A Point of View
Summary: Weekly reflections on topical issues from a range of contributors including historian Lisa Jardine, novelist Sarah Dunant and writer Alain de Botton.
Will Self reflects on the growing and vexed divide between people with and without children. "The real indication that we don't know what value parenting currently has is that to either valorise or demonise this state of being seems as ridiculous (if not offensive) as doing the same in respect of childlessness". Producer: Sheila Cook
Will Self regrets our growing lack of physical contact with one another and with the natural world as a result of the rise of technology. "What the touch screen, the automatic door, online shopping and even the Bagladeshi sweatshop piece-worker who made our trousers are depriving us of is the exercise of our very sense of touch itself, and in particular they are relieving us of the need to touch other people." Producer: Sheila Cook
AL Kennedy reflects on the importance of the beauty and creativity of art to sustain the human spirit.
AL Kennedy reflects on the importance of learning languages and listening to one another. "More words give me more paths to and from the hearts of others, more points of view - I don't think that's a bad thing." Producer: Sheila Cook
Adam Gopnick reflects on the Charlie Hebdo massacre. "The notion that what some have called France's 'stark secularism' - or its level of unemployment, or its history of exclusion, that imposed invisibility - is in any way to blame or even a root cause for this, depends on being ignorant of the actual history of France." Producer: Sheila Cook Editor: Richard Knight
A L Kennedy reflects on what it means to pursue happiness in a world where "not having enough money can be utterly miserable" and indulging our desire to acquire is also unsatisfying. The answer may lie in seeing that happiness is, "not so much a condition as a destination - it can inspire journeys ...better made in company". Producer: Sheila Cook.
David Cannadine reflects on the history of the Queen's Christmas message. Following the success of the first broadcast in 1932 by Queen's grandfather, King George V, "what had begun as a one-off innovation soon became an invented tradition, and there can be no doubt it brought the king closer to his subjects than had been true of any monarch who had gone before him." Producer: Sheila Cook
In the last of his three talks on art, philosopher Roger Scruton looks at the real thing, as opposed to cliche or kitsch. We must ignore the vast quantities of art produced as commodities to be sold, unlike symphonies or novels that cannot be owned the way a painting or sculpture can be. Real art has to have lasting appeal, he argues, and for that it needs three things: beauty, form and redemption. It takes immense hard work and attention to detail, but then it can give meaning to our modern lives, and show love in the midst of doubt and desolation. Producer: Arlene Gregorius
Philosopher Roger Scruton looks at kitsch in the second of his three talks on art. Kitsch, he says, creates the fantasy of an emotion without the real cost of feeling it. He argues that in the twentieth century artists became preoccupied by what they perceived as the need to avoid kitsch and sentimentality. But it's not so easy. Some try being outrageously avant-garde, which can lead to a different kind of fake: cliche. So a new genre emerged: pre-emptive kitsch. Artists embraced kitsch and produced it deliberately to present it as a sophisticated parody. But is it art? Producer: Arlene Gregorius
Philosopher Roger Scruton reflects on the difference between original art that is genuine, sincere and truthful, but hard to achieve, and the easier but fake art that appeals to many critics today. He argues that original artists from Beethoven and Baudelaire to Picasso and Pound tower above those contemporary artists whose less arduous to create pieces only peddle fake emotion. Artists like Damien Hirst try so hard to be challenging, that causing shock or offence becomes their main motivation. But by focusing on avoiding cliche, they end up being examples of cliche themselves. Producer: Arlene Gregorius
John Gray argues that "thinking the unthinkable" as a way of making policy does nothing more than extend conventional wisdom to the point of absurdity and fails to take account of the complexities of reality. "Capitalism has lurched into a crisis from which it still has not recovered. Yet the worn-out ideology of free markets sets the framework within which our current generation of leaders continues to think and act." Producer: Sheila Cook
John Gray points to lessons from the novels of Dostoevsky about the danger of ideas such as misguided idealism sweeping away tyrannies without regard for the risks of anarchy. "Dostoevsky suggests that the end result of abandoning morality for the sake of an idea of freedom will be a type of tyranny more extreme than any in the past." Producer: Sheila Cook
The new food substitute Soylent allows you to give up eating meals in order to have more free time. But John Gray argues that human beings crave busy lives. We want to be distracted, he says, so we don't have to think too much. Producer: Adele Armstrong.
Adam Gopnik identifies four different types of anxiety that afflict modern people and suggests ways to cure them. "The job of modern humanists is to do consciously what Conan Doyle did instinctively: to make the thrill of the ameliorative, the joy of small reliefs, of the case solved and mystery dissipated and the worry ended, for now - to make those things as sufficient to live by as they are good to experience." Producer: Sheila Cook
Adam Gopnik draws a poignant lesson on the nature of true love from the eyesore of love locks in Paris. "Love should never be symbolised by a shackle. Love - real love, good love, love to grow on rather than be trapped in - is a lock to which the key is always available." Producer: Sheila Cook