Bert Olivier

‘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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Max Weber on capitalism and religion

What must surely count as one of the shrewdest, albeit debatable, accounts of the distinctive traits of capitalism was penned by the justly famous German sociologist Max Weber in his controversial book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism of 1930 (London: Routledge Classics, 2001). The reasons for its controversial status are summarised as…

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Capitalism: Why we live in a ‘schizo society’

What a pleasure it is to be in Istanbul — probably the most sensuous city in the world — for a conference on one of the most innovative and profound thinkers of the 20th century, if not in the history of philosophy, Gilles Deleuze (whose extensive collaborative work with Felix Guattari makes it imperative to…

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Worlds in collision

Individuals are “worlds” set on what is often a collision course. In a previous post I wrote about the “diversity of individuals”, where the thought of such potential “collisions” was already latently present. In the last few days I have come across a number of things that have impressed upon me the realisation that the…

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Eben Venter’s ‘Horrelpoot’, fiction and SA’s future

Anyone who has read Eben Venter’s gripping novel, Horrelpoot (Clubfoot; Tafelberg 2006), would know that it is no easy read despite being written eloquently and engagingly. What I mean is that it is a harrowing book to read. I have read the original Afrikaans version but apparently it is available in English too. Furthermore, anyone…

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Human extinction? It’s not just science fiction

At a recent science fiction conference (thematically called “East/West SF”), arranged under the auspices of the “Brain Korea” project by Professor Ilgu Kim of Hannam University, Daejeon, Korea (about an hour by high-speed train from Seoul), a number of excellent papers were presented, none more so than the one by American Peter Paik, titled: “Science…

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New ‘RoboCop’ reboots the roboethics dilemma

The one good thing about being unable to sleep in an aircraft, sitting in a cramped-up position for longer than eight hours at a time in the case of two successive flights, is that you can catch up on all the recent movies you’ve not had the time to view. On our recent trip to…

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