It’s All Greek to Me! (with Astra Taylor)

Show Description

In Season One we asked ourselves, what does it mean “to citizen”? How do we show up and stand up for our community? Coming off the heels of January 6th, 2021, Baratunde starts Season Two by taking a step back with the question, “How can we citizen with so much division?”. In this episode, we speak with author and filmmaker Astra Taylor who takes us back to ancient Greece and reveals how our political and economic rights are deeply intertwined.

Show Notes & Actions

Show Transcript

Baratunde Thurston  0:00  

I remember what it felt like about a year ago, when the pandemic really fully landed in the US. Everything was different. Everything got shut down. I went to Whole Foods, they had run out of kale. That was kind of like the tip to me that things were going to be different because Whole Foods has one job, stock kale, maybe two jobs stock kale, and charged me too much money for the kale. When they cancelled South by Southwest and the NBA, it felt even more real. When there was no toilet paper to come by. It felt freaking legitimately concerning. Like, why is it hard to get toilet paper. And for me, I had such a mobile life. I was on and off planes constantly. My life was predicated on Super spreader events, comedy shows and conferences and festivals, and all that had come to an end. And I was just at home. But I still needed to get out. So I started walking. Where I used to fly and I used to be in cars. I just had my feet and I was walking through my neighborhood every day to get out of the house. Get out of this headspace of fear of anxiety of death. When I turned on the screens in my life, they were filled with bad news world, surpassing 1 million deaths from the

Unknown Speaker  1:37  

coronavirus President Trump not guilty of abuse of power Australia, where they're facing those massacre erupted following the arrest and death of George Floyd on a Taylor 25 year old Ahmad arbour 27 year old ratioed Brooks, Jacob Blake eve of the 100th day of protests in Portland Police declared a riot

Baratunde Thurston  1:56  

did I find something else out in the world that would give me a bit of hope, where I could see people doing something other than wallowing in the sorrow. And I found it, keep them on I found it in the form of wildlife. And I'm talking to all kinds of animals I wasn't used to seeing it was like some kind of PBS special happening in my own hood with hawks and possibly coyotes. As a black last All Black Lives Matter signs everywhere. And I saw people helping each other. I saw people setting up community fridges and community pantries to help those in need. I remember this sign I saw it said, presidents are temporary, Wu Tang is forever. Love it. And that put a smile on my face and help me keep walking. And even with all the stress and depression and anxiety and anger, and what COVID has brought, I was also grateful to be grounded in some way. And then a lot of ways things have started through the past year at the end of this last 12 months, things have started to look up. I mean, we may have dropped the ball on the masks, but we're vaccine in like it's going out of style. not one, not two, but three at last count vaccines available to us. That's dope. We had an historic presidential and vice presidential race. And we've been rewarded for our good works by things like how does it come to be with child? Richard, you don't mean like it's just it felt like candy. Sugar we deserve. The point is I am proud of us. We citizens, we turned up we showed up for each other. And I was starting to feel tentatively good again about the whole project. Not just me, not just my neighborhood. But the we think the democracy thing. And I just I wanted so much for the simple story to be. We overcame the darkness and flung ourselves into the light. We took our democracy back and now we're ready to do what's right. And well, the story is not that simple.

Unknown Speaker  4:28  

It's hard to believe what we're seeing right there. They're just walking through mirror Capitol Police.

Baratunde Thurston  4:36  

Clearly it's, you know, this has gotten out of hand these protesters got up the steps they breached the barricades, no more than an hour on the same day that we got senators, Reverend Raphael, Warnock and Senator Jon ossoff. We got something else. We got an insurrection we got an attack on our Capitol, on our democracy on the people's house. This is a system built on people power and our house was invaded by people denying votes, being unwilling to accept the results of the election. I felt so angry. so angry, in part because I was in a party mood I really wanted to celebrate. And in part because it just it felt like the lesson was, it is too good to be true. And it wasn't just because of people with guns who were largely white, waving Confederate flags stormed the US Capitol. It was that they had permission to do it. When I saw the attack on the Capitol, I was angry and

Unknown Speaker  5:51  

disgusted. I must be watching a movie, this can't be actually happening. They knew this was coming. They knew this was coming. If it had been protesters,

Unknown Speaker  5:58  

they would have had the National Guard out. I've seen how the police treat people in Minnesota,

Baratunde Thurston  6:04  

anger, shock, but I think ultimately, mostly sadness.

