safe uncertainty, and you're also kind of practicing
what you just described, which is you're not overpromising a
specific outcome when I ask you that question. I have
one last question for you, and then we'll go to
our live, not in studio audience. We embrace citizen as
a verb here at how to Citizen. So you missed

(50:59):
the storyteller words Smith. If you are interpreting citizen as
a verb, how do you define it? What does it
mean to citizen? I mean I listened to your first
episodes Salary Core Eric Loue. Yeah, when I was like
writing the book, and honestly, I've been like fan boying.

(51:19):
But where I got to the way I do it
is I talk about because nouns are important to me
as well, because nouns become identity constructs. That's why it's
important to understand the consumer, not just the act of consumption.
But the way I talk about it is is I
make the distinction between citizenship of status, which has become consumerized.

(51:40):
It's become a product. Can buy it, You can buy
it the Golden visa versus citizenship is practice. And that's
basically you this stuff is this part right, like the
citizenship has practices is citizen's verb. Yeah, John Alexander, It's

(52:02):
been so good to see you in person here in
the same room. Um, welcome belatedly to Los Angeles. And
at this point I want to turn it over to
our guests to see what's on their minds. Let's see
what magic we might have been missing. Jens Innoviation, come
on down. This is Jennine from Philadelphia. John. You were

(52:24):
talking about your origin story more or lesson. You said
something like about two thousand and three and you said
how much noise it is to have to go through,
you know, three thousand ads to get your ad out.
And I was like, wow, I remember when we thought
two thousand and three was noisy. Imagine what you know?
What I mean? That was really quaint, Like that was
before Facebook really took over. So my question is, what

(52:47):
do you think as a storyteller, like a professional storyteller,
what do you see as the impact social media has
had on the relationship between all of us civilians like
public and storytelling meaning making? And I guess story choosing right,
because you're talking about our ability to choose our stories
and make stories and opts in and out. And I

(53:10):
just want you to reflect on what these technologies are
doing to that. The first thing I would say is
to your kind of charting back through time, I think
we also need to remember and what we thought the
promise of these things were so a good friend of
mine as woman called Amozine Khalifa, who you again should

(53:31):
have on here, and she was one of the organizers
of the Tennisian Revolution and using social media in beautiful
ways when we all thought Facebook was the answer, right,
And I think I do believe that social media have
that potential, and like I do see everything through the
lens of these stories, like and the way I would

(53:52):
frame it is that we build our technologies from within stories.
So when we build them from within a consumer story,
they then speak back to us as consumers Facebook and
Twitter and sort of like they're designed for us as consumers.
I think the most powerful analogy really is actually more
like what was originally called the sharing economy, right, like
the airbnb s and Ubers of this world, where we

(54:12):
were like, I mean, these were these were out just
forming when I was starting to really develop this language,
and I was like, maybe I don't need to do
this because like we're just going to share everything, And
like the whole dream was that every transaction would become
a relationship. But because they were built from within the
consumer story, what's actually happened is that every relationship becomes
a transaction. We just become consumers of each other. It's

(54:33):
the story that I would look to and maybe to
this thing about critical intervention points like Twitter right now
is super fascinating, right, like, what what might happen in
that space? Well, what what might master don become? Or
like if in this moment we can seize on the
collapse in that space and build something from within the

(54:55):
citizens story, maybe we could have genuinely social media. Absolutely,
I love that. I have too many thoughts on that myself,
Janine as well. They align largely with what you shared John.
What social media has done to us is turned the
consumer story up to eleven thousand, all right, and atomize
us and chop us up and sell us off for parts.

(55:17):
And so it's much much more violent than what we've
experienced with traditional media and advertising, etcetera. So let's go
to the next question we've got. Ray. I'm Ray Kennedy.
I'm here in the Cotchella Valley in southern California. Had
the pleasure of driving into l A last night to
see John at the book tour event and just wanted

(55:40):
to ask one of the things that that I remember
reading years ago, I think two thousand five it was,
is the book on the wisdom of crowds, and I
was wondering if that was something that had played a
role in your thinking as it evolved. Thank you, Ray.

(56:01):
I'm trying to think of a way to make a
longer answer than yes, you don't have to give this time.
Maybe I'll just say that, I mean it was off
the back of the wisdom of crowds actually that the
original concept of my farm developed because we were like, actually,
we might get different intelligences into the space. Maybe one
thing I will say on this, Actually, I think this

(56:21):
is where the corruption of voting is a really good
way to understand the corruption of voting. So voting, if
it's an act of collective intelligence, can be a decent methodology, right,
But to do that, we all have to be asking
the same collective question. This is one of the points
that Siriaki may makes in Wisdom of Crowds. Everyone has

(56:42):
to be asking what's the option here that's in the
best interest, in the best collective interest. But one of
the things that's happened through the consumerization of our politics
is that we're no longer all asking what's in our
collective interest. Instead, we're individually asking what's in my interest? Yeah,
the way we asked the question what question we ask?

