A Point of View

A Point of View


A weekly reflection on a topical issue


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.

Finding Our Roots  

Will Self reflects on the joys of genealogy - truffling in census returns and parish records and establishing "our genuine links to multiple generations of nonentities"! "As a passionate Londoner", he writes, "I wanted to establish when the first Self had arrived in the city". Entire family sagas, he says, are today vanishing into thin air, in an era of nuclear families. Gone are those generations of extended families where over a cup of tea, the same old stories were told about the same old relatives. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

What's wrong with modern art?  

Will Self explores what's wrong with modern art. "I've been responsible for a fair amount of absolutely total nonsense in my time", he writes, but says most contemporary art is little more than "overvalued tosh and useless ephemera". Instead of a world where Russian oligarchs "buy artworks by the metric tonne and plaster them on the walls of their vulgar houses", he calls for a genuine understanding of art where - once again - we become "capable of conveying and explaining the subtle ambiguities of genuine art". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

The power of language  

AL Kennedy reflects on how being able to communicate clearly is the work of a lifetime. She argues that the present school testing regime could have a catastrophic effect on our children's ability to find their voice. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Act Your Age  

Will Self explains why he finds it hard to always act his age. "To alternate between being an errant child and a corrective adult must, I think, be intrinsic to the human condition." Producer: Sheila Cook.

Canaries in the Coal Mine  

Tom Shakespeare gives a very personal view of the implications for society of a prenatal screening technology due to be announced shortly. Tom inherited the genetic condition, achondroplasia, or restricted growth from his father and passed it on to both his children. Soon we will have to decide, he writes, what sort of people we are prepared to accept in our families and in our society. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Being English  

Via steak and kidney pie and a spot of Morris dancing, AL Kennedy reflects on Englishness...at a time, she writes, "when Englishness is struggling to decide what it can be". She appeals to England - with all its different views, customs, history and opinions - to "treasure yourself, all of yourself". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Facts Not Opinions  

AL Kennedy ponders the importance of facts... in a world dominated by opinion. "The Chilcot report highlights how a war can conjure the demons it promised to suppress", she writes "because facts were dodged or massaged and fantasy outcomes were taken as certainties". While facts may be grim, "avoiding them puts us all at increased risk". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Brexit and our cultural identity  

The historian Mary Beard presents the last in the series in which some of Britain's leading thinkers give their own very personal view of "Brexit". Mary Beard asks whether the referendum result will change our cultural identity. And as she sits at a David Gilmour concert in the ancient amphitheatre at Pompeii, Mary reflects on the "New Europe that we British seem to be about to lose". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Strategic Shift  

Peter Hennessy sees the UK's vote to leave the European Union as the biggest strategic shift in British history since the Second World War, rivalled only by the disposal of the British Empire. As a consequence, we need a serious national conversation using a new political vocabulary to tackle "multiple and overlapping anxieties". "If we do hold that national conversation, rise to the level of events and draw on those wells of civility and tolerance, we may yet surprise ourselves - and the watching world - by the quality, the care and the foresight of what we do and what we say." Producer: Sheila Cook.

Democracy After Brexit  

In these special editions of A Point of View, five of Britain's leading thinkers give their own very personal view of "Brexit" - what the vote tells us about the country we are, and are likely to become. Today, the philosopher Roger Scruton reflects on democracy after Brexit and explains why he feels it is the ordinary people of this country who care about democracy, not the urban elites. "The referendum gave these people a voice", writes Scruton, "and what they have told us is that their country, its laws and its sovereignty are more important to them than the edicts of anonymous bureaucrats striving to rule from nowhere". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Britain, Europe and the World  

In these special editions of Radio 4's long-running essay programme, A Point of View, five of Britain's leading thinkers, give their own very personal view of "Brexit" - what the vote tells us about the country we are, and are likely to become. Today, the philosopher John Gray who has presented on Radio 4 for many years, argues that Britain should look to Brexit as a new beginning in which it "can throw off the dead weight of a failing European project". He says we should now accept the new opportunities given to us and "make our home in a more spacious world". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

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