Six bold TV proposals
I have made one rather feeble and unsuccessful attempt to “sell” these ideas for TV shows. I would like to present, write, mentor or research any of them. But I don’t really mind. It would be nice to see them on-air, whoever and however it happens.
1 From Gilgamesh to Marvel. A show exploring the tropes of modern stories, showing how we have a record of something like 4000 years of entertainments with heroes who are, variously, (1) Semi-divine (possessing magic powers), (2) Butch Romantic (given to lost causes), (3) Romantic Romantics (given to hopeless love), or (4) Pastoral (those adorable peasants). These Fabulous Four types were and are loved and admired as saviours and rescuers of their weaker brethren. We look at the enduring qualities of heroism, femininity, dystopias and paradises which are the backbones of myths, legends and romances across the ages. And we explore how the big difference between old and new stories is that only in recent centuries have there been mass audiences.
2 What might modern spirituality look like? A show on what a secular, materialist, rational person might achieve in the way of delivering the Greek ideal of an “examined life”. It might well have an element of pilgrimage. But why should it be a matter of being moral, or well-adjusted, or chilled-out, or depend on Greco-Christian “detachment”? We would give some history, and some cross-cultural comparisons; we would draw on modern neuroscience. There can’t be firm conclusions, but one might make the modest suggestion that being ready for the finality of death is more than ever a decent and curiously invigorating spiritual goal.
3 What do you know? A show examining the nature of evidence and its role in forming opinions. After 50 years of intellectual relativism, in which the idea of truth has been dethroned, having been usurped by points of view, we explore how modern persons might learn how to calibrate the rational basis for the things they think they know, and the opinions they form. We explore how to interrogate evidence; whose opinion is worth taking seriously; how to be robustly fair-minded; how to unpick bogus claims of impartiality; how to play with dialectic; and whether some views are “better” than some others. A must watch for the Tweeting young, IMHO.
4 A history of the wild. A show examining the 180 degree turn-around in our understanding of the wild. We have, say, 5000 years of thinking about wilderness, and in the last 500 of them we see a reversal of attitude. Civilisation was built on a belief that man should tame the unruly wild, and that culture consists in overcoming all sorts of savagery. Now, in a sort of mass misanthropy, we fear we have lost our way, and think redemption and rescue may lie in revering and reinstating the wild, as the only Other which can offer proper discipline. Unfortunately for this view, nature is a thoughtless pragmatist, not a moral guide.
5 What went wrong with liberalism? A show on why the modern Bossy Liberals who dominate metropolitan and cosmopolitan thought are rather narrow in their thinking and sympathies. We explore how wrong they are in believing that the unwashed masses are authoritarian or even Fascist merely because they are not radical or progressive. We show how this misapprehension has led to rather bad politics, and indeed fuels reactionary populism. We explain how modern liberalism lets down important strands in historical liberal thought (itself pretty bossy in places) not least by being smug, snobbish and locked in a comfort zone. We point to a revival of better, historically rather British, alternatives with far wider empathies.
6 The Empathy Delusion. We explore the weakness of the modern enthusiasm for empathy. We note that humans have rather little insight into the interior life of their fellows, let alone a desire to share in it. What’s worse, empathy – even if we had it – would be a useless moral guide. If we understood and shared the interior life of everyone (as we are supposed to want to do), we wouldn’t be able to privilege those who depend on us for special treatment (family, friends, compatriots, etc). The good news is that we have a counter-trend to celebrate: we are now asked to believe that people with little or no empathy are valuable even in an age which insists empathy is the answer to nearly everything: go figure.