The Trek Episode 17 on Contemporary Chaos: Civics Unplugged discuss Revolution in Politics through Mindful Chaos – in collaboration with Humanity 2.0

Contributed by: Show Editorial Team

Gary Sheng, Madison Adams, Julia Terpak, Maryam Tourk, Thanasi Dilos, Angel Nwadibia, and Chabu Kapumba discuss contemporary chaos on this week’s episode of The Trek


  • Civics Unplugged hosts Trek Session with Gen Z community on contemporary chaos in everyday lives
  • Prominent Gen Z figures define chaos and how it can be good or bad depending on the situation
  • Future leaders of America discuss critical thinking and finding beauty in chaos



Brought to you by: Humanity 2.0 – a Non-Profit (Non-Government Organization) focused on identifying and removing the most significant impediments to human flourishing through technology and thought-leadership in collaboration with the Holy See (Vatican).

Special consideration; to CommPro Worldwide for their PR and media support

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Gary Sheng, Co-Founder/COO at Civics Unplugged, Madison Adams, Director of Dialogue at Civics Unplugged, Julia Terpak, Founder of Gen Z Connect, Maryam Tourk, Co-founder of CU Summer Camp, Thanasi Dilos, Co-founder of Civics Unplugged, Angel Nwadibia, Co-executive Director at Planet Justice and Chabu Kapumba, Senior Fellow at Civics Unplugged

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:00:09

Hi everyone and welcome to groupthink. Groupthink is our dialogue series at CU where we pick a topic and talk about whatever feels meaningful. My name is Madison. I’m a high school senior from Virtus, Oklahoma, and I’m joined by some amazing community members. We’re going to go ahead and hop into the discussion today. We’re talking about contemporary chaos. So first we’re going to start off with a word association. Everyone can say one to three words that they associate with this topic and explain them. But before, introduce yourself please.

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 00:00:41

I’ll go first. I’m Julia, I’m 23 years old. I live in Pennsylvania. I think have two words, one, I guess it would be speechless. I’m not speechless, but I think there’s just an overwhelming amount of opinions and thoughts on the situations going on right now. So it kind of just leaves you in that state. And also another word would be forward. Also just wanting to move forward and get away from all of this chaos. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:01:22

I’d be happy to go next. Hi, my name is Chabu. I am 19 years old.  I am a first year at the university of Toronto and I’m currently based in Toronto. And when I think of contemporary chaos, two distinct words come to mind, one politics. I think that our political state is chaotic in a way that is only related to our current modern times.  And then my second phrase, when it comes to contemporary chaos is navigating. It’s just really hard to understand how to go about dealing with this chaos, because again, they’re contemporary and new to us.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:01:58

Okay. Hey everyone. My name is Maryam I’m 17 and I’m from the suburbs of Chicago. And then just based on everything that’s happened today, my three words would be hypocrisy because it’s very clear how different protest situations are met with responses than privilege, same idea, but just because some people have the privilege of doing what they’re doing right now and then other people definitely do not. And then just revealing of the state of our country that this is just kind of happening and almost that people aren’t surprised because things have just been escalating to this point. 

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:02:42

Hey guys. My name is angel I’m 18 and I’m a first year at Yale, but I’m currently in Maryland, right outside DC. So definitely the first word that comes to mind is frightening. My mom works in DC and today has not been a good day. Very hectic, very chaotic, very scary for the family and scary for the country. I feel like this is the kind of situation that that you see or that you claim to hear the U S government fighting against in other countries. But now we’re here. And I guess another word would be festering because I don’t think that these issues are novel or new in any, not necessarily in any way, but in a lot of ways there’s this buildup of just many different wrongdoings that we’ve ignored or just wrote off because they don’t seem as big as what’s going on right now.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:04:01

Angel. How’s your mom.

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:04:03

She’s good. So fun thing. Well, not so fun, but she had COVID symptoms, so today was actually her first day off. So she wasn’t there today. Thank God. But you know, it’s like, what if?

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:04:29

I would obviously similar to what you all are saying, but I would say rage, I go back to is unplugged conversation. I know a couple of you were there and I think rage can go one of two ways. It’s like, I can make you feel super discouraged, but it can also give you the energy to want to make change. And so I felt myself almost internally making, trying to make that decision today because it could be very easily to be like getting raged and just become super pessimistic about the future. But I’m trying to make the decision to channel that rage into positive energy and motivation to build a brighter future.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:05:20

I’m going to put, I can only imagine because I was talking to Zoe earlier about how freaked out her parents were. And they’re all African-American. And how based on the color of your skin, certain types of behaviors could determine whether you are lying on the pavement or not, to quote Zoe, I can only imagine how scared some people are.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:06:18

Thank you all for sharing. Does anyone have something to start us off with fashion publication? 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:06:48

I think I can start off by posing the questions last provocation. What makes contemporary chaos so unique? In comparison to other situations that we experience, what makes this specific type of difficult situation, hard to navigate?

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:07:03

I can go first. I’m of the opinion that contemporary chaos, or at least the way that I imagine it isn’t necessarily unique in a lot of aspects, like I said before, but I do think that there are certain factors that contribute to this appearance of originality. For instance, we have social media now, so things are a lot more amplified. People are a lot more aware of what’s actually going on so that, you know, increases exacerbates the supposed magnitude of the chaos that we’re witnessing. And also we’re kind of a new generation, or at least the people that I talked to of gen Z and I guess the last chaotic event that hit home was 9/11. And I was born a year after, so I don’t have anything in my memory that kind of emulates what’s going on right now, something so close to home, you know that has to deal with something as wide scale as democracy in general. That’s kind of crazy. And third, I think also us exceptionalism or American exceptionalism plays into it. I know that there’s a common narrative, not necessarily amongst younger generations, but I’ve seen it that the United States is this Paragon, this beacon of democracy. And with us being at the forefront of the world, like the world hedge, like you wouldn’t see anything or you wouldn’t imagine, like Gary said, you can only imagine something like this happening. But when it comes down to it, when you strip it everything to its bare bones American exceptionalism is a fraud that has unfortunately disillusioned hundreds of millions of people into believing that and buying into this visage, that just isn’t true. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:09:42

Something I will say what you said really makes sense there, Angel, especially with social media, I know that during the pandemic, there was a lot of people and this is not to downplay what the seniors last year went through. But in different periods in American history, seniors in high school lost their senior years because they were drafted to war and then people during the pandemic just had to stay home. And so I think that we forget what has gone on during history and a lot of kind of just our feelings have been, I guess, exacerbated because of social media. And like you said, not having experience a lot of other chaos in our lifetime.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:10:36

