This week Kevin and Jad discuss the age old idea of civil disobedience. Think Gandhi; think Martin Luther King. If you’re into religion (which we’re definitely not), you might even think of Jesus.

We consider how people have been conditioned, even in the most unlikely of situations, to fearfully obey others their entire lives.

The situation has become such an epidemic that most of us find ourselves fearful of machines accusing us of wrongdoing, even when we should know we’ve done nothing wrong. This idea will become clear as we venture into the topic.

Transcript of Podcast

[Recorded Audio]

Speaker 1: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

Speaker 2: No, sir.

Jad:     Hello and welcome to the JK Podcast, an antiauthoritarian philosophical endeavor recorded in Austin, TX.  We draw our topics from the entire scope of the human experience with central connecting themes focused on the grand ideas of liberty, humanity, and equality.

Kevin: The JK Podcast is hosted by Jad Davis and Kevin Ludlow, welcome back to another episode.  This week, Jad and I discuss the age old idea of civil disobedience.  Think Gandhi, think Martin Luther King, and if you happen to be religious – which we’re certainly not – you can even think of Jesus. 

We consider how people have been conditioned, even in the most unlikely of situations to fearfully obey others their entire lives.  The situation has become such an epidemic that most of us find ourselves fearful of machines accusing us of wrongdoing, even when we should know we’ve done nothing wrong.  This idea will become clear as we venture into the topic.

Jad:     There’s a guy – I may have told you about this guy already – but he’s kind of my new favorite guy and his name’s Larken Rose.

Kevin: I don’t know him.

Jad:     It’s really – I’ll send you some of the stuff.  He actually does this things – I’m gonna link it to that episode where we talked about the – I can’t remember if it’s the “Do people wanna be slaves”, or whatever, but that one where it’s like there’s 1,000 people controlling a million people sort of thing.  He does this with dots, so he has like 300 million dots on the screen and then he’s got this one little dot and he was like, “you will have to give me all of your [?]”, then it zooms out to all of the dots and they’re all like, “well, what happens if you don’t”, and he’s like, “I will send in my team of enforcers”, and then it zooms in on these hundred dots or whatever, and it’s supposed to be representative of the number of people in the IRS, the number of people in the country, and the number of people in the you know, Congress or something like that, so it’s pretty good. 

But his main thing that I think is just mind blowing – I’m not gonna do this point justice – when he writes it or speaks it it’s like so succinct and is so clear.  But basically, his point is that the government is strictly an illusion.  It’s just a mistaken belief.  It’s tied to points that I make all the time, but he just says it very clearly.  There’s nothing that makes the people special who claim that they have the authority to do things. 

The only difference between them and anyone else is when they say something, everyone believes that it means something special, that when they have an order that you’re supposed to do it you know, as opposed to when anyone else gives you an order, you’re like, “who the fuck are you”, you know, “get out of my house”, or whatever, and his point is – this is exactly what we say all the time – is that if everyone woke up – to exactly your point, this is an example he gives – if everyone woke up and just didn’t know what the IRS was, like somehow everyone just had forgotten what it was, it would just be over; it would be done where everyone would get a letter that says, “you owe us money”, and like you always do when you get a letter from some person you’ve never heard of that says you owe them money is throw it away, you know?  And that would just be it, it would be over. 

It’s just the belief that everyone has that there’s some kind of magical aura, or power, or otherness that this body has that you have to do what they say.  Anyway like I said, he presents it in a very compelling way that every time I hear it I’m like, “oh, fuck yeah, he’s totally right.”  But then you turn around and like you say, get in the car and MPR is like, “well, you know it’s probably a really good thing that the NSA has complete records”, and you’re like, “oh, fuck, we’re so far away from this”.  Not just that we believe that these people have the ability to tell us what to do, but to believe that these awful, awful people that are just doing awful things all the time, just Godforsaken evil, they have the power to tell us what to do.  It’s like, it’s not even a low hurdle, it’s a very high hurdle.  People are like, “yeah, they’re still in charge.”  What?  Anyway.

