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Fighting for democracy from the bottom up | Astra Taylor, Pt 2

Filmmaker, writer and activist Astra Taylor sets out to answer a question we rarely ask: what is democracy? Her conclusion: democracy doesn't exist — at least, not quite. And yet, she says, it's still worth fighting for. Taylor takes us on a walking tour in New York searching for the meaning of democracy. Part 2 of a two-part series.

The Tedium is the Message

It's never been easier to banish the feeling of boredom — at least for a moment. But some fear our weapons of mass distraction could lead to an epidemic of ennui and ADD. Contributor Peter Mitton examines boredom and discovers a little-understood universal state of mind.

Democracy may not truly exist, but it's still worth fighting for: Astra Taylor

Canadian-American filmmaker and writer Astra Taylor admits that for most of her life the term "democracy" held little appeal. But when she took on the what-is-democracy question, her inquiry turned into a belief that while it may not fully exist, democracy is still worth fighting for.

'Global Trumpism': Bailouts, Brexit and battling climate change

With panache, humour, and a dash of outrage, political economist Mark Blyth explains how the 2008 bank bailouts led to Trump, Brexit, and a whole new era of populism. He also sheds light on how a tiny percentage of the 1% got even richer after a decade of austerity — and yet he remains hopeful about combating climate change.

Dignity down the toilet: Public bathrooms as a human right

Public bathrooms are something we all need, yet they are a public amenity few of us talk about openly and that cities often get wrong. How should governments and businesses provide for this most basic bodily need? IDEAS contributor Lezlie Lowe flushes out the answers on a road trip, with many bathroom breaks, across North America.

Our fractured, fractious age in 1 sentence: Lucy Ellmann

Lucy Ellmann's Booker-nominated Ducks, Newburyport, captures our fractious, fractured age through the eyes of a likeable, pie-baking housewife in Ohio in an epic running 1,000 pages in a single sentence.
IDEAS AFTERNOON

Make debate great again: How bad political argument is undermining democracy

We have forgotten how to argue, and it’s easy to become extremist in our political views. That is undermining our democracies from within, according to two philosophers.

If you support human rights you're obliged to be an anti-colonialist, argues scholar

At the height of the British Empire, many Britons came to a radical conclusion — perhaps the empire shouldn’t exist. They decided that Britain’s claim to be doing good for the world, spreading freedom and democracy was a fraud. Priyamvada Gopal examines a century of dissent on the question of empire in her new book.
Poetry

Olive Senior delivers prestigious 2019 Margaret Laurence Lecture: A Writer's Life

With wit and heart, Olive Senior delivered the 2019 Margaret Lawrence Lecture to a packed audience. Born in Jamaica in 1941, the seventh of 10 children, she went on to become one of Canada’s most acclaimed writers. Hear excerpts from her lecture, readings of her work and a conversation with IDEAS producer Mary Lynk.
Video

'In my great and unmatched wisdom': Donald Trump's new world order

As disruptors go, Donald Trump is the world's most powerful one right now — disrupting everything from national politics, to social issues, to international relations. How far will his disruptions go, and what will remain once he's gone? IDEAS convened a panel at the Stratford Festival to discuss the Trump era and its aftermath.

The Munk Debates: Is China a threat or an ally?

Highlights from the 2019 Munk Debates. H. R. McMaster and Michael Pillsbury argue that free and open societies must push back against Chinese Communist Party policies to preserve a rules-based international order. But Kishore Mahbubani and Huiyao Wang argue such an approach ignores the history and dynamics propelling China's peaceful rise to superpower status.
IDEAS AFTERNOON

How jeans became one of the most polluting garments in the world

Blue jeans evolved from being the uniform of cowboys to a symbol of rebellion, and are now the most popular — and possibly the most polluting — garment in the world. Ideas contributor and fashion expert Pedro Mendes explores the 150-year history of jeans and the 'authenticity' they are supposed to represent.

Lessons off Broadway: Princeton professor dissects zeitgeist in musicals

The Broadway musical is an art form both beloved and maligned. Whether you love it or hate it, the Broadway musical has the power to tap into the zeitgeist, capturing and propelling social change. Princeton musical theatre scholar Stacy Wolf takes host Nahlah Ayed on a tour of the hidden power of musicals from the 1950s to today.

IDEAS schedule for October 2019

Highlights include: how the power of Broadway musicals can propel social change (Oct 5); Canadian author Astra Taylor searches for the meaning of democracy — challenging if it truly can exist (Oct 14); and Harvard historian of science Anne Harrington discusses the ongoing hunt for a biological basis to mental illness (Oct 28).

