The Most Poetic Hero In All Of Science Fiction

With the passing of the great Rutger Hauer, so finally departs the residual soul of Roy Batty, possibly the most poetic hero in all of science fiction. 

I have sunk countless hours into repeat viewings of Blade Runner, and almost as many simply replaying the iconic ‘Tears in Rain’ speech on YouTube. This scene alone has a poignancy unmatched, possibly in all of cinema and along with the close-to-perfect Alien, represents the high point in Ridley Scott’s now sadly waning directorial career.

What adds further mystery to this scene is that the terminology being used is never fully explained, it merely conjures abstract and distant science fiction imagery. Add to this Hauer’s own embellishment (the phrase “tears in rain” was his own) and we are left with an impeccably beautiful and at once inscrutable poetic collaboration between director and actor. 

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Don’t Look For Meaning In Politics

It’s a natural tendency to look for ways in which one’s own time is unique in history. It can take a number of forms whether it is the idea that progress and human flourishing is accelerating at a faster rate than ever and that collective wellbeing is at the base of steep gradient, or that it’s all going to the dogs – humans have reached peak misery and we’d all be better off hastening our inevitable self-destruction. Of course, these are two extremes on the continuum, both of which we should be cautious of endorsing reflexively, but the former is probably truer than the latter, in my estimation, even though the latter is arguably more popularly endorsed in societies in which the former is truer.

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Charity In Africa Can Be Condescending But David Lammy Was Wrong To Drag Identity Politics Into It

As someone who grew up on this continent, I have always been a critic of the way aid and charity is conducted in Africa. My criticisms swing from moderate to vehement depending on the merits of the individual case (generally veering towards vehemence if Bono happens to be involved but I digress). But there are two issues at stake for me, separate but often related. One is that international aid, on the more macroscopic level, can be ineffective and even, arguably, harmful. On this question Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid provides an invaluable empirical analysis (her jarring support for China’s role in Africa notwithstanding). Another, at a more individual level, is that Western charitable efforts in the vein of comic relief and Live Aid can come across rather syrupy and condescending. However, this second point, is often a result of the Western (and particularly British) propensity for self-effacement and says nothing of their effectiveness, or whether the people they ostensibly benefit appreciate them or not. 

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Can The “Intellectual Dark Web” Survive Becoming A Thing?

I have been wondering out loud a great deal recently about the effect of the mass proliferation of new terminology that seem to arise from the back and forth of the culture wars. Some of it seems more organic, the naming of an emergent phenomenon or interest group, some less so, like the attempt to create a desired phenomenon by naming it into existence. Very often, these terms are pejorative; one of the more effective strategies in recent years in the necessary pushback against retrograde identity politics (primarily but not exclusively from the left) has been to identify and name their tactics and patterns of delusional behaviour. Of course, the identitarian left fired the opening vernacular salvo with their attempt to being terms like “micro-aggression”, “whiteness”, “cultural appropriation” and “trigger warning” among others into common parlance, thus attempting to make the non-existent or absurd more tangible. They have certainly entered the public square but I am hoping in a context that will remain of a moment – historical terms associated with a stalled and misguided social movement. Read More…

The Old Censors Used To Be Religious Bigots Now They Flourish On Campus

Way back in 2012 I wrote a piece to mark the annual Banned Book Week. As the occasion fell on us again 6 years later, I perused it again and it was a sobering reminder of how the discourse around censorship and free speech has changed.

I wrote it at a time just prior to the intellectual suicide of campus culture and the mass-cloistering of the young that currently threatens our culture. Back then I was far more concerned about the demands made by religion, particularly but not exclusively Islam, for our right to freely express ourselves and indulge in the expression of others to be creepily curated in the name of a complete misunderstanding of “sensitivity” and “respect”. I could not have predicted at the time, that what I thought was a death rattle of the old order, a last gasp of establishment orthodoxy, would become a rallying call for youth movements purporting to be “anti-establishment”. Read More…

South Africa Gets Caught Up In The Partisan Divide

A few weeks ago, Trump caused a media furore when he tweeted that he was going to instruct his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into “land and farm seizures” and “the large-scale killing of farmers” in South Africa, seemingly after he had watched a segment the previous night on Tucker Carlson Tonight about Expropriation Without Compensation in South Africa.

The tweet immediately ignited a fierce partisan debate. Political figures from all over the world and opposite ends of the ideological spectrum weighed in on the subject, their opinions predictably biased by their pre-existing view of Trump, whether negative or positive.

And, sadly, as a result, much of the nuance in the discourse around EWC was lost. There is a more complex discussion going on in South Africa,  but much of that is unknown to international commentators who probably knew very little about SA politics before Trump’s rash tweet. Scrambling to appear knowledgeable on the subject, opponents of Trump leapt to glib defences of EWC as a good policy designed to correct past injustices in SA (there is, in fact, robust opposition to EWC by South Africans of all races and political persuasions) and his supporters were quick to characterise South Africa as just another hellish foreign shithole. Read More…