In this post I suggest five podcasts to listen to and educate yourself in a broad way while keeping your sanity and remaining (or regaining) hope for the future. I also suggest it is highly important that you come out of your world of facebook feeds and snippet journalism if you are in such a box. This may sound provocative, and perhaps it is, but there are good reasons for it.
The last decade has seen a formidable demise of many, if not most public news channels. Not only is this sad, but its also a threat to all democratic societies due to their dependency on independent news agencies. In Sweden I would say we have little left of quality journalism.
Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet, the two main news providers are today in a sorrowful race towards the bottom, desperately trying to survive on advertising while slashing their costs and curating their news flows towards emotionally engaging news items, or sensational journalism instead of fact based news. This downward race is doomed for many reasons.*
The threat to democracy in all its simplicity is this: Before Google and Facebook (basically) took most of the advertising revenues away from newspapers and journalism in general, we had professional editorial boards that served the population a broadly composed mix of news. With internet we have become used to compose our own news mix and subscriptions has dwindled as we expect free news.
What is malign with this is that it narrows our minds. We are moving into silo-thinking and in-the-box-mentality with a resulting increased polarization in society. We read what we want to read, see what we want to see. Many news agencies are adapting to this by implementing clever technologies that feed individual readers with what they want based on their click behavior. This of course further the in-the-box-mentality even more. What we are witnessing is our very own stultification process – and it is of surprising scale.
In the light of this it’s not surprising that we have seen a polarization of the political spectrum. Evil powers are further exacerbating the polarization by trolling media channels, weakening their credibility further. Germany for example, lately saw an example of this kind of propaganda solely aimed at polarizing groups against each other.
This development is not benign to any democracy and it is rather important that we try and counteract it. Really the only way to do this, as I see it, is that every citizen makes an effort to come out of their personal information silo or thought box. We need to inform ourselves in such a way that we get a broad and deep understanding of current political development.
Inside our boxes we may feel safe and comfortable. By providing ourselves with too little or no background knowledge, nor of developments in other areas, we become easy targets, and conveyors, of false beliefs for all sorts of elaborate misinformation, with deliberate intent to increase fear.
We need to inform ourselves in such a way that we get a broad and deep understanding of current political development.
Since you can not any longer trust many or most, of the dominant market driven news channels to deliver broad unbiased quality content it’s unfortunately up to us citizens to educate ourselves on how to provide us with enough knowledge to be able to understand when information is skewed, misinterpreted, exaggerated or false.
A decreasing number of journalists are themselves capable of this, simply because experienced journalists are getting laid off. Thera are still good journalism around that are well worth mentioning, like for example The Guardian (UK), Der Speigel (Germany) and The Nation (US).
I frequently read these and others papers that still show signs of independence and highly qualitative journalism, but I am also my own ”news cook” and often listen to podcasts while I walk or commute. Below I have listed my five favorite podcasts.
My deepest interest lie in the cultivation of the mind with meditation and other practices at the core, including psychotherapy, which may help to explains the selection.
All that said, here is my list
To my Swedish readers I want to say that even though some episodes can be demanding language wise. My advise is to bear with them and keep listening. It’s generally worth the effort.
1. Insights at the Edge
I’ve followed this podcast for years and listen to almost every episode. For me Insights at the edge is an excellent way of reminding myself of my spiritual path.
Tami Simon runs this show and each week or so, she presents a new guest. Generally authors and others taken from a broad spectrum of personal development. This show has seen a host of well known people such as for example Ken Wilber and Jon Kabat-Zinn but also one or two with not such high standards.
If you are even remotely interested in self-development you should check it out. It should also be mentioned that Sounds True, today is a renowned publishing company of books and audio-listening series in the spiritual field and that I have no affiliate earning or any gain from giving this tip. I simply like the podcasts very much.
Find it here: Subscribe or listen to an episode
2. The Extraenvironmentalist
The Extraenvironmentalist (XE) is run by Seth and Justin. They deliver extraordinarily well content with high profile thinkers mostly from the fields of economy and sustainable development.
Their point of view being that of a critical thinker who is searching for a deeper understanding and solutions to todays consumption oriented society, gives you an understand the global economy and of sustainable development issues that you don’t get in many other places. It’s standard is also quite unique.
The discussions are made with an open mind with nice touch of humor and I love that.
Tip: If you have a special interest in energy and the transition away from fossil fuels you should check out XE connected Chris Nelder’s podcast The Energy Transition Show (geek-warning applied).
3. Writers Voice
Francesca Rheannon is producer and host of Writer’s Voice. She is a bibliophile and apparently loves to read. In this show she interviews writers about their work, their characters, research and their passion for writing.
Francesca often choose writers that has a political aim with their writings. Her recent episodes includes writers of biographies on the US presedential candidates for example. Without going back to double check, I recall many highly interesting interviews with authors on environmental subjects. Mainly novels or fiction, but also those with a journalistic approach, describing such topics as changes along a river, tar sands and more.
This podcast let me both peek into the brains of writers as well as getting a deeper look inte their motives and work.
4. Waking up with Sam Harris
My friend Anders, gave me this tip and it quickly became one of my favorites. This is how Anders presented it to me: ”Oh, if I could argue like Sam Harris. He is totally brilliant, but the best is that he often changes his mind”.
Sam Harris is indeed a highly intelligent person. But he is also a down to earth person and a meditator. He is a writer and a philosopher with his prime interests in religion and morals. The full name of his podcast is Waking Up: A Guide to Spiritually Without Religion.
The Without Religion part has, quite unwillingly I believe, brought him into deeper waters of religion than he hoped for, such as religious extremism and Islamism in particular. With clarity and an open mind he invites people with views and opinions quite the opposite of his own, in sincere attempts to create real dialogues. Sometimes his attempts are successful but he also fails miserably.
What often happens, is that Sam’s low key way of discussing, while sticking to his subject, reveals the cracks in his opponents points of views and opinions. It’s very interesting to witness how ideas, especially hard headed ones, in the end seem to require emotional support to prevent them from collapsing. This comes out crystal clear in an episode he ironically calls ”the best interview ever” where someone called Omer Aziz blatantly disclose himself as a bully who is used to steamroll people with a host of nasty oratorical tricks. Not so here, where it’s obvious to anyone and all (perhaps with the exception of Omer himself) that he fell in his own pit.
I think we all have a lot to learn from Sam Harris way of listening and asking and be amazed over how far we can get by just giving up trying to convince the other and listen instead.
Waking Up: A Guide to Spiritually Without Religion, is both entertaining and educative. It should not be missed!
5. The Guardian Long Read
The Guardian is one of my favorite news channels. I like it for their neutral and fact-based form of journalism.
The Long read are in-depth articles, usually around 35 minutes long and cover a large variety of subjects. Here I have listened to pieces on Boko Haram, The new right wing polish prime minister, hacker and troll ”Eris” and why he commited suicide, On diet and Detox, how big pharma strive for more dominance, why a Spanish a couple murdered their adoptive child and a lot more.
Find it here: Subscribe in iTunes.
* If you are interested in medias struggle for survival and the changing news landscape, as mentioned in the first paragraph of this article, I recommend listening to an episode of the podcast series BBC Analysis. Look for ”The End of free”, released a couple of weeks ago, on march 14th.
Another piece on the same subject was written yesterday in The Guardian by Simon Jenkins as a comment to news reactions on what happened in Brussels: The scariest thing about Brussels is our reaction to it.
If you have a favorite podcast you want to share, please put a note on why, together with a link in the comment field.