I mean also, and, I joined kind of late, so I could be totally making a point that makes no sense, but I think that there’s an interesting dynamic of like, I think we’re at the end of another period of human progression. The industrial revolution was pretty cool. Put a lot of children to work. Right. Did all that great stuff. And then we were like, okay, this is creating a lot of money. So let’s continue to grow this entire system instead of think what else we can build. And so now I think we’re kind of at the end of that. And what COVID has seen is like, Oh my God, reality’s back. Everything kind of sucks. And it’s not all daisies and roses. So, I think contemporary chaos also, and what happened today was very interesting. And I saw someone talking about what if you strip everything down? What it really takes on is we’ve totally eroded our culture and our individual spirit and our want to progress because we’ve gotten really comfortable in these systems that are really fake and only help a certain group of people. And so it definitely hits us harder cause we’re all connected in our little, teeny, tiny peanut brains. Can’t understand why we are all connected through technology, but it’s also like, there’s a very real point in time. That’s coming very soon that it’s going to all crumble and be really bad, or someone’s going to build something out of it. And these are just an amalgamation of thoughts I’ve read and heard over the past week, which is pretty interesting that it all came to today.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:12:14

I can’t help but agree with Angel and Thanasi in the sense that it’s not really new, like these are reoccurring events just happening throughout history, but what makes it new or what makes it hard to navigate is the new generation of people that have to deal with it. And the context that it happens then as well as the tools that are available to the people who are engaging with these challenges and those tools bring invite new problems as well as new solutions. And so I think that what’s interesting is that these problems are reoccurring, but our solutions are also reoccurring, which is why the problems keep reoccurring. But no, that’s a really valid point to make the fact that these aren’t new necessarily new events, just different people with different tools. Unfortunately reiterating what seems to be the same response. But I think my hope and ambition is that we kind of learn with this, these new tools that it’s time to pivot to a different way of responding to events like these.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:13:26

You’ll read, I know Chabu you might’ve read the beginning of it, but the Rethink X report kind of like, humanity will either resend back into the us versus them and super, like we’ll pick a demagogue to listen to. I can’t imagine how that would happen. And then we would do that or we would progress and build something that’s super inclusive. Some I’m curious, what do you all think is going to happen? Because it was a very real possibility we do just slinging shot back in time and revert into our little comfortable hate clusters.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:14:07

I mean, again, it could really go either way, right. But this is very much personal biases coming into play. But I would like to think that after the leadership that we just went through in the US that there is a profound understanding of the dangers of having those really small closed group associations. And so anything remotely similar to that, it should be unattractive. Like it should not be anything within the realm of things we want. Because we just went through a really heavy period of experiencing that and seeing the implications. I also think that for the context of this groupthink we should say what happened today, because we keep referencing it in conversation, but what’s happening in DC right now with the armed overtaking of the house. Like there’s so much that is the manifestation of that kind of mindset. And if we want more of that than share, we should engage in more of it. But I would hope that that’s not the case.

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:15:16

I don’t have an answer, but I feel like this has been a question that has been contemplated literally since words have been invented, you know I just keep thinking back to, I don’t know, bringing it back to philosophy like the political philosophers I’m like just haggles is going around my mind right now. I feel like the crux of a lot of Western philosophy is whether or not we can finally break free from this pendulum like pattern of going from one end of the spectrum to another, without having any actual substantive measure of human progress as it relates to human-to-human relations. So I mean like Chabu, I remain hopeful because you have to remain hopeful. In a time such as this, you need to radically hope and bring radical empathy in order to actually bring about substantive change. I was listening to this podcast earlier yesterday and they made this really interesting distinction between actual progress and symbols of progress. And I just hope that after enduring the last four years people start working towards actual progress rather than those symbols. And I feel like you kind of see actual these instances of actual progress happening. I mean, Stacey Abrams, incredible radical enfranchisement. I don’t know to me that’s actual progress amidst a bunch of symbolic who ha that people like to throw around. 

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 00:17:30

Like our generation is just consistently seeing all angles and the full scope of every argument on the spectrum. Like today we’re immersed in contemporary chaos in such a different way than people were in the past because of the internet. It’s a really exhausting way to be immersed in something. And so I would just hope it makes people realize that this stuff is so counterproductive and the people who participate in these extremes are losers to be honest and want to create unity and inclusivity instead, because it’s just a really exhausting way to intake information and just go about life as well.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:18:12

Going off of that and I don’t know if this is necessarily a new question, but I guess what I’m considering is we have all of these ideas of radical empathy and inclusion and how can we move forward from here? But I also see so much of this is like backtracking, if that makes sense where it’s like, Oh, so many people have said certain things during protest during the summer. And now they’re doing the same things and there’s a sense of logic and a lot of ways that it’s hard to even combat that. So where do we even begin in making progress? That’s actually substantial in changing the culture of America, because if we can’t really change that culture, then it’s going to be hard to sustain progress over time. But yeah, I guess that is another question that I’ve just been thinking about a lot with everything happening.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:19:02

Yeah. It’s funny Angel, you brought up the, the whole like real progress versus fake progress or symbolized progress. Like Gary might know where I’m going, but there’s this book that someone recommended to me called Simulation Simulacra and I do not recommend it to anyone. Because it was really just a tough read because it was just some guy being really mad and trying to explain something while also just being furious. And I was like, get a hobby dude. But there’s this idea that we’ve kind of gotten to an age of, even today I was looking at these people take the capital and that all it was a bunch of people who were fed symbols and then not through their freewill reacted to those symbols, using some wiring in their brain that we all have. They just reacted in a different way. And then they kept feeding those symbols and then they took their symbols, like the American flag or the Confederate flag. And then they went to another symbol and then sat in the symbol and did really nothing. And so I don’t know if you’ve read the book. I don’t know if you agree with my representation of his writing, but yeah. And I’m really confused of politicians do the same thing. Like a lot of symbolized rhetoric, like politicians have millions of followers now and they’re idolized and people have their paintings on the walls and I look at it and I’m like, we’re not doing anything. We’re going backwards. We’re sliding down the slope. But we’re really happy saying that Oh I’m a liberal. Are you, what have you done? No, you’re not. You say you are, you label yourself because it makes me feel better. But I think how we begin making progress is shattering this whole idea that progress looks a certain way and start embracing what you said. I think progress feels a certain way. Progress is going to make us feel something versus make us say something. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:20:50

I’m in half agreement with you Thanasi in the sense that I feel like the progress that we attach ourselves to that’s really unproductive and actually has very little impact is very reactive and it is grounded in how we feel. So almost clinging to whether it’s an ideology or political rhetoric and that is the progress and agreeing with that, supporting that and et cetera. I think beginning to make progress is preparing to be in something for the long haul to be in phases of constant iteration and rethinking to build the foundation of things that should take decades to come together and be of meaningful contribution. So how do we be in progress? I think by first descent, engaging with the idea that progress can be achieved within the span of a year or two, or you can take tentative steps. I think a lot of the progress that we analyze is actually just the first step of many. And that if we had the attitude of this is going to be take a long time and require the best of us and we still might not get it right. Is the best way to approach beginning progress.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:22:09

Chabu. I love what you said there about thinking long-term and this kind of ties into the last question and the answer to this question as well. Just to reference the rethink humanity report that Thanasi referenced to earlier, but basically it mentions how there’s going to be so much transformation and the five main sectors, which we think are transportation, materials, energy, information. And I can’t remember the last one, but basically talking about how there are so many possibilities. Like I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think the first step to making progress is acknowledging all the possibilities that we have for the future. And I think that there’s going to be so many changes as early as 2024 and all of the sectors. I don’t remember all of the exact statistics, but things like housing and food being incredibly low. And the fact that no one is talking about those is incredibly alarming because knowing that information is crucial to how we structure society now. And so I think that adopting a long-term outlook is really important for just so many reasons.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:23:21