Unknown Speaker  6:08  

Washington is my hometown. I was taught and believe this is my country. And the citizen, the capital, it's my beautiful house. Those bastards invaded my capital. They desecrated my house.

Baratunde Thurston  6:31  

As this attack on our democracy was unfolding. I felt frustrated, I felt angry. I felt hopeless. I thought maybe things were getting better. And then on January 6 2021, I was reminded somewhat naively how divided we are how separate we are. And I was left wondering, can this even work? This be in the whole democratic experiment thing, this being us, living together with our differences? thing? This being making a democracy that works? For the many, not just a few? Can we actually do that? This is how to citizen season two. I'm Baratunde de Thurston. And I want to welcome you, if you are coming back from season one, or whether you're new, we are taking on a big topic, this season division. And we're digging into the core of what I think creates that division. But more on that later. In the meantime, let me tell you about the types of folks we are going to be talking to bankers, brewers, social scientists, all kinds of people who are helping us bridge that divide.

Astra Taylor  7:58  

You need to have that economic freedom in order to have the political equality and the political freedom.

Baratunde Thurston  8:03  

First up, Astra Taylor, after the break.

We're doing and we're moving there. And then one more record button for good measure.

Astra Taylor  8:22  

Do you want me to record over here?

Baratunde Thurston  8:24  

Yes, thank you, Director.

Astra Taylor  8:27  

I play one on TV, podcast and one on podcast.

Baratunde Thurston  8:32  

I'm here with Astra Taylor, who wrote and directed the 2018 documentary, what is democracy? for the film Aster traveled all over the US and even to Greece, in hopes of answering this question. It's a question that's been on my mind a lot, especially since January 6 2021. Now most of us trying to figure out that question, we just Google it. But Astra did a lot more than that. Now wanting to know why. Looking for a moment in your life, when you started to question the concept of democracy, can you take us there?

Astra Taylor  9:06  

For me, if anything kicked off in September of 2011, to the movement of Occupy Wall Street in New York, 1000s of demonstrators descended on the financial district, as big linky by wall street started in response to the bailout of the big banks, right. And it was a protest against the fact that even with Obama in the White House, there was a sense that regular people were being left to drown in this epic financial crisis. And then it was a sign of the fact that our democracy wasn't working. And I was in the streets with others. And we were saying that chant that you always hear, this is what democracy looks like, tell me what

Baratunde Thurston  9:43  

it looks like.

Astra Taylor  9:45  

This is what democracy looks like.

In my mind, would be like, hmm, is it like what is democracy? Do we even want this thing is democracy What the powerful state is? Or is it really just us like a few 100 people in this park? Like, are we democracy? You know, I like us, but I feel pretty powerless. And, you know, it's democracy is a protest? Is it just this uprising and a spontaneous thing? Or can it be actually structured? Can we actually make democracy in our laws in our institutions? And it set me off on this path of writing a book about democracy, making a film about democracy, and also my organizing, which is really what matters. Demand is basically, you know, how do you actually do it? It's a verb. You know, a lot of people have opinions these days. How do we do it?

Baratunde Thurston  10:39  

That's the greatest t shirt I've yet to see. A lot of people have opinions these days. So what was your definition of democracy before? occupied? How would you describe your understanding of it before that?

Astra Taylor  10:54  

I think I would have said, Oh, democracy is government. Democracy is bureaucracy. It really doesn't have much to do with me. Right. And also, I wasn't technically a citizen. I was born in Canada, I've spent my whole life in the US. I grew up in Georgia. But I knew I wasn't enfranchised I wasn't even allowed to do this thing that people associate with democracy, which is voting. And so it felt like something that wasn't really part of my life. It wasn't part of the my daily experience or my daily practice. And I think that's actually true for a lot of people today, right? I mean, what I discovered as I started interviewing people, many years later, and making this film is when I asked Americans on the street, you know, what is democracy? They actually couldn't answer the question that deeply or authentically, because, in the end, how do you describe something that you truly don't know?

