The second civil war
In this video, speaker, author, and podcast host John O’Leary interviews Peter Montoya about his book The Second Civil War. They talk about similarities between the civil war of the 1860s and our current political divide, the origins of our societal divisions, the role of the media, and practical strategies that you can deploy to help reunify our nation.
Peter Montoya, welcome back, my friend, to live inspired with John O’Leary. Thank you. I’m so thrilled to be here. It is cool. Your life has changed a little bit since we last met. For those who may not have tuned in to our very first conversation.
When you meet someone in a grocery store, you pass them somewhere along the way in life and they say, Hey, Peter, what do you do, man? What do you do? How do you respond? So I started off as working in sales, working for the biggest motivational speaker in the world.
Then I started an advertising agency that transformed into a software company. I’ve started insurance businesses, cross-fit gyms, coffee shops, finance businesses. I’m an author. And also right now, I’m in the middle of a technology startup. So I guess I would call myself a serial entrepreneur.
So as the guy starts walking away saying that guy does way more than I do, you know, like is busy living the dream. What is motivating you to keep pursuing these vast hobbies and interests? Hmm. So first of all, I have ADHD and just an absolute rabid curiosity.
So when you are super curious, it also is directly correlated to creativity. And also, I see lots of opportunity. So I see something that interests me and I just start diving down that road. I’m a DiSC profile.
I’m a high D. Almost all D. Some I, some C but almost all D. So I basically go, I can do this. And then I just start plowing off into that direction. So personal brand business leadership. You’ve had interest in all of this, but most recently you have a book coming out on August 3rd that you were kind enough to
send my way that I opened up and I could not put it down. It is called the Second Civil War Colon, A Citizen’s Guide to Healing Our Fractured Nation. Talk about your interest in even beginning the research around a work like this.
So I was a political science major way back when I got my bachelor’s in political science. But what really interested me was that I found myself alienated from family and friends. I was watching my friends on social media be incredibly divisive and hateful toward one another.
And I sort of looking at all this going, what is really going on? Why are we doing this? And I started to research what are the kind of the ancient reasons that we behave this way. But I want to go through the ancient reasons and the current reasons and some of the benefits and also the struggles that we face right now as a collective as we have this conversation. But I was sharing with a friend the title of your book, and his response was The Second Civil War. Man, isn’t that a little dramatic? That was his response.
Tell me what you think, John. No, your friend has a valid point, but let me tell you why it’s not dramatic at all. You know, he does actually have a valid point. I was you’re trying to create good work, long context, long form investigative work.
And then also, you know, you have to get people’s attention. So I’m trying to walk the balance beam with that. But he does have a point. It really is a little bit dramatic. And this civil war isn’t between institutions.
It isn’t like it was back in the 1860s where it was over a very, very clear issue. It was over federal versus state powers and also over slavery. Today, it’s not an institutional war. I call both the Republican National Committee and I call the DNC.
And I asked them, do you want to obliterate the other party? Were our country better without the other party? And both of them said, no, we don’t. We want to beat them at the ballot box. We want to control power.
But no, we don’t want to annihilate the other party. So this second civil war is actually a civil or social war. It’s between friends and family. It’s absolutely heartbreaking as I’ve been witnessing this the last five years. You shared a stat that blew me away because although my friends said that that title is man, it’s pretty grained. One of the stats shared within your book is that one third of Americans believe that actually we are heading toward this, whether it’s around guns or abortion or what’s taking place at the borders or what’s taking place among race relations.
Indeed, John and others, we are moving toward a civil war. One third of Americans have a sense that that is a reality. It’s really very, very frightening. So in large part, this has been a cold civil war. Hot civil wars are fought with any form of violence.
Guns, bats, bombs, those are hot civil wars. And last year, we had about thirty five deaths in riots, bombs or in shootings related to political division last year. Most historians say we need a thousand deaths per year to be qualified as a hot civil war.
But what’s not at question is we’re at a cold civil war and a cold civil war is everything else but violence. So is shunning your friends. It is shaming people online. It is not giving people promotions. It’s not talking to people at work.
It’s all the division that we’re feeling human to human. It is a civil -meaning people- civil war. It’s not really civil, though, obviously. Yes. Between people. You did a phenomenal job in the book on sharing some of the causes of this.
And I’d like to just go through them, as I called them out one by one. And you share with me kind of the origin story of this and why it’s creating such divisiveness right now in the way we treat family members and spouses and girlfriends and boyfriends and neighbors and people we worship with and people we don’t look like and don’t look like. So as I went through your book, I just was taking notes on the side. And one of the things is that the politics has become the new religion. Why has politics of all things become our new religion?
Well, we do have these ancient kind of Greek archetypes in our brains. So we are always kind of looking for kind of these gods or these generals who kind of lead the good versus evil side. We oftentimes have the seers, which are oftentimes the talking heads, which help us know what’s going to be happening in the future.
Then we have the pastors, which are the news anchors, helping us distill the morality of what’s actually happening, how we’re doing good things, and they’re doing bad things. And then you have the foot soldiers, which are oftentimes congressmen or people in the media who are actually either, you know, throwing lethal blows against the other side or taking
them and being taken out of battle. And that’s happening every single day in the news. So for the last eighteen months during the pandemic, we really haven’t had any of the usual national events that kind of unite us.