I don’t know if we’ve ever done this or we don’t do this frequently. But I want to put “civics unplugged builders give me hope.” And it’s not a question, but I’m just curious if anyone has a reaction to that.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:24:01

Yeah, I’m biased reaction, but I think there there’s a real correlation between accepting the problem and then making change versus making change in the system. Like there’s a lot of people that, I used to run a social media news page. Right. And it did really well, but I was running in NewsPage on social media. So I was like, Ooh, likes and followers and all that. I was doing stuff in the system and kind of just causing more. And I think what’s different about builders is that it shows that there’s a potential for anyone to get involved and make real change so long as they understand where they’re working. And don’t just work within the system, like work outside it.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:24:48

I actually wrote about this earlier today when I was just trying to sort through the feelings of, you know, what was taking place. And I think that not just builders, give me hope in the sense that you almost don’t know what to say. When you talk about democracy forum and then this is what’s happening. It’s almost evidence and proof for the card counter argument. Like there is nothing we can do, this is the end of it all. Like Civics Unplugged is my rebuttal statement of being like, no, we are going to be okay one day eventually. And the reason why is because there’s a community of 200 plus kids growing who want nothing more than to see a better version of the future. So it gives me hope in the sense that it’s a very tangible thing you can refer to and hold on to, or reference when you, yourself, maybe at a loss of words or losing hope.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:25:52

I’ll add onto that. But even before I never wanted to get involved in democracy reform, because I was very pessimistic about everything. And how’s it going to change? Like these things keep happening, no one wants to change it. And then I got involved with Civics Unplugged and I was like, okay, we’ll see what happens. But then las I’ve become a member of the community, I was like, okay, we can actually make a difference. And so genuinely Civics Unplugged builders do give me hope because I’m like, Hey, we are working towards a brighter future and we can do things that will change the systems and make a brighter future for American democracy. Like we’re always talking about it. And I think that is really beautiful that you can take such, I guess what’s the opposite of hope, not faith in our government, but from me and from a lot of people that I’ve talked to, in Civics Unplugged and turned that into hope and kind of you know, referencing back to Virtus conversation, you know, taking that rage or unhappiness with the way that things are going and really channeling that into wanting to make a difference and working towards making a difference. And then having a network of other people who want to do the same thing. And it is very inspiring. And like, I know today when everyone is kind of freaking out about everything, there’s always going to be people like Madison where I’m just going to keep working harder. And all of you who are just going to meet for groupthink, well, I love Madison’s outlook on literally everything is just like, this is going to give me fuel to keep going. And so that is just really inspiring to me too. And for that, I’m very grateful for all of you. 

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 00:27:24

You can see something chaotic like this. It would be so incredibly easy to be like, well, I have no hope for the future, whatever it is, but it’s empowering being with people who don’t take the easy route and don’t look at things that way and pushes your drive to create something better, even more.

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:27:46

I think that once again, stripping it down, CU builders give me hope because we actually critically think. And I feel like a lot of issues happen because people lack the ability to critically think about what’s going on around them. And so just to keep it short and simple comprehension, and the ability to think for yourself is such an important skill. And it’s very nice being in a community of people who continuously strive to critically think and better their mindsets because it seems sometimes a little bit rare.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:28:35

Yeah. I think that we’ve allowed technology at least this form of technology to become an extension of our minds. And then we were like, okay, everybody else thinks for me. And every piece of technology is an extension of you. And so what I was thinking of today is Facebook was created to bully people and then rate women on a college campus. Right. Because someone had that idea about technology 10, 20 years ago, there was a random dude in a Viking costume standing on Nancy Pelosi’s desk today. That’s the stuff I find really funny. And the fact that that is what has taken away, the common sense from half of this country it’s concerning. But it also shows how easy it is to get back.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:29:26

I would just say that Civics Unplugged builders are the source of my hope. Like this is the one place in my life where I can go to and just gives me so much optimism for the future. And I’m excited for us to be that place, not just for builders, but hopefully in the future for so many other people, because other people also deserve to have that sense of hope that we are for each other.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:30:01

I’m going to pose another provocation. Chaos is rocket fuel for revolution. 

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:30:18

I disagree with you, Gary. I think stagnancy is rocket fuel for revolution. Chaos makes it easier for someone to take control. It provides government the way to like, Oh, wow, there’s a lot of chaos time to control us more. And is that a very traditional Republican point of view, maybe, but I think stagnancy like saying insane wages stagnancy, and seeing the middle-class stagnancy that that’s creates revolutionary tendencies. And chaos is just a way for people to you start the power.

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 00:30:48

I also feel like people get so comfortable with stagnancy. Like they almost just like accepting it in a way while if something is kind of pushing the narrative, people feel the need to tag along. If it’s something that’s out of the box that they didn’t consider before because of that stagnancy, I would say that.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:31:11

I think that and also correct me if I’m wrong, that what Gary was trying to kind of get at is the fact that stagnancy exists, but to get out of the stagnancy, you need chaos. Like it is the turning point out of that state. But my personal perspective is that it can be the rocket fuel for revolution, but in a very specific context where you have the right culture, the right community, the right tools and the right support system to turn it into something productive. It’s almost like gasoline, like gasoline can set things on fire or it can drive you across the country. So chaos has that duality. But again, you have to be an assistant that’s specifically engineered to turn it into something productive. It does not happen accidentally. 

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:32:01

I agree with you Chabu. I feel like when you just think about it, my knowledge is also very limited, but I really don’t think that I can conjure up a picture of a society or a nation or people who have brought about severe change without chaos. But like you said, you can’t engineer the necessary environment that is required to bring about the positive change, like Cuba their revolution was somewhat successful, but then Che Guevara wanted to go to other colonize places and incite rebellion and revolution thinking that you can just manufacture this chaos and this chaos will automatically lead to an anticapitalist communist revolution. Right. But we see that that’s not true with a country in Africa. You see it there, you see it in Nicaragua. Guatemala, I feel like chaos can be very useful, but at the same time, it’s such a volatile state of being. 

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:33:52

Yeah, I agree with that. And I feel like chaos isn’t necessarily rocket fuel for revolution. It’s more like a symptom that people have been brewing with all of this and unhappiness is festering. And so this is just a manifestation that people are ready for revolution and people are ready to make a change. So I wouldn’t necessarily say that there’s a cause and effect, but more like chaos is just there. One revolution is happening or brewing or about to happen. And that kind of spills over into chaos and unrest in people and the country. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:34:22

Yeah. And I think this is not to say that there hasn’t been a lot of chaos over the past year within our country, but as Angel said, thinking of, I hadn’t even thought about possible illustrations. Like there wasn’t great amounts of change without a huge amount of chaos. And so I think that we’re in a really interesting position to where we can kind of minimize the amount of chaos in order to maximize the amount of change because of technology and how our information systems have been changing so rapidly, referencing that report again, our society can crumble or we can have a breakthrough. And so it’s really cool to be in that position, but it is also a lot of responsibility and the change has to come soon in order for us to make it happen without a lot of chaos.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:35:18

I think that we’ve come to the conclusion that chaos can be good and bad, but I also think it’s important to recognize that revolutions can be good and bad. It just depends on what side of the story you’re on. So I do think that chaos does fuel a revolution, but there’s no determining what type of revolution that it fuels. And if that revolution is productive or counterproductive and your stance on that is genuinely going to be reflective of the situation that you’re kind of referring to or discussing.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:35:38

Do you think there can be significant cultural change, like what revolutions work without chaos or violence? Because throughout history, there’s always been either a buildup of chaos and violence towards change or direct CAS and violence to make change. So do you think that there’s a possibility that we can avoid the whole chaos part, but still build a better society?

