Universal Basic Income: considering the economics of healing justice

More and more, we are coming to understand that it is nervous system dysregulation that leads to violence to ourselves and others, and that individual and collective healing are inseparably connected. We are realizing that the urgency and vigilance that fills our lives, which fuels us through cycles of hyper-productivity and burn out, tears our relationships apart and is responsible for reifying larger systemic issues such as racial inequity and climate change.

For there to be meaningful and sustainable social change, it must be facilitated through a trauma-based understanding of justice.

This brings us to a big question: how do we actually find the time AND money that will allow us enough space to heal when we are collectively up against a constant tide of urgency and vigilance?

As a politicized healing practitioner, for me to safely work with someone, they usually need to be able to maneuver through a delicate balance of, finding the financial resources to pay for work with me, and the time needed to integrate the healing into their bodies. These people generally have:

  1. A practice or job that is autonomous enough and financially buoyant enough to afford time and space to work with me
  2. The courage AND fortune to be able to creatively manage their life by dipping into savings or rely on the support of family or partners

I am lucky to work with these folks. I know there are many others that would be able to safely work with me if they felt less pressure in terms of time and money.

My practice is in direct conflict with the capitalist equation that work (‘productive’ time) equals money (value). This equation propagates the fundamental assumption that if we are ‘able’, we must ‘work’ to manifest our ‘value’, and not being able to do so means that we are ‘disabled’, which is our cultural code for not having value.

As a somatic therapist, I know that there is immense individual and collective value to not being productive. The kind of cultural regeneration we need to address pressing issues such as racial inequity, gender oppression, climate change, disability justice, and more, absolutely requires time to process and integrate emotional material.

This is why I believe the most relevant conversation to the healing justice movement happening in the lead up to the 2020 US presidential elections is the issue of Universal Basic Income, a concept I became more familiar with through the campaign of Andrew Yang who is proposing a minimum $1000/month economic floor for every US citizen, 18 and over.

A basic breakdown of Yang’s UBI platform along with a short history lesson about it

What I find fascinating about UBI is that it fundamentally disrupts the false pretense that work equals value. When answering questions about how UBI may affect work and how people might become ‘lazy’ receiving it, Yang often makes a pregnant point that there are many forms of work, such as the labor of his wife who stays home and raises their two sons, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, that are not recognized as having value in our culture.

Yang speaks on the fact that the value of his wife’s work not being accounted for in our economic system

Now imagine what happens if we take the example of Yang’s wife and expand value to the work of taking time to reflect, care for self, and extending that sense of care to others as we gain that capacity. What I just described is the continuous cycle that anyone who is providing AND receiving support for healing must go through.

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The reality is that our current economic framework, that equates work with value, poses a nearly insurmountable resistance to bringing healing justice to a mass scale. So if you are a friend of justice and have been feeling exhausted and sad at the challenges that we face in these times, you are right to be.

The deeper I sink into my thoughts about the relationship between time, money, and healing, the more I feel that, for healing justice to become a wider social movement, we need paradigmatic shifts in our economic system at the level of state governance.

The challenge to do this is that many of the politicians that we feel reflect our social justice values are still caught under the spell of work equals value.

When you look across the 2020 Democratic primary platforms, you see that the rhetoric of securing jobs and wages is at the heart of almost every candidate’s campaign. Take for example Elizabeth Warren, who claims in her presidential candidacy ad: “In our country, if you work hard and play by the rules, you ought to be able to take care of yourself and the people you love”.

But what about NOT working hard and NOT playing by the rules?

For us to actually break out of predatory capitalism and heal as a culture, we need to look towards economic frames that don’t exclusively attach our human value to productivity within capitalism i.e. labor that feeds GDP. And we cannot win this battle without shifting towards economics of justice that allows our bodies time and space to heal and regulate.

We need time alone
And time together

I believe that, even if UBI may not be THE solution, it is an absolutely crucial starting point to deeper conversations about time and money we need to have in order to bring cultural somatic healing to a mass scale.

And yes, if you need to know, this means I am #yanggang for the moment 🙂

Ok, this is gratuitous but 36 Chambers changed my life so I had to slip this in