Kevin Kraft recommended Gregg to participate here. He accepted and invited me to his home and we spent about an hour on record at his kitchen table chatting about maybe not all, but at least many of the things. He spoke very highly of his daughter, Ella, who I was delighted to meet after the interview. Gregg homeschooled Ella until high school started and it was really cool to bear witness to their bond that undoubtedly grew during their thousands of hours of teaching and learning together.
I recommend listening to this interview as the transcription below omits many of the subplots from our conversation. If you want to get Gregg in his most authentic form, listening will at least get you close.
GM: My name is Gregg Morris. I am what we now consider to be a long-time Bend resident - since 2001. I am a writer/editor. I am the marketing director for 4 Peaks Music Festival and I am board chair for Commute Options - a local non-profit that has to do with transportation alternatives. And I am a dad, too. Now that Ella's in high school, I'm not quite referred to as Ella's dad anymore, but yes, I am that as well.
ACT: What concerns you about the state of the world and humanity and what inspires you or motivates you to do something about it?
GM: Well, I'll tackle the second part first. Back in 2003, which is the year before Ella was born, I started thinking about what kind of person I wanted to be in order to show Ella. This was all about how I wanted to teach my daughter to be a person. And one of the main things was non-profits. How do we give back to the community? At the time, I joined the Search and Rescue team here in Deschutes County. Showing her that's what we do - we volunteer; we help people.
Back to the first thing, what concerns me about the state of the world, I've always said that the person is smart; people are dumb. When you're in high school and you start learning about history, you start learning about the importance of being a good orator. For all of his faults, and there were many, Adolf Hitler is one of the greatest orators in history. And that is shown in his ability to do what he was able to do, so called accomplish. When you can make people believe falsehoods and you can lead them down a path that they think is for the betterment of themselves even though all proof to the contrary, I think that becomes a very dangerous thing. Now we're kind of going through it again with Trump, but it's not like Trump just came out of nowhere. I had the same feelings about the Bush/Cheney era. I don't particularly like to get political; I'm just using this as examples. The idea that people won't spend an additional 15 minutes to learn the truth... instead they'll go by what their neighbor or what Facebook, social media... this culminates in the sharing of falsehoods online. But, really, all it takes is 30 seconds. Is that a true quote? Using another extreme, you look back at racism and a lot of that was formed at the kitchen table with their family, where it goes down from generation to generation.
So, the biggest concern that I have for the world today is this lack of a want of learning facts. We coast along in our daily lives. And, you know, a lot of people are just trying to make it. Just trying to get a job or just trying to support a family. It's just that extra little bit of learning facts; whether it's facts about population or facts about disease or gun violence - any of these things. We're all built as humans to remember our parents and remember what was said at the kitchen table and their views and it's really astonishing that anyone changes their views at all. It's kind of funny, my parents are almost shifting to my way of thinking now. For a long time we'd butt heads politically or environmentally or any of these things.
If I can just step out of this path that I'm on and question everything - not in an anarchist way, but Is this really true? - and kind of get to the bottom because the idea of life should be that we are constantly improving. We talk about leaving the world in a better place for the next generation and that is the most important thing on all levels. Shouldn't the drive be to continue to get better? And that's what I don't see. I see very smart people who want things for themself and then manipulate everyone else in order to get them. And that right there is probably my biggest concern.
ACT: Introspection or the detective work that it might take to figure out where this particular belief that one has falls on the truth spectrum would change a lot. How do we motivate people to do that?
GM: I've heard this saying for the longest time that education is the silver bullet. First and foremost, I believe in education. I don't necessarily mean public school. I homeschooled my daughter - not in a religious way, but just in the way that we felt was most important. I was a teacher a long time ago. I understand that class sizes are horrible; they're very detrimental to kids in both social and educational [ways]. It wasn't a question in my family of whether or not I was going to college; I was going to college. But not everybody is in the same scenario that I was in. Not everybody is expected to. For better or worse. Inner city kids or rural America or kids that have to work on the farm from the time they're 16 so they gotta drop out, or a kid who doesn't have parents in the inner city and he's slinging dope on the corner - those are the extreme examples, but there is this large swath of the population that doesn't have adequate access to education. So now think about all the ideas that all these various kids have. One of those ideas probably would save the world, but we just don't know it because they didn't have access to it.