So we used to have Super Bowls and we would talk about that. And we go Super Bowl parties, we’d have World Series, we’d have the NBA championships, we’d have the Oscars, we’d have these large national stories, and then we go to parties or go to work.
And we would talk about those things. We even used to have Saturday Night Live and the late night talk shows. But those all went largely to the left. So it was no longer a rallying conversation anymore. And so what are we left with?
We’re left getting pumped full of news. And news now is absolutely everywhere. It is obviously on your phone, on your TV, Internet, a gas station pumps, elevators and everything has become politicized. So you can look at religion as being a spiritual practice.
But the other way of defining a religion, it’s a way of life. So for some people, skateboarding is their way of life. So those people, it is their work is their way of life. And for a lot of people, politics has become their way of life.
It is what all they think about is all they obsess over. And also, church attendance dropped by 20 percent or so during the pandemic. And so all we’re being left with is this kind of mythical battle that’s being played out in real time.
In the news where we get to root for our size is winning. And the other side is being evil and losing. I’ve heard you referred to that almost like wrestling when you used to watch Sunday morning wrestling. And you’d have the good guys versus the bad guys and the compensators.
And they were characters and we knew it was fake, or at least most of our listeners know it was fake. But right now, we’re not as convinced that indeed it is fake and that we are actually part of the show.
And so I’d like to go through the other things identified. You talked about 1980 being a turning point. It was the launch of that first ever 24 hour news channel. How did that movement? Because back then we were like, how are they going to talk about the weather 24 hours a day or what’s taking place around the world? Twenty four hours a day. Give me a break. And yet they have. And now it’s everywhere. So how did 1980 change the way we receive media? Yeah. Ted Turner found a loophole in the policy which allowed him to point a satellite to space and start beaming news 24 hours a day around the planet.
And that’s what everyone kind of thought, you know, what could they possibly talking about? So they built these very, very large nationwide networks that basically are very, very expensive to run. And they were really made for large global news stories, things like 9/11 and the Iraq war.
But even when those large stories aren’t happening, they still have to feed the beast. They still have to pay all their people. They have paper buildings and all the satellites. So what is the cheapest and easiest thing for them to do is to get two people on television, two talking heads, yelling at one another about how they
perceive what is happening or what will happen. So a cable news discovery is they have a very, very expensive infrastructure. And the best way, the cheapest way to keep people glued on it is to get people arguing, talking heads arguing.
I would imagine many of our listeners right now are thinking, as I look at my mom and dad, there are some of my greatest champions right now in the live inspired podcast. Yeah, but they’re telling us what’s going on, Peter.
They’re reporting the news like this is not a bad thing to be informed of what’s taking place in the world. How would you respond to them? As it turns out, the more news you can, sir, can consume, the more misinformed you actually are.
So there’s a great quote that goes like this. It’s better to be ignorant than to be misinformed. It’s easier to fool somebody then to convince them they have been fooled. So the more news you concerned, the more calcified you become in your positions and the more likely it is that you have misinformation rolling round your heads.
I stopped watching news about seven months ago in January when I was writing this book, and I still know what’s going on. I get the broad strokes because people tell me, but I don’t need to know every last thing that some senator said and that I came back with this and this legislation, that those little micro battles really don’t matter nearly as much as we think they do. Tell me about when did we shift from what most of us would consider fairly news based reporting, whether it’s Tom Brokaw, or Cronkite, or one of the names that many of our viewers and listeners would remember to primarily opinion based reporting?
Yeah, it’s a really good question. So what happened in the 1990s as more and more cable news channels came online and also with the rise of the Internet, is people realized they get their news for free. And as they start to get their news for free, the major newspapers and magazines and even cable news channels came back to us and said, hey, are you willing to pay for well edited, objective news. And we as a public said, no, we’re too cheap. We don’t want to pay for it anymore. And with that began the rise of really trying to sensationalize news to get more attention and get more eyeballs on your news so you could sell more advertising. So it was the mid 90s, and we like to point our fingers over at the major cable channels and the Internet. But the truth is, we really get to blame ourselves. We were unwilling to pay for news anymore.
So as I was reading your book, I was also taking notes voraciously off to the side, a lot of really cool quotes. This is one that just jumped off at me because I think it’s one that most of our listeners are experiencing right now in their own lives.
We may not want to admit it, but we are experiencing this. So here it is. If you hate half of your fellow Americans and we have listeners tuning in from 75 different countries, but this is true not only within our nation, but beyond that.
If you hate half of America, you have become a pawn on someone else’s chessboard. Yeah. So what the political actors have learned and also what the media has learned is the best way to sell more advertising is to get more eyeballs on their screens, whether it be a social media screen and someone scrolling or it’s a cable
news channel in order to get more money in the coffers if you’re a politician. And the best way to do that is by demonizing the other side, to scare them about the other side will get you more loyalty and you more money and you more attention at the cost of other people.
So what I find really, really interesting is we’re not that divided. There’s a lot of statistics in the book. So we give you one issue which is very divisive, and that’s abortion. And if you ask what are you pro-life or pro-choice?