How refugee fathers cope with conflict trauma and resettling

Adnan Al-Mhamied was once a political dissident living in Syria. After the country collapsed into war, he fled to Montreal with his family and studied towards a master's in social work. His research reveals the 'silent suffering' of men who have escaped conflict zones with their families and resettled in an unfamiliar country.

True crime bloodline: investigating our murder story obsession

From the investigative journalism of "Murdered and Missing," to the lurid horror of "Dirty John," to the eccentric storytelling of "My Favourite Murder," we're a culture hungrily consuming tales of murder and the criminal mind. It's a darkly popular form of entertainment in this era of podcasts and streaming docu-series — particularly for women. Yet True Crime narratives have been hugely popular for more than 400 years.

The misunderstood Adam Smith gets both credit and blame for modern capitalism

The 18th-century philosopher Adam Smith is often called “the father of economics,” and sometimes “the father of capitalism.” IDEAS contributor Matthew Lazin-Ryder examines how Smith’s name has been used and abused to both defend and attack free-market economics since his death.

The Enright Files asks: What do we owe future generations?

There's a reason why so many people seem uninspired by the current federal election campaign — our political discourse itself is uninspiring. This month on the Enright Files: the lack of poetry in our politics leads to the question: what kind of country do we want to leave for future generations?
Ideas Afternoon

Killer robots march into uncharted ethical territory

What happens if autonomous weapons fight our wars? What if they select and kill targets without any human intervention? The world is closer to this scenario than ever before. But there's no consensus on whether — or even how — it would ever be ethical. This episode delves into the complex conundrums of robot warfare.

Climate change science goes back decades ⁠— and so does climate change skepticism, says historian

Climate change denialism has been around for years. And it's still here, even after four decades of scientific consensus that humans are causing the climate crisis. But why? Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes explains in a public talk how denying climate change came to be a personal and political belief.
IDEAS AFTERNOON

Make debate great again: How bad political argument is undermining democracy

We have forgotten how to argue, and it’s easy to become extremist in our political views. That is undermining our democracies from within, according to two philosophers.

What we owe: Revisiting Margaret Atwood's 'Payback'

Margaret Atwood is revered for novels that seem to predict dark societal shifts, from reproductive controls, to prisons for profit. It’s no different with her nonfiction. This episode revisits her influential 2008 Massey Lectures, Payback.

Journalism's Knife Fight: Fact vs. Truth

While the idea that we're living in a post-truth era is still highly contested, there is greater agreement that facts themselves have also become contestable. Belief and feeling have sideswiped facts, especially when it comes to news stories about politics. IDEAS producer Naheed Mustafa examines the increasingly elastic and unsettling relationship between facts and truth.

A legacy of firsts: How mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani transcended boundaries

Mathematics hasn’t been the easiest field for women to conquer but that never stopped Maryam Mirzakhani. Her legacy as the first woman and first Iranian to win the Fields Medal — the Nobel Prize of mathematics — proves that despite their small numbers, women can achieve great things in math.
Ideas Afternoon

Rethinking menopause: Authors argue dreaded life change has an upside

Is The Change always “women’s hell?” Is it possible that the negative way we think about menopause has an effect on how women actually experience menopause? Writer Darcey Steinke and historian Susan Mattern reframe an often-dreaded transition, and reclaim the power of post-reproductive life.
Ideas Afternoon

Killer robots march into uncharted ethical territory

What happens if autonomous weapons fight our wars? What if they select and kill targets without any human intervention? The world is closer to this scenario than ever before. But there's no consensus on whether — or even how — it would ever be ethical. This episode delves into the complex conundrums of robot warfare.
IDEAS AFTERNOON

How jeans became one of the most polluting garments in the world

Blue jeans evolved from being the uniform of cowboys to a symbol of rebellion, and are now the most popular — and possibly the most polluting — garment in the world. Ideas contributor and fashion expert Pedro Mendes explores the 150-year history of jeans and the 'authenticity' they are supposed to represent.
Ideas Afternoon

Rethinking menopause: Authors argue dreaded life change has an upside

Is The Change always “women’s hell?” Is it possible that the negative way we think about menopause has an effect on how women actually experience menopause? Writer Darcey Steinke and historian Susan Mattern reframe an often-dreaded transition, and reclaim the power of post-reproductive life.

Our fractured, fractious age in 1 sentence: Novelist Lucy Ellmann

Lucy Ellmann's Booker-nominated Ducks, Newburyport, captures our fractious, fractured age through the eyes of a likeable, pie-baking housewife in Ohio in an epic running 1,000 pages in a single sentence.