Saturday, July 10, 2010

Recommended Podcasts that assist us in Developing Global Perspective

This will be an occasional series where I recommend some of the podcasts that have consistently helped me develop a global perspective. One of the problems in living in any country but particularly the US is that the media often focus on national and local issues and give international stories short shrift. When they do focus on international issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afgahanistan and various emergencies the reporting can be of a very high quality but much of the actual discussion related to the meaning of those reports frequently gets lost in talk shows. The commentary often just has people who reflect the major party viewpoints and are naturally focused on the US interests. Everyone needs to develop counter perspectives to the conversations that tend to dominate their national media. One of the podcasts that makes an effort to invite new thinking and global perspectives is Andrew Marr's Start the Week on BBC 4--that can easily be found and downloaded from the I-Tunes Store. All 56 shows can be downloaded from the BBC website

What I like about Marr's show is the fact that he seems to have read the books that are often featured on the show (and to be honest why he is able to attract some stellar guests) and he is capable of conducting a conversation that genuinely explores issues in an open, accesible and clear way.

Some of the recent ones I recommend include the following broadcast on July 6 with the novelist Yann Martel, "who wrote Life of Pi, explains how a donkey and a howler monkey are central to his latest book, Beatrice and Virgil." Martel helps describe how his latest book is an attempt to understand the holocaust and why art and imaginative writing can uniquely assist us in the important act of remembering the holocaust so we can connect the event to today's realities.

May 17 2010's show gathered together a fascinating panel leading to a wonderfully far ranging global discussion that included "historian and former advisor to Margaret Thatcher, Norman Stone, gives his personal take on the Cold War. The journalist, Ben Judah witnessed the toppling of the President of Kyrgyzstan last month and reflects on the fate of this former Soviet state. The Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor explores what historical objects can tell us about leadership, and Marina Warner looks back at the art and music that expresses a genuine dialogue between East and West."

Ian Buruma expounded upon the interplay of religion and politics clash in three continents based on the research for his book "Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents" in the May 25th program.

An all star line up was present on January 3, 2010 when "Anthony Julius tells Andrew Marr how far he thinks anti-Semitism pervades English culture, while Alexander McCall Smith argues against the hegemony of the English language, in favour of Scots. Jonathan Safran Foer explores what we eat and why and whether meat is murder and Graciela Chichilnisky explores the links between danger, risk, climate change and changing behaviours."

Another worthwhile 45 minutes can be spent listening to the show broadcast on January 11, 2010, where Andrew Marr's discussion included "the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk about obsessive love and his decision to blur the distinction between fiction and reality with the opening of The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul; Barbara Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America's culture of positive thinking and irrational optimism; Simon Schama invesigates the Obama effect; Russian expert Susan Richards explores the importance of national myths."

The real virtue of podcasts of this kind is that they can remind you what really informed discussion looks like when it takes a more leisurely less frantic less nation centered take on the world. We seem in this busy and hysterically minded age to have lost some of the ability to step back and reflect--Marr's show is welcomed antidote to these tendencies.

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