46 percent of Americans say they are pro-life and 48 percent say they’re pro-choice. You go, oh, my gosh, they’re so divided. But that’s when you ask it on a team level, which team are you in? However, when you ask Americans should abortion in some way be legal?
Seventy nine percent say that abortion should be some degree and legal in this country, and only 20 percent don’t. So we’re really divided when we start talking about which team you’re on, which tribe you belong to. But we’re really not divided when it comes to policy. There, we largely agree. And that’s why I think I call this in the book The Stupidest Second Civil War. I mean, it really is dumb. There is no clear dividing line. So let’s talk about what is making it at least seem like a dividing line, which is in part the 24 hour news cycle.
You said, John, I tuned out and I’m better because of it. So one of the ways that we can have a little bit less of that division going on within our communities, but also within our own minds and hearts, is to turn away from that cycle.
Give us some ideas on how we can do exactly that, Peter. So you can actually go cold turkey. You will actually find it kind of amusing as you find yourself kind of yearning going out. It’s time for me to turn the news on.
You’ll find these little instincts. You’ll go. Those are kind of silly. You really think about it. And what I’ve noticed with my friends who have gone cold turkey is after 30 days, they are dramatically less anxious. They just feel better.
And after 60 or 90 days, they don’t find the need to argue anymore with anybody. And they actually kind of rise above it when they see people getting involved in political conversations. They kind of cockeyed look at it and go, wow, that’s silly.
I used to do that. And now I don’t feel that hair trigger sense inside of you when someone says something that I’ve got to respond. I’ve got to jump into it, fight for my country. And you realize how petty and how inconsequential all those arguments really are.
Yeah. So that’s what you go cold turkey. Some of our listeners are going to just a toe in the water. So if you’re looking for some news and you’re looking for reliable truth, too, where do you look? Oh, geez, God.
So that’s a tough question these days, because as soon as I start naming networks, people will automatically assign me to a given tribe right now. Montoya says, I always watch Fox for my truth. You will know exactly where Montoya’s stands.
And if he says, I watch MSNBC, you also will know where he stands. So, Peter, choose wisely, my friend. But where do you look? It’s a really good question. So, first of all, I love I love long form journalism.
So long form journalism can be. I love podcasts, by the way. I think the podcast medium is the great, greatest medium on the planet. And so if you’re listening to a medium. First of all, I never listen to any medium where people are attacking or labeling other people.
So if they are labeling, attacking the people, that is an automatic no. To use slurs against other sides, even if it’s a descriptor like they’re an extremist, that’s a no go right there if they’re trying to do actually a tarnish or attack other Americans.
I only want to hear people who are attacking ideas. You want to argue ideas and attack ideas, I’ll do it all day long. And actually the two wholesaler’s when it comes to news or Reuters and Associated Press. So you can go to Reuters, ReutersNews.com, but Reuters and Associated Press or AP.news,
I can’t think of what exactly the URLs are. You will find the wholesale stories that CNN buys, that FOX News buys, that MSNBC buys. Those are the wholesale stories that they buy, which then go feed the opinion news which generates all the controversy.
So that is as close as you can get to what is we’ll call truth is still biased. Ultimately, truth is most likely written by the history professors, but not after 10 or 20 years and after a lot of lengthy discussion.
So I really am a big believer that you should never believe what you think. All of my knowledge is temporary, pending new information. I hold it very, very loosely. So let’s talk about something else you hold very, very loosely: technology. So now as we look away from our our 13 inch black and white television down to our six
inch iPhone in our left hand, the Internet and social media has certainly changed the way we not only interact with one another, but we perceive our world. In what ways has that been negative? It has obviously let us… was the technology is really at its best when it helps us connect with real world friends in real world situations.
That’s where technology is at its best. Technology is at its worst when it’s keeping us separated from the very people we’re sitting right next to or lying next to in bed. So technology really should be used to help unite us with people in the real world and not keeping us apart.
So if you’re on your phone, rather than connecting with a human being sitting next to you, it’s you using it in the wrong place. From your own perspective, how frequently should you have that phone in hand? What’s the appropriate amount of time to be looking down versus looking up?
I’m really doing my best. I started noticing my phone behavior and I sort of tracking the hours so on the iPhone. And I think it’s also in the Android. You can tell how much time you spent on your on your phone, you know, how much time you spend on your phone per day, John.
Only because I went through this challenge with my family and was stunned what the answer was. At one point, it was like four and a half hours. Yeah. And I’m on that for conference calls and everything else. And I thought I was the loser in the family.
Turns out my son Jack, who’s listening in today, is the biggest loser. He had at one point seven hours of how time on his phone looking down. Now, this is during the pandemic, which means part of it is schoolwork.
Part of this. And engage with friends. Part of it is seeing what’s taking place in his own backyard and around the world. But if you’re looking down for seven hours, there’s an awful lot of other things you’re not doing.
Yeah. So I think you said one point seven hours for Jack. Did you need seven point one hours? I meant seven point one. Yeah, exactly right. Got it. So when I travel, I’m closer to four or five hours than doing tons of email, checking flights, surfing the Web because I’m bored at an airport and like that.
