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  • You

  • One today I have the good fortune to be speaking with Jamil. Jivani

  • Jamil is a Torontonian. He's an author lawyer

  • Activist and host of the road home podcast, which was launched just recently

  • December 2018

  • He recently completed the seven province book tour visiting thousands of young men across Canada in partnership with the Michael pinball

  • Clemens foundation

  • He's 31 years old grew up in the Toronto area raised by a single mother

  • Considered illiterate in high school at age 16 had the highest grades at Humber College by the age of 18

  • Scholarship to Yale Law School by 22 was a lawyer by the age of 25

  • He's taught at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto worked with JD Vance author of hillbilly elegy

  • To start a non-profit in Ohio corporate lawyer at Tory's LLP leader of police reform and voter education

  • Initiatives. He had a book published by HarperCollins last spring in Canada

  • The book was why young men raged race and the crisis of identity

  • U.s. International

  • Publication by st. Martin's Press in may 2000 nineteen

  • He's also

  • And unfortunately being diagnosed with cancer

  • Battling stage four non-hodgkins lymphoma cancer being on chemotherapy drugs and undergoing radiation

  • therapy since February

  • So we have a lot of things to talk about Jamil and I so we're going to start

  • We're going to start conversing as a consequence. So thanks a lot for making the time to talk with me

  • Thank you for the invitation

  • So, why don't we start with with your book and your tour

  • Yeah, well, it's the book came out

  • Actually just a month after I was diagnosed with cancer. So

  • The it's it's it's Bennett last year a lot of highs and lows like that

  • The highs have been incredible because I've had the privilege of you know

  • Like you being able to go around and speak to people about my book and my ideas

  • Certainly, not as large audiences as you have but you know been able to go to places in the country that I think young men

  • need to hear stories of self empowerment and what individual agency can accomplish and

  • shared though that that experience with in in areas where I think

  • You know books are often not seen as relevant to the lives of

  • everyday people I think I've been able to learn a lot about the disconnect between the literary industry and

  • Everyday Canadians and I think that's true in other countries as well

  • where

  • books

  • sometimes aren't written for an audience of people who might most benefit from those ideas and

  • I feel very privileged today and we'll go around and talk to people about

  • the struggles young men face the tools that

  • are often given to them in terms of how to overcome those struggles and

  • Also the tools they find in the absence of better options. Do you have a copy of your book just behind you?

  • You should maybe hold it up so that we could all see it. Yeah. Yeah, let's take a look

  • Yeah, so here's the book. The the US Edition will have a similar cover and

  • Yeah, it's been it's been it's been a heck of an experience

  • you know, I think there's something very humbling about people caring what you think about anything quite honestly, so it's a

  • And there's a there's a responsibility that comes with to take

  • the opportunity of an audience and do something meaningful with it, and I've tried my best to do that with the book and I'm

  • Excited to do that in other countries next year as well. So

  • You said something interesting about books and it's something worth delving into a bit, you know

  • the number of people the proportion of people who buy books is relatively small and

  • It's not like books are everybody's friend

  • so that

  • The act of literate audience is actually a rather small minority of people and one of the things that's quite cool about YouTube

  • Let's say and also about podcasts is that it enables people who might be intimidated by books

  • But who are perfectly capable of understanding relatively complex ideas to?

  • Access them another way and it is really too bad. That reading is a minority taste because

  • Well, it's such an effective means of communication. But at least these other channels have been opening up. I

  • Agree and I think perhaps most effectively books are a

  • conversation starter

  • You know the idea of putting ideas out there and then being able to go to a city you've never been before and people

  • have a

  • Starting point in which they can engage you and talk about their lives and your life and what's similar and what's different? That's a

  • Maybe the most powerful part of a book to me

  • I actually think a lot about it in the sense of you know, the most read book for example

  • like the Bible and texts like that, which I think their greatest power is in trying to offer some sort of

  • shared kind of moral universe for people of different backgrounds and

  • Ancestors and in different parts of the world to kind of come under write and I feel like with a book you have that

  • Ability, I hope which is to tell a story where you have no real say or power and who picks it up

  • but you hope that it's

  • Powerful enough and truthful enough that whoever picks it up is going to feel like they're part of that that conversation

  • so

  • Maybe you could outline for us the main points of your book and also talk about how it grew out of your experience being part

  • Of what's really quite remarkable about your biography is the apparent

  • disjuncture between your status

  • Hypothetically as illiterate at age 16 and then no a very high academic achiever by the age of 18

  • It's like so I'm curious about the interplay

  • I'm curious about that period about how that happened and and and and what it Manton but then also about

  • The journey that you took so to speak on the road to writing this book

  • yeah when I was

  • 16 I I would maybe describe myself as someone who was the the depths of despair, right?

