Bert Olivier

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…

6 Comments Continue Reading →

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…

2 Comments Continue Reading →

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…

32 Comments Continue Reading →

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…

13 Comments Continue Reading →

‘There is something inhuman about stealing from the poor’

Theft is a debilitating thing, whether it is petty theft or “grand larceny”; whether it is theft during a burglary, as we recently experienced, or the kind of GRAND theft perpetrated by politicians who have access to public money, or corporations that do so via dubious legislation, which allows them to pay minimal corporate taxes…

21 Comments Continue Reading →

Spaces of power and spaces of gentleness

Today we experienced two kinds of space that are diametrically opposed, or mutually exclusive. The first was the palace and gardens of Versailles, known as the residence of a succession of French kings, of whom Louis XIV and Louis XVI are probably the best known (the latter with his equally well-known queen, Marie-Antoinette, who was…

77 Comments Continue Reading →

I love Paris in the springtime…

How many people still know that song, I wonder. Or the one where Dean Martin sings “Oh, what I’d give for a moment or two, under the bridges of Paris with you … ” The point is that Paris is, and has been for a long time, one of — if not THE — most…

77 Comments Continue Reading →

Why people are such inherently conflicted beings

While preparing for a seminar on the roots of contemporary theory among the ancient Greeks, the Hellenistic Romans and early Christian thinkers, I was struck by the way that the different, and divergent, strands of the cultural legacy of the West (as well as of other cultures globally which share some of these roots) explain…

19 Comments Continue Reading →

Heidegger and today’s ‘everydayness’

“Everydayness” (“Alltäglichkeit” in German) is a concept associated with the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. In the English-speaking world, many “academic philosophers” (or what Arthur Schopenhauer dubbed “bread-thinkers” and Robert Pirsig called “philosophologists” in Lila, the marvellous sequel to his earlier masterpiece Zen and the Art…

11 Comments Continue Reading →

Welcome to the new Middle Ages

In the 1970s the famous semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco published a collection of essays titled Travels in Hyperreality, in which he elaborated on a variety of interrelated topics, such as wax museums, holographic representation and our evident fascination with the Middle Ages. In fact, he argued, although we think of ourselves as modern (or…

21 Comments Continue Reading →