(57:03):
And and also are our bots answering the questions are
they real humans? There was there was a simplicity to like,
just put it up for a crowd vote and that'll
solve it. And there was the process design was weak
when it came to defending against actors, information warfare, artists
and all of this that could corrupt such a such
a process. Thank you so much. Ready for that question,

(57:24):
Let's see, I'm going to ask this on behalf listeners.
Submitted question from Jonathan asked what do you think about
using behavioral economic insights to encourage citizen like behavior over
consumer like behavior? Can you use the master's tools to
free the enslaves? Can you use the tools of the
consumer story in service of a citizens story? Look? I

(57:48):
think using good design, using creativity, framing things carefully like
is all part of this. I do worry about the
phenomenon of notch M because I think the the underlying
premise of that so often is do you define that briefly?
Nudging is this idea that you sort of unconsciously prompts

(58:08):
someone to behave in a certain way, so you like
you get people to keep their towels in our hotel room,
because you say most people do that rather than appealing
to the kind of the moral argument which motivates fewer people.
So you're like and like that there's nothing inherently wrong
with that. The My worry, though, is there's two things.
The first is that we underappreciate what's actually kind of

(58:31):
the biggest nudge in history, which is the fact that
we've got this story three thousand times a day plus
I mean, to Janine's question, the latest estimates or anything
up to ten thousand times a day for certain cohorts,
and so that's behavior economics right there, right. The other
thing is that I think what results from that, and

(58:52):
so often these approaches come from here, is you're actually, um,
some people call it sustainability by stealth, m right, okay,
And it's like tricking people into doing the greener thing, essentially,
because that's the only way we can possibly imagine trust them,
right to just do the better thing for our collective self.
And in a way it's like, because I think the

(59:13):
towels thing is kind of interesting, right, because when you
see that as a kind of grand victory, you're starting
so far down the down the futureain because you're not
sharing the big question that goes, how might we like,
how might we make our society is sustainable? How might
we make this city regenerative? Like if you hold that
question this question we were talking I was talking about

(59:33):
with Wellington City Council in New Zealand, how might Wellington
become the first regenerative city in the world. Oh, that's
a great question. Requires a lot of people, right, rather
than like, Okay, we need to decrease the water footprint
of Wellington's hotels, like let's this percentage point with this
little nuge. So I don't want to be too like
black and white about it, like I but there's there's

(59:56):
no answer to an I think it is. There's I
have a temptation often of you know, we're at war
and the other side is deploying all of these advanced weapons,
and are we gonna unilaterally disarmed? Right? So I'm already
choosing the language of combat and war. But it sometimes
feels like that truly, And so are we being naive

(01:00:18):
in saying, well, no, we'll just we'll just tell people
the truth and they'll figure it out. When they're being
lied to ten thousand times a day. Is that a
fair way to show up to a battle for a
home planet that we could all live on, or justice
and access to resources for many people who've never had
it before. I don't think there's a simple answer to it.
I'm pretty sure a war metaphor isn't gonna get us

(01:00:40):
to peace sustainably. But there's also a reality check on
what tools, what time, for what duration and being cleared
with here's I'm spending more time on us than I intended,
but I think it's just so fascinating. What rubs me
mostly the wrong way is the lack of transparency when
these techniques are used on and I find out later

(01:01:02):
and that we can trust even more, right, I'm like, oh,
so I'm a subject to your experiment and you couldn't
just tell me why and how and still give me incentives.
Incentives are fine, but the manipulation without consents or transparency,
that feels like a real problem. That's really interesting. And
it's like, and then what we're validating, right, and if

(01:01:24):
we're becoming, if we're becoming the thing, then we're just
now we're citizen washing right, all right? We have Martha
Toray with our last question, and if we have time left.
Some closing remarks. Hello Martha, Thank you very kindly, John Alexander,
this has been most thought provoking. I think we're in

(01:01:45):
a situation which is comparable to the end of the
Bronze Age. We are, in many ways really at mercy
of individuals, authorities, and etcetera, over which we have no power,
are and with whom we have no community. And it
strikes me as crucial that we developed community with the

(01:02:10):
people on whom we depend thoughts. Thank you so much,
Martha Joan. I think like I hear a lot of
what you're bringing to this in the sense that we're
in it now right, Like these challenges are not things
that scenarial planning exercise for a distant, possibly dystopic future.
There's thirty three million people displaced in Pakistan, there's bushfires

(01:02:34):
and wildfires, and like it's we're in it, and the
likelihood is that there are some collapses. That said, I
am also like there's a lovely Bioka Malafe, amazing Nigerian
philosopher says a couple of remarkable things, well, many remarkable things,

(01:02:54):
but one of them is times are urgent. We must
slow down. Some of this work is like, let us
take the opportunity to come together, because if we rush,
that is precisely what will force us into the into
the arms of the subject story again. And maybe in
that light, I'll put forward my my preferred historical analogy,
which is the aftermath of World War Two, which was

(01:03:16):
a moment of incredible institutional innovation. Like you think what
was created in those years, right, the u N and
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European colon steel
community that became the EU, the i m F and
the World Bank in the UK, the National Health Service
like and all of it really from within the consumer story,
all with the best intentions, but all with this frame