  • I was a really angry person. My father had left my family

  • My mom was raising me and two younger sisters by herself

  • I was in a neighborhood where I saw what I regarded as a lot of unfairness

  • You know things like racial profiling by police officers

  • Disproportionate poverty a lack of job opportunities. This is in the suburbs of Brampton where most of the people in my neighborhood were

  • newcomers to the country or children of newcomers and

  • I was kind of I think being weighed down by a perspective that encouraged

  • Hopelessness and victimization in my life. So I was a cognitively capable young man

  • that's how you go from, you know illiterate to a Yale Law student in less than six years, but

  • What was was missing was the desire to show that that those good parts of me to anyone?

  • So what do you taking was? What do you think? It was exactly that?

  • produced that

  • sense of

  • Despair despair that possessed you when you were 16

  • I mean you you outlined some of it, you know

  • You lived in a neighborhood that was well an immigrant neighborhood and and and you saw

  • What you regarded as Manifest social unfairness?

  • but then it's obviously the case too that for some reason when you decided to I don't know if you dropped that idea or

  • Transcended it

  • You did something different and all of a sudden your life took off in in a variety of extremely positive directions

  • Like, how do you how do you account for that initial possession by that set of ideas and then more importantly?

  • How do you account for the fact that you somehow managed to let's say

  • Escape it

  • Hmm. So for my situation

  • I think this describes out of my peer group as well not having a father around

  • And and the kind of dysfunction that that often comes with

  • put us in a position where we were looking at a lot of the wrong places for cultural leadership and

  • Pop culture right hip hop gangster movies things like that filled the void in our case

  • So the tools I was given to understand my life, too

  • Explain my frustrations were tools that encouraged me to I think live in us with a certain kind of

  • Victim identity as my default right that I could for example lit

  • Believe that being a gangster and a criminal was acceptable

  • for me and my peers because we

  • Experienced unfairness, right the way the world treated us determine the kind of morals that we picked up, right?

  • so it's justifiable revenge in some sense against an entire system, right or at minimum it winds up becoming

  • Just you lower the expectations of yourself, right you walk around thinking that

  • What you know to be good is something that you don't have to achieve you don't have to strive for goodness

  • Because the world has put you in this unfair position and therefore anything is possible. So we think so. Ok

  • So how much of that I'm curious about that?

  • I mean that it's a common it's a common human attitude to adopt that sort of perspective and you know

  • plenty of people have reason to be

  • doubtful about the

  • Appropriateness or fairness of their life in their situation but that you know, there's two things there that get tangled together

  • I think and one is a sense of thwarted justice

  • Right and that might be the optimistic viewpoint that people look out in the world and they see that it's unfair and that bothers them

  • Morally, and and there's nothing wrong with being bothered that way but the problem too is is that adopting that?

  • Victimization stance and worse maybe adopting a stance that justifies a certain amount of antisocial or criminal

  • Attitude towards society given its unfairness also provides young people

  • That's a young man in this case with an excuse

  • not to do their best and not to put effort into anything and I think that that that

  • excuse is often masked by a

  • self justification that's associated with

  • That hypothetical stressed striving for justice

  • You know because it's it's one thing to be

  • upset about social injustice

  • but it's another thing to use that as an excuse not to strive forward and

  • Right because there's a psychological element and a sociological element there that are at play. So so

  • Tell me what you think about that then tell me how you progress despite

  • Having that attitude accepting that attitude or having it inculcated

  • yeah, I think you're exactly spot-on, you know like later on in my life when I was a

  • University student, for example, I would hear all of the same arguments over again

  • but they but you hear them differently when you have the privilege and opportunity of being at a university right when you hear about how

  • rigged the world is and that history is burdened you and and an

  • Opportunity is fleeting because of what you look like or what your parents come from

  • in a university environment people take those as

  • you know, they pat themselves on the back for making those assertions because they think they're

  • Virtuously looking at the the problems of the world that we often overlook or take for granted

  • But when you're in the thick of it when those problems are your life?

  • When you have a choice to make every day

  • Do I tell myself it's worth doing my home working going to school or do I just stay home? And

  • Smoke weed in the basement do I?

  • Make the effort to see how the little bit of

  • Agency, I might have in a difficult circumstance could make the difference of where my life turns out. That's a

  • Yes, you know that's when those talking points

  • Become a potential

  • You know kind of poisonous moral environment for you to live in because

  • maasai collage achill concept that my friend JD writes about hillbilly elegy in the context of

  • poverty in Appalachia called learned helplessness

  • right, and I think that's a lot of it which is you disassociate your actions and behaviors with the outcome of what you

  • experience in life and when you get to that point

  • It's really hard to find the motivation to work hard or believe that there's a meritocracy