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:36:20

I want to say no. And this is probably definitely me being extremely bleak, but just witnessing everything that I’ve been seeing right now, not only in the US but in my home country of Nigeria with SARS and them dealing with their own version of police brutality and just watching how for a long time and just hearing my parents talk about it as well, because they grew up there, their grandparents grew up in a very war torn area or not their grandparents, but they themselves it’s really looking like all roads lead to Rome and Rome in my honest opinion is revolution through unfortunate chaos. I would like to think that there is a way. And if you guys do think that please, I want you to inspire me and do the thing that I am afraid of doing radically going beyond the state of what I’m witnessing right now and dream of a brighter future.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:37:34

I think you’re thinking about things in a totally rational way. I think I mean, this is me being biased, but if CU didn’t exist, I think that the chances of things going well, this decade are pretty slim. Yeah, we all love the things that we work on, but I genuinely believe if more people knew about what was happening here and knew you all as individuals and as a collective people would see that you are literally the future of democracy. It’s not just this abstract thing. It’s the future of democracy waiting to be the future. We need to build that future democracy, like the living embodiment of what community, and could look or waiting to be to be taken seriously but by the world.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:38:48

I think that it does take, I would say that significant cultural change does take place without chaos and violence. It’s just not glamorized. It’s probably like the most boring thing to read a book about or watch a movie about, there’s nothing attractive about everyday people doing everyday things in a way that’s productive and conducive to a good culture. I’d even argue that it’s probably taken place, but there’s just no history, but content on it because it’s not entertaining. And I feel like it also comes down to your interpretation of chaos, the “Me Too movement”, massive cultural significance and change, but that didn’t feel chaotic in the slightest, at least not to me. Because it was really just a curation of tweets and then court proceedings and articles that were written. And I guess if you’re immersed in that world and may have felt chaotic to a degree, but for me that no one, there was no physical violence that transpired. And so I think that it can happen. And if anything, we need to be prone to appreciating it when it does, because if the only way that I know how to incite cultural change is through violence and mass protesting and all these other things, then that’s my, imagine a version of events where the people who are at the Capitol right now had other means and ways of expressing their disdain, that didn’t require violence. You’d be having a completely different conversation right now. So I think it can happen. We’re just not familiar with the ways that it could happen.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:40:34

Yeah. Chabu, I really like what you said, part of me almost wonders if there can be good or beautiful chaos, because I think that I could see a future where there’s so many changes that are positive, but it’s things just kind of feel chaotic because things are changing for good, so rapidly. So I almost wonder if that, I don’t think that chaos necessarily has to imply that there’s violence present as well. And that maybe we could see a future where there’s a little bit of good chaos.

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 00:41:05

I just think it’s interesting too. It’s like we have more efficient streams of communication than ever before, but it seems like our communication is effectively becoming worse because of technology in a way. And again, I mentioned earlier, I think our generation just exhausted by it all at this point, like today was wild, but I wasn’t shook to my core. It wasn’t unexpected. And Gary, a few weeks ago, you had shared that Robert Greene podcast where it was talking about how gen Z a generation gets so tired of what has been going on that they create that change. I think that’s genuinely just the point everyone’s at people are exhausted by this. And I think we just have to reject counterproductive; chaos and what CU does get down to the core of issues and speak about them in a way that’s effectively approaching them for the future, that doesn’t include violence and just really speaking on and figuring out how to approach the issues.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:41:34

I want to propose a provocation based off of what Madison said. It’s just going to be a phrase, but beautiful chaos.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:42:19

It’s important to note when you’re jumping to a conclusion about what a word means. Revolution can mean many things. Chaos can mean many things. So just be cognizant of honestly how you may not consider it you’re being triggered, right? Like a certain image is coming to your brain and you might be getting triggered by it. 

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:42:52

I 100% agree. I definitely think stacking on your point second on Chabu’s point, interpretations matter like semantics do matter. I think, so this is going to be a vague definition that I personally hold. I think that any change or any system that disrupts the oppressive hierarchies is inherently chaotic. And I don’t think that chaos necessarily has to manifest in a physical sense. Like the example that you brought up Chabu, with Me Too. I do think that that is chaotic because never before have you seen, let me not say never before, because generalizations are bad, but it wasn’t something that you saw on the regular basis. A group of women standing up against someone who held immense power over them, both monetarily wise, or I guess economically wise when it comes to their field of work and just the fact that stood in the position of the male privilege that the patriarchy affords them. So I think that chaos can be beautiful if we’re towards the true recognition of the humanity within everyone, you know, progressive politics is often called or referred to as the politics of recognition. And recognition can go either way, either a white supremacy as we see today, or as we have seen today or towards a more codependent appreciative culture. And when it goes that way, I do think that the chaos is beautiful.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:45:06

I think of it as art, right? Like art can be interpreted in different ways by different people. And usually the people who are in places of power during chaos, see chaos as a violent thing as violent change that unseats them. And then when the people who are creating the chaos usually see it as more of a beautiful symphony of people working together to do something. So I think that the term, all chaos can be beautiful. It’s just, it’s less beautiful if you’re standing in front of the moving train versus being in the train.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:45:43

I love how this evolved into a conversation of just redefining it or moving the boundaries that we have around this word. And so I’m going to follow the trend of defining chaos here. And I think that it’s any instance where you’re moving against the tide and you’re going against the grain. It’s like a level of overt disruption of both a good or a bad thing. And that can be beautiful or it could be absolutely detrimental. Again, it depends on the instance.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:46:21

I’ll add that basically everything that we do at CU is unconventional and we have a lot of inspirations that we draw from and how we do things. One of them is Netflix as a company. The CEO talks about how it’s always on the edge of chaos. They have as few rules as needed to create a hyper creative culture. So you can imagine, for example, a social movement, where there’s a kind of a dictator type person that’s saying this is how everything needs to be. Right. And how many ideas are going to come from the grassroots in that case. But then if you go too chaotic everything falls apart. Right. And I think a common, there’s no doubt that occupy wall street, for example really started a cultural conversation and maybe that was their goal, but in terms of immediate kind system change beyond culture they were kind of laughed at right, because of how deeply decentralized they were. And basically it didn’t really have leadership I’m oversimplifying, but obvious, the point here is that beautiful chaos, like chaos can probably easily disintegrate into a kind of a useless mess as well.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:48:05

I was just going to say, I think that if chaos is a response to stagnancy, there’s probably just beauty in movement. Like the idea that things are actually moving in some direction. And so to harness that chaos and take it into beautiful direction is kind of what we were tasked with in a sense at CU as an organization and other people who are trying to make reform. So I think that just the fact that things are moving and that people do want change and are agitating for it. And manifesting that through chaos is inherently beautiful, but also we’re responsible for keeping it that way and keep it going in a beautiful direction and not let it descend into bad chaos, I guess. I don’t want to say bad because that’s a generalization, but yeah.