I was during the pandemic at one point four hours and change. I’ve gotten down to less than two. And it’s usually… My rule is to only use the phone when I’m trying to facilitate something like I need a flight or I’m looking for the weather.
So facilitation of some other activity and or I’m waiting. So like I’m at a gas pump or I’m in an airport and I really have nothing else to do. That’s my general rule when I use the phone. And the biggest use I use on my phone is my Stitcher podcast app.
That’s my number one used application on my phone. What’s it like? A pretty, pretty reasonable thing to be using you. You wrote less about Stitcher and podcasts and a little bit more around social and you tie to a degree, Peter, propaganda and social media.
And there’s a quote again, I love a whole lot of the quotes from it in the book, but here comes another one. Propaganda is a monologue that is not looking for an answer, but an echo. Drop the mic.
But after you pick it back up, what? Tell me what that means. So that’s what’s happening right now, is propagandists really want to instill fear and anger and hatred against another side, which gives them, in a sense, more loyalty.
I love to think that at 52, after reading twenty five books a year for the last 20 years or so and listening that thousands of hours of podcasts, I like to think of myself as being really civilized. I like to think that I have really shed my ancient Neanderthal genes.
And the truth is, I haven’t I’m just really a shaved down ape at the end of the day with a meat computer for a brain. And I am like we all are incredibly tribalistic. So we are naturally lean toward judging other people.
And I’ll give you a simple instance. We’ve all been to a networking, meeting, meeting or a cocktail party. We’ve walked in the room and started judging people. That person is too old, this person is too fat, this person is too rich,
that person is too snob. Whatever we label people. And we’ve always called that judgmentalism. And what it really is, is our tribalism. So we are constantly looking and evaluating people who come into our orbit. Are they with us or are they against us?
That is the primary question that’s running in our subconscious all of the time. And I used to think that tribalism and even racism had to be taught. That was one of those quotes, is that there are a lot of you know, racism is you’re not born into racism.
You’re taught racism. The truth is, actually, we probably are born that way. We are born tribalistic and even racist. And we have to constantly remind ourselves that others are actually human, just like us, and they belong with us.
And we got to include them in our tribes. So what a propagandist really wants to do is to tweak that tribalism inside you and tell you you’re right for being tribalistic, telling the other side is trying to take something away from you.
They will exaggerate it. They’ll use slurs, they will demonize it, and we will likely believe it. So that’s the propagandist’s job, is to get more attention for them by demonizing somebody else. So the obvious fix, one of them is to put the phone down and flip it upside down, but that doesn’t really solve the real problem here,
which is an innate born this way. So how do you learn a better way or how do you unlearn tribalism? So you got to look at all the different institutions that are in place in our country and what they have to do on a very, very regular basis to get us to be less tribalistic.
So the founding principle of our country is all people, Ommen, all people are created equal. And we are, you know, that is stuffed into our brains every single day. When we go to school, we pledge allegiance to the flag, which is a symbol of our country, which basically says, I’m staying loyal not only to the government and
to the present, but also to all the people. Then we go to church each and every Sunday, and we’re taught the golden rule, which is to love other people and to love your neighbor as you do your God.
We are constantly having to be pounded on this message in various different ways. You even go to kindergarten and to you watch Sesame Street and they talk about sharing and how all people are the same. There is a constant, nonstop message that’s been created at the government media level, religious level, education level to help remind us that
all people are equal and we should be kind and provide equal opportunity to all. Is that amazing when you hear all that go, oh, my God, they do. I spoke to my head. Then the follow up is, is it working and how do we make it work better?
Yeah. So obviously what’s happened right now is advertised. The advertising model has really gotten very, very corrupt. So lots of media and I’m using some broad statements here. And not all media is bad. And there’s when I say media, I mean social media, Internet magazines, newspapers or books, and I like a lot of the long form stuff
is a lot of good journalists out there, a lot of good authors these days are trying to bring people together. But a lot of the biggest players in the media have learned they can get more attention by actually sowing hate.
So they’re selling outrage porn people. We probably all either know somebody or have parents who are lined up in front of the TVs starting at five o’clock to get their daily meal of outrage. And so they and they go watch four or five hours of it.
They sit there and stew with themselves. They might talk to their friends about how awful the other side is. They go to bed angry and then they get up in their cars and they go to work listening to more of the same things, and they’re just getting pumped full of fear.
So what a lot of medias learn is the best way to sell advertising is keep people afraid and outraged. So if you are identifying that in yourself and you’re going, oh, gosh, I think that might be me, you might realize that you are in a soup of fear and toxic in this, and it might be time to
pull yourself out. Yeah, I’m going to I’m going to share another quote I wrote down. This one’s not in front of me, so it’s going to be a little bit off kilter. But you’ll remember it if you’ve ever read history and wondered why so many people were willing to do evil things.
Fear was probably the cause of it. Yeah, it certainly was. We as human beings have got our primary directive and our primary directive is to survive. And so how we survive is by making sure we keep ourselves abreast of anything that might harm us or hurt the people in our tribe.