Baratunde Thurston  11:46  

Can you take me into that journey? These questions you were asking, what are some of the stories you heard?

Astra Taylor  11:54  

One thing I tried to do in the film was question who's an expert in democracy. So typically, when you go to talk to someone about democracy, if you're a journalist or a podcast or filmmaker, you'll go to a professor of political science right? Or maybe a professional politician. But democracy involves us all in theory, right? It means the most the people Kratos have power or rule. And so there's no credential you have to have to get into the demos, you don't need a PhD to be part of the demos. So what I wanted to do and the way I structure this film was to position his kids from the middle school next to great thinkers, right, to have their voices ring out, right next to someone crediting Rousseau or Plato or some great philosopher. So I talked to all sorts of people. I talked to schoolchildren, I talked to some some fantastic middle schoolers in Overton Miami,

Baratunde Thurston  12:47  

what's what was the in depth analysis of school child in Miami?

Astra Taylor  12:52  

Well, it began where one would imagine about the lunch, the lunch doesn't taste good. But it's not just that it doesn't taste good. It's cold, which is an insult. And these kids said to me, it could at least be warm, you know, if even if it's not delicious. And that became a whole thing about how when they raise their voice, to say we want warm lunch, they're punished by the administrators who do things like take the vending machines away. And then they said, but we know it's not about our teachers. There are the administrators, the principal, and then there's the county, the kids said, and then there's the state, and then there's Washington. I mean, these kids were 12, or 13. And they they weren't just saying, Oh, these mean grownups won't let me eat. You know, doughnuts all day long. They're saying this has implications. And then they also said, Why do you want to make us feel powerless? Shouldn't you want us to be democratic citizens of our school? I interviewed trauma surgeons, I interviewed immigrant factory workers from Guatemala who live in North Carolina, I interviewed people on the street, I interviewed philosophers like Wendy brown and Cornel West, I spoke to quite a few people who are, you know, politically, the polar opposite of me. And then I went to Greece, the supposedly mythic birthplace of democracy.

Baratunde Thurston  14:07  

So I'm getting this picture. you're traveling around the United States of America, you're tapping into the D most to the people. And then you do this super hyperlink to Ancient Greece, and ask some of where these ideas started. Why did you ask the question of the ancient Greeks and their attitudes toward democracy?

Astra Taylor  14:28  

You know, it's very important to say that democracy is a practice didn't begin in ancient Greece. I mean, this is something in the historical record shows, there are democratic societies all over in what we now call Mexico and what we now call the African continent in the Middle East. why it's important to go back to Greece in my mind is because it's this mythic birthplace, they didn't give us the word that we use. The word that we use is from the Greek Deimos, Kratos. And also the founding text of the Western political and philosophical tradition is Plato's Republic. I think this is really interesting. So Plato was anti democracy. He was famously skeptical of democracy, really. So he proposed an undemocratic society as a alternative, but it was a society that would have been very egalitarian in terms of class. And that limited the sort of perverse incentives that can twist the political leaders. So what Plato's says he says, you know, problem with democracy, is that it devolves into tyranny. It just isn't stable. It's an unstable system. And why is it unstable? Because the rich, abused the poor, and they bury them in debt. And they, you know, basically exploit them, they extract all of this wealth. So there's incredible income polarization inequality is destabilizing. And so then the people vote for a demagogue. Plato call it all this. Right? And so Plato says, you know, what I think we should do to fix this is create a class of rulers who love wisdom, and they were men and women's philosopher kings and queens, he called them and they would have to be indigent, they can't have any property, no kickbacks, right? So impoverished property lists, lovers of wisdom, and they'll make things better. So we can say,

Baratunde Thurston  16:13  

many professors,

Astra Taylor  16:15  

many professors with no no incentives, you know, no political donations. So I think it's all about letting ourselves be provoked letting ourselves be engaged in thought experiments. Of course, this doesn't answer our problems, but let it provoke us to think for our own time. We don't need a class of philosopher kings and queens, we need to all be philosophers, though, because democracy demands we all engage philosophically, and it will only work if we all have the space to reflect on that level, which means we all have to have the time, which means we all have to be fed, which means we all have to be sheltered, which means we all have to be okay. So then we can do this work of democracy,

Baratunde Thurston  16:51  

O of z, and I head to something here. But before we get there, I just need to understand what did ancient Greek society look like in real life? Was it anything like what we have now?

