Bert Olivier

Finding nirvana in the bosom of the mountain spirit

It is our second visit to Korea, less than two years after the first, and my initial (favourable) impressions of the country have been confirmed on more than one occasion already. I have been invited here by a colleague to present a paper at a conference on science fiction, but because we wanted to investigate…

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A private school with a difference

One usually associates a private school with the highest possible cost of school education, not so? I recall that, when my children went to school, they attended so-called model C schools, partly because there were several excellent schools in that category in the area where we lived, and partly because, even if I had wanted…

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Atonal music as model for democracy

I can imagine readers thinking to themselves what a nonsensical title this post bears – atonal music as a model for democracy? Really? What possible connection could there be? And yet, someone familiar with the atonal music of Arnold Schönberg, and with the idea of optimal citizen-participation as a criterion of “true” democracy, might just…

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Trash, ‘Idiocracy’ and how to avoid it

Viewing the movie Idiocracy is quite an uncomfortable experience, despite it being a comedy. Its premise is simple: smart, intelligent people tend to have fewer children – sometimes no children at all, in fact – compared to less intelligent, less “educated” people, with hardly any future perspective. Project the imagined consequences of this premise into…

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Exploring space…

Space – a word with so many meanings, literal and figurative. I need my space. Is there space in the lounge for the new table? Headspace is essential for psychic growth. Deep space. Newtonian space, Einsteinian space. Space-time. Cyberspace. Virtual space. Space of flows. Space – the final frontier (any Trekkie would recognise this one)….

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‘House of Cards’: Machiavelli and Shakespeare all in one

In this South African season of political ambitions, would you like to know what principles the Florentine philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli advised aspiring political leaders — specifically “princes” — to adhere to ruthlessly in the 16th century in his famous (or is it notorious) treatise, The Prince (1515)? Or what Shakespeare, holding up the mirror to…

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Thuli and other 21st century ‘freedom fighters’ among Time 100

Although she occupies only a sliver of a column on p. 80 in the “leaders” section of Time magazine’s special edition on “The 100 Most Influential people” (May 5 2014), this should not mislead anyone as to the comparative importance of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s inclusion in this annual pantheon of (itself) one of the…

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What are ‘(post)apartheid conditions’?

This may seem like a straightforward question, requiring – and allowing – straightforward answers. Nothing of the sort, it turns out, and if one had any such illusions, the new book, (Post)apartheid Conditions – Psychoanalysis and Social Formation (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013) by psychoanalytical theorist Derek Hook, rapidly disabuses one of them. Hook, of…

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A world without compass

Compared to the Christian Middle Ages, our world is pretty much without compass. By this I do not mean that we should return to the beliefs held during that time – not only would this be anachronistic, but it would conflict fundamentally (and probably violently) with the techno-scientific tenor of the present era. I simply…

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Where do we go from here?

When the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recently published its most comprehensive and most drastic report on climate change to date, the president of the United States, Mr Barack Obama, called it a “call to action”. It remains to be seen if the leader of the biggest economy on the planet will live up…

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