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A Point of View - Raaga.com - A World of Music
A Point of View

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A weekly reflection on a topical issue
264 Episodes Play All Episodes
access_time6 days ago
Will Self on how wearing glasses has become something that is entirely unremarkable.

"Nowadays the acquisition of glasses", he writes, "is simply another opportunity for the conspicuous consumption we've all become so very expert at".

But he says there are drawbacks to seeing too clearly. He suggests that a National No Glasses Day might be an idea "so we can all wander about the place in blurry bliss".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time13 days ago
As the years have passed", writes Will Self, "so gnawing on a bloody piece of cow rump has come to seem, to me, more and more well, vulgar".

Via Leviticus and Arcimboldo, he charts his conversion to vegetarianism.

And he explains why it's not just personal morals that are "propelling me headlong towards the horror of Quorn"!

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time20 days ago
Will Self says we need creative solutions to end institutional misogyny and abuse.

"Rather than addressing - as parliamentarians currently are - the business of shutting the stable door after the stallions have run amok", he writes, "we should be thinking about how to keep it closed in the first place".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time27 days ago
Will Self on why he loves space .

From childhood dreams of being "strapped into the command module of a Saturn 5 rocket about to blast off from Cape Kennedy" to contemplating 1000-million-star mega-clusters in the sky today, Will describes why space is - for him - "both sublime and restful".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time1 month ago
Mary Beard ponders why email is governed by so few rules and conventions.

"Fifty years ago, when I was at high school", Mary writes, "we spent many hours learning how to write a letter".

She wonders why no one today seems to be teaching the art of writing a persuasive email.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time1 month ago
Andrew Sullivan says a type of "cultural Marxism" is sweeping through American universities.

Conservative ideas, he says, are increasingly being banished from campuses and free speech is seen as a delusion.

"It's an ideology that is fast resembling a new religion".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time2 months ago
Andrew Sullivan says Donald Trump is teaching a generation that the key to advancement in society is to bully, lie, slander and cheat.

He examines the long-term effects of the Trump Presidency.

"It may be that in the future", Andrew writes, "his appalling conduct will mark a cautionary tale - and future candidates and presidents will learn not to follow in his
steps".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time2 months ago
Andrew Sullivan on how America has become "a truly tribal society".

"I've lived here since the Reagan era", he writes, "and there have been plenty of divides. But none quite as tribal or as rooted in non-negotiable identity as this one".

He warns of what the outcome might be and reminds the listener that a liberal democracy is always a precarious enterprise.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time2 months ago
Monica Ali with a personal take on why she believes the history of the British Empire must be taught in our schools.

She recalls a conversation with her father where he told her that at primary school he'd been taught about the Black Hole of Calcutta and how the British gave India railways. At secondary school - post Independence and Partition, her Dad's history curriculum changed dramatically it ceased to cast a rosy glow over British rule.

When she was at school, Monica was taught nothing about Empire.

And with her children, the subject barely got a look-in.

"Post Brexit, when the fantasy of a small nation decoupled from the world has never been greater", she writes, "it is time to put the British Empire firmly into the school curriculum".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time2 months ago
Authenticity, writes Monica Ali, has become the yardstick by which we measure the value of much of our day-to-day lives.

"In this hyper-mobile, hyper-connected world" she says, "the cult of authenticity is flourishing".

But what does it mean to be "authentic"?

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time3 months ago
Monica Ali describes her desire for vengeance after her son was robbed by two boys on mopeds.

She reflects on the recent surge in moped crime and what can be done to stop it.

She says the criminals involved in this new brand of crime are nearly all children and, whatever our desire for justice, "crackdowns on children can never provide the entire - the right - solution to the problem".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time3 months ago
European society", says Sir Roger Scruton, "is rapidly jettisoning its Christian heritage and has found nothing to put in its place save the religion of human rights".

But, he argues, this new "religion" delivers one-sided solutions since rights favour the person who can claim them - whatever the moral reasons for opposing them.