Astra Taylor  17:07  

Greeks did have a very unique society, but the Greeks were slave owning society. So a lot like the United States. It was a democracy that was built on these incredible exclusions and exploitation and dehumanization. So it was built on idea of freedom based on other people's unfreedom, right. So that's a problem at the heart of democracy, we have to acknowledge, but they had these amazing systems of participation for people who counted as citizens. And so for example, they compensated poor farmers and artisans. So they could skip work. So they could be in the assembly. It was like everybody who counted as citizen could plan on being called up to the equivalent of Congress in their life. Can you imagine if we all had if we were all selected by lottery, which is how they did it to serve in Congress,

Baratunde Thurston  17:51  

like jury duty, but Congress duty?

Astra Taylor  17:54  

Yeah, and I think that's really important. They thought elections were undemocratic. Because rich people, charismatic people, well connected people tend to win them. So they thought you should do it like jury duty random selection. I think that's a very provocative concrete

Baratunde Thurston  18:08  

sound very radical, they sound so committed, okay, more about what this practice looked like, no elections, conscript people into legislative service.

Astra Taylor  18:20  

So yeah, they randomly selected people to serve in the council. And then they suggested some laws, but they also just ran the city, they provided the social insurance programs, they handled the water and the irrigation was based on this idea that democracy is something you learn by doing. It's not that just a special group of people are born with the ability to run the city, we can all run the city together. But we have to be called to do it. We have to learn to do it. It's something that is a priority for us if we're going to live together as equals.

Baratunde Thurston  18:53  

Everyone I have you ever known I got a jury duty summons? Like how do I get out of this? I can't imagine getting summoned to run the water department. What did the people actually serve in these positions where people not trying to lose a lot of their civic responsibilities?

Astra Taylor  19:07  

Oh, it was the highest honor and I get frustrated with people when they're they want to get out there jury duty cuz I'm like, this is our duty, we should be called to serve and all of these other ways. They were compensated again. So that way poor people could legislate could govern next to more affluent people. They recognize you have to compensate folks to be able to do this. And it wasn't perfect scholars of the period will say there were aristocrats, right, people had more influence than others. But the point is they were thinking about these problems we're not thinking about which is how do you create systems of equality? How do you compensate people so they can truly participate? This is why I'm saying that we are stuck. We just aren't being very creative when you think about all the tools at our disposal. And when we think democracy equals elections, I think we have to be honest, that that's actually that might be a con prediction in terms.

Baratunde Thurston  20:10  

We'll be right back.

We've been talking about ancient Greek democracy, not a perfect democracy, probably not even the first one. But it does seem like they were really onto something in terms of money and true representation. So how does money affect our ability to participate in a democracy?

Astra Taylor  20:40  

So I think, you know, we can name different kinds of freedoms. So one is political freedom. So this is do you have formal rights, the formal rights that we associate with citizenship? Can you vote? Right? Do you get social benefits? But there's also economic freedom, right? It's like, Well, can you afford to live. And these things really need each other, you need to have that economic freedom, you need to have that baseline of economic egalitarianism in order to have the political equality and the political freedom. To go back to the Greeks. I think what's interesting is that they recognize that for this class of elites called citizens that they needed to have economic resources. So that's why they paid the farmers. That's why they paid the artisans to participate. So I mean, today, I think, you know, how I would describe our moment that we're in now is that our political democracy in the United States, you know, doesn't live up to its name because of the intense economic inequality that we have. Right? So it's like, most sure we all have one person, one vote. But when there's a billionaire who can make endless donations through a million dark money channels, like that's not politically colony, right? It just makes a mockery of the idea that we're actually equals in this society. I have

Baratunde Thurston  21:58  

observed through my life, I was born in 1977, largely a child of the 80s. When I think of when my childhood was and who was president and what I heard on the news, capitalism and democracy have been interpreted broadly and publicly as synonymous in the United States. I'm pretty sure they're not. What do you think this question is made for me?

