Bert Olivier

Transcendence: The clash of humanity and technology

Near the beginning of the 2014 thought-provoking science fiction film, Transcendence (directed by Wally Pfister2014), one of the main characters, Max Waters (Paul Bettany), walks into and through a deserted house into a little courtyard, bends down next to some sunflowers (the only healthy plants in the garden), thinking aloud to himself that “he” (his…

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Nuclear power carries risks that are simply not worth taking

In the wake of President Jacob Zuma’s recent lone ranger escapade to Russia, evidently to secure Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assistance regarding South Africa’s energy needs — the status of which seems to be uncertain at present because of accusations and denials of him acting unilaterally flying to and fro — the question, whether one…

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How the movie ‘Noah’ reflects our ecological failures

Most people who are familiar with the Old Testament of the Bible know the story of Noah, who was chosen by God, or “the Creator” as the deity is referred to in this remarkable film, to give humanity another chance. Except that, in Darren Aronofsky’s version of the story, Noah understands his task differently: not…

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Travels through Schizoville

On a recent trip to the Netherlands we had a first-hand experience of what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari mean when they claim that the typical “malady” of today is schizophrenia — what Ian Buchanan calls “an everyday schizophrenia in which the absurd is simply ‘how things are’ ”. Once you have been alerted to it,…

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Is this what our future looks like?

There have been all kinds of signs that the future of our societies will probably entail much higher levels of control than is the case at present. The National Security Agency’s illegitimate surveillance, not merely of American citizens’, but of other peoples’ private communications as well, is but one premonition of the shape of things…

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‘Maleficent': A sea-change in popular culture

Maleficent (Disney 2014; directed by Robert Stromberg) is a magnificent film, and it almost seems more than fortuitous that the eponymous, powerful faerie is not called Malevolent, but bears a name that rhymes with “magnificent”. Judging by this recent re-imagining of the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty, which was rendered in its classic Disney animated movie…

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‘Nature’s Confession’ – climate fiction everybody should read

Award-winning novelist JL Morin’s latest novel, Nature’s Confession (Harvard Square Editions, 2014/15), is a newcomer to the stable of the newly named genre (or perhaps sub-genre) of cli-fi (climate fiction, associated with sci-fi) novels, and is a rollercoaster of a story that valorises creativity and imagination in the face of the imponderable climate catastrophe looming…

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Why it’s important for our health to get rid of the neoliberal regime

In his riveting study, What about me? The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society (trans. Hedley-Prôle, J. London: Scribe Publications, Kindle edition, 2014), the Belgian psychoanalyst, Paul Verhaeghe, gives a resoundingly affirmative answer to the question: “Is there a demonstrable connection between today’s [neoliberal capitalist] society and the huge rise in mental disorders?” Many…

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Tanya Poole and the paradox of ‘being-human’

The psychologist William James, brother of Henry James, the well-known novelist, once exhorted people to “Begin to be now what you will be hereafter”. In similar vein, Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed that one should “Become who you are” — a formulation that drives the paradox of being-human home even more clearly than James’s words. At least,…

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The ancient Greeks’ wisdom regarding sexual orientation

As history unfolds, people tend to regard earlier eras as being surpassed in practically all areas of cultural activity, the most obvious one being technology — “progress” regarding which, incidentally, seems to me to be proportional to retrogression in other spheres of culture, specifically self-understanding: the more gadgets there are to be fascinated by, the…

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