Ideas

Ideas for September 2019

Highlights include: exploring 150 years of jeans — the most popular and possibly the most polluting garment in the world. (Sept. 13); author Ronald Wright on the state of civilization in 2019 (Sept. 19); and an examination of the unsettling relationship between facts and truth (Sept 25).


Monday, September 2
WALKING THE BORDER: WALLS THAT DIVIDE US
PT 1: THE PEACE WALLS OF BELFAST

Since the dawn of time we've been building walls. Sometimes to keep things in, but just as often, to defend ourselves against strangers, the enemy — the Other. It's why the Great Wall of China went up 3,000 years ago, why Donald Trump's wall may be going up today. But these kinds of walls don't work very well, and sometimes they create more problems than they solve.

The great 30-year sectarian clashes of The Troubles in Northern Ireland set Protestant and Catholic against each other. Families and communities were fractured. Thousands died. Walls were built down the middle of city streets to separate the warring factions, and great steel gates were closed at night to seal them off from each other. After over 20 years of peace, most of the walls remain — along with the old divisions. Are the peace walls helping or hindering community reconciliation? Nahlah Ayed went to Belfast to find out.

The Peace Walls of Belfast is part one of a five-part series called Walking the Border: Walls That Divide Us — featuring stories from places where borders and walls define the landscape.

Tuesday, September 3
JUST ONE STORY: JOSEPH CAMPBELL's 'HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES' AT 70
It inspired movies like Star Wars, The Lion King, and The Matrix. It drove curious minds to classes on mythology and religious studies. It was named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential books of all time. Joseph Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces was published in 1949 — a book that is simultaneously timeless, and very much of its time. The documentary, Just One Story, examines the massive influence of Campbell's theory.

Wednesday, September 4
RACISM AND TECHNOLOGY: THE NEW JIM CODE
There was a time when technology was perceived to be neutral. The argument was that if we could take humans and their biases out of the decision-making process, we'd arrive at objective answers. But we now know the technology we thought would save us is actually recreating the same kinds of inequalities we were trying to redress in the first place. Princeton sociologist Ruha Benjamin asks if there's a way to create a new reality without a digital underclass.

Thursday, September 5
REFRAMING MENOPAUSE
What's the story with menopause? In pop culture, it's often comedy: irritable mid-life moms "hot flashing" in front of their bewildered families. In wider society, it's tragedy: the end of youth and femininity, and a problem to be resisted and treated. This episode looks to two new books with different views on menopause. One describes an intense, identity-changing transition. Another sees it as a valuable fact of human evolution that has been co-opted and pathologized. Guests include historian Susan Mattern, memoirist Darcey Steinke, and physician Wendy Wolfman.

Friday, September 6
THE KILLAM PRIZE — CANADA'S 'NOBEL'
Meet the five top Canadian scholars who won the 2019 Killam Prize for reaching new heights in their disciplines. Lynne Viola exposes hidden stories of Stalin's Russia. Keith Hipel takes an engineer's approach to fixing the climate change debate. Yoshua Bengio is bringing us computers that learn and think. André Blais investigates what makes democratic elections work better. And Stephen Scherer is helping science read into the human genome.
 



Monday, September 9
WALKING THE BORDER: WALLS THAT DIVIDE US
PT 2: IRELAND: THE RULE OF THE LAND

Since the early 1600's, the large Protestant majority in the north-eastern corner of Ireland has had an often-fractious relationship with the Catholic minority. With the coming of Irish independence in the 1920's, the creation of a border, and the carving-off of Protestant Ulster from the new republic to the south, that conflict burst into flames. Now, after 20 years of peace and an invisible border, that peace is threatened and the fear of old conflicts looms once again. Nahlah Ayed went to Ireland to hear what people are saying. 

* The Irish Border is part two of a five-part series called Walking the Border: Walls That Divide Us.

Tuesday, September 10
STRATFORD: MARX AND AFTER
He's in fashion, he's out of fashion, then back in again. Karl Marx, one of the 19th century's most influential thinkers, never stops being controversial. Do his ideas offer liberation to the masses of impoverished and downtrodden people around the world.? Or do they cast those same people into the hell of a vicious, authoritarian regime? Intelligent minds have disagreed, usually vehemently, ever since Marx wrote his ideas down in the mid-1800s. They continue to disagree in this episode about Marx and the modern political Left, recorded live at the Stratford Festival, featuring Sheila Copps, Charlie Foran, and Rick Salutin.

Wednesday, September 11 
TOM THOMSON: 100 YEARS FROM NOW 
Tom Thomson's paintings are among the most famous and beloved artworks in Canada. Thomson himself is one of the most mythologized Canadians of his time — and ours. Now, 101 years after his mysterious death on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park, when he was at the peak of his powers, IDEAS contributor Sean Foley asks one central question: does the mortal and material fascination with Tom Thomson leave us with something enduring — something to carry us through the next century, and beyond? 