Astra Taylor  22:23  

Now? I mean, they're not. Capitalism is a system that's based on inequality. Right? capitalism is a system of competition, not cooperation. It's about markets. It is about channeling greed, right? So can I give another ancient Greek thing really quick,

Baratunde Thurston  22:43  

I love it. Okay,

Astra Taylor  22:44  

the word idiot, actually comes from the ancient Greek as well it notice. So in ancient Athens, the worst thing you could be was an idiot. And it didn't mean that you were dumb, or an educated. What it actually meant was that you were a private person, you're only concerned with yourself. And the worst thing you can be in Athens, when somebody's only concerned with your private being. You're supposed to care about the community, you're supposed to be a citizen. And that's why I think capitalism and democracy are at odds, because capitalism, you know, encourages us to think in this atomized way and to think about our personal gain, to see ourselves as in competition with other people, as opposed to seeing ourselves in a kind of cooperative relationship of mutual prosperity and betterment.

Baratunde Thurston  23:33  

How do we take this ancient Athenian vision, a step further, evolve it, and build or rebuild an economy that actually supports the demos and the power of those people? For the many, not just the few? I

Astra Taylor  23:50  

mean, for me, it all comes down to organizing, right? And it's really, actually it's really tough work. Thinking about the economy point, right? In this idea of leaving the economy as experts, it's this idea that, you know, let the politicians make the decisions for us. And we need to challenge that by building power from the bottom up.

Baratunde Thurston  24:09  

Tell me a little bit about the Biden Jubilee, which I might add, is a great name for something I'm like, Is there a party I didn't get invited to like, who doesn't have tickets to the Biden Jubilee? Tell me about that.

Astra Taylor  24:22  

So I co founded a union for debtors called the debt collective. And so we're fighting to cancel all student debt right now. So it's 100 people saying they're not going to pay their student loans. They're not asking for debt forgiveness. They're asking for justice, for the abolition of these loans, on the grounds that nobody should have to mortgage their future for the chance to get an education. And so, Jubilee is, you know, a biblical term right. It's an ancient term for the moment the debts are canceled and the land is given back to people. Jubilee was a word that was invoked by enslaved people was the name for emancipation, right? It was going to be Jubilee. And Jubilee was something that happened periodically in the ancient world, the economy would get so out of whack people would be selling themselves into debt servitude, and you know, ancient Babylonia. And so periodically, the king would say, Jubilee, wiping up the slides that's been canceled, and now you're free, you can go back home. So there's a long tradition of jubilees. And so what we're doing is echoing that call and saying this $1.7 trillion of student debt. That is it didn't exist a few decades ago, right? I mean, college was free. I just did the math actually, yesterday, found out that a kid going to the same school, as Joe Biden did today, the math adjusted for inflation, pays $90,000 more than Joe Biden did,

Baratunde Thurston  25:49  

how much did he pay?

Astra Taylor  25:51  

If he paid for all room and board and tuition, he would have paid 30,000 for four years, he also paid $0 to go to law school. So we're just saying, We need a Jubilee to get us back on parity with what you experienced, Joe Biden, that's the Biden Jubilee 100. I personally would argue that education is a democratic, good. And also because he has the power to do it turns out that he actually has the authority he doesn't have to go through Congress, Congress gave the President the authority to cancel all student debt in the 60s. So with the stroke of a pen, Joe Biden can cancel all student debt provide an economic boost for all of the country helped close the racial wealth gap, because we know that actually black women are the most burdened by student debt. And so we're telling him, it's the right thing to do. And so this is one of these little examples of where I take hope. Because when we first raised this issue, 10 years ago, the mainstream media just like, knocked us, like they were like, these idiots think that the government's going to cancel that never gonna happen. And now we have a president who literally campaigned on it. So I'm just like, let's ask for things that seem crazy.