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 00:48:54

Yeah. Well, there’s so much power in your perspective, in your outlook on something, because even in just everyday life, when you’re in a stagnant position in life, or you’re kind of more so in a loop stage of your life, obviously not a lot of growth comes out of that. But when you’re shaken up a little bit or when your eyes are open to something and it’s obviously always really uncomfortable, but you can either look at that as something that’s scary and something you don’t want to approach, or you can look at it as something that is a growing opportunity. So yeah, just perspective and outlook is big.

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:49:28

100%. Julia, I agree. And it just begs the question. I feel like so much of our perception of our perspective is shaped by the media. And I read this book called manufacturing consent by Noam Chomsky. And it’s just so eye-opening to think about the way that we perceive the world. And I guess falling along that line of logic, the way that we perceive chaos is heavily influenced by the information that we consume and the media that is just constantly shoved down our throats. And I don’t know where I’m going with this thought, but perception is such a powerful thing. And it’s just so heinous that people attempt to alter it towards not so great ends. 

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 00:50:38

Well, that’s just the point that Chabu made earlier when she shared her writing piece, that she has been trying to stay away from the news as much as possible to keep up her intake information for what it is and try to continue to obviously have her positive outlook on how things can move forward. Productively.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:50:55

I am also reading manufacturing consent and what I was very interested in reading was how systemic he saw the media of like, they have a bunch of people in power and those people kind of set what’s newsworthy. And then everybody else was like, Oh my God, I guess that’s newsworthy. Let me do my job as a journalist. And it doesn’t matter how ethical those people are because they’re working in a corrupt system. The other thing that was really interesting is that I was talking with my friend last night and she was talking about how we got to this place. And I was like, do you even think we have free will anymore? Like, do you think we have the ability, right? Because the media has defined how most of us, not all of us, but most of us see the world, do we have free will to make decisions? Or is it just us being influenced by a bunch of really weird people who know how to work algorithms really well, like Mark Zuckerberg, right? He’s an odd human. And is he manipulating all of us, do we have free will?

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:52:03

I think it’s really hard to actually exert agency, to actually make choices for yourself. If you’re not thinking about choice-making and that it should be at least ultimately in your hands to make your own choices. So I guess, it’s hard. It’s not really that controversial to say, like, if you’re not really reflecting on that power to make choices you’re almost certainly a victim of mimetic, symbolic warfare.

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 00:52:50

Yeah. And so many people don’t reflect on the information that they’re reading. They just intake it and they’re like, Oh, that’s right. And that’s why there’s so much misinformation. The people who aren’t taking the time to reflect on all the stuff they’re taking in.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:53:22

This kind of circles back to something to Thanasi said earlier, how he was running a political magazine on a social media platform and how he was kind of just creating more of the problem that he was trying to address. And I think that, there’s a real reoccurring theme of just assuming that we can operate within the system and just somehow come out unscabbed. I think of every US president that has ever said, I will do this differently. And then they leave office having done everything the same exact way. Like what kind of immunity do we assume we all have to live above the fray somehow some way. So I think it’s just also really important to, I almost operate with the assumption that there are things that I am unintentionally doing in support of the thing that I’m against. And when you approach it with that mindset, you’re not only critical of the world and the content and your engagement, but also you’re critical of your personal approach and why you do the things you do, why you consider the things you consider, why you ask those questions first above all else. So yeah, I think that you have to question yourself because you are also integral to the system that is operating against people and perpetuating issues and that’s an important link internal dialogue to establish.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:54:35

So also similarly, if you’re not reflecting on your choice-making, you’re almost certainly victim to other people’s choices being made for you. And if you’re not recognizing that you can be yourself and thinking that you’re actually thinking, you’re almost certainly not thinking. I recall that, once I recognize that I could be asked myself and also that my detector from IBS could also be BMPs eating itself, I just started to just kind of instinctively start questioning everything that I’ve been thinking. I think that’s really important for people to adopt in and not feel like they’re weak because they’re questioning their thinking of their choices.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:55:28

I’ll just add onto both of those points. I think that when people are operating under the assumption that we’re in a functioning system, then what is perfect to keep the system going. So then, that mindset is important to keep conveying to people. Because if they’re not questioning anything, if they’re not thinking about how things are problematic, then they won’t want to change the system that we’re in. So to Chabu’s point of constantly thinking about how we might intentionally be helping the system that we’re trying to fight against is super important. Because if we don’t, that is just not buying into intentionally, but just kind of supporting the system that we’re trying to dismantle in a way.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:56:12

Yeah. Upon reflection of today I was on the train home and I was thinking about that year or two ago that I used to run all that stuff. And I contributed to this directly, like I am a direct actor. I wasn’t running a roaring Republicans Tik TOK account. Right. But I was still directly contributing to the problem. And the only reason I didn’t know that at the time was because I wasn’t focused. I couldn’t see the bigger picture. I don’t know if I wasn’t smart enough or it wasn’t wise enough or whatever, but I was like, Hm, this is not good.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:56:48

I think what makes it hard to know whether or not you’re BS’ing yourself? And this kind of goes back to what Thanasi was saying about just so much, or we’ve all been talking about there being so much media out there, it’s like every voice is out there and every perspective is out there. So once you feel like you’ve unlearned something, it’s really easy to find sources to feed, it’s really easy to plug into other perspectives. So I think about it, like we say, Oh, we’re unplugging from everything that we’re only at Civics Unplugged, like from the default way of living. But I think that a lot of people also think that they’re going through that experience. I know a lot of people who are like I’ve unplugged because I’ve realized that the Democrats are all lying to us and want to destroy this country. And so it’s just really hard because there are so many voices and hardly any of them are our sources of truth.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:57:46

Yeah. This is making me I guess it’s reinforcing for me that a community of independent thinking like independent thinkers with diverse perspectives and experiences who are willing to basically check each other is so essential for the development of the leaders that we need. And also the idea is that actually makes sense and aren’t BS. And no doubt, can we be better at CU at doing that? But also, I would say if you’re not even valuing this, you’re almost certainly not doing this. If you’re not valuing getting independent perspectives that are diverse you’re almost certainly failing. Right. Cause it could cause the default inclination is to just surround yourself with people that think exactly like you. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:58:58

I think that’s a really, really important thing. Like the conversation has kind of moved on to a topic that I think that we can maybe move on to, we should be operating in the chaos. I kind of just want to leave it at that. And that’s not necessarily a question. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:59:22

I will say that I know the time has stopped, but if you all are okay with continuing, I am but feel free to hop off at any time.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:59:32

Beautiful chaos. I was going to say that these conversations probably, especially this one is kind of beautiful chaos. 