He says Europe needs to rediscover its Christian roots.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time3 months ago
Roger Scruton asks: "What does the Tory Party really stand for?"

He says the Conservative party at present is muddling along without a philosophy.

But he argues that, far from being the 'nasty party', the most fundamental belief underpinning Conservative policies historically is the idea of responsibility towards others.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time3 months ago
Roger Scruton looks at the impact of Harry Potter on our world view.

"People are starting to live in a kind of cyber-Hogwarts", he says, "a fantasy world in which goods are simply obtained by needing them, and then asking some future Prime Minister to wave the magic wand".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time3 months ago
Adam Gopnik muses on the art of parenting and the challenges of getting it right.

"Too much praise or too little?", he wonders. "You have to be hands off, smiling" but at the same time "engaged, unsparing in honesty".

He concludes that raising children is an art, not a science or a craft. "They are the artists of their own lives but we can, we must, teach them the art of living".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time4 months ago
Adam Gopnik reflects on why musical theatre makes its makers miserable. He should know - he's just finished an eight week run of a musical he wrote.

He concludes that while films, for example, have a "natural author" in the shape of the director, a musical doesn't and "a seven-person creative team of equals", he says can never be harmonious.

But there's a lot of fun to be had along the way .

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time4 months ago
I have lived long enough now", writes Adam Gopnik, "to see several absolutely horrific epochs come and go looking much less absolutely horrific once they're gone."

He reflects on how Donald Trump's presidency will affect our sense of what constitutes normality.

"Are we every day normalizing behaviour", he asks, "that will bring an end to normalcy itself".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time4 months ago
Adam Gopnik reflects on why he turned to marijuana to relieve his pain during a recent bout of shingles.

His 17 year old daughter was horrified.

But Adam concludes that wise drug policy accepts the existence of intoxicants and says "this tale of unshaven debauchery" has made him realise, for the first time, how much his own "hyper disciplined, driven life" had taken out of him.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time4 months ago
You can't call him crazy, because it isn't fair to crazy people", writes Adam Gopnik.

"You can't compare him to a four-year-old because four-year-old children are not in fact tyrannical or egotistical".

Six months into Donald Trump's presidency, Adam Gopnik searches - almost in vain - for a descriptive category to fit.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time5 months ago
I will now pause for a full two seconds to allow you to throw things at the radio", begins Adam Gopnik.

He's working hard, he claims, at a literary festival in Capri.

While there he goes in search of a white staircase - the subject of his favourite painting in the world. As he searches, he reflects on art, life and "the sketchbook of the twenty first century", the iphone.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time5 months ago
It seems indisputable, to me", writes Will Self "that what makes it possible for our attractions to each other to be as deep and profound as they are, is some sort of difference - whether it be given, or something we create".

Will reflects on what a truly gender-fluid society might look like.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time5 months ago
Will Self gives a very personal view of high-rise buildings in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

"As a commentator on the built environment", Will writes, "I've been too wry, too cynical and too disengaged over the past twenty years".

"Grenfell Tower", he says, "was the bonfire of any remaining civic vanity in London ".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time5 months ago
Howard Jacobson reflects on the political ironies that are emerging following the election.

What should our response be to losing politically?

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time6 months ago
The election has left many people wondering if politics has morphed into a wholly new condition" writes John Gray.

He reflects on whether politics really has been turned upside down by a momentous election.

He argues that the situation is not unprecedented but says "the election has punctured what was the ruling illusion of our age - the belief that we'd left behind the ideological antagonisms of the past".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time6 months ago
It's late in the year to be making a resolution I'm probably going to break, but the words have to be spoken" writes Howard Jacobson. "I hereby renounce Middlemarch".

Howard reveals what lies behind his obsession for George Eliot's greatest novel and why he can't stop hymning its praises and quoting chunks of it from memory.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time6 months ago
Howard Jacobson reflects on his home city's response to the Manchester attack.

What confronts the city now, he says, is dealing with the fact that the perpetrator came from within itself.