So news is basically gossip, but gossip now on steroids through the Internet or the airwaves. And so we’re constantly on guard to listen for more news that actually might fill our need to keep ourselves safe. However, when you start dissecting most news and going, OK, is this news really essential to my survival?
Nope, probably not. Is it going to change how I live my day? Well, maybe the traffic and the weather do. But otherwise, most of the stuff that we see and think is newsworthy really isn’t, because it doesn’t actually change the decisions you make on a day to day basis.
It isn’t really keeping you safer, is actually making you more afraid, more anxious and more likely to respond or be fall victim to some really bad propaganda leader. You went through and one of the earlier chapters, and we’re already past that in the interview.
But you went through and you described our belief that the ultimate leader, the president, that he or she will have a dramatic influence over every single aspect of our lives. And then you took it all the way back to Eisenhower and you went through the Republicans, the Democrats, and shockingly showed, at least economically,
how little impact they had in our lives, could you just share a few of those stats or the overall context of that conversation? I will. So, yes, so we kind of have this feeling that when we’re voting for a president that the future of the nation is at stake.
And we believe that the wrong president gets into office, the whole country is going to go to hell in a handbasket on a very, very quick basis. However, when you look through the prism of time, time in history, you realize that presidents actually have very, very little effect.
So we look at the average annual GDP growth by president, and most presidents range between one and four percent. And you look at the presidents and you go, there really is no rhyme or reasons. And oftentimes you see these long slopes over the course of decades that really don’t have any attachment to presence.
Then you look at the average freedom score, you know what we think our freedoms are be taking away. Once again, it doesn’t change much between six and seven points on average on their scale is what it is. They look at the average unemployment rate and it ranges on average between two and five percent from 1945 to 2017.
Then you look at economic growth and economic growth is about the same. So we look at these things and go, oh, my gosh, this president is going to be awful, absolute terrible. We realize it just isn’t so. So why do we care so much?
You know, why do we start? I’m already dreading it. And just starting probably next year, we’re going to start the next presidential cycle. And I’m already dreading it. Why do we pour billions of dollars and hundreds of hours
in two presidents. And the truth is, because our president has become a avatar for our status. So when our our president our side is in office, well, then we have higher status and we are the good team. We are winning the power war.
And symbolically and psychologically, we think we’re winning. So the president is really not about policy. It really isn’t about even ideals. What it really is, is is do you get psychological benefit by knowing that your tribe is winning?
Well, I’m glad you brought up the politics side and of course, having an effect not only financially and on the freedom scores, but also on culture. One of the terms you drop several times within the book is cancel culture.
I would imagine most of our listeners and viewers know exactly what cancer culture is. But would you tell us what cancel culture is? A cancel culture is when you have… the actual term I like using is mob character assassination.
And mob character assassination is where groups of people usually start rallying together to get somebody thrown off or fired. And we’ve really come to think this has been kind of a new phenomenon that’s been happening just since 2000.
But I’ve got stories that happened to Howard Cosell back in the 1980s when he mistakenly, I really believe, sincerely, accidentally called a black man, referred to as a monkey. He didn’t he was he used to play with his grandkids and he would call his kids little monkeys.
And then he mistakenly used that word, describe a player, and he was almost thrown off the air. Happened to Jimmy the Greek, the Dixie Chicks, a J.K. Rowling. It’s happened both on the left and on the right. And what’s happening more now is with the social media and with the algorithm there comes in effect where somebody does
something that can be interpreted as being wrong and then someone else, you know, the general public identifies that and says, hey, this is what this person did wrong. Look at how bad they are. And they actually get attention from that.
So when you are find a legitimate way to be greed, you get kind of vaulted because you are the person who called out the other bad actor. Then other people start glomming on to it. Then the algorithm picks it up and all of a sudden, that instance, that story is now getting more traction.
The social media companies realize, well, eyeballs are eyeballs. As long as you’re spending time on our platform, we get to sell more advertising. So it’s in their interest to keep promoting those stories. And what happens with mob character assassination is there’s no deliberative process.
There’s no time for a discussion. There’s no finding out of the facts. It is just you become the judge. What’s that? Judge, Jury and executioner. Yeah. And so what we really want our systems of accountability, which means something happens.
We then have investigators who go and investigate it and say, here’s what really happened. Then we deliberate over it. And then hopefully as a society, we realize here’s the moral learning we take from this. And if that person apologizes and they say, hey, I made a mistake.
Great. Let’s… you made a mistake. We all make mistakes. Great. We now know that we don’t call people monkies during a sports broadcast and we can move on without trying to take your hide out. Virtue signaling, you know, some of these words showed up in double font in your book, so talk about virtue signaling. Virtue
signaling is believed when people do things simply to symbolize their part of a tribe. So I think it’s tribal signaling. But the the inference with virtual signaling is that is insincere, that you’re only doing it to fit in.
So one of the questions I love asking people and I ask, you know, why do you believe why do you believe what you believe when it comes to social events or politics? Why do you believe what you believe?
John, do you want to answer that question? Well, raised in the house where I was raised. Raised by the parents that I was raised by go to the school that I went to read the books that I have tuning into the podcast, the news stories and books that I have.
