When Reality Is a Lie — with Lea Ypi

When Reality Is a Lie — with Lea Ypi
Pigeons stand on a statue of the onetime Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the storage area of a foundry in Tirana, Albania. The bronze from the communist era statues is used to cast new artworks / Gent Shkullaku / AFP via Getty Images

What if you woke up one morning to discover everything you knew about the world was wrong? That all the truths you’d been taught to take for granted were actually lies? For author and political philosopher Lea Ypi, that’s not a hypothetical question. In her recent memoir “Free: Coming of Age at the End of History,” she tells the story of growing up in communist Albania only for the regime to collapse during her teenage years. 

“It really was like being taught a new language,” she tells New Lines’ Faisal Al Yafai on The Lede. “Almost overnight, you’re told that all of these names that you had for things are now different—you have different names, and different categories and different ways of making sense of the world.”

“You get told you live in a society that  prizes freedom—but then you see the way that society treats people at the border.”

The experience has given her an abiding skepticism of ideological thinking, she says. Now living in London, she sees many of the same ideological dynamics there too: “What you see is really the gap between ideology and reality, where you get told you live in a society that prizes freedom—but then you see the way that society treats people at the border or what it decides to do with illegal immigrants, for example.”

Likewise, she recognizes the ideological uncertainty of the post-financial crash world. In such times, people try to find certainty wherever they can. In many places, including much of the Middle East, they often turn to religion. But in the West, she believes, they turn to nostalgia. “That is why there is a rise of authoritarianism and conservative discourses that try to offer the comfort of the past and shelter people from the insecurities of the globalized world.”

“My book is resonating now in a way that it wouldn’t have resonated 30 years ago,” she adds. 

Produced by Joshua Martin & Christin El Kholy

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