"All our cities shelter the same boy", he writes, "studiously immersed in the same story. And if we didn't know it before, stories can kill".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time6 months ago
As the season of literary festivals gets underway, Howard Jacobson tells us not to be lured by their appearance of being civilized.

"The prevailing tone of sweet concord shouldn't be allowed to disguise the violent nature of creativity", he says.

They're a fiercely competitive business for writers, he believes. "To write is to reconceive the world and only a God, or someone acting like a God, can do that You don't want some other two-bit deity coming along and bagging the credit for what you've done".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time7 months ago
Howard Jacobson speaks up in defense of the metropolitan liberal elite.

He ponders why the word "elitist" has acquired such negative connotations in some fields - but not in others.

"It makes no sense to me to love the best when they are footballers or the SAS, but not when they are thinkers or even politicians".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time7 months ago
Howard Jacobson argues that talk of the dangers of artificial intelligence is premature.

"The idea that if we feed enough lines of literature into a computer it will eventually be able to write its own Iliad", he writes, "is as preposterous as the old fancy that if a sufficient number of monkeys were given a sufficient number of Olivettis they would eventually hammer out a monkey Macbeth".


Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time7 months ago
A L Kennedy commends paying attention to voices as a way to discern truth telling.

"Listening to our media, our public voices, as if we're listening to people in our everyday lives, holding them to that standard and not their own can help us to know when we're being driven towards the sound of a faked emotion or spun a tale."

Producer: Sheila Cook.
access_time7 months ago
A L Kennedy reflects on the way our past shapes our present and our future.

"As groups we get trapped in our pasts, not quite repeating them, but sometimes forcing our futures out of shape for the sake of their ghosts."

Producer: Sheila Cook.
access_time7 months ago
AL Kennedy extols the virtues of reading and its power to encourage respect for the value and sovereignty of other people's existence.

"It allows you to look and feel your way through the lives of others who may apparently be very other - and yet here they are - inside your head."

Producer: Sheila Cook.
access_time8 months ago
AL Kennedy says we should reject the media outlets that peddle only bad news whether real or fake in ever shriller voices, depicting a world of unremitting awfulness.

"Fake facts - let's just call them lies - and deceptively selective coverage have to be peddled with greater than average outrage and shock just to keep their frailty from being examined too closely."

Producer: Sheila Cook.
access_time8 months ago
Tom Shakespeare argues that viewing dementia as a disability could help those suffering from the condition win greater rights.

In the last few decades, he writes, we have seen many impairment groups unite to demand a better deal from government. "But when it comes to dementia, we are still thinking in terms of disease and tragedy and passivity".

He believes treating dementia as a disability - with all the legal ramifications that involves - may help us change our attitudes and our policies.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time8 months ago
Tom Shakespeare reflects on how all the political populists who now occupy our imaginations are master story tellers.

People need stories and these stories appeal to us, he says. But he argues that as well as persuasive stories, more than ever we need facts.

"The plural of anecdote is not data, as a professor used to tell me", he writes.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time8 months ago
Tom Shakespeare on why - in today's world of uncertainty and fear - it may give us some political consolation to remember that while everything positive in life is short-lived, so too is everything negative.

He argues that believing that the best is behind us stops us making the most of present opportunities.

"To wallow in the past is to be sentimental, to seek an impossible return", he writes. "Our task is to create something different but equally fulfilling in future".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time9 months ago
Stella Tillyard looks at the phonomenon of the "idling brain" - when the brain is supposedly at rest.

She ponders what it means that we have no idea what's running through the minds of the people closest to us and argues that - in an increasingly fractured world - knowing what's going on in each other's minds might help us understand each other.