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 00:59:53

I think that as you think you expand their circumference of your thought or the radius of your thought, right. So I think to effectively operate in chaos you just have to continuously question, why do you think, and I feel like it’s not, even if I’m going to be honest with you, I feel like a lot of people have over intellectualized, critical thinking to the point of where sometimes there is a sentiment that it’s almost inaccessible to the regular man, but I feel like critical thinking just takes three seconds. You look at something, you just take  a second to look at, what is this showing me what’s going on here? And then take another second to think. Could this possibly be over-exaggerated could this possibly be over conflated? What are the other angles that I could possibly not be thinking about? I think it’s such a quick and simple process and you get so much more adept at doing it. The more that you do it it’s like a muscle, but then again, going back, there are just so many things that there’s just a barrage and assault against our ability to think for ourselves because cultivating the herd mentality is so lucrative when you think about it from a corporation’s point of view or from a systems point of view I wasn’t there when you guys watched the matrix, but I haven’t finished the movie. I’m only like 30 minutes in, but I feel like the matrix is so it’s like life imitating art. There’s just so much that that system doesn’t want you to realize about the bounds of the reality that we’re living in. And going back to freewill, I feel like we believe that we have free will, but I don’t think that we truly do, but at the same time the bounds in which we are exercising our agency also, we are complicit. We also somewhat take part in constructing it. So just realizing that and just constantly questioning yourself is such an important thing to do when in the chaos of today, tomorrow, yesterday, and it needs to be more further.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:02:44

Yeah. I mean, the critical thinking one is really interesting to me, cause it like a muscle, it needs to be exercised, but it takes a lot for people to exercise. And so what I find really interesting is human nature. We’re always so okay with knowing our pain and putting it in a box and not addressing it. And so critical thinking, forces us to say, wow, I’m dumb and uneducated. And before I have an opinion, I should educate myself. And that’s really mean to say to yourself, and it’s really hard to get there. And I think that people just are so much more comfortable with being like, yeah, I’m going to go with the herd because I’m just tired and I’m unwilling to address all of this pain. So I’m just going to put it in a box and ignore it for a little. And if I was a large corporation, I’d be manipulating the hell out of the masses as well. Like who wouldn’t be, why would you not, if it’s that easy, just make a bunch of money. If you’re in that position, maybe you shouldn’t, it’s not ethical and don’t, but if you’re in that position, you’re obviously going to do it. So don’t write that last part. I didn’t say that last part.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:03:57

I will say on your point though, I can’t blame people for not wanting to critically think, because first of all, with social media and the internet, there’s so much information that it’s impossible to consume all of it and to really empathize with every perspective fully. And it’s so much easier to just be fed, like you’re talking about Thanasi with all the symbolism and the really short phrases that are good soundbites. And so, I definitely don’t blame people when they, in reality, they don’t really have the tools as Chabu was mentioning too, to be able to critically think. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 01:04:43

I think that, like Julia mentioned this earlier, but I basically said that I went through a phase of just not watching the news. And I think the goal was to be removed from the chaos, but we’re in a constant state of chaos if you’re being completely honest. I think for me to ask to be removed from the chaos would be asked to be removed from the reality. And then you end up falling into all those pitfalls that Madison was mentioning. And I think that a more productive method is to just have really good anchors because anchors allow you to exist in the chaos without getting swept up by all of it. And then they also provide you with the capacity to respect just how chaotic things are. A big part of the conversations that I’ve had revolving around this were either being like, Oh my God, it’s the end of everything. Like really dramatic responses, or people who are just downplaying the severity of it. And so I think that there’s a middle ground where you can’t just be completely blown away by it, but you also need to respect the severity and the scale of the issue. So, yeah, I’m a big advocate for just staying in the midst of it, but having really grounding anchors and that could be friends, it can be communities like this one and it can be like personal truths that you hold in high regard and can refer back to when things like this happen.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:06:17

Yeah, I try, but there’s a good one of my favorite philosophers is, Nassim Taleb and he has a really great theory on newspapers and why you should just never read the news or watch the news because everybody’s trying to manipulate you and it doesn’t matter. It’s not going to make your life better. And you should just read like one thing a week. I don’t know. It’s really interesting and there’s a lot more, and I’m definitely not representing it, but there’s a link to a good article. If you’re interested.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 01:06:41

It’s going to be interesting for people who swear by the news to catalog, like how they’ve actually changed their lives because of what they’ve read. Also most breaking news, you’re not going to not hear about it. I get sent links all the time. So practically speaking you may not need to just be scrolling on Twitter all the time. A question I have related to operating the calluses, what are questions that are useful to ask when you’re in the midst of chaos as it relates to operating in it.

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 01:07:43

I like the question is this new because we have a tendency to have this very hyper singular, hyper individualized view of reality. And I mean, why wouldn’t you, you’re living now? And the present is overwhelming enough. I read somewhere history rhymes. So, if history has a tendency to repeat, at least when it comes to patterns, there has to have been ways that people adopted to combat or even exacerbate the chaos that the chaos of yesterday that is very likened to the chaos of today. And I think that asking this question can allow you to just think and imagine ways in which previous methods can be improved upon or just not used at all. And I think maybe this is just me, but there’s something comforting about the fact that there’s just nothing new under the sun in a very general sense, because it means that there are other people who’ve gone through the same thing before you and if they were able to make it through, then you’ll be okay too. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 01:09:20

I am in full wholehearted agreement with Angel here. I think there was an unplugged talk that we had, literally a hundred years ago, like early, early days of the first fellowship and advice that they gave was just to read a piece of news, not news, a piece of history every day. And I really took that to heart because there’s just something soothing about the fact that generations came afterwards. Like everything is survivable in some capacity or another. And I also think, especially for the people in this space that it’s important to read the history of things that are happening right now, because it is the cue of things to not repeat because they weren’t productive. So yeah, I think the question is not is this new, but where can you go find where this happened already? And how can you learn from that?

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:10:38

I think similarly to that, once you’ve looked back at history and kind of understood the context of that and what solutions have been tried in the past and where they can be improved upon, I think the question would be what’s next? I think you should like awesome. And be looking to how you can build from that chaos and make something better out of it.  It’s really cool because it allows you to step out of the present moment, the chaos, because the first question is looking at the past and the next one’s looking at the future, you’re not just stuck in the house. I’m like, Oh, this is so crazy. And getting lost in it. Like Chabu who said about anchors, I think that can kind of be an anchor to just like, Oh, setting your perspective of looking at what happened and what’s coming next.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:11:42

Yeah. I think also another question could be like, what do I feel is right. I think often people don’t, even one of my friends was telling me she’s worked for Joe Biden and she’s working for a Mayoral candidate. And she was like, yeah, I just haven’t really explored my own political views. Like I don’t know what I believe about politics. And it’s just interesting that a lot of people will spend their whole lives, working for politicians who have strong beliefs, but won’t have them themselves and don’t feel very strongly about anything.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:12:16

Thanasi, I know that I’ve struggled with that in the past too, because there’s a line between being really open-minded and empathetic about views. And I feel you can be that too much to where you don’t know what you believe in just because you almost see too many sides. And I think that’s where I’ve been for a large part of my life is not knowing which one, and again, like, I think Gary has kind of given me more permission to be okay with that, because I don’t know. I feel like there’s a lot of things that you don’t have to have opinions on. But there are ones. So I just think it’s a delicate dance between being open-minded and actually knowing what you believe in.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 01:13:02

To Madison’s point. I think that I want to strive for empathy. But there’s a very thin line between striving for empathy and embodying empathy, and then also condoning things that just simply aren’t. So I think I want to also propose a question, which is chaos aside, what matters? And then the follow-up thought of how can you go seek those things out right now?  I feel like a really great reaction to things would just be to almost realign yourself with core values and be saturated in that. And then you can have almost more level-headed thinking in response to the chaos.