Kevin: The best I have for examples of things like this are just – I am just observant in day to day life and one of the ones that gets me all the time, I was at ATB[?] the other day and I don’t even remember if the alarm went off or not – I don’t think it did – but when you walk out and there’s like the little alarm thing going on that they have right there sometimes.  I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it really does, but when people walk out of the thing and it does the little beep, beep, beep, and they stop like a deer in fucking headlights and they look around and they’re like, “you know, oh my God, did I steal”, and I think they get to the point in their head where they actually think maybe they did steal something and you’re just like, “well, did you take like 2 things and then you went to the checkout, right, and you swiped your credit card and right, you got a bag, so you didn’t actually fucking steal anything, just keep walking, you’re okay.  You didn’t do anything.”  But they’re so conditioned to stop for any fucking reason anytime somebody says, “you’ve done something wrong”, it’s engrained to just, “I must’ve done something wrong. 

There’s a little buzzer going off suggesting I did something wrong, and evidently I did”, and of course I mean anytime it happens to me I just keep walking and never once has anybody flagged me down and I doubt they ever will because I don’t steal anything, so but anyway, just kind of as a metaphor to the whole thing, I guess.  It’s sad is what it is.

Jad:     It’s so true, but I always stop.  I absolutely do.  Like, “oh shit, am I good?  Can I go”, just to show my fundamental nature is still [?] slave.

Kevin: Well we’re gonna get that one out of you.  I’m gonna –

Jad:     I’ll make a point next time when I get bludgeoned by the Home Depot security guards, I’ll complain to you.

Kevin: I wanna go shopping with you.  I wanna put one of the little sensors on the bag or something and say, “Alright, here we go.  You’ve already paid for everything.”

Jad:     Yeah, I do need lessons in disobedience.  The Larken Rose Point – and the point of just general disobedience – is so compelling as we’ve hit on a number of times, but at the same time I’m gonna pay my taxes next year.  You know, really I started to think this through.  I was thinking about this with respect to the march on DC thing because I was thinking about like, I can’t show up armed at a state capitol.  I mean first of all, I have an obligation to my wife and child not to be in jail forever and not to be shot, but at the same time I would like to support people who do that. 

As you’re a layer away from things, you become less endangered, right?  So like you can say if somebody who is put in prison, I will vigil outside the prison with everybody else who is also agreeing to take this – to be this sort of 2nd tier support – we feel that that is safe enough, right?  Or if the people who are outside protesting are arrested, at some point it becomes ridiculous enough that you’re like this is no longer a safe society and I have to, but if this happens I’m going to say ahead of time, I really – that’s too much and I’m going to have to risk more than I would otherwise risk by protesting, making my voice heard one way or the other that this is lunacy and needs to stop sort of thing.  I’m not presenting this very well at all [?] I’m like you know if we couldn’t go to DC –

Kevin: I can give you a thought to jump off of what I think you’re getting at here because I actually believe very firmly what you’re saying, right?  There’s a level of practicality that needs to exist in any type of civil disobedience or protesting and of course you know, if I refer back to kind of the Gandhi things as I do with some frequency just because I’ve always been really enamored with how that whole thing went down you know, that guy convinced people to really stand up to things that they – I mean I’m sure a lot of people had went through a lot of really rough shit and I mean there were some pretty horrible massacres that occurred and things of that nature, and so I mean that’s kind of like the far spectrum of it.  But I really, really am a firm believer that it’s the little things that you kind of get accustomed to are the things that matter the most because there’s hundreds of little things that happen to us all the time, and I really think that those hundreds of little things are what plant the seeds to determine how we’re actually going to function when the larger thing actually happens. 

So when I refer to something like the grocery store you know, just something as silly as that, like the alarm system there, it’s just – to me – I believe that that’s kind of one of these things that you can kind of teach yourself to do is to say, “well, I didn’t actually do anything wrong, so I’m not gonna worry about this because I shouldn’t have to be falsely accused for something.”  If I did something wrong, I should start running right now because I’m committing a crime.  But if I’m not committing a crime then this is stupid and I describe this in Economics a lot.  You know, you’ve actually heard me talk about gift cards before, how horrible I think gift cards are because what the idea of a gift card is that you’re actually giving money to a corporation. 

You don’t get anything in return; you get a piece of plastic that says, “In the future, you can spend your money here again”, even though you’ve already spent the money.  So you let somebody float your money, you get no sort of benefit for it, and there’s all sorts of risks that come with it – the company could close, you might not use the thing you know.  I mean, they’ve changed the laws on all this stuff, but it used to have expirations and fees and all that sort of shit and meanwhile, you could just hang onto the cash and it would be just as valuable, so what the fuck are you doing?  Why would you actually give the money to this person?  I use that as an illustrator to say that if you can be convinced of that, if you can be convinced that it’s okay to give money to a company and get nothing in return, then it’s no fucking wonder that we’ve got these giant bail out programs and stuff like that going on. 

