Bert Olivier

The ‘crystals’ of time

It seems to me undeniable that the human sciences – short for the social sciences and the humanities – are facing a crisis of perceived irrelevance in a world suffused in unreflective technophilia and, concomitantly, indifference to the potential value of the humanistic knowledge represented by, and archived in these sciences. Among the many ways…

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Lennon and Laing – kindred spirits

John Lennon and RD Laing – two individuals who worked in entirely different cultural fields; the one a singer, songwriter and pop star, the other a psychiatrist (perhaps experimental psychiatrist), writer and radical thinker of the left. What they had in common, was arguably the fact that they were both utopian visionaries, and both were…

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Prague on the Vltava

New York used to be my favourite city, until I discovered Istanbul. Along the way I visited Prague (in 1999), and was fleetingly charmed by this Bohemian city on the Vltava, but my experience was vitiated by the stifling rationalism of the social theory conference I was attending at the time, where the Rawls and…

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For the love of church architecture

Visiting a city as old and history-rich as Prague is indescribably rewarding for an architecture lover because the history of western architecture from the early Middle Ages until the 20th century is graphically inscribed in its urban texture. Romanesque architecture stands side by side with Gothic, baroque and even — incongruously, when it comes to…

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Have rifle, will shoot

Visiting Konopiste Castle — situated about 40km outside Prague — is historically informative and interesting on one level and nauseating on another. Bought by Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1887 — yes, the same one whose assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 triggered World War I — the castle became far more than an occasional retreat for…

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Time is running out – even Charles of Wales is worried

When Britain’s Prince of Wales shows clear signs of agitation at world leaders’ curious paralysis in the face of the rapid deterioration of planetary ecological conditions, it should send a message to everyone concerned. And that means every human being on the planet, where humans are (supposedly) the custodians of planetary “health” but have been…

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In praise of animals – our fellow creatures

Animals – and not just pets, all kinds of animals – do not enjoy the care and acknowledgement of being our veritable brothers and sisters, as living beings, that they should by right receive. This much is beyond debate. The obscene practice of killing rhino for the supposedly medicinal and/or aphrodisiac properties of their horns,…

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What about the dignity of other South Africans then?

The debate surrounding The Spear has, on occasion, been framed in terms of the concept of ‘dignity’, specifically that of the State President. And to be sure, one should grant the persons who occupy that position of responsibility from time-to-time the dignity they deserve. One could also take the argument further by claiming that every…

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On the interpretation of a painting

I did not really want to write this piece, knowing full well that it would be greeted by howls of derision and by vituperative incomprehension in many quarters. But as events unfolded in the wake of the public display, at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, of the Brett Murray painting metaphorically titled The Spear, reaching…

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9/11 – When will the ‘truth’ finally emerge?

In the aftermath of 9/11 signs soon started appearing, first sporadically and later in a more concerted fashion, that all was not what it seemed, and not even what the official commission of inquiry into the circumstances and ‘causes’ of the event said in its report was able to put an end to the questions…

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