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 01:14:05

I think that what matters also, I feel like I constantly ask myself this question and I’ve stealing this question from this podcast called Fobo and Flex. Everyone go listen to it. It’s so amazing. But they phrase it as do I have the range and I love it so much. And I feel like it relates this new question that Chabu just proposed. I think that what matters is your range for certain topics? I find that a lot of people like voicing their opinions on things that they have little knowledge about, and that’s great. You have the agency, the freewill to do so, but are you taking up space for what could be a more useful, productive and progressive conversation? You know what I mean? But let’s say that something like international relations happens related happens in Korea, I personally do not have a lot of a very large knowledge base when it comes to Korean politics, Korean history, and what’s going on over there. Do I have the range to really comment on something very intricate and nuanced that’s going over there? Not really. And if I do, then I’m clogging up you what could be useful space. So I think it’s really important that we ask ourselves, should I be speaking right now? Is it necessary that I chime in?

Julia Terpak – Founder, Gen Z Connect: 01:15:49

Yeah. I think there’s just a lot of issues right now with people not reflecting on how productive what they’re doing is like, people need to ask themselves not only what they’re adding value to when they’re taking part in something, but also what they’re taking value away from when they take part in it. Because there’s a lot of, like I said earlier, just a lot of counterproductive initiatives.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:16:12

Yeah. I think that again, I’ve really harped on the media today. But I think people are tricked into thinking that they know a lot about something and this is going to sound really mean, but some people are just so ignorant that they don’t know that they’re ignorant. You know what I mean? And I always find myself in conversations with people like that. Don’t even like politics, especially family who aren’t politicians, they don’t work in a space or I’m an accountant. I have a dog, okay, cool. And then you’re a demon for being a Democrat. I’m like, do you deserve to take oxygen up speaking these words versus sitting in your chair and not speaking those words? And it sounds very elitist. Like some people just, there’s no point it’s zero sum. Like them talking takes away from my lifespan. And I just it’s like, maybe you shouldn’t. So, yeah I agree with you, Angel on that one.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 01:17:20

I guess, something that I was thinking about at least reflecting on this question and the nasty kind of back to what you were saying is before I used to be super justice oriented. So if someone came at me, I was like, I’m going to engage in this conversation, running it, get down to the bottom of it. And going to convince you why you’re wrong and why we need to move forward together. But now I’m like, there’s really no point in really engaging in this conversation. I’m not going to get anything out of it. Like you’re not going to change your mind. And so why are we just like you said, wasting our oxygen here and my time when I could be doing better things. So I think in chaos, a lot of the times that’s some, some like way that I’ve matured a lot and is like, no, I don’t need to be kind of engaging directly in this chaos. And I can be doing my own thing and figuring out how I can make a difference, not directly engaging in a lot of unproductive things. And so I think kind of removing yourself from unproductive situations is really important in these chaotic times. And figuring out ways to not stoke more bad chaos, if that makes sense. Cause I feel like people, when they don’t get that big picture perspective, they can just kind of intermix themselves in everything that’s happening and not really realize that they’re doing more damage than what they could have been doing if they just kind of had removed themselves in the beginning. So yeah, there’s definitely a lot to unpack, but I definitely think that getting perspective and kind of removing yourself sometimes it’s way better than directly engaging with it. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:18:59

And I kind of want to challenge what both of you are saying here, because I think that there’s a balance, just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage that conversation because recently when I’ve really started to understand the value of listening, I have learned so much more than before and often the conversations where I’ve learned a lot from people it’s people that I don’t agree with that do not get their information from, you know, credible sources. But the reality is that’s so many people and if we’re not listening to the people who don’t really understand or have credibility or range in what they’re talking about, then we’re not going to understand most people. So I think that there’s a balance for that too, especially in the work that we’re trying to do and trying to reach so many people. Like sometimes you have to engage in things that aren’t going to be inherently productive, but maybe you can make them productive. You make it about listening to them and learning from them in order to equip you with knowledge to help you grow.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 01:20:09

Yeah. At the very least. Do you understand more other types of people. I think we needed to dispense with the notion that you have to convince people of something. One of the most probably useful lessons I got in the last two years was you have conversation to understand as in as good faith as possible. And also is it just cognitive science? Like it takes time for people to change your mind. Like they have to sleep on it for many nights and think about it and so you’re not going to do it on the spot either.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:20:55

Yeah. I totally agree. I think there’s definitely a lot we can learn from people. And then there’s some people that are argumentative and those people, like if you’re going to argue with someone that’s pointless, but if you’re learning, there’s an S curve of adoption, like early movers people that can change their minds. And then once they do more and more people, if you can push those first people, I guess it’s just again, not sweeping statements, everybody’s kind of a different conversation.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 01:21:23

What I’ll add is we haven’t really talked about this as a community that much, but I think if we were to choose trying to convince people that already really rigid in their beliefs and have a tribe that they’re evangelists for, or just activating people that they’re ready, like gen Z, not all of you. Right. But probably millions and millions in America are ready to have a much better sort of empowering civic education. Maybe they don’t have the words to describe that yet. But we haven’t even come close to empower the people that are ready to be empowered that are receptive to creating a democratic culture that is full of radical empathy and systems thinking, et cetera.  Wait, Thanasi this’ll be your first reflection section. So, we can lead, you can reflect on anything that’s been said here. Do you see trends? You can reflect on the actual conversation itself, the structure of group think you can reflect on how people interacted with each other, whatever. And also we encourage you to think about how this conversation is going to change the way that you operate in some way.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:23:46

I really appreciate what Chabu said about anchors. I know that I’ve struggled as she has with finding a balance between watching the news, not watching the news. But not trying to stay out of touch with reality. And I think that I should probably, it’s hard to say, I’m uncertain about what to do about that because I also understand what Gary is saying about, if it’s big news, you’ll probably hear about it, but I think there also is value and more deeply understanding what’s going on. And so I guess I’m just kind of having an internal conflict right now about application in terms of this conversation.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:24:40

What do you usually read? What is the news to you?

