Bert Olivier

South Africa today: A personal assessment

Assessing the political and social conditions in a country is like volunteering an opinion on religion or sex; everyone believes that he or she is in a position to say something authoritative about it without necessarily doing so from an informed position. Moreover, what counts as being “informed” about such matters is not always easy…

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Art and science; images and concepts

Some of the responses to my previous posting suggested that the relation between images and concepts, as explained by Leonard Shlain in his book on the link between alphabet literacy and patriarchy (The Alphabet versus the Goddess), requires clarification. What better way to do that than by referring to his earlier book, Art and Physics:…

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Images, language, women and patriarchy

Late in the 1990s, a groundbreaking interdisciplinary study appeared that shed light on an age-old struggle, and did so in a novel way. In his book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict between Word and Image (published by Penguin Arkana, New York, 1998), Leonard Shlain, neurologist and neurosurgeon turned philosopher, offers a novel argument…

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Where has all the hope for peace and fulfilment gone?

Driving to work on Saturday morning, I was listening to the soundtrack of Milos Forman’s film, Hair, based on the 1967 Broadway hit musical, and I was swept away by the sheer force of the first track, Aquarius, sung by a woman with an unbelievably powerful, yet melodious voice. The beat, the rhythms and the…

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The times, dreams and cinema

Freud called dreams “wish-fulfilments”, inviting the obvious objection, that this would fail to account for nightmares. Except … if we think of nightmares as negative wish-fulfilments — whatever it is that haunts you in your dreams, is precisely what we wish to avoid. The father of psychoanalysis also pointed out that dreams unfold in the…

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So what would fundamental change be?

In my previous posting, “The receptivity to the idea of change“, I suggested a possible reason why so many Americans have responded affirmatively to Barack Obama’s persistent rhetorical emphasis (no matter how amorphous) on the need for “change”. It could be, I said, because it resonates with what Hardt and Negri have identified as the…

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The receptivity to the idea of change

Barack Obama’s emphasis on change, or the desire for change, as something that unites his supporters in the race for the Democratic nomination in the US, has been so conspicuous that it is difficult not to see in it something significantly symptomatic of the general social and political mood in America, and perhaps in the…

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Technology and identity

In an earlier piece — The changing face of identity — I reflected on the implications and possible influence, if not “effects”, of the social networking site, Facebook, on people’s sense of identity. At the time, Vincent Maher made an interesting comment on my piece, questioning what he saw as the implication that I was…

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To kiss or not to kiss?

The advent of the prohibition laws (against the brewing, sale and transport of alcoholic beverages) in the US and other countries had a long and complicated history, going back to the 19th century, and culminating in the general Prohibition law, or amendment to the US Constitution, of January 1920. For almost 14 years, until its…

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University audits: A panoptical theatre of the absurd?

With virtually all my colleagues shaking in their boots, so to speak, in the face of an impending double audit at our university this year — one internal, in preparation for the other, external one, later in the year — and my own instinctive as well as not-so-instinctive (philosophically informed) response being one of immediate…

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