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.
AL Kennedy argues that the British have much to gain from - in the words of Robert Burns - "seeing ourselves as others see us". Referring to last week's row over the appointment of the new European Commission President, she writes: "the EU's view of Britain might be that we're always yelling in a corner about chips!" An entertaining exploration of the down-sides of personal and national introspection. Producer: Adele Armstrong
It's a tale of "shadowy white-hatted hackers, more shadowy black-hatted hackers and the possibility that the pricey electronic equipment lurking in our homes may not have our best interests at heart". AL Kennedy reflects on the current spate of high-profile viruses that are threatening our computers ... invasive software that may be sending our bank details to criminals every time we connect to the internet. She says as more sophisticated computers become part of more appliances, the potential for virus infection increases. So is it time, she asks, for us to rethink our devotion to these machines? Producer: Adele Armstrong
AL Kennedy argues that our obsession with gossip is affecting our public discourse, and corrupting its content. She traces the history of gossip, explores how gossip is edging out real news and how it's taken over our political lives. "Gossip obscures truth" she writes, "sours our outlooks on each other and can trivialise any debate". She concludes that "we really could do with a lot less of it". Producer: Adele Armstrong
"Humanity's past thoughts are my inheritance" writes AL Kennedy. "I need them in order to learn how to prosper in the long term". As more and more public libraries close their doors, AL Kennedy argues that we must reassess the importance of books. She says library closures, culled GCSE reading lists, moves towards reducing prisoners' access to books are part of a "perfect storm" which means we're losing books on all sides. Producer: Adele Armstrong
Scotland could become independent. So, asks Tom Shakespeare, should England consider returning to an earlier order – a heptarchy of seven independent jurisdictions?
Many people assume that disabled people must be unhappy. But the empirical evidence doesn't back this up. In A Point of View, Tom Shakespeare argues that disability is nothing to fear.
A growing number of people are describing themselves as spiritual but not religious. This is not a trend of which Tom Shakespeare approves. In this week's Point of View he argues, rather, that we should be religious but not spiritual. Producer: David Edmonds
As hundreds of thousands of young people get ready to sit exams, Mary Beard reflects on exam season – past and present. Producer: Adele Armstrong
Mary Beard argues that in years to come, our treatment of old people will be as much of a blot on our culture as Bedlam and the madhouses were on the culture of the 18th century. Producer: Adele Armstrong
"The archaeological wonders of today" writes Mary Beard "don't come from heroic subterranean exploration, still less from the efforts of teenagers with their spades and trowels in damp Shropshire fields. They are much more often 'virtual'". Mary reflects on the new face of archaeology - far removed from the days of Heinrich Schliemann who famously claimed "to have gazed on the face of Agamemnon". She traces the history of virtual archaeology from the early 1900s and admits "part of me thrills to the magic of the technology, and to the sheer bravura of displaying the plans of lost buildings, even lost towns, at the touch of a few buttons". She recognises it's far cheaper, quicker and leaves ruins where they are safest: under the ground. But she also admits a feeling of nostalgia for the old ways. When she sees an exciting new discovery, "my heart just itches to get out my spade and my trowel and go and actually dig it up". Producer: Adele Armstrong
Mary Beard looks forward to the 60th anniversary of the first "four minute mile". But in the midst of the celebrations, she argues that we should also remember that Roger Bannister's victory was a "glaring display of class division". Maybe appropriate then that this month also sees the return of that "wonderful working-class ... comic-strip hero, Alf Tupper". Producer: Adele Armstrong.
William Dalrymple celebrates the writing of Peter Matthiessen who died this month, comparing him with another of his favourite travel writers, Patrick Leigh Fermor. "Both were footloose scholars who left their studies and libraries to walk in the wild places of the world, erudite and bookish wanderers, scrambling through remote mountains, notebooks in hand, rucksacks full of good books on their shoulders." Producer: Sheila Cook
William Dalrymple reflects on the current pivotal elections in India and Afghanistan where religion, identity and economics will all help to determine the outcomes.
William Dalrymple contrasts the Christian view of Lent – with all its self-discipline and self-deprivation – with that represented in great Indian art. Producer: Adele Armstrong
Sarah Dunant reflects on fame and the cult of celebrity following the recent success of the film "20 feet from Stardom". The film about backing singers - the unsung heroes of pop music - scooped best documentary at the Oscars. Sarah discusses how celebrity culture has given us a society where the dream is no longer to be the backing singer, but to take centre stage. "Andy Warhol" she writes "with his fifteen minutes of fame, has turned out to be a prophet as much as an artist". But "in a world where everyone wants to be the lead singer" she asks "who is left to swell the sound? Or more importantly to appreciate it". Producer: Adele Armstrong