It’s easy to see how lots of people singing, shouting and smooching in a stuffy space would keep a virologist up at night. Within hours of nightclubs reopening the Prime Minister announced that full vaccination will be the condition of entry from September. The Netherlands recently tried reopening its clubs and quickly decided to close them again amid rising infection rates. We may be free to party, but we’re not free of the virus. Just because we can, does it mean we should? For some, there is a clear moral case for delaying our gratification that little bit longer. Another view is that we have to start living again; young people in particular deserve an escape after the months of sacrifice, and the fact that every adult in the UK has now been offered at least one jab should be an important part of the moral calculation. Others have gone even further than the Beastie Boys in suggesting we have not just a right, but a duty, to party. Is there an intrinsic moral value in revelry? Those partial to a bit of table-top dancing might argue that these are spontaneous and transcendent experiences of human connection; in theological terms, a celebration of the gift of life itself. Yet, many philosophical and religious traditions have been highly suspicious of hedonistic pleasures. Modern-day stoics and puritans might associate a “living for the weekend” clubbing culture with chaos, over-indulgence and a loss of self-control. Does the truest form of joy lie in self-restraint? Or should we follow Oscar Wilde’s advice: “everything in moderation, including moderation”? With Jeremy Gilbert, Prof Christopher Gill, Olivia Petter and Julian Tang.
Producer: Dan Tierney.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, currently working its way through Parliament, would for the first time formally recognise that animals have the ability to experience feelings, including pain, joy and fear. If the law is passed, the government will establish an Animal Sentience Committee to scrutinise policy. Many hope it would offer animals greater protection - only this week, the BBC’s Panorama programme revealed that rules designed to protect horses from a cruel death appear to be regularly ignored at one of the UK's biggest abattoirs. Some want the bill to go even further by including invertebrates, which, for example, could ban the practice of boiling crustaceans alive. Critics of the proposals believe current animal welfare legislation is sufficient and worry about the unintended consequences for farming, fishing and countryside sports. They argue there should be no contradiction in the idea that a nation of ‘animal lovers’ could eat billions of them every year. The way we treat (and whether we eat) animals has important implications, not just for the status of animals, but for the status of human beings. A rights-based approach has argued that since the moral status of humans overlaps with some animals, we should consider those animals equally deserving of rights. Others believe that elevating the status of animals diminishes the uniqueness of human beings. Is it time to think of some animals not just as having rights, but as occupying the same moral universe as humans, worthy of our trust and capable of being betrayed? Or should the relationship between man and beast always be seen as one of human dominion? With Jim Barrington, Claire Bass, Dr Steve Cooke and Nick Zangwill.
Producers: Dan Tierney and Phil Pegum.
The Future of Work
Is it time to rethink our attitude to work? Nearly half of employees care less about their careers since Covid, according to a survey this week of 2000 staff of large companies. Four in ten said they are concerned about work-related burnout and a quarter of women said the pandemic has had a negative impact on their work-life balance. The lockdown has disrupted long-existing patterns of work for some and exposed the work-based inequalities of others. As we’re about to unlock, many believe this is the moment to re-negotiate the role of work in our lives. Some believe that employers should be more adaptable to the individual circumstances of their employees, seeking as far as possible to eradicate work-related stress for the sake of their mental health. Others think greater flexibility based on people’s lifestyles could foster a culture of entitlement and we should accept that a certain amount of stress is inseparable from productivity and creativity. What about the value of work itself? For some, the goal should be to do less and less of it. Trials of a four-day week in Iceland were described as an "overwhelming success" and led to many workers moving to shorter hours. Radical advocates of leisure time defend the ‘right to be lazy’ and view idleness as central to creativity. While others believe that work is intrinsic to a person’s sense of purpose and dignity. Is there a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ work in an economy that has seen billionaires get richer while some families have struggled to put food on the table during the pandemic? Should we work to live or live to work? With Philip Booth, Matthew Garrahan, Will Stronge and Otegha Uwagba.
Producer: Dan Tierney.
Justice and Peace
Northern Ireland's largest cross-community victims' group, Wave Trauma Centre, has written to Boris Johnson opposing the idea of a “de-facto amnesty” for Troubles-related prosecutions, after the cases of two Army veterans facing murder charges were dropped. It follows reports that the government has been considering a ban on all prosecutions prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement under a statute of limitations, focusing instead on information retrieval for the families of those killed. Most people will never be in a position to understand the pain of losing a loved one unlawfully. How do we weigh their need for justice, against the need to build a lasting peace in the community? Many families regard immunity from prosecution as an insult to victims on all sides, and a betrayal of those who are committed to justice. While others believe it is time to put future peace ahead of past injustice, with an 'amnesty' that centres on 'truth recovery'. Are prosecutions always central to any notion of justice? Does the pursuit of justice or peace always require trade-offs or is it impossible to achieve one without the other, as the anti-racist slogan “No Justice, No Peace” suggests? What role, if any, does forgiveness play? What lessons can be learned from post-conflict societies around the world? With Brian Rowan, Sandra Peake, Bonny Ibhawoh and Selina Stone.
Producer: Dan Tierney.
It’s that time every two (or three) years when St George’s flags flap out of car windows and red cross bunting festoons the front of the houses of England football fans. At any other time, such behaviour might be greeted with suspicion, even concern, such is the pejorative perception of patriotism expressed by the English. Why does English patriotism have such bad PR? Patriots see their cause as unifying; a positive sense of the nation as something which holds us all together in our different tribes. Others reject being coerced to love their country, whether they like it or not, just because that’s where they happened to be born. Patriotism can’t escape the past. For those on the right of politics it’s often about celebrating one’s national story; for those on the left it’s about reckoning with it. Patriotism has always been inescapably political, but there is a sense on both sides that it has now been co-opted into the ‘culture wars’. Calls for schoolchildren to sing a ‘One Britain, One Nation’ song is seen as a disingenuous dog whistle for right-wing nationalists and racists, while criticism of the inclusion of ‘Rule Britannia’ during the Last Night of the Proms is, for others, a sign of ‘wokery gone too far’. Is English patriotism now intrinsically divisive and threatening, incapable of disentangling itself from authoritarian nationalism? Or can it be reclaimed and redeemed from what it has become in many people’s eyes? With Dia Chakravarty, Robert Beckford, Billy Bragg and Gavin Esler.
Producer: Dan Tierney.