Bert Olivier

Equality and intellectual emancipation

How does one achieve the intellectual emancipation of students, or, for that matter, of anyone, including yourself? The answer most people would probably give to this question, is that it is done through education and learning. To be sure, but what one learns from the French philosopher, Jacques Rancière, is that a great deal depends…

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The fatal hermeneutic divide in South Africa

Many people are bound to have thought of Alan Paton’s novel, Cry the Beloved Country, in the wake of recent events in South Africa. And everyone who have thought of it as a suitable response to these events may be forgiven. But there’s a saying, that people get the government they deserve, and it is…

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Blood Brothers and socio-economic inequality

At the dramatic culmination of Willy Russell’s gripping musical, Blood Brothers (1983), one of the twins who were parted soon after birth, Mickey, expresses his resentment at his mother, Mrs Johnstone, for not having been the one (Eddie) who was given away to a rich, childless woman, exclaiming something like: “I could have been him!”…

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Is humanity a rational species?

Most readers’ gut reaction to the question, above, would probably be something like: ‘Yes, of course!’ But please consider that the question is not whether humans are, on occasion, capable of rational behaviour. As it stands, the question bears on what would, if it could be answered affirmatively, be the supposed overriding quality of the…

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The actress who should have won the Oscar this year

Although I have come across quite a few people who dismiss the richly ambiguous La La Land as an unsuccessful attempt at a musical – no doubt implicitly comparing it to traditional musicals like My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music – I do not share their view. It is an outstanding film that…

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The early 21st century: Taking stock

We live in a society in transition – a process rooted in a technological revolution that stretches back to the middle of the previous century, with the invention of television, followed by other innovations in the media, and culminating in the invention of the internet, initially conceived as a military tool of sorts. Although the…

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Technocratic culture: ‘Disconnect’

If you don’t like thinking for yourself, don’t read this post. If you prefer playing around on your mobile device or smartphone, don’t bother reading further. The phone is definitely smarter than you are if you have relinquished your own memory and thinking-ability to its functionality. But if you would like to know something more…

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Has humankind really “progressed”, in the Enlightenment sense of the word?

In philosophy, there is a saying, by Hegel, that the owl of Minerva only spreads its wings at dusk. Hence, when we take stock of our situation today, with the benefit of such hindsight, what do we perceive? Has humankind really “progressed”, in the Enlightenment sense of the word? In fact, does “progress” make any…

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Stop killing our wild animals!

In 2005 I spent three weeks in China, attending conferences in Nanjing and Beijing, and travelling to several other cities. At one point I participated in a hike about 90 kilometres outside Beijing, in an area where the great wall of China is quite dilapidated, unlike in the more touristy areas. It was an enjoyable…

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Far more than a thriller writer

It is easy to misjudge a writer, particularly if the blurbs on the cover of his or her books proclaim something like: “Impossible to put down. Another mind-blowing story!” Or: “Wow…Blockbuster perfection. An exhilaratingly brainy thriller…” Not that these blurbs are inaccurate regarding the novels I have in mind; up to a certain point they…

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