Ideas festivals are having a moment. These days, few things lure us away from our laptop screens like the promise of a speaker with a life-changing perspective, or a TED talk that you can embrace with evangelical zeal.
The Festival of Dangerous Ideas – which is co-hosted by the St James Ethics Centre and the Sydney Opera House, and which has featured lectures by Julian Assange, Germaine Greer and Dan Savage – has seen its audience triple since it launched in 2009.
This year’s festival, which includes panels and solo sessions from British journalist Tariq Ali, American anthropologist Gabriella Coleman and Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, continues the event’s focus on left-field thinking and radical ideas. Curator Ann Mossop says she’s particularly excited to see Klein, whose seminal book No Logo (2000) is still the definitive manifesto for anti-consumerism.
“We’re really thrilled that Naomi Klein is coming. Her whole argument is a really dangerous one, but she’s also a really brilliant and compelling speaker,” says Mossop. Philosopher Anthony (A.C.) Grayling is also wonderful – he’s someone who can bring philosophy alive and apply it to the things that really matter today. And I’m also looking forward to Martin Ford, who’s written a really interesting book, called Rise of the Robots, about the impact robots are going to have on our economy and jobs. It might be disturbing to people but it will be great to her him talk about it.”
The 2015 festival also features a Melbourne program that will unfold in partnership with the Melbourne Writers Festival, a web series and an online magazine published on US website Medium. “Although we obviously want to talk about events that are important to audiences in Australia, it’s important to engage with trends and events that are happening around the world. We’re also trying to capture some ideas that people are just on the cusp of getting interested in.” Here are our picks:
Capitalism and the Climate – Naomi Klein
For Naomi Klein, the climate-change debate isn’t about simplistic arguments but about how our ecosystem and economic system are fundamentally incompatible. During this session, Klein will explore the ways in which climate change is shaped by capitalism’s failures, and prove that confronting this crisis can create space for radical change.
The Twilight of Democracy – Tariq Ali
What is the purpose of democracy when it’s become more challenging than ever to tell the left and right apart? Tariq Ali, a celebrated journalist and filmmaker who has been voicing the concerns of the left since the 1960s, discusses the failure of Western democracy when parties give in to the whims of the market.
Lost Boys – Laurie Penny
Women might be waging a war against the patriarchy, but Laurie Penny believes that dusty gender binaries are just as suffocating for men. The prolific columnist and author of Unspeakable Things, Cybersexism and Meat Market will discuss how men are trapped by tired ideas of manliness, and assert that enabling men to relinquish their privilege is the first step towards equality for all.
Bad Education – A.C. Grayling
If education is the key to achievement then why has schooling stayed the same for the past 100 years? A.C. Grayling, a fellow of St Anne’s College in Oxford and advocate of the new atheist movement, will explain why he believes you were disenchanted during your university lectures, and why its time to revolutionise the way we learn.
Closing Night – The Razor’s Edge: The Moth Live
Obsessed with spoken narratives? Closing night will feature New York public radio maestros, The Moth. It will bring its compelling brand of storytelling to Sydney – along with a string of global guests.
The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is on September 5–6 at the Sydney Opera House.