So now you take the other side of it. Say we're talking about some fictional character that I'll call… a Koch Brother. You're going through private school to private school and you have certain expectations from your family and from their social pool. And then your'e going to college. It wasn't that just you're going to college; it's that you're going to Ivy League or Stanford or whatever. And then after that, maybe you're getting your MBA. And, oh, by the way, this entire time you don't have any of the financial burdens at all. None. You're not concerned about how you're gonna pay for your next semester or if you're gonna have the 300,000 dollars in loans when you get out. So then you go to work for your dad's company or one of your dad's friends and you move up the ladder. So this is the social norm in your specific area. And this is not the social norm in my area and certainly not in Bend.
I think there's two sides of it. If you hang out with the same person or the same friend group and they all think the same way that you do, you, over the course of time, are going to develop those ideals. If you don't actively question what people say, whether it's a racist remark or a sexist one... if you don't actively decide for yourself that you're not just gonna be sheep... you're going to question maybe there is something wrong with that particular person. Maybe they're right. Who knows? But if you're not actively putting your brain power to that, then we'll never know.
ACT: What do people mean to you?
GM: This kind of goes back to the idea of constantly trying to create a better human race, which sounds like a funny, grandiose way of thinking. But, essentially, if you live your life that way, the understanding that if we can all help each other - and I don't mean to sound Socialist in that aspect - but if we can all in some way, shape, or form help each other get a little bit better...
I don't have a problem with people until they have a problem with me. It's probably one of my flaws. I'll be quick to jump on somebody easily. I won't start it, but I'll probably finish it. I know that's not the best Mother Teresa-type way to be, but I feel like it's important to not start something. I consider myself to be an introvert... but I'm a musician so I don't have a problem getting on stage and playing to thousands of people. That's not that big of deal to me. I don't have any problem standing up in front of people and giving a speech or any of that kind of thing. But that's the one side of me. And then the other side of me is like Leave me alone. So, how that translates to how you deal with other people is a pretty big question mark for everyone. Did that guy walk past me and look away because he's trying to be a jerk or is it because he's an introvert...? Why did this person do this? rather than like, Oh, what a jerk! That's my feeling on it anyways.
ACT: If community is our relationships with each other and the world we live in, what does our seeming inability to consider all needs, equality, and equity mean to you? And do you think people are aware of this wrestle?
GM: There are a lot more people just trying to make it through the day. Whether it's trying to make sure your crops don't fail or whether it's you sitting on a blanket playing guitar so people will toss coins into your little jar, I think there's just a lot more people trying to make it than there are people trying to make it better. It's true with the middle class; you're trying to keep your house or you're trying to keep your car or you're trying to make sure that your kid is gonna go to college and have a little bit better of a life. That's what we were all told. But everyone's just trying to make it.
It takes a certain comfort level for big ideas or any ideas or discussions to come out, for you to really think about how do we change the world, so to speak. Most of us are just trying to make it; are just trying to get through the day or the month or the year. And that's kind of the way of the world. And has been. Whether you're a 14th century serf in Ireland or you're under Roman rule, you're just trying to get through the day.
Quite frankly, I wish I didn't have to deal with this. Just leave me the fuck alone. A lot of people just want to go about their day and be with their family and their friends. But we're at this point where we've been strangled into our existence so that the people that are thinking about it are getting what they want and they're manipulating things. There's a small percentage of people that actually have the time and inclination to think through having a better life. That's the problem is that most of us are just forced into these day-to-day operations and we don't really have time to make things better for our kids or even us. And I think that that's kind of the main problem.
ACT: I used to ask a question here regarding hope for a better future, but the only thing that is going to bring us a better future is actively working for it. So, will we accept responsibility and take on the challenge of creating a better future?
GM: Well, to answer your old question, no, I have no hope whatsoever. But that's kind of the deal. You're almost talking about the antithesis of that. The idea of a revolution, whether it's military or mental, comes from hitting rock bottom, comes from this lack of hope. I consider myself a pacifist, but I have no problem fighting. If somebody were to challenge my family or whatever, I have no problem stepping up. And I have been in many fights. And when the revolution comes, I'm in. I believe in it and I will join with the crowd. Whether or not that's gonna happen is part of what I was saying earlier with this idea of marketing and everything being marketing. And the idea of we don't want to be too bad because then people will catch on and be pissed.
It's a good question. It's been two hundred and however many years since the American Revolution, which started a little bit like that. There was an overlying idea of revolution, the idea that we don't want to be held down by England, at the time. But when you think about the world, there's revolution going on all the time. Literally, all the time. Whether it's in Hong Kong right now... whether it's in Africa... or South America, this happens a lot in various countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela. The idea that revolution is somehow a far-off ideal is comical because it happens everywhere. And, like I said, it's happening now. And it will continue to happen in all these various areas.
