Bert Olivier

Marx at 200: As relevant as ever

Today (5 May 2018) is the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth in the German city of Trier, and all over the world people are celebrating his contribution to our self-understanding through the political, economic and social theories he (sometimes with his friend and colleague, Friedrich Engels) penned during his lifetime. The anniversary celebrations are…

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The allure of Louisa Punt-Fouché’s poetry

Poetry is alluring. Who is there so insensitive among us that evocative poetic phrases would not move us? Yes, I know – there are indeed such people, but I believe that even they, when given the opportunity to learn from a gifted teacher, would develop a modicum of receptivity to poetry. Blake’s “He who binds…

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On politicians without humour

In John Fowles’s novel, Daniel Martin (Triad Grafton, 1978), there is a wonderfully revealing passage as far as humourless politicians are concerned – the type that justifiably comprises the butt of comedians’ jokes. Dan and Jane (an old friend and one-time lover who accompanies him on a work-related trip to Egypt) are at a dinner-party…

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Julian Assange and injustice

Some time recently, someone sent me a WhatsApp message contrasting the political positions of Julian Assange of Wikileaks and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Underneath photographs of these two gentlemen, respectively, they read as follows: “Hi, I’m Julian Assange. I give private information on corporations & gov’t to you for free and the media calls me…

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The present ‘world dis-order’

Bernard Stiegler, referring to the battle for the attention of (particularly young) users of technical devices such as smartphones, writes about the ‘dis-attention’ that results from this. What he has in mind is the manner in which capitalism, not wasting any opportunity for marketing, uses these mnemo-technical devices to disrupt the flow of attention on…

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The question of heterotopia and/as dystopia

The term, ‘heterotopia’, was used by Michel Foucault in a brief text – titled ‘Of other spaces’ – published in Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité (October, 1984; translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec). It is a richly suggestive text, although academics who can’t deal with poststructuralist thinkers’ complex writings have generally derogated it with all kinds…

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The craving for power

The hankering after power is as old as human beings; no, older – it is as old as the first unicellular being that emerged from the primeval morass of evolution. After all, like all organisms since then, it would have tried its primitive best to survive, to stave off death. And isn’t that already an…

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Optimism vs. realism regarding the future

The TIME magazine of 15 January, 2018, titled ‘The Optimists’, is edited by Bill Gates, one of the two richest individuals on the planet – this alone already (at least partly) explains his optimism, which is understandably not necessarily shared with people in positions of less economic power. Reading it is an object lesson in…

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The decline of the American Empire

It is no exaggeration to say that America ain’t what it used to be. Several articles I have read recently indicate this, whether they focus on Trump’s disastrous presidency, on social or educational matters. One in particular caught my attention yesterday (see here), and another this morning (see here), both of which draw one’s attention…

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Literature, art, space, and the secret of life

It never ceases to amaze me that the arts – foremost among them literature, sculpture, architecture, music, painting and cinema – are able to capture in their respective medium(s) virtually everything that makes life worth living; in a phrase, the ‘secret of life’. My recent re-reading of all my favourite John Fowles novels is what…

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