Baratunde Thurston  26:57  

My mouth is hanging open, my eyes are wide, this Biden Jubilee. I'm thinking about the counter argument. I'm thinking about what incentives are you creating these people made decisions on their own, and now you're perverting the marketplace to let people off the hook for something they signed up for? That's not responsible citizenship. That's not sound economic policy. And then I remembered, I'm pretty sure this is true, but I'm willing to be wrong. The Fed just like bought up a whole bunch of corporate debt. Just like we'll take that. I think we've been doing debt forgiveness for certain parts of our society in certain sectors of the economy for some time, so please address this idea. That wiping away $1.7 trillion of student debt is actually sound.

Astra Taylor  27:51  

First off, he made me think of this meme that was going around recently, where it said things that are classy, if you're rich and trashy if you're poor, you know, is like speaking two languages. And one of them was bankruptcy. Right? If you're rich, and you declare bankruptcy, it's strategic. It's a strategic default, you know, so you're exactly right. May of 2020 when the Coronavirus hit, the Fed took an unprecedented step of stepping in and stabilizing the corporate debt market, which is a way of saying providing debt relief to corporations. I remember when my mother declared bankruptcy, it was not celebrated. She could never run for president based on that decision. But it wasn't a savvy business move. It was a move of desperation. And it shifted our family's finances for quite some time,

Baratunde Thurston  28:34  

and burned some ideas into my head to checkbook by hand every day balancing every dollar.

Astra Taylor  28:39  

Absolutely. And if we go back to the 60s, and look at the University of California College was free for everyone, community colleges, state colleges and the flagship universities. Why did that get rolled back? Ronald Reagan was governor. He didn't like that there are all these protesters at Berkeley, he didn't like the beginning of the Black Power movement at Merritt college campus. And he said the state shouldn't be subsidizing curiosity. If we charge these kids, they're going to think twice before going around with a picket sign. I'm not making these up. These are basically quotes. Right? So I think for me as a, from a democratic perspective, from a citizen perspective, you know, there's a baseline of like, education is a public good, and we should invest in it. So much research shows that all of that money currently being spent to service loans that go to the government, the government doesn't need this money would then be spent in the community. So it would be spent buying things people would start businesses, it would create research shows over a million and a half jobs a year.

Baratunde Thurston  29:41  

What's it felt like to see people try to reclaim some lost economic power in our system?

Astra Taylor  29:49  

Even if we don't cancel people's debts, just the psychological shift, like the fact that suddenly we're basically saying like, you don't have to be ashamed. You don't have to feel like you made a mistake. Like that's such a burden off of People, I see that transformation like all the time of like, wow, I'm in this boat. And you all are too. So that that is this a measurable value we have when debt relief for 10s of 1000s of people at this point, mostly for people who went to predatory for profit colleges. And what they've said to us is, you know, I got my future back, maybe I can save for retirement, maybe I'll be able to help my kids, you know, as they start on their path. I mean, it's life changing, you know, people are so underpaid in this frickin country. And it's like you're talking about getting $50,000 of debt canceled? I mean, like, might as well be 50 million. I mean, so it's amazing. And I wish it for every student debtor. I wish it for every medical debtor, you know, I mean, I think it's like, cancel the debt, man, let people be free.

Baratunde Thurston  30:48  

Wow, do you think we've had a real democracy in the United States,

Astra Taylor  30:52  

we've never had a true democracy. We've never had a real democracy. And in fact, you know, if you look at the track record, I mean, when we say things like exclusions, but I mean, the level of violence and dispossession, that has happened in the name of democracy is really profound. And yet, nevertheless, people have made tremendous progress. I mean, you and I are citizens. And it's like, Who am I to like, not honor all of the work all of the energy and hope and like the lives lost to get to this point where we hopefully get to carry the ball even further. So I'm trying to get to that duality of No, we haven't had a perfect democracy. But I think what's cool about the word democracy, is that even the horizon I'm aiming at, like compulsory voting and student debt abolition, like that, to me that that would just be like a new beginning. Right? So then the question is, like, where would you go after that? There's a lot of really tough stuff we need to figure out together. And so I very much see democracy as a horizon point. Let's not aspire to be founding fathers who like put it all on paper, like write a constitution, or like we did it. And now you will live with this for eternity.