Now I realize that that’s kind of a large jump between a little gift card and then a multi-trillion dollar bail out, but again it’s aggregate.  You know, you’ve got 300 million people that are buying into this one type of system, the dollars and cents really aren’t all that different, and so I guess when getting it from the disobedient side is that I think if you can just encourage people to do these little acts of – they’re not even disobedience – but just kind of standing up for themselves where they need to be stood up for.  Like we’ve talked about this before, like if a police officer says, “can I see your license and registration”, you have the right – in Texas anyway – to say, “well you need to accuse me of a crime first”, and of course the cop’s gonna say, “give me your license”, and you say, “look, I’m really sorry, the law’s real clear about this.  You need to accuse me of something before I show you my license”, and maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t and I don’t really know what happens in that situation – maybe you wind up getting more fucked than you want to, but the point is is that I think if we could encourage people to constantly take on just these little tasks, the little things, then I think the collective society actually can learn from that and I think some of these bigger things will – sounds maybe a little farfetched to some people – but I really think that they would just kind of magically start to work themselves out because I think you have a fundamental basis for understanding that it’s okay to say no to things.  

It’s okay to say no to people who are in positions of authority.  And if you can understand that you can say no to the grocery store guy when he says my alarm’s going off, and you can say no to the police officer because he doesn’t follow protocol right, then maybe we can start saying no to larger government agencies for equally absurd claims against you.

Jad:     I think that’s – that makes sense to me.

Kevin: Yeah, I know and I know that it’s kind of a lengthy rant, but I really do believe that wholeheartedly.

Jad:     Well I think for sure that practicing disobedience is kind of essential since again, we weren’t raised to be disobedient unfortunately –

Kevin: Right.

Jad:     That most of us at least have to figure out that it’s not the end of the world.  I think I’ve told you this before, but that’s a classic psychology thing, is to understand that you are now no longer in a position where – at one point in time, you had to obey everything because you were at home, or you were in school, or you were wherever you were and you really did have zero power and zero ability to escape and you were ruled absolutely – well there was no – and plenty of kids do disobey – but like it just gets worse and worse for you until you are I don’t know, I actually don’t know what happens. 

But very few people have the stamina to outlast that system for 18 years.  So you let that follow that pattern of what it means to disobey authority go with you through the rest of your life.  The only way to unlearn it is to start to disobey and see that actually, nothing happens at all.  In fact, lots of times, things turn out really great by saying no to things that are in position upon you, and after you do it enough times then it becomes you lose that old matching of like, this is bad, this is danger, this is you know, despair, and you gain the knowledge that this is actually empowering, and good, and healthy, and beneficial, and then it becomes less of a challenge to do – it becomes more of a habit.  That takes an awful lot of unlearning, I think.

Kevin: No, I totally agree, but I mean that’s the – it’s a level of confidence that you start getting and when we first started doing this I mean, I think we had a conversation once where we talked about the fact that it’s really difficult, it’s really frightening frankly, the first couple of times you try to stand up to what are really deemed to be high authority figures in the country – a police officer being one of them.  We were talking specifically about TSA agents and what it’s like to actually tell those guys like, “hey man, I’m gonna do what you say because I can’t get to my destination otherwise, but otherwise, go fuck yourself in the face because you suck”, you know?  It’s hard to tell those guys that you’re not gonna do certain things and that you’re not okay with this and just even saying no to the fucking scanners I mean, people have a hard time with.  I understand people really get anxious about it and I remember that I used to get anxious about it, and now I don’t anymore – it’s interesting – but I’ve noticed a big change like when I go through now, I really just don’t give a shit at all – [?] story about that. 

