Bert Olivier

‘Only when the last fish has been caught, will you realise that you cannot eat money’

‘Only when the last fish has been caught, will you realise that you cannot eat money’. We are moving perilously close to the actualisation of my paraphrase of these words from the well-known saying attributed to Alanis Obomsawin of the Abenaki tribe northeast of Montreal in Canada. The usual wording of the saying is: “When…

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Selfies, the disappearance of the natural world and nihilism

I don’t like shopping malls; they remind me of the weakness of our species when it comes to commodities that they ‘must have’, according to the spurious ethos of the prevailing economic system. Hence, when the woman in my life asked me to accompany her to that monstrosity known as the Baywest mall, outside the…

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Are you an agnostic?

What is agnosticism? Broadly speaking, it is the position that claims that human beings cannot ‘know’ whether God (or gods) exists or not. We simply do not have the means to have such knowledge. I put ‘know’ in scare quotes because that is where an agnostic puts the emphasis. The ancient Greek word, ‘gnosis’, means…

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Why does celebrity online behaviour affect ordinary people?

In a recent article on the Yahoo website, Marie Claire Dorking claims that when so-called celebrities – the contemporary kitsch counterparts of ancient Greek Olympians – ‘behave badly’ online, their behaviour has a recognisable impact on the behaviour of ordinary people, including children. In other words, the bad example they set has consequences when it…

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The technology that is threatening life as we know it

We are currently witnessing a pervasive and accelerating recording, modelling and processing of data pertaining to human beings as well as other living species (and even inorganic things) on a scale that surpasses what most of us can imagine. This has been made possible by bio-technologies which seem as if they are the incipient actualisation…

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Our troubled world

A number of things have struck me since we arrived in Europe to attend a number of conferences, travelling from Ghent in Belgium through Munich in Germany to beautiful Venice in the Veneto of Italy, and they do not augur well for the future of human society or the planet. These range from observations in…

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An important conference for Afrikaans in Europe

Summer is a good time for attending conferences in Europe, and 2017 has proved to be no exception. This afternoon we had to brave a thunderstorm that would hold its own against any Highveld thunderstorm in South Africa, and that in Venice, Italy, just after our arrival here from München by bus. We were on…

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The essence of neoliberalism

France’s pre-eminent sociologist and social theorist Pierre Bourdieu, who died not so long ago, did not pull his punches when it came to identifying the hegemonic economic system of the present, neoliberalism, ruthlessly as a “utopia of endless exploitation”. In an article titled “The essence of neoliberalism” (in Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1998) he puts…

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The cyber-war(s) being fought right under our noses

Time magazine invariably has very clever, multi-faceted covers, the latest one being no exception. It shows the White House – the American president’s residence and workplace, all in one – being slowly but surely devoured by Saint Basil’s Cathedral, with its red brick walls and colourful onion domes, which stands on the Red Square and…

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The age of anger

A friend of mine – Avril Gardiner, art-fundi and owner-curator of the Liebrecht at gallery in Somerset-West – recently reminded me of a piece by Bryan Walsh in TIME magazine of 20 February (2017: pp. 15-16), in which Walsh talks about what he calls “this age of anger” in the context of the claim that…

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