Bert Olivier

What ‘decolonisation’ means: E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India

With all the talk about “decolonising” university curricula (see http://thoughtleader.co.za/bertolivier/2016/03/23/decolonisation-the-new-ideology/), which has again cropped up among the demands of the protesting students, I thought it might be productive to remind students and academic staff alike of one of the most eloquent – in fact, together with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, exemplary – critical literary…

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The unbelievable cost of South Africa’s bloated public sector

South Africa would be significantly more economically viable if it did not have to carry a civil service sector that far exceeds the country’s needs in numerical terms. This is one of the many things one learns from R.W. Johnson’s candid, if sometimes completely disconcerting recent book, How Long Will South Africa Survive? The Looming…

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Will “Blockadia” help, or “Is Earth F**ked”?

One of the most revealing threads running through Canadian investigative journalist and tireless anti-capitalism activist, Naomi Klein’s rivetting book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), concerns what she terms the “new climate warriors”, or in one word, “Blockadia”. This unlikely-sounding word names a movement which has arisen in the shape…

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The world has become an uncertain and ugly place

Several things I have read recently have impressed upon me that, despite developments (particularly in the field of technology) that are bound to excite some people, in some respects the world has become more uncertain and “ugly” than ever before. To be sure, it has always been uncertain in an existential sense – no one…

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“Names Unvoiced but not Unknown”: Cleone Cull’s surrealist art

Judging by the recently opened exhibition of multimedia drawings by Eastern Cape artist Cleone Cull – who spent years teaching fine art, first at the Port Elizabeth Technikon and later at the School of Music, Art and Design of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University – art is thriving in this corner of South Africa. Cleone…

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Philosophy of provisionality

Everything we do as humans is provisional. Because of time’s eroding power, everything is revisable. There is a reason for the word “decision” being a part of our language. Not accidentally, the term derives from the Latin for “cut”; in other words, when we decide something, we make a volitional “cut” of sorts in the…

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The follies of humankind, through the eyes of a young girl

In this time of economic and ecological uncertainty, which has, tellingly, given rise to the philosophical genre of “extinction studies” (see http://thoughtleader.co.za/bertolivier/2014/06/30/human-extinction-its-not-just-science-fiction/), it may be wise to remind ourselves that the human folly which has given rise to the fraught state of the present, globally, is nothing new. Human history is littered with such follies,…

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Brexit, capital as meta-body, and mytochondria

So it did happen in the end. Brexit. Against expectations, judging by the polls immediately before the referendum on 23 June. But looking back, it is not surprising that it happened. Most of those voting to leave are older voters, whose emotional ties to a Britain before the “free movement” immigration from European Union countries…

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Ubuntu and eco-feminism as an antidote to neoliberalism

How many people have noticed that neoliberal capitalism undermines the values of ubuntu (“I am because others are”) as a traditional African practice? And how many know that ubuntu and ecofeminism share some fundamental principles and values? I know of at least one such person, and her work in this regard is extremely significant. In…

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The Tshwane protests, Freud and how to control a crowd

It is regrettable that so many thinking people today – even those in the discipline of psychology – regard the work of the founder of psychoanalysis (which is by no means synonymous with psychology) as being of no more than historical importance, and Sigmund Freud himself as a historical curiosity. And yet, Freud is more…

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