And then the personal life experience that I have has informed how I show up every day. Yeah. All the Midwestern Middle-Class American man. So I recognize some of the some of the weaknesses of seeing the world only through my mind set in my eyes.
So is in part due to all of the different inputs that you’ve had, which are family and friends and books and school and all sorts of the media you consume. Those are all absolutely true. And at the end of the day, the reason we believe what we believe is we believe to belong.
So we like to think that we are all very unique, critical thinkers and that we have unique political opinions. But for most of us, and this includes myself, is I don’t think I’ve got a single unique idea in my head.
I think that I’ve probably stolen every single idea. Cryptomnesia is what they call it. That’s where you get an idea from somewhere else. You’ve forgotten that you’ve gotten for somebody else and you share it as if it was your own.
So I’ve got a lot of cryptomnesia. So the reason we believe what we believe is so we fit in with our peers and what happens with tribal signaling or virtue signaling is oftentimes we looked at, you know, wearing a mask or, you know, wearing a flag pin.
And those became unfortunately, virtue signaling as being to to demonstrate what tribe you belong to, when it really was hopefully just a rather a scientific matter in the first place. So I really come to believe that we all are always virtue signaling. It isn’t insincere.
We do it as part of our default mechanism, because in our ancient brains, if we don’t belong to a tribe, expulsion equals death. So what I was asking a couple of colleagues that I work with to check out the book ahead of time and also to send me a few questions that I could ask on their behalf.
Cool. And my friend Heather B and everybody else at the punch and she sent in this question. Please ask Peter, how do you ask questions and try to understand where the other side is coming from without offending in a climate where honest questions can get you canceled?
Yeah, well, it’s a great question. So, so glad she asked it. So increasingly, I’ve stopped asking political questions altogether because they really can be used more to signal, you know, what side you’re on versus who you are and what you’re about.
And so there’s a lot of really good books on questions. John Maxwell’s got a fantastic book on questions. I’ve got a spreadsheet now where I just collect questions. And so now when I meet with somebody rather than saying, hey, what do you think about the election?
I can say, what did you learn about your partner during the pandemic? And I could get a sense of really who they are rather than what tribe they belong to. Now, if I do find a good thought partner. Who’s someone who has a different opinion than mine, I usually will set the table.
Here’s how I set the table. Hey, I would love to ask you some questions about what you believe. But before we get into it, first of all, I want you to know the following. I have no interest in changing your mind.
And please don’t try to change your mind. Change my mind. And number two, I have no interest in winning. People discuss, people debate to find out who is right. People have discussions to figure out what is right.
And so I want to have discussions to figure out what is the best policy or the best idea or another insight not to make anybody wrong. And with those two or three principles… The difference between a discussion and a debate.
Yeah. So the debates we have, we see debates on TV. And so that’s kind of how what we model and we think we’re supposed to do it that way. And it’s not how we used to do it. We used to be able to have discussions around religion and politics in society and social issues and news, because we’re
just trying to figure out what’s going on, not trying to beat somebody with our our enhanced social status because they are on the wrong side and we’re on the right side. So I’ve been asking you a whole bunch of questions.
I’m going to ask our listeners a question and then I’ll have you weigh in a little bit. But the question to our listeners is this. I hope, by the way, you’re sitting down when you hear it. Are you a bigot?
Are you a bigot? And let me define it for you, because it shows up in Peter Montoya’s book, A bigot is a noun. It is a person who is intolerant of or biased against dissimilar creeds, beliefs or opinions, someone who is irrationally and flexibly connected to a conviction, a judgment or a faction in particular, antagonism or prejudice
against others based on their belonging to a particular group. So, Peter Montoya, if that is the definition of a bigot, it probably suggests that just about all of us, unfortunately, are. Yeah, I think that I heard the definition of bigotry,
I assumed it meant only being racist. I think I’m one of those people who goes and looks up word in the dictionary. And so I pull that word up. I looked at the definition and I realized that I was a bigot, you know, that I had shamed and shunned people based on their religious, political or social preferences.
And it was a real hard look in the mirror. And I came to realize the bigotry is bigotry. We look at racism as being absolutely and completely taboo. If most people were to use a racial slur, we probably wouldn’t talk to them ever again.
However, it’s become OK for us to use political slurs. We can call somebody a blank tard or extremist or a racist or a kook or an idiot or a fool. And those words are for some reason are OK in our society.
And I’m here to say they’re no better than using a racial slur. Every time you slur another American, even if it’s in your own mind, just in your own mind. You really are helping our adversaries. The two or three biggest winners in the last five years are Iran, North Korea, Russia and China.
So if you are consuming media that spends most of his time demonizing other Americans, and that’s how you think, too, I swear to you, you are not helping America in any way. We think that in which, you know, to fight for our country is to argue with somebody else and to make them wrong.
The really the only way to change somebody else’s mind is through a relationship. It’s by getting close to them, empathizing with them, understanding their point of view and having enough time with them that you get to share yours.
Arguing is by far and away the worst way to try to change somebody’s mind. So are you trying to tell me that posting that someone’s wrong on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t usually get the job done? That’s not all it really serves to do.