When I was coming back from France a couple weeks ago, I got routed through Montreal and it was a pain in the ass because they kind of put you in this transit holding area – oddly enough, the same area where Snowden’s been in Russia – so I’m not technically inside of the country, but I’m in the country because I’m in the airport, you know?  And anyway like when I was going through the transfer station, the Canadian officials are like, “well, we’ve gotta do this extra security on you”, and they’re doing a pat down and as they’re doing it,

I’m talking to the guy and I was kind of a – I was real tired – but I was kind of a dick, you know?  But not at him – none of this was directed at him – but I was telling him, I was like, “man, do you think that this is every bit as stupid as I do?”  And he’s like, “sir, you just have to do this”, and I’m like, “no, no, no, I understand, man.  It’s not your fault.”  I was like, “but I mean you’ve got to admit, my country is just fucking horrible, isn’t it?  I mean, you guys have to agree with this, don’t you?”  And he did, I mean they really did agree and I had a water bottle and the woman was like, “I’ve gotta pour this out.”  I’m like, “I’m still in a secure area”, and normally you wouldn’t have to do that and she’s like, “I know, it’s an American law”, and I’m like, “Goddammit”, I was like, “I hate – I really hate my country so much.”  I was like, “I feel so bad that you guys have to tolerate anything we do”, and she was real sympathetic to me, but just the fact that I really feel comfortable doing this now. 

These are just people and I refuse to look at them in any way other than the fact that they are people.  So I mean there’s a limit to that you know, just like there’s a limit to anybody – they don’t need to be stupid about it and you know, I’m not gonna be violent, just like I wouldn’t be violent to anybody else.  But I feel very comfortable speaking my thoughts.

Jad:     Yeah, no, I think that’s the right way to be.  The TSA one is a very safe one, too.  That’s a perfect training ground sort of thing.  Elisa and I always jump out at that and again, it’s the first time I did it – it’s scary – but now it’s not even a big deal at all.  In fact now I know exactly what to do, you know – step off to the side and be like, “I’m opting out”, and they’re like, “cool”, and it’s not a big deal, you can totally do it.  Nothing bad happens to you.  No one spits on you, or calls you out for being a jerk, or anything, it’s just a choice you make.  There’s no danger at all, so it’s the perfect place. 

I think the other one, the buzzing thing, is another perfect example.  There’s no risk at all of not obeying the buzzer, you know?  If someone really actually thinks something’s wrong, they’ll chase you down, you can show them the receipt, and then you can be on your way, but there’s no reason to stop, it’s perfect practice to not pay attention to it because then you get to the point where it’s like on the flip side, you get to – I don’t know if you’ve ever seen clips of like, Antonio Buehler, and he’ll go up and just harass the shit out of cops –

Kevin: Yeah.

Jad:     – and frankly I’m all for it.  I think I support his right to do it 100%.  I think it’s brave as hell, but I’m frankly surprised he hasn’t had the shit beat out of him just because those guys, they feel like they can do that.  They feel like if they’re pissed and they decide to wail on you with the stick that – and they’re probably right – that they’re not gonna get in trouble –

Kevin: Right.

Jad:     And that’s a fine thing for them to do.  A good example, you wouldn’t go to the Southside of Chicago and start you know, find a guy on a street corner who’s clearly armed and start pushing him in the chest or making fun – that would be actually violent – but you wouldn’t start making fun of him and talking about his mom and stuff because you’re probably gonna get hurt –

Kevin: Right.

Jad: – you know?  And there’s a category of situation that’s like that, but there’s a whole world of situation that’s the safe side of that in which this exploring disobedience is I think an extremely healthy thing.

Kevin: Yeah, I agree and maybe one of these days I’ll sit down and actually try to write a list of things I can come up with because I’m sure it’ll sound really dumb when I do it, you know – some of them – kind of like the grocery store one.  I mean, it just sounds absurd and I think when I say that to a lot of people, hell, when I make the economic one to a lot of people like with respect to the gift card thing, I know that people just dismiss it as ridiculous and their like, there’s just not a jump between – you can’t see the 40 steps that it takes to get from there to a big banking bailout, but rest assured, it’s the little things in life that define the way that we think in the grander scheme of things, and I’m not saying that there’s not 20 other levels that we have to get to first that are in between there, but one influences the next, influences the next, influences the next and eventually, you’re at the top tier.

Jad:     And that’s where we leave this episode.  Thanks to Lee Caffey [?] and Chris Batton[?] for providing us with quality sound engineering and editing; we wouldn’t get far without them.  Hosting services are provided by CityCore, LLC.  Our graphical caricature was provided by our friend, Sayeed Mod Badril Hisham[?] in Malaysia, and transcription services are provided by Deidra Alexander of Galaxy Creative Media.  If you have any questions, comments, ideas for a show, or just wanna say hello, we love receiving e-mail.  You can find Jad at, and you can find Kevin at  Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll be back with another episode soon.