But let's see ourselves instead is perennial midwives like trying to birth democracy and new and passing that on to future generations willing them take up the challenge and probably make us feel a bit curmudgeonly.

Baratunde Thurston  32:23  

I knew why we invited you. But now I feel it. Thank you for that. It's, it reminds me of something our first guest in season one Valerie core talks about, she said, whether this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb, our nation isn't dying. But we're, it's being born, and maybe being born again. And that can be a dark and painful and even bloody process. But there's life on the other end of it. I like the journey metaphor, rather than the mission accomplished. stamp of approval. Astra, thank you so much for spending this time with us.

Astra Taylor  32:56  

Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed it.

Baratunde Thurston  33:16  

Astro reminded me that we can't talk about democracy without talking about the money about the system of money and finance, which is intertwined with our definition of democracy. And which divides us. I think there's a way for us to talk about division. That is a little hokey. Oh, this Republican and Democrat don't get along, they should have a beer together and talk about what they have in common. There's a deeper way to access what divides us. And I think when we start talking about the wealth inequality in this country, how, during a pandemic, the very rich got very much richer, and the very poor, got very much poor. That's getting at the heart of the division to win this season of how to citizen. We're going to talk about the money. we're digging into the problems, an economy based on exclusion run by big corporations built on the backs of the working poor. And like we always do, we're looking at the solution. I'm not an economist. I don't write economic papers. The point of this is not to investigate economic theories. The point of this is for us to be able to claim and use our power for our collective benefit. And I am convinced that we can do so much better. I've been reading about wealth inequality forever. It's a big problem. We're the solution. Who's making it easy for me not to give all my money to Jeff Bezos and Amazon. That's who I want. To talk to, I am sure that there are people who recognize that we would all do better if we included more people in economic opportunity, not as charity, but as gaining from their contribution. Where are they? And I am sure that there is a way for people who work full time, sometimes in three jobs, to make enough to show up for their families, in their communities and for all of us, and not be categorized as the working poor. I know it because it happens in other nations. So what's happening in the United States that we can celebrate and do more? That's what I want. And that's what I want you to help me find out. Join me be a part of the demos. Let's do this together. This is How to Citizen with Baratunde.

Because we see the word citizen as a verb, that involves doing things. So here's our producer, Stephanie, with some things you can do to citizen in your life.

Stephanie Cohn  36:14  

Are you in debt? Check out Astra's Union for debtors, the debt collective at Learn more about how you can wield your collective power. That's right. Being in debt does not make you powerless. You can still citizen with loans. But if you're not in debt, well, Lucky you. Seriously though, you can still find strength in numbers. Find a week. Take some time this week to reflect on communities that you are a part of, and research organizations you can join that are advocating for causes you care about. And lastly, you can citizen better by pressing a button. Yeah, the one that says subscribe, or follow. We're not being vain. Keeping up with the podcast is the best way for you to keep up with our incredible guests. And all the ways you can set us and better. So buckle up. It's going to be a great season, and there's going to be a lot more ways that you can get involved.

Baratunde Thurston  37:24  

If you take any of these actions, first of all, thank you. Thank you so very much. Now make sure to brag about yourself on line, use the hashtag #howtocitizen to encourage others to do the same. You can send us general or very specific feedback directly to comments at and just remember the website check it out. You can sign up for newsletter updates, text updates, find out about upcoming guests and upcoming ways to citizen more. If you like the show, please help us spread the word share on social media share it at dinner party if you all been vaccinated. Put it in your weekly newsletter because everybody seems to have one of those. Thank you. How to Citizen with Baratunde is a production of IHeartRadio, podcast and dust light productions. Our executive producers are me. Baratunde Thurston, Elizabeth Stewart and Misha Yousef. Our producers are Stephanie Cohn and Allie Kilts. Kelly Prime is our editor. Valentino Rivera is our engineer and Sam Paulson is our apprentice. Original Music by Andrew Eapen. This episode was produced and sound designed by Stephanie Cohn. Special thanks to Joelle Smith. 


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