In an age of certainty, of assertions without facts, and sometimes assertions with facts, Mark O’Connell makes the case for a different virtue – ambivalence. Six years on from his thought-provoking, witty and charming Four Thought, he returns to make the case for ambivalence.
In those six years almost every trend in public life has been away from ambivalence rather than towards it. Populist movements from the left and the right are about certainty, and even the idea of balance often ends up sharing single, entrenched views, just neatly arrayed on either side.
Yet in real life few decisions are truly clear-cut, there is often a case on both sides, and a reasonable person could easily reach a different conclusion with the same evidence. Most of us, much of the time, have complex and mutually contradictory views on issues small and large. And that's also true in public life: the arts and business, politics and the military are all properly in the realm of ambivalence, with complicated, messy and marginal decisions.
Mark begins this programme in Dublin, speaking to a philosopher, a psychologist, an essayist and an art critic about what ambivalence is, how central it is to the human experience, and how we might embrace it. Then he travels to London, to examine areas of public life, and issues, where ambivalence feels less comfortable, more challenging. But as someone who is profoundly ambivalent about most things, much of the time, can he sustain the courage of his own ambivalence?
Producer: Giles Edwards
Does the Team Drink?
Comedy and alcohol have often been linked down the years, but why do the two go hand-in-glove? The days of the seven-round lunch are - for most - no longer part of the cut-and-thrust of comedy writing and performing, but booze and laughter are still very closely linked, both on and off-stage. Practitioners behind and in front of the curtain are often no strangers to "the raising of the wrist".
In conversation with writers and performers across the generations, writer Louis Barfe explores the connections between alcohol and entertainment.
Written and presented by Louis Barfe
Producer: Steve Doherty
A Giddy Goat production for BBC Radio 4
The British Black Panthers
The untold story of the years when Black Power came to Britain and forever left its mark - the coming together, political ideas, leaders and legacy.
Inspired by the American Black Panther Party, the British Black Panthers were founded in London’s Notting Hill in 1968 – the first Panther organisation outside the United States. Their mission was to change the terms of engagement about race in Britain, promote self-determination and challenge the British state.
Writer Kehinde Andrews, who launched the first UK Black Studies degree in Birmingham, meets key former Panthers and the generations that followed them, and – hearing from critics, artists and historians, drawing on a wealth of archive – explores their legacy.
From the late 1960s, following Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, and throughout the early 1970s, the British Black Panthers drew on the example of their American counterparts. The politics of Black Power travelled across the Atlantic and took unique form on British soil, inspiring a generation of multi-racial Black British youth. Putting aside revolutionary rhetoric, the British Panthers focused on policing the police at street level and on educating their members in Saturday schools. They championed racial equality - better housing, legal aid, immigrants’ rights and non-racist employment practice. They took on the criminal justice system and won. They agitated, argued, demonstrated, printed a weekly paper and marched under the flag of the same logo as their American counterparts - the leaping Panther.
Special Branch responded to the movement with its own Black Power Desk, while the 1970 trial of the Mangrove Nine, following a clash between police and Black Panther demonstrators in Notting Hill, evoked Magna Carter and changed racial justice in Britain forever.
Members included Darcus Howe, Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Farroukh Dhondy, the photographer Neil Kenclock and dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. The movement was inclusive, embracing members from Asian as well as West Indian and African descent. The Panthers were the new, multi-racial Black youth of Britain - children of immigrants, educated in British schools and more radical and defiant than their parents.
Contributors include poet Benjamin Zephaniah, former Panthers Farrukh Dhondy, Neil Kenlock and Beverley Bryan, historian David Olusoga and Mykaell Riley of Steel Pulse, US Black Panther leaders Bobby Seale and Elaine Brown, Ian Macdonald QC and British rapper and writer Akala.
Presenter: Kehinde Andrews
Producer: Simon Hollis
A Brook Lapping production for BBC Radio 4
Can Facebook Survive?
David Baker, contributing editor of Wired, explores the challenges Facebook must meet and overcome in order to survive after a disastrous period which has seen the reputation and the business model of the social media giant questioned like never before.
Producer: Jonathan Brunert
Power of Deceit
Lucy Cooke sets out to discover why honesty is almost certainly not the best policy, be you chicken, chimp or human being. It turns out that underhand behaviour is rife throughout the animal kingdom, and can be a winning evolutionary strategy. From sneaky squid, to cheating cuckoos, some species will resort to truly incredible levels of deception and deviousness to win that mate, or get more food. And when it comes to social animals like we humans, it turns out that lying, or at least those little white lies, may be the social glue that binds us all together.
Lucy heads to the RSPB cliffs at Bempton, with Professor Tim Birkhead to discover why so many bird species appear to be such proficient deceivers, as well as visiting the very crafty ravens at The Tower of London. She speaks to psychologist Richard Wiseman about how to spot when someone is lying, and finds out whether she is any good at it. In fact, can we trust any of what she says in this documentary at all?
Presenter Lucy Cooke
Producer Alexandra Feachem