The only reason that you do that is to get a bunch of people to say how right you are and making you feel good about being an extremist. And that’s the good news about being an extremist, is you get to imagine that all the bad things in the world are on the other side and that you are
on the good side by making them look bad. That’s what extremist behavior looks like is when you post things solely so you can get people saying how great and wonderful you are and giving you likes. So I told you I had my colleagues, that I have the honor of working with each day, to
send in some questions. This one, I think, ties to what we’re talking about right now comes in from Sandi, who works here and is awesome. And the question is, you, Peter, probably haven’t experienced many of the hardships that are at the root of the second civil war.
What have you done to educate yourself and equip yourself to offer solutions and to connect with others who are experts and have suffered some of those struggles? Oh, yeah. It is a really good point. I am incredibly insulated here in the suburb in Orange County, California, and I haven’t suffered I haven’t been on the front lines.
So she is absolutely right. I am a huge consumer of any kind of media that helps me understand the plight of other people and more importantly, empathize with other people. So I probably consume about two hours of content per day.
And that’s usually… I podcast. I love documentaries. YouTube channels, my gosh. There’s so much information and insight on those things. And then also I ask a ton of questions. So when I get somebody on the phone, I’m not asking questions.
So I have the opportunity to share my opinion. I ask questions to really understand somebody else’s point of view. That’s why I ask questions. Peter, how have you trained yourself to do that? What you’re suggesting seems obvious, and it’s the hardest thing in the world to lay down your core beliefs, lay on the things that you know
to be true and to truly pull up a chair closer to somebody else who thinks and acts and worships and votes and looks completely different than you. And then every sentence now with explanation points, but with question marks.
Yeah. So politics has really become about power. It is not about solving problems. It is about beating the other side. And what I have really done, first of all, is I now have my allegiance only to the country.
So I no longer, as of 2003, consider myself a Republican or a Democrat or a socialist or a communist or anything else, because soon as you put one of those labels on you, it creates a bias which filters information.
So my loyalty is only to the United States and my interest is not Republican versus Democrat. What it is, is Republican and Democrat against our collective problems. I want what all Americans want. Now, this word is kind of out of out of fashion.
But I want harmony between people. I want families living and laughing together. I want great holidays. I want a booming national economy. I want full, full, full employment. I want everyone being educated. I want what everyone else wants.
And I realize I will never get there by fighting my fellow Americans. We can fight ideas, but you’d stop fighting people. You end generally that chapter with this quote, and I’m going to move into some of the solutions so that not only you can grow in this matter, but so can win.
The quote that I also worked on is this: intolerance is to stand alone. Tolerance is to separately and inclusion is to walk together. So, my friend, let’s let’s move toward inclusion, let’s move toward walking together, let’s move toward making not only our country, but the world a far better place to live, reside and grow in with
some of the solutions. I wrote down a few. Number one, I like the way you framed it. Treat your phone like a toothbrush, right? Use it very, very briefly and only as a utility as you need to, and then put it back down again.
For my kids, that means every six months, the day before they go to the dentist, I’m assuming we have an opportunity to maybe use our phone more frequently than that. Right. But use it as a utility only as you need to, not as a way of filling time.
Scroll less, read more. What do you mean by that? Yes. So there is a lot of scrolling and oftentimes doing scrolling or people are just actually looking at individual pieces of content for three to two seconds, three seconds, and then moving on to the next much.
It’s much better for you to be engaged in long form writing. Go back and read a book again. So that’s really hard for people to get back into. The habit of reading books that go, my attention span is too short.
I can’t find them interesting. Yes. You have rewired your brain to constantly be looking for dopamine every two or three seconds. So if you want to read a book again, here’s how you do it for one one week.
Just read one paragraph a day for one week, just one paragraph a day. Then the second week you read one page a day. For the third week you read two pages a day for the third week. Fourth week you read three pages a day.
And that’s how you eventually train your brain again into being able to read long form writing like journalisms and podcasts and things like that. So you’ve got to rewire your brain from this dopamine fix we’ve all got ourselves addicted to and eating fear or entertainment or mocking somebody else or satire every couple of seconds.
You also encourage us to be mindful, what does that word mean to you and how can we become more mindful? So if you close your eyes for a second and you go to that spot behind your eyes, in between your ears, that’s called your conscious.
It’s also called the witness. And what’s amazing, when you go to that spot in your brain, which we all have the ability to do, that witness is actually experiencing a multi-dimensional movie. They can. It’s a movie in which when you close your eyes, you realize you can see and touch and smell.
It’s the most amazing movie you’ve ever experienced. And when you go to that spot, that witness there, you’re being mindful. And when you have a reaction to something, you are actually witnessing yourself have a reaction to it. And that’s when you are more mindful.
You will find yourself less reactionary, more calm and more able to decipher what’s coming in versus constantly reacting and being in this constant perpetual treadmill of anxiety and pain and anger. You’ve got about three more in front of you, so I’ll just keep rolling through them.
You challenge us to play a different game and you quotes from one of my favorite movies from the 80s, war games. The only winning move is not to play. So talk about what the game is that we ought to be playing.
If you want us to play a different game than the one we’ve been playing or the one that has played us. What is the game we ought to be playing now? So the question is, is where is the front line?
