If any of our listeners aren’t following The Funky Academic on his website, YouTube, or Twitter, this episode will change all that. Macro n Cheese usually leans heavily towards economics, but Irami Osei-Frimpong arrives at many of the same conclusions that we do, yet gets there by a different route. That helps make this such an interesting interview. In these disturbing times, his strong sense of humor and irony are a welcome respite.
Irami is a PhD student in philosophy, which he chose to study because, as an undergraduate, he realized that people are confused about what justice looks like. In a liberal democracy, there’s no need for a minister of propaganda; our thinking is controlled by what is omitted from our education. He says we must know what we’re fighting for because if we’re merely guided by emotions or compassion, we can be easily confused and swayed. “You need actual arguments to ground you so you're not buffeted about when your latest crush is a Republican.” This is how we end up accepting that there’s a “natural” rate of unemployment, for example.
The episode is full of astute observations about racism, economic insecurity, and the indisputable necessity of a Federal Job Guarantee. Alton Sterling was selling CDs from the trunk of his car, and Eric Gardner sold loose cigarettes. Imagine if they had guaranteed jobs that paid a dignified wage, which Irami maintains should be $22 an hour. We don’t want a living wage because we want to do more than just live.
Irami draws lessons from history as much as from today’s headlines and he often ponders the concept of citizenship. How can we participate in the political process while dealing with unemployment? In a nation of laws, how can we exercise our rights as citizens if we can’t afford legal protection? He tells an anecdote about Hulk Hogan which illustrates why we need a single-payer legal system as much as we need single-payer healthcare.
Steve and Irami discuss the marijuana business, reparations for African-Americans, and unprovoked police shootings. While the interview is laced with humor, the themes and implications are dead serious.
Irami Osei-Frimpong is a PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Georgia.