A Point of View

A Point of View


A weekly reflection on a topical issue


Re-launching National Service  

"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.

The Shape Of Our Time  

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.

Word of 2016: People  

"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.

"Baby It's Cold Outside"  

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.

Holes in Clothes  

"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.

Bob Dylan and the Bobolaters  

Adam Gopnik - a lifelong fan of Bob Dylan - muses on Dylan's "utterly predictable lack of gratitude" towards his Nobel Prize. "The terrible and intriguing truth", he writes, is that "people are tragically impressed by indifference...and pitifully contemptuous of the charming". The Dylans of this world, Gopnik says "impress us as the true egotists we secretly are". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

A Liberal Credo  

Adam Gopnik muses on liberals and liberalism - and why liberalism is so despised. "At a moment when it seems likely to be drowned out in America" he writes, "I shall make a small forlorn effort to speak its truths". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

The Week Gone By  

Adam Gopnik asks what hope is there of a liberal, open society in America during the next 4 years. He argues that Americans must hold to the faith that liberal politics really do rise from the ground up.

The Trump Card  

Roger Scruton assesses some of the reasons behind Donald Trump's victory. And he asks why many who intended to vote for Donald Trump would not have confessed to their intention. "They wanted change," writes Scruton. "A change in the whole agenda of government".

America Votes  

Adam Gopnik reflects on why he believes a victory for Donald Trump would be a disaster for America. The American Presidential election "posits a simple eternal human confrontation between sensible and crazy", he writes. He says we must not pretend that the rise of Trump is essentially a "people's revolt" or a movement of the dispossessed. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

In Praise of Prophets of Doom  

Howard Jacobson argues that dissatisfaction with life is essential for the health of the human spirit. "It might come to outweigh other emotions to the point where it is detrimental to the vigour of an individual or a society, but without it there is no vigour at all." Producer: Sheila Cook.

Shylock's Mock Appeal  

Howard Jacobson applauds the granting of an appeal by Shylock in a mock trial in Venice as a symbolic revoking of a bad decision in Shakespeare's play. "It's natural to rage against wrong decisions, miscarrriages of justice or the inclemencies of nature, but the more fanciful of us go further and imagine that some power will intervene and make things right again." Producer: Sheila Cook.

In Praise of Difficulty  

Howard Jacobson applauds the playwright Tom Stoppard's attack on the ignorance of the average audience, arguing we should not only aspire to be educated ourselves but should not be offended by the evidence of education in others. "We are an entangled species; we are not to be unknotted easily. When we turn our backs on difficulty in art, we turn our backs on who we are." Producer: Sheila Cook.


Howard Jacobson deplores the fashion for "whooping" as a mark of approval, and sees it as a species of social blackmail. "The whoop is on an errand to keep things simple. That which strikes audiences as true because it is what they think already, elicits a whoop." Producer: Sheila Cook.

Against Safe Spaces  

John Gray reflects on the controversial "safe spaces" policy being pursued by some universities. It may have been devised to ensure that people of all identities are entitled to a tolerant environment ...but John Gray argues that the policy not only threatens a fundamental liberal value but represents a demand to be sheltered from human reality. He says the point of education used to be to learn how to live well in full awareness of the disorder of life. "A lack of realism ...was considered not just an intellectual failing but also a moral flaw". He says we ignore this lesson of history at our peril. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

The Real Meaning of Trump  

John Gray assesses what lies behind the Trump phenomenon and the remarkable political upheaval that could - possibly - see Donald Trump propelled into the White House. From the start, he says, Trump's campaign has been an audacious experiment in mass persuasion. "His uncouth language, megalomaniac self-admiration and strangely coloured hair....all deliberately cultivated" to help him profit from the popular resentment against the elites of the main parties. "Whatever happens", writes Gray, "there will be no return to pre-Trump normalcy". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Who Cares About Independence?  

Wheelchair user, Tom Shakespeare, reflects on what it feels like to be dependent on others. He says care often leaves the recipient in a devalued state. He calls for society to respond to the challenge of delivering help "without creating domination and infantilisation" and for care to be funded properly. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

My Idea of Heaven  

John Gray muses on what his idea of heaven is....and why it shouldn't be a perfect world. History teaches us that trying to create a perfect society leads to hell on earth, he writes. "But dreams of a perfect world don't fail because human beings are incurably flawed. They fail because human beings are more complicated and interesting that their dreams of perfection".

Parliament Roadshow  

Tom Shakespeare argues that the upcoming refurbishment work on the Palace of Westminster provides a perfect opportunity for taking it out of London. "My vision is of the Houses of Parliament as a travelling caravan, a charabanc of power, spending a year here and a year there throughout our United Kingdom". He says it would enable our leaders to see at first hand what they are legislating about and who they are legislating for. He quotes Cromwell at the sacking of the Rump Parliament in 1653: "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go"! Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Every Dog Has His Day  

Tom Shakespeare - a new dog owner - reflects on what dogs can teach us about contentment. Remembering his childhood obsession with the Peanuts cartoon, he quotes Snoopy "My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm Happy. I can't figure it out. What am I doing right?" Dogs, writes Tom, have a much greater capacity for contentment than people and we can all learn from this. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

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