Posted by: goatberg | February 26, 2008

CBC Ideas Podcast Recommendations

I come to you today with recommendations for three outstanding hours of radio from the CBC’s Best of Ideas Podcast.

The first is Utopian Dreams. From their website:

The world is strewn with the wreckage of utopian projects. Millions of people have been killed by social engineers who wanted to reshape humanity. The British historian of ideas, John Gray, believes politics is saturated with disguised religious longings. He calls for a new, humane realism.

This is a captivating lecture in which Gray argues that the American neo-conservative agenda in Iraq is in fact a utopian project in disguise, and as such was doomed to fail from the onset. The primary difference between the emerging American project and the former Soviet project, he argues, is that America has replaced the call to spread communisim with a call to seed free-market capitalism across the globe; both projects are by nature utopian. Compelling stuff. He also focuses on the pitfalls of consolidated media in the west and tells some very enlightening anecdotes about key items western news outlets have failed to pick up in the post-911 world. One of the best is the story of an American general in Iraq storming into Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar demanding the channel stop airing footage of an American tank crushing a Baghdadi civilian car full of innocents. In the end the general walked out in a huff, his call for censorship having been sufficiently rebuffed. Also keep an ear out for the tale of an Israeli columnist who sabotaged his own career by creatively quoting Hitler in a column designed to reveal the dangerous absurdity behind the rebuking by the Israeli media in 2003 of Israeli pilots protesting the morality of airstrikes in Palestinian territory. If a handful of western journalists were willing to make the same kind of ethical stand as this Israeli columnist, Gray suggests, there would be some hope for the future of real journalism.

If you only listen to one of these podcast recommendations, Utopian Dreams should be it.

The second is a two part series: Brave New Family. From the website:

Sperm donation has proven to be a Pandora’s Box. The vast majority of donor dads do not want to be found. In rare cases some children are seeking and finding dad and half-siblings in the process. Science journalist Alison Motluk explores the complex portrait of the brave new family.

This is a surprisingly interesting topic. Motluk follows one 25 year old girl in search of her biological father; discusses the ethics of sperm donation from the mother’s, the child’s, and the donor’s perspectives; and asks the question: does anonymous sperm donation violate the basic human rights of the resulting offspring? That, it seems to me, is treacherous ethical territory indeed. Is the standard practice of giving donors the option to remain anonymous discriminatory against the children by denying them knowledge of their genetic heritage, knowledge most people take for granted?  It’s a novel argument for me, but there is a logic to it.  Another fascinating issue tackled here is the predicament of some donor’s wives. Imagine how you would feel if your husband’s donor children began were suddenly integral members of the extended family.  Some wives are eager to welcome their husband’s donor children into the fold, others are understandably hesitant.

This is a new frontier in the definition of family and the ethics of genetics, and it makes for great radio.

You can subscribe to the podcast, or download/stream the episodes, here.

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