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The Paradox of Enlightenment with Lua Kamál Yuille
Episode 5011th January 2020 • Macro N Cheese • Steve Grumbine
00:00:00 00:55:51

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What are the mental roadblocks to achieving a system that creates prosperity for all? We often talk about the neoliberal narrative on this podcast, but this week’s guest, Lua Yuille, peels the onion a few more layers to reveal the structure beneath the story-telling -- what some may call brain-washing -- showing us how our minds have been colonized and need to be untrained.

Our entire legal system is framed and structured to convince people that they are achieving or failing on their own. We frame certain types of support as supporting their initiatives. It’s deeper than storytelling; it’s a structure that exists to make invisible all of the ways the government props you up. If someone buys a house there are tax breaks for the homeowner. Estate laws allow you to inherit a house you didn’t pay for. In these ways you’re rewarded for being an autonomous individual (or being born to one). On the other hand, if you need housing assistance, you’re in public housing. It’s seen as largesse for losers.

You can look at any tiny thing that happens in your life and see the ones that are coded positively and negatively. The government has made those choices. The government makes itself undetectable by coding things positively, and it highlights itself - and the people are denigrated - by coding negatively. When we call some support “welfare” but call other kinds of support “breaks” or “benefits” we’re teaching ourselves to see these things in a divisive way. It makes it hard to engage with one another and find solutions.

Lua demands that we deal in actual reality. She says we need to engage in a clear-eyed process of “naming, claiming, blaming” -- calling things out for what they are. We must understand the way economic policy itself shapes our brain and convinces us what is possible and what is not. When our conversation about policy includes the “pay for” question we’re training the entire nation to understand that the necessary consideration is “how do we pay for it?”

Steve and Lua use the latter part of the interview to talk about their own lives and delve into the complex questions of race and privilege. In the civil rights movement, Black people literally put their lives on the line because they felt they had nothing to lose. Will we reach the point where white people are willing to do the same? In a world of winners and losers -- where very few are winners -- what will it take for people to risk it all?

This is a fascinating episode that will add nuance and clarity to your understanding of our social, political, and economic crisis. It may be that nothing short of a revolutionary movement will free us.

Lua Kamál Yuille is an interdisciplinary scholar whose current work connects property theory, business law, economics, critical pedagogy, and group identity. She is Associate Professor in the School of Law and Core faculty in the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kansas.

@ProfYuille on Twitter