Bert Olivier

We live in a nihilistic age

There is no doubt that we live in a nihilistic age — probably, as far as pervasiveness goes, the most nihilistic age in history. Nihilism is the cultural condition, or the psychological state, where nothing is experienced as having any intrinsic or inalienable worth, or value — which has nothing to do with saying that…

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Idoru: Gibson’s astonishing glimpse of virtual reality’s future

William Gibson — creator of Neuromancer, among other gripping sci-fi novels — has arguably delved even further into the latent possibilities, or what Gilles Deleuze called virtualities, of the information revolution, in his quotidian dimension-surpassing novel, Idoru (Penguin 1996), one of the so-called Bridge trilogy. So much so that Peter Popham in the Independent commented…

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Can fusion energy be achieved?

Lev Grossman (“Star Power”, in Time, November 2, p. 24-33) calls fusion the “holy grail” of “the quest for clean energy”, and with good reason — it is as elusive as the proverbial unicorn in your garden (with apologies to James Thurber). By this I mean that, although scientists and technologists know what has to…

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How should one understand the rise of ‘fundamentalism’?

With the current wave of “terrorist” attacks, not only in France, but in other parts of the world such as Nigeria and Mali, too, “fundamentalist” organisations have become the focus of many questions, including the one concerning the reason why (particularly young) people join these despite risking their lives in the course of performing their…

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Paris again: Has Huntington’s thesis been vindicated?

The recent events in Paris (not long after the Charlie Hebdo attacks), which have understandably shocked everyone who values peaceful interaction between people of different cultural orientations, will no doubt fuel renewed intercultural distrust instead. This is to be expected, particularly after reports that one of the attackers might have entered France a few weeks…

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Derrida and the present world (dis-)order

Anyone who believes that the present world-dispensation is one of “order”, merely has to scan all the many sources of information to be disabused of such an illusion. In doing so, however, they would probably not realise that, as Derrida (1994; see below) enables one to see, these very news sources — mainly television, the…

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Žižek and that strange animal, the human

A fascinating discussion of jealousy, fantasy, animals and utopia, by Slavoj Žižek — the “most dangerous philosopher in the West” (New Republic) — in Living in the End Times (Verso, London, 2010), helps one understand the reasons for our fascination with animals in their “natural” state. This fascination is well-known to most of us —…

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Emerson, a much-neglected thinker

Ralph Waldo Emerson — the leader of American “Transcendentalism” in the 19th century — has a lot to teach the self-obsessed, narcissistic, smartphone-wielding generation of today. Despite the fact that his famous essay, “Self-Reliance” (1841; available here) is written in the excessively patriarchal language of the time — one might be forgiven for thinking there…

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Bravo students: ‘The doors of learning and culture shall be opened’

The ongoing student protests across the country confirm, unambiguously, the failure of the neoliberal system in South Africa, which requires a hefty increase in student fees every year, given the fact that universities are now part of the invidious neoliberal economic system, instead of being state-funded public institutions. And don’t tell me that it is…

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The lie that society is founded on

In Living in the End Times (London: Verso, 2010) that inimitable Slovenian philosopher cum psychoanalytical theorist Slavoj Žižek performs a dazzling analysis of Christopher Nolan’s genealogical Batman film The Dark Knight (2008). What his analysis brings to light is something that, Žižek reminds one, John Ford also explored cinematically years ago in Fort Apache (1948)…

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