(01:03:36):
of service and with the idea that that trade brings peace.
And that's because we are consumers and so if we
fulfill our kind of material needs, then we won't fight.
In this moment in time that we need an institutional
innovation on the same scale. But what we need is
it to be the ideas and energy and resources of everyone, right,
like we we need to run those processes in a

(01:03:57):
way that genuinely taps into all the wids that um
and probably frankly, the people who looking sound like me
getting quite seriously out of the way of that and
if anything, helping hold the space rather than dominating that space.
And that I think is totally possible, and I think
it can still be in time. That we need a

(01:04:18):
new universal dectoration, we need new institutions of our scale,
but we need to do it really differently. The good news,
I think is that we can only do it really
differently now there's no going back. John. Thank you for
doing this podcast with me live in person with our
virtual audience, and so appreciate everything you're up to. Thank you,

(01:04:40):
my friend. It's been great to be here. There's so
much that we've built in our society that is about
empowering the individual to essentially live alone. We've got automated
voice assistance across every device, enough delivery and service apps

(01:05:02):
to never leave our homes, and so many TV shows
and podcast that we can just observe conversations instead of
having them. Now, for the record, this podcast is obviously
part of the solution, not the problem. But you get
my drift. We're supposed to be these rugged, individualistic armies

(01:05:23):
of one and for what who benefits from that? Who
benefits from us feeling alone and trying to satisfy that
loneliness with purchases. It's those who profit from the consumer story.
And listen, I don't see all advertising as evil. Some

(01:05:43):
of my best friends work in advertising. I'm just saying,
like I think, if we were hit with thousands of
messages a day telling us we are citizens, agents of
our own future, members of a collective who have the
power to shape our communities through collaboration, instead of messages
telling us to buy ship all the time, I just

(01:06:04):
think we'd live in a better world. And now it's
time for some actions. We've grouped these into three categories. First,
try this as an internal reflection. You can do this
all by yourself. Think about the three stories, subject, consumer,

(01:06:29):
and citizen. Where do those stories show up in your life?
Maybe you're a subject with your parents, or a consumer
in your neighborhood in what spaces, communities or realms all
of the word realms? In what spaces? Are you already
living the citizens story? Where else could you show up
that way? Second, become more informed by reading about John's

(01:06:53):
citizen work. Yes you should read his book, but a
shorter way in is the BBC Future Art of Cool
Citizen Future. Why we need a new Story of self
and society. Also, just visit the New Citizenship Project online.
They've got a number of resources to help you or
your organization shift into that citizens story. We've linked to

(01:07:15):
both in the show notes. Finally, here's something you can
do to publicly participate. I keep thinking about John's question,
what are you trying to do in the world that's
so big you actually need other people to do it
with you? So I want you to think of something
like that. It can actually be small. It just has

(01:07:37):
to be too big for you to do alone, because
we're done doing things alone. Maybe it's fixing defense around
your yard, organizing a fundraiser at your school, or envisioning
a future for your company. Ask someone to help you
do it now. I know some of us have a
harder time asking for help than others, so I also
want you to offer help to someone you're connected to.

(01:08:00):
Just ask them, is there something you're trying to do
that I can help you with. I promise you'll feel
better and you'll make your community better. If you take
any of these actions, please brag about it online and
use the hashtag how to citizen. Also tag our Instagram
how do citizen? I am always online and I really

(01:08:20):
do see your messages, so send them. You can also
visit our website How the Citizen dot Com, which has
all of our shows, full transcripts, actions and more. Finally,
see this episode show notes for resources, actions and more
ways to connect. How Do Citizen with barrettune Day is
a production of I Heart Radio Podcasts and row Home Productions.

(01:08:42):
Our executive producers are Me, barrettun Day, Thurston and Elizabeth Stewart.
Our leave producer is Ali Graham. Our associate producer is
Donia abdel Hamid. Alex Lewis is our managing producer, and
John Myers is our executive editor. Our mixed engineer is
Justin Burger. Our audience Engagement Fellow is Jasmine Lewis. Special

(01:09:07):
thanks to Joel Smith from My Heart Radio and lay
La Being John is pushing the bounds of how we
can practice democracy if we live in the citizens story.
But even within the existing boundaries and models, we can

(01:09:27):
do more. So we're going to talk about voting, Yeah, voting.
How do we take this often uninspired, tedious practice and
infuse it with a sense of community and culture. Fear
is a powerful motivator. Anger is a powerful motivator. The
problem is that it is not sustainable that people burn

(01:09:48):
out and tune out, and what I'm proposing is much
more sustainable. I say that joy is a renewable resource
that we can continue to tap back into. That people
want to come and hang out with us, they want
to come and volunteer with us, they want to come
and donate to our efforts because there's a nine ft

(01:10:08):
person walking around and like singing show tunes, keeping voters
entertained um and keeping people's spirits high. Next episode, we
do just that with in Sea Row Home Productions
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