Bert Olivier

Inequality and violent protests in South Africa

In 2014 I wrote a piece for this site on the work of psychoanalyst, Paul Verhaeghe, specifically the book in which he writes about the link between inequality in a market-based society and health problems across a wide spectrum. In addition to stress and anxiety symptoms, Verhaeghe pointed to something confirmed by other researchers too,…

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How technological control undermines human desire

Contrary to what most people believe, the world is approaching the dystopian totalitarian society portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984, although ours does not, at first sight, appear to be totalitarian. And yet it is every bit as controlled, albeit in a much more subtle way. The Canadian thinker, Gilbert Germain, homes in on this state…

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The world has not learnt anything from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s ‘Gothic’ (proto-)science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, which was published when the author was only 20 years old. It was the fruit of a contest among herself and two other literary figures — her future husband, the poet Percy Shelley, and another poet, Lord…

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Kingsolver’s narrative indictment of colonisation: The Poisonwood Bible

I have written about Barbara Kingsolver’s (and other figures’, such as Salman Rushdie’s) novelistic art here before and even referred to The Poisonwood Bible cursorily — but recently the effect of colonisation on the inhabitants of certain continents (in this case Africa) has occupied my attention afresh. Hence this post, specifically on Kingsolver’s masterpiece, The…

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Marx at 200: As relevant as ever

Today (5 May 2018) is the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth in the German city of Trier, and all over the world people are celebrating his contribution to our self-understanding through the political, economic and social theories he (sometimes with his friend and colleague, Friedrich Engels) penned during his lifetime. The anniversary celebrations are…

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The allure of Louisa Punt-Fouché’s poetry

Poetry is alluring. Who is there so insensitive among us that evocative poetic phrases would not move us? Yes, I know – there are indeed such people, but I believe that even they, when given the opportunity to learn from a gifted teacher, would develop a modicum of receptivity to poetry. Blake’s “He who binds…

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On politicians without humour

In John Fowles’s novel, Daniel Martin (Triad Grafton, 1978), there is a wonderfully revealing passage as far as humourless politicians are concerned – the type that justifiably comprises the butt of comedians’ jokes. Dan and Jane (an old friend and one-time lover who accompanies him on a work-related trip to Egypt) are at a dinner-party…

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Julian Assange and injustice

Some time recently, someone sent me a WhatsApp message contrasting the political positions of Julian Assange of Wikileaks and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Underneath photographs of these two gentlemen, respectively, they read as follows: “Hi, I’m Julian Assange. I give private information on corporations & gov’t to you for free and the media calls me…

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The present ‘world dis-order’

Bernard Stiegler, referring to the battle for the attention of (particularly young) users of technical devices such as smartphones, writes about the ‘dis-attention’ that results from this. What he has in mind is the manner in which capitalism, not wasting any opportunity for marketing, uses these mnemo-technical devices to disrupt the flow of attention on…

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The question of heterotopia and/as dystopia

The term, ‘heterotopia’, was used by Michel Foucault in a brief text – titled ‘Of other spaces’ – published in Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité (October, 1984; translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec). It is a richly suggestive text, although academics who can’t deal with poststructuralist thinkers’ complex writings have generally derogated it with all kinds…

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