Where is the battlefield right now of the second civil war? And there is no battle line and there is no forces out there fighting anywhere. So if you believe we’re in a second civil war, where is the battlefront?
And the answer is, it’s in your mind. So the only way to win this war is to not to play the game. That was the lesson from war games, which dates both of us tremendously. But it also is the lesson of this is you don’t have to play this game and you can choose yourself off of the
battlefield any time you choose. And you realize that once you’re off the battlefield, that you have been a victim of somebody else’s game. And the final piece that I’d like to talk about is you challenge us to be a true patriot.
And before I encourage you to tell me more about that, I’m going to read how you define being patriotic. So here it is. Being patriotic is about fighting for what is in the best interest of your fellow Americans, not what is in your personal or partizan best interest.
Yeah. So we all believe in having values, right? We have respect, honor, responsibility, integrity. And we look at all these values. And I want to be like that. And the truth is, values are a price that we pay for the benefit of somebody else.
So we what patriotism has come to believe to most people is I get what I want and I get freedom. That’s not what patriotism really is. Patriotism is a cost that we pay for the benefit of other people.
So I will say that my definition of patriotism is completely subjective. I have no more moral high ground. I don’t have a monopoly on defining what patriotism is. But I laid out what I thought it means patriotic, at least to me, to see if it spurred some other discussion.
One, the people. But once again, patriotism. We use the word sacrifice. And for some reason, we kind of have a wire in our head to sacrifice means dying on the battlefield. No sacrifice means stopping for red lights. It means allowing someone to go in front of you.
It means wearing a mask that other people don’t get infected. That’s what sacrifice means. It means those little teeny prices that we pay that benefit somebody else besides ourselves. So for those listening to our conversation, thinking, man, I’m loving it, I’m loving the idea of drawing back toward the middle and being a true patriot and seeing not
only this country, but countries collectively shine. But Peter hasn’t spoken directly to this issue that affects me, whether it’s the color of my skin or my lack of status or the fact that I was born into poverty and can’t seem to get out of it, or I’m a gender that seems to be beat down or whatever, whatever
the challenge might be for this individual, Peter, and they’re passionate about it. They’re passionate about the environment. They’re passionate about unemployment or student loans or whatever it is they’re passionate about. That is their issue. How can they move forward to make a difference in that issue while at the same time living the principles you put forward in this
book? Oh, yeah, good. It’s a really important question. And I have issues that I’m really passionate about. And in general, it’s anything regarding kids. So any issue regarding kids, I really think the kids are sacred to me to make sure they have every single advantage possible to them.
So whatever issue that somebody else has, I actually do talk about that way, which is the what is the right way and the wrong way to fight for your ideas. And I say what’s right and wrong? I don’t have a monopoly on morality.
This is just my view on how I think it is. So I really believe in fighting for your ideas and not fighting other people. So any kind of violence, any kind of destruction of personal property, any kind of disruption of our democracy in any way, those would be the wrong ways.
And right ways is getting finding the way to thread and get enough attention for your cause that actually stands out but doesn’t isn’t seen as being immoral. And that is really, really hard. And this whenever you see a cause that kind of pulls at your heartstrings, you go, oh, my gosh, they’ve done it right.
That is the trick today, is to get attention without being too immoral or destructive to our democracy. But in short, attack ideas, not people. That’s well said. So as you get ready to go to bed tonight, as your book is just a week or so from being launched out there into the world, how do you feel about
the trajectory of where we are heading next? That’s a really good question, because in some degree, I think what’s driving this country right now is systems in the systems are much more powerful than individuals, unfortunately. So I’m looking at the news media and social media, and those two things have absolutely have got to change, especially on the
social media side. My next tech startup is a social media platform, and I think we’re going to solve the three biggest problems, which are bots of fake accounts and misinformation. And then we’ve got a system to do that now.
The chances of our succeeding and actually getting any purchase in the marketplace is at best one out of 20. But I’m going to go down swinging to see if I can at least interest the ideas into the marketplace to reform social media.
It’s really hurting us. It’s not only bad in the United States, there’s five or six countries around the world where it’s upended their democracies and actually unleashed violence. So a lot of this is at the feet of social media platforms.
So as we wait for you to rule out that product, where can we learn more about you in the book that you wrote? Oh, thank you so much. I was a personal branding guy before I wrote books about politics.
This book, by the way, is political, but it’s not really about politics. If you notice, I’m apolitical. I just want Americans to get along. And you can go to PeterMontoya.com, PeterMontoya.com, and you can find my book, The Second Civil War A Citizen’s Guide to Healing Our Fractured Nation by Peter Montoya on both Amazon and
also Barnes and Noble. Peter Montoya, the author of The Second Civil War. I want to thank you for your work. Thank you for your time, and thank you for your desire to draw us back together. It is the right next step.
It was a thrill to be here. Thank you so much for having me. All right, my friends, that is Peter Montoya. And my name is John O’Leary This is your day, live inspired. If you are more committed to national unity than partisanship, please check out my book, The Second Civil War: A Citizen’s Guide to Healing Our
Fractured Nation. My book will challenge you to improve your relationships with friends and family. Click the link in the description below.
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