Will no one challenge this god?

THIS YEAR'S Reith lectures, given by Anthony Giddens, ended last night. Am I the only person on this planet who found most (not all) of what I heard unconvincing, at times even trite?

Professor Giddens has often written innovative and important books. He diagnoses issues brilliantly - the consequences of modernity for example. But the shine that automatically attaches to his every word is leading to some fairly flabby thinking. What is astounding, however, is that so few among the many who have attended his lectures have interrogated him on some of his more outlandish assertions. He is a shrine. The Tony who has the approval of that even more blessed Tony. Why, even Hillary Clinton spoke up during one of the lectures to question him.

I attended the final lecture. I have never seen so many professors, politicians, writers and pundits all stacked on seats in a lecture room. Ralf Dahrendorf, Fred Halliday, the querulous Peter Lilley, Lisa Jardine were all there. Some questions were asked but veneration rather than dissension prevailed. In fact, people were agitated and enraged; and as we left, much of this was expressed on the staircase and in the cloakrooms. But not in presence of the man who has made himself the God of Globalisation.

This submission is facilitated by the format of these lectures (only one Reith lecturer, Dr Patricia Williams, a black American feminist, has been denied this reverence) and the problems inherent in Radio Four, which seems determined to retain an identity that is pure establishment, white, Western and imperial. Why else would they take Mark Tulley to Delhi to introduce Giddens where the third lecture was delivered? Were all the Indian intellectuals out to lunch? Is this what "globalisation" means, then? The First World dominating what happens and controlling who should tell the stories of what is happening?

But I digress. My point is that much of what Giddens presents as The Truth is questionable and yet a massive hush has settled over it. This is hardly democracy, the theme of the last lecture.

Consider the indescribably sanguine view Giddens takes of the reality of globalisation. His optimism is enchanting but can only be sustained if you are part of the privileged global elite. The share of the global income of the poorest people in the world has dropped from 2.3 per cent to 1.4 per cent in the last decade (while the share of the richest fifth has risen from 70 per cent to 85 per cent). Local communities, cultures and values are being destroyed. These people are struggling to create a future that feels authentic to them. They are not rooted to some irrelevant past. They simply want the right to choose and incorporate change, but on their terms. However, the pushy globalisation we have at present is putting people into a single tunnel future.

And although Giddens would deny this, that future is American. This is why it is nonsense to say, as he does, that these processes are no longer under the control of the rich countries or that we now have "reverse colonisation" - because, apparently, Hispanics are all getting under Wasp feet in LA and Brazil is selling television programmes to Portugal.

In all the lectures there are examples of sweeping statements which don't hold up to scrutiny. Giddens says that Nelson Mandela is more familiar to us today than our neighbours because of the explosion in instantaneous electronic communication. Gandhi was as well known and loved more than 60 years ago and when Marilyn Monroe died, my mother, who lived in Uganda and did not even have a telephone, wept for days.

There is no stated awareness of the fact that in the West today there are groups of people whose values remain profoundly indifferent to the moral mess that post-modernism has created and that these are not villagers in Pakistan but town-dwellers in Bolton. Most of all, there is no mention at all of the massive movements of dispossessed people who, one could say, have become the human debris in our runaway world.

There are many other points which could and should have been raised at the lecture, in the press and the media. But they are all sleeping on the same soft mattress of consensus politics. The BBC, other journalists and many academics want to be near to the political magic circle. The political leadership needs confirmation that what they are doing is cost- free and almost totally benevolent.

Gidden's greatest achievement is that he has been able to do both with disarming charm. Our misfortune is that he has been allowed to get away with it.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor