Bert Olivier

The intergenerational injustice of climate change

Scientists are getting more radical about climate change and its consequences for our descendants. In a recent edition of the New York Times, Dr Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University draws attention to the fact that the time is past when scientists could, with a good conscience, refuse to go further than state their considered…

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The French philosopher and the American whistle-blower

Unless one acknowledges the complex nature and often unexpected connections among things, events and people, one might find it a smidgen astonishing that what the French poststructuralist philosopher, Jean-Francois Lyotard, wrote in his “report” on the state of knowledge in “advanced” societies, better known as The Postmodern Condition (1979; English translation: Manchester University Press, 1984),…

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Triumph of capitalism: The new world plague

Some time ago, while working on a bigger project concerning contemporary society, I took Slavoj Žižek as my point of departure to raise the question of the state of the “ethical” today. This morning, when I was looking at Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx (Routledge 1994) in the context of this project, I noticed a…

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‘The Road’ and the disappearance of nature

Reading a short article about the reasons for the meat and dairy industry being unsustainable, and watching David Attenborough’s documentary, Madagascar (with its visual feast of beautiful, but ecologically endangered creatures in Madagascar’s forests), from the corner of my eye, reminded me of Cormack McCarthy’s novel, The Road, made into a riveting film by John…

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Living in present-day South Africa

I don’t believe in generalisations when it comes to experience, except in the natural sciences. In fact, philosopher Hans Reichenbach, in The Rise of Scientific Philosophy, goes so far as to claim that “generalisation” is what is distinctive about science – in the language of the philosophy of science, it is science’s “demarcation criterion”. Because…

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Bhutan’s lesson for the world

Reading Sipho Kings’s important article on Bhutan, “Forget your GDP, come on get happy” yesterday sent me back to my old TIME-magazines to find an article by Bobby Ghosh (TIME, October 15, 2012) on this tiny country wedged between India and China. The reason why I remembered Ghosh’s article is that it was entitled “This…

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What the Samurai can teach the world about a truly human ethos

What does it mean for a people, or a nation (the two are not necessarily synonymous) to have a fulfilling ethos? By ethos (on which I’ve written here before) I mean broadly the distinctive cultural and social character of a group of people as manifested in their collective and individual activities, which are therefore expressive…

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On the death of a (benign) revolutionary

This morning, just after reading the news of Nelson Mandela’s death — uncannily coinciding with the world premiere of the film on his life — my partner and I were exploring the beautiful churches in Freiburg, Germany. In one of them (the Herz-Jesu) there is a series of magnificent paintings by Charles Bevaert, (I hope…

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Beautiful, but expensive Basel

Basel is among the oldest cities of Europe, and architecturally speaking, among the most beautiful. Its founding antedates the beginning of the common era (CE), and its history from the Roman through the medieval to the modern period is as chequered as any city’s could be. It is a relatively small city, with just over…

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Tarzan revisited

The story of Tarzan is familiar to millions of readers and movie fans all over the world. In addition to the original narrative (Tarzan of the Apes), more than 20 subsequent Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs fleshed out the story and concomitantly the parameters of what is ultimately a myth, mainly, but not exclusively…

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