Thursday, October 27, 2005

An Intelligent Debate on the Radio? It Must Be the BBC

I heard the most fascinating debate on the BBC station on my Sirius radio this morning. The BBC brought on air two an elderly English couple who frankly said that if there wasn't enough flu virus to go around, and particularly in the case of a bird flu epidemic, that the old, like themselves, should be last on the priority list. Debating them was a guy who was an advocate for the elderly working for some organization or another. His response was to say that these decisions should not be made by age but rather by need.

There was so much that was interesting in this. You have the debate itself, between two old people saying that the young had a greater right to resources than they did against a young person saying that the old did have the same rights. I had to feel here that the older couple won the debate for two reasons. First, they had the moral upper hand because of the sacrifice they were willing to make. But more importantly, it exposed the problem with single-issue interest groups and their advocates. Rather than think about this intelligently, the advocate had to fall back on a stock position that maybe made no real sense. How often does this happen? Do we lose the forest for the trees (and other cliches) because of the work we do?

Now, I don't know whether I agree with the elderly couple or not. I am inclined to think that I do so now but I'm not sure I will in another 40 years. I sure respect them though. How should we decide who lives and who dies? What a terrificly difficult question. I have no answers. I do know though that is a debate worth having.

And I also know that such a conversation could only happen on the BBC. Even NPR or PBS wouldn't take that one. And certainly not FOX or any of the other "news" networks.