Thursday, September 12
UN: AGNES CALLAMARD
Human rights lawyer Agnes Callamard investigated the murder of Jamal Khashoggi for the UN. Shocking as it was, the horrific killing speaks of our times — it's also the disturbing but fitting departure point for our discussion with her on human rights in the 21st century, and what the international community can do when they're violated.   

Friday, September 13
THE PROBLEM WITH JEANS
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. 
 



Monday, September 16
WALKING THE BORDER: WALLS THAT DIVIDE US
PT 3: 
THE NEEDS OF STRANGERS 
One of Michael Ignatieff's earliest books asked the question: what do I owe my neighbour? And, 35 years later, his most recent book discusses "moral order in a divided world." In between, and during the long course of a career as journalist, academic and politician, he's explored these and other big questions about how we might best live together. The nineteenth century philosopher John Stuart Mill didn't think it was possible for people of different cultures to create a common society.  Michael Ignatieff wants to prove Mill wrong. In a far-reaching conversation in his office at the Central European University in Budapest, Michael Ignatieff talks with Nahlah Ayed about citizenship, moral values, the rise of the Right and, what we still owe our neighbour. The third in our series Walking the Border: Walls That Divide Us.  

Tuesday, September 17
WRESTLING JACOB'S ANGEL
Jacob, the biblical patriarch, is a remarkable figure: determined, destined for greatness, and troubled. At a key moment in his life, he finds himself alone and anxious. He wrestles with a strange being, all through the night. He prevails, sort of: he is blessed,  and he is given the name Israel. Yet he is left permanently injured. What are we to make of this famous and enigmatic tale of dread, struggle, and transformation? 

Wednesday, September 18
TOM THOMSON: 100 YEARS FROM NOW, PT 2
IDEAS contributor Sean Foley explores the landscapes of Algonquin Park, Ont., which inspired Tom Thomson's work —while also examining Indigenous artists' perspectives of the same landscapes that Thomson and the Group of Seven may have missed.

Thursday, September 19
WRIGHT AGAIN: REVISITING A SHORT HISTORY OF PROGRESS
From prehistory to Easter Island to the Middle East, civilizations have often been victims of their own success. These "progress traps" witness both spectacular growth, and terrible depletion of natural resources, along with the rise of conflict. Sound familiar? IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed speaks with author Ronald Wright about his prescient 2004 CBC Massey Lectures (which are being reissued), and the state of civilization here in 2019.

Friday, September 20
KILLER ROBOTS
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. Should human lives be taken only by other humans? Would using autonomous weapons be a tactical boon for armed forces? Would such weapons allay concerns about civilian casualties and PTSD? This episode delves into the complex conundrums of robot warfare.
 



Monday, September 23
THE BEAUTIFUL MATH OF MARYAM MIRZAKHANI
Maryam Mirzakhani was a woman of many firsts: she was the first woman to compete on the Iranian math Olympiad team; the first to score a perfect score; the first woman to win the "Nobel Prize" of mathematics, the Fields Medal. Like the mathematics she studied, Maryam Mirzakhani was complicated and complex. Her untimely death has led people to wonder what other astonishing things Maryam could have achieved and the legacy she leaves behind from the work she devoted her life to.

Tuesday, September 24
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.

Wednesday, September 25
MARGARET ATWOOD'S 2008 MASSEY LECTURES: PAYBACK
The Handmaid's Tale. Oryx and Crake. Cat's Eye. 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 CBC Massey Lectures, Payback. Atwood's meditation on debt, and what we owe each other, was written just before the global financial meltdown. Re-released in book form this year, the insights around nature and ownership are prescient and relevant.

Thursday, September 26
HOW TO ARGUE
There's been a lot of hand-wringing about the threat to liberal democracy from foreign agencies. But much less so about what's undermining democracy from within. American Philosophers Robert Talisse and Scott Aiken believe it is the simulated nature of political argument and disagreement that is eating away at democracy, creating democratic dysfunction—and even the physical separation between adversaries in the public space. Nahlah Ayed speaks to both about the dynamics of the problem, and how to imagine possible solutions.   

Friday, September 27
THE ORIGINS OF SPECIOUS: CLIMATE CHANGE DENIALISM 
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 historian of science Naomi Oreskes explains: "It's not about the facts, not about the science. Underneath all of this is a fear that capitalism has failed."  In a public talk, Oreskes examines how denying climate change came to be a personal and political belief.
 



Monday, September 30
ENRIGHT FILES: WHAT DO WE OWE THE FUTURE?
There's a reason why so many people seem uninspired by the current federal election campaign — our political discourse itself is uninspiring. It's full of talk about supporting the middle class and niche promises to attract votes from key demographics, but devoid of soaring rhetoric, transformational ideas or a compelling vision of who we want to be as a nation. This month on the Enright Files: the lack of poetry in our politics the question is leads to: what kind of country we want to leave for future generations?