Scientists, she points out, have taken up the challenge. One group of psychologists estimate that people spend somewhere between 25 and 50% of their waking hours engaged in thoughts unrelated to the here and now.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time9 months ago
Human beings shape their perceptions according to their beliefs", writes John Gray, not the other way round.
He says people "will persuade themselves to believe almost anything, no matter how far-fetched, if it enables them to preserve their view of the world".
He asks how we can best come to terms with the realisation that the world is frighteningly unpredictable.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time9 months ago
John Gray look at the history of populism.
He argues that modern-day populism has largely been created by centre parties who have identified themselves with an unsustainable status quo.
He looks at how populism is likely to play out in the upcoming elections in France and Holland.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time9 months ago
John Gray assesses why experts failed to predict recent seismic events.

He says they operated under the long-held but mistaken belief that history unfolds according to predictable patterns.

"Human events have no overall direction", he writes, "and history obeys no laws".

He discusses how we can prepare ourselves for the "unknowable future".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time10 months ago
John Gray examines what lies behind our desire to protect our "way of life".

"If people are forced to choose between insecurity and a promise of stability through tyranny", he writes, "many will opt for tyranny".

He argues that spending vast amounts of money on "grandiose wars while large sections of our own people languish in neglect and despair can only leave our societies more vulnerable to extremist demagogues".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time10 months ago
Will Self argues that, at a time when we're observing "our so-called leaders, fretting and strutting on the world stage", it really is a worthwhile exercise to spend time worrying about why we're here.

"I'd argue", he writes, "that to engage fully with the weird mystery of being is to at least take the helm of your own ship - even if its course is determined by some automatic pilot".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time10 months ago
Will Self says it's time for schools to stop "teaching to the test".

He argues that in the contemporary wired world, "it seems obvious that young people need more than ever to know how to think outside the boxes, rather than simply tick them".

There's no reason, he says, to shackle children "to the go-round of memorization and regugitation".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time10 months ago
Will Self explores the significance of the art work that adorns the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

He asks what such public art projects represent in this "festival of ephemerality our society seems to have become".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time11 months ago
We're constantly being reminded that this is a democracy", writes Will Self "one, indeed, which we should take back control of".

But in the arena of national defence, he says, the role of the citizen "is relegated to that of a guilty bystander, his fate in the hands of the state's hirelings".

Will Self argues for the re-introduction of National Service to invigorate British democracy.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time11 months ago
I haven't been visiting schools and drowsing during headteachers' PowerPoint presentations for nothing this past quarter century", writes Will Self.

"I know full-well that the purpose of both British education and British employment is the same: to keep us busy and purposive from cradle to grave".

Will Self explores how the worlds of work and education have become seamlessly merged with each other.

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time11 months ago
Adam Gopnik revisits a much explored subject - the differences between patriotism and nationalism.

In the light of the events of the past year, he questions why the politics of nationalism appear irresistible today.

He wonders "if we cannot now see that patriotism and nationalism have a more fluid, a more organic, a more connected relationship that we might want to imagine".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time11 months ago
Perhaps we should try, before the year's out", writes Howard Jacobson, " to agree on the International Word of 2016 - the word that most describes where we've been these last 12 months".

"Post-truth", "Trump" and "Farage" are all in the running.

But in the end, Jacobson's chooses "people" as in "the people have spoken" for his Word of the Year.


Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time11 months ago
The Christmas song "Baby It's Cold Outside" has become the cause of intense controversy in the US where it's been described as a "hymn to rape" .

"As the father of a teenage daughter" writes Adam Gopnik, "I will stand down to no one in the fight against sexual assault of all kinds".

But, he argues, the worst thing liberal minded people can do is "allow their liberalism to become infected with puritanism".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
access_time12 months ago
I work hard so that my teenage daughter can have holes in all her clothes", writes Adam Gopnik.

He reflects on the greater significance of designer holes in jeans and why it's a trend to be celebrated.

"I know what you are asking", Gopnik says. "How can you be rattling on about torn jeans when our world, by your own account, may be coming to an end?" !

"Liberty large is what we fight for, but the little liberties of life - and the arbitrariness of fashion is one of life's most engaging little liberties - are part of the way we recognize that the larger liberty exists".

Producer: Adele Armstrong.
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