The Sunday Edition

The death of gravitas

There are signs we are no longer taking serious things seriously. The opinions of movie stars carry more weight than the expertise of scientists. Media organizations compete for click-bait. Reality TV star billionaires run for public office — and sometimes even win. Whatever happened to gravitas? Michael's guests will be philosopher Joe Heath; political scientist Susan McWilliams, and long-time activist for social justice, Stephen Lewis.
President Donald Trump arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, for his address to a joint session of Congress. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP)
Listen32:25

It seems we are taking fewer and fewer things seriously. 

The opinions of celebrities, billionaires and movie stars carry more weight these days than the expertise of scientists, lawyers and doctors. 

Schools at every level insist that teachers and professors lighten up and inject their lectures with light-hearted pizazz. Media organizations compete for click-bait, demanding more stories that are snappy and seductive.

A deficit of seriousness is also being reflected — indeed magnified — in the world of politics. Billionaires with no civic experience conclude they have the requisite skills to run governments. And, in growing numbers every year, the electorate has been abdicating one of the gravest responsibilities of civic duty: the right to vote.

Michael speaks to three guests about the consequences of not taking seriousness seriously. 

  • Susan McWilliams teaches politics at Pomona College in Claremont, California. 
  • Joseph Heath is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, where he also teaches in the School of Public Policy and Governance. His books include Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy and Our Lives.
  • Stephen Lewis is a former leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party and Canada's ambassador to the United Nations. He  was the UN's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. He is now Chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the co-founder of AIDS-Free World.

Click the 'play' button above to hear the panel. 

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