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:24:46

So, I would say that, I have gone through a period over the past couple of months to where I don’t really actively engage with the news, but I used to be signed up for a couple of daily newsletters that would go to my email and I read them in the mornings. And then I go to the news app on Apple and scroll through all the different stories. Like, that’d be a daily thing. But I don’t do that anymore. And part of me is wondering if that’s something that I should partially re-engage in or not. Just based on things, everyone has been saying during this conversation.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 01:25:21

Yeah. I was going to talk about the same thing and also ask for recommendations because we had a group think on media a while ago. And we were talking a lot about bias and how we can kind of disengage from news bias, but also there’s a really good thing to be said about understanding where people are coming from. Like what’s the general consensus of our country right now, how can we operate to change what people are feeling and thinking if we don’t know what people are thinking and feeling. So I guess that is also something medicine that I’m currently grappling with in terms of my own media intake. But in terms of reflection from this conversation, I’ve definitely thought a lot more about connotation because chaos and revolution, I feel like in my mind is seen as very out in the streets and people are sometimes violent and that’s the way that it has to be to get things done. And I never really thought about well, I guess the fact that we have to put beautiful in front of chaos just makes us think that chaos is inherently a negative word. But connotations and the language that we use around a lot of things is just something that I’ve been reflecting on a lot just throughout this conversation.

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 01:26:43

This isn’t necessarily my reflection yet. Maybe it is, but to Madison just internalizing what you’re saying, just the conflict with not necessarily knowing whether to engage or to disengage and when, and how long and just all of that thought spiral. I think we also need to remember that awareness it’s a very heavy, pretty emotional labor of pretty big magnitude, just knowing everything that’s going on in the world. Yes, there are positives, but there are also a lot of negatives and that takes a huge toll, or it can take a huge toll on someone’s mental wellbeing and just overall wellness. I remember coming across this post on Reddit on this critical theory sub and someone was talking about how they just get so sad and depressed when engaging with all of these different forms of knowledge, because the more you know, the more, first of all, the more you recognize that you need to know. And the more you get a little bit down about knowing just exactly what suffering people are going through. So I think that area of how much and how often you should engage is up to you and how you feel that your state of being is at that, in the present, for me, after George Floyd, I had to disengage cause it was just depressing. And that’s okay. You know, it’s important that we understand where people are coming from and the situations that they live in, but don’t put other people above yourself. You know what I mean? Because at the end of the day, all you really have is you’re life you’re living in your head 24/7, so you shouldn’t sacrifice your own happiness just for other people. 

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:29:13

Yeah. I think mine is related, but what the point of a lot of things are and the value that they add or that the value that they take with my news intake, I used to read all the news and it used to make me really depressed. And then I realized that the reason why a lot of kids are depressed is because when we read more words a day than probably people like hundreds of years ago read in their entire lives and the brain cannot evolve that quickly. And so it probably makes us really depressed, especially when there’s no way to apply all of the knowledge or suffering. There’s no way to fix it. Because our brains always want to fix something. And so the point, I guess, I’m looking to say that I really need to figure out the point of a lot more things that I do, especially in conversation, is the point to learn is the point to argue is the point of do this or that. And then with media and consumption in general, I’ve really enjoyed just growing my knowledge and learning about stuff like reading really weird theory that can just help change the way I see the world. But I know there’s genocide going on in the world from Twitter when I scroll through it once in a while. And I know there’s stuff like that, but I don’t really want to read accounts paragraphs and paragraphs of human suffering because I can’t fix it. And even if I went to go join the peace Corps, I wouldn’t be able to fix it. And it’s just going to make me sad and that’s selfish because I should be suffering like everybody else. And if you want to bring religion into it.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 01:30:43

Well, I’m thinking of, I think about how I used to think this way as well, and I’m sure Thanasi, you can resonate that you, as someone that had a media platform it’s my responsibility to shove this in people’s faces. So they care and think about the fact that there’s literally millions of people constantly just trying to one up each other and sharing the most. My suffering is more suffering than you. And so at any moment you’re maxed out in terms of algorithmic suffering all the time.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:31:23

Yeah. It’s like a flywheel effect. Like wants to read about human suffering, which is really sad. And then because we use technology as literally an extension of our emotions and our brain, we feel the pain of everybody else collectively on ourselves. And then we walk through life and we’re like, why am I so depressed when all I do is go to school and go home it’s because I also witnessed the horror of genocide and the sadness of famine and poverty and the totalitarian, slaughter of millions of people on a daily basis.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 01:32:00

So I’ve personally learned a lot from all of you in this amazing hour and 40 minutes. I’m curious if how this has helped you process this moment.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 01:32:20

Well, I’ll say that in general, I think before ever having a space like group thing to think about this in a productive way, I feel like any chaotic events, we’re just kind of fueled disillusionment. And with people just continually, posting kind of just resonates in that echo chamber of like, Oh, this is bad, but it’s nothing to you and the world’s bad and blah, blah, blah. And then it was just kind of be discontent brewing. And so I think that having group think to just talk about it productively and ways that we can move forward in the future has been really helpful personally, so that I can kind of change the way that I approach this topic and the way that I’m thinking about things and kind of rewrite that internal dialogue as well as the way I’m approaching it externally through my actions.

Angel Nwadibia – Co-executive Director, Planet Justice: 01:33:12

I agree with Maryam, it’s really nice to have a space to talk without being judged. Okay, so really bad, but I woke up at like 4:00 PM today and suddenly I wake up to what is seemingly a coup right. Literally in my backyard. And so I go on Twitter and I’m really plugged into Yale Twitter and it’s just so, ah, it’s very depressing, very self-righteous, I’m not an echo chamber that she would to be consumed in. So then I take myself, I see the news, I hear my parents watching. Then I go to Reddit and I go to R slash politics. And then I go to R slash conservative to see what they’re saying, even more depressing. So when Chabu or when Gary mentioned contemporary chaos as the topic of this group think, because I needed to talk to someone without my parents invalidating me, Twitter invalidating me, see Reddit invalidating me. And it just feels nice to be validated and recognized. 

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:34:42

There’s a power to a space where you can kind of talk about cool ideas and people are like, Oh, and then I’ll share my cool idea. It’s not like, I’m so smarter than you. And my idea is better than yours. 

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 01:35:07

To your point. Sometimes when I come to group think, everyone’s so smart and knows everything. And thinking about things, but as the conversation progresses, literally without fail, everyone always has something really insightful to say. And without saying, Oh, I want to say something profound. They just talk. And it is actually really interesting. And so I think that it is really cool how a group think facilitates a conversation where everyone’s able to talk without, you know, what Angel said of being judged or financially, no one thinks they’re better than anyone else, but yeah, it is really interesting how that progresses over group think.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:35:45

Or we’re just all elitists and we come here and are convening of the elitists.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 01:35:56

Anyone have any final thoughts before we wrap up?

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 01:36:10

Well, don’t put this in, but Josh asked me if group think was the same thing that led to the rise of totalitarianism in Italy and Germany. I was like, yeah. And then I thought about it. I was like, Hm, this is a big risk that you all took here naming this that but I admire it.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 01:36:32

It’s a joke. I think people are so actually afraid of that word that they don’t think together anymore. Ironically, people are thinking in silos in fake families, like what are internet mimetic tribes, and just a bunch of loners, hate to say it that are finding comradery with people that they’ve never met that are bonded by simplistic notions of how the world works. So the kind of the simple brilliance of this is that we’re showing the process by which we’re doing thinking. And if people actually want to critique how the conversation unfolds, we’re open book and they can contribute. 

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