Do I think that we are going to do that? No, I absolutely do not think in the US that's going to happen. And the reason for that is because we are born and bred to always believe that if we work just a little bit harder, we're gonna get everything that we want. It's this idea of freedom and how freedom works. And if you work hard, you'll get everything you want. And if you work really hard, you can be a millionaire. This idea that everyone has the potential. It's quite the load of crap. But what that does is it suppresses all of us because there's always a sense in our brains that it's not as bad as it could be. That we still have it pretty good and if I could just do this a little more, then I think we'll be fine. I think it will all work out. So I don't ever think we'll reach that tipping point, mostly because it's just not who Americans are. That tipping point of truly believing that we're able to do this ourselves. Which again, is a load of crap.
And then the other side of that is just the fact that we're starting to move out of the revolution idea of a thousand people in the streets. We're moving into two guys with a bomb. And we're moving into a guy with an AR-15 and a manifesto. So, that organizational level doesn't need to be there anymore for some guy to get his point across. I think we are stuck in this roller coaster of one step forward, two steps back. And I do not see a way out of that.
ACT: I have listened to a lot of people talk about awareness and this idea that people are doing the best they can with the level of awareness they have at any given moment. Generally speaking, that sentiment is often accompanied by hopeless or selfish or complacent behavior. Do you have thoughts on this?
GM: First of all, I think you're totally right. That is the norm. That is what's going on. And, again, there are some valid levels to that. We've all come home from work exhausted. And do I want to watch the news? No. Do I want to talk politics? No. Do I want to discuss how some major corporation is screwing us? No. I'd like to sit here on my couch for the next 44 minutes and watch some TV show and when it's done I may or may not be able to tell you what that show was about. I just need to turn off. On one level, I think it would be bullshit of me to ever condemn somebody else for doing that or for taking that kind of stance. That's the one side of it. The other side of it, obviously, is that nothing will get done. We won't be able to push through as a community, as a human race, if we don't start doing that. And again, there are a lot of people out there that don't want us to think about that kind of stuff. They don't want us to come home and have these great dialogues on whether education is important.
I don't know what's gonna happen, but I know that I'm doing the things that I can do. And that's what I expect from everyone else, but I fully know that it's not happening. There's a fine line between wanting to be that guy at a party where you're arguing everything with every other person and wanting to not talk about it at all and talk about baseball or what have you. And I think trying to come up with that fine line is going to be one of the most important things over the course of the next 20 years. Because even though we are divided and even though there's a lot of false memes and misdirected quotes and figures that are total lies from everybody - from our President to some guy that you're Facebook friends with - I feel like there is (and here's a little bit of hope for you) that small section of people just being more informed. It's crazy. A lot of these things are just weird and crazy. There has been more of that. Maybe I should be figuring this out. Maybe I should be talking to somebody or checking online or citing two sources. There has been a greater draw to that.
ACT: What is your sense of purpose? And what are your closing thoughts?
GM: This idea of not only making things better for my daughter, but for the human race. The idea of constantly trying to make things better. And that's a very general term. I have a couple creative projects that I'm trying to finish up. I've got a couple albums that I'm trying to finish and I'm the middle of writing a book. But that's just the subsurface. These are things that I'm doing right now, but the idea is I want to make a creative stamp on the world. I want to make something. But more than that, I want to show my daughter that she can do that if she wants to do that. And I want to show other people that they can do that. You don't have to be... I don't know why Bon Jovi just popped in my head.... you don't have to be Bon Jovi to make an album. If you have something you want to say, do it. Put it out there. I'm not doing it to get rich because it's not gonna happen. I'm just doing it to put stuff out there in the world that is a part of me.
The same reason why I'm working hard with Commute Options is to make things better. But not only make things better now for me as I ride to work or Ella as she rides to school or to her camp or whatever, but also the understanding that once that happens, that becomes the norm. And it's not necessarily the idea of bike lanes, but it's the idea of the next generation taking that to the next level. That's kind of the goal is to make it a little bit better so that the next step is gonna be even better.
I did Search and Rescue because I'm in the woods a lot and if something happened to me, I would hope and pray that they would come find me. And that's why I help out to go find somebody else that needs help. That's the idea of maybe trying to be a little less self-centered. Even if you tie that back to yourself like I just did, you're still part of the community. And you're still advocating for this sense of community. And I will help you. Please help me when I need it. And I think that's the direction I want to go. That's what I'm trying for... but, we'll see.