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Bert Olivier
Bert Olivier
Bert Olivier works at the Department of Philosophy, University of the Free State. Bert does research in Psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, ecological philosophy and the philosophy of technology, Literature, cinema, architecture and Aesthetics. His current project is 'Understanding the subject in relation to the hegemony of neoliberalism.'

Philosophy of law for the modern world

The French philosopher, Jean-Francois Lyotard, who contributed important philosophical insights in a variety of philosophical sub-disciplines, regarded his book, The Differend (originally published in 1983), as his most important work, and with good reason.

It is a tightly argued text that elaborates on conditions under which one may find oneself in a situation where, no matter how hard one tries, you just cannot find a way to resolve a difference of opinion that obtains between two or more parties. When this is the case, a ‘differend’ has manifested itself. In Lyotard’s words (The Differend, 1988; p. xi):

As distinguished from a litigation, a differend [différend] would be a case of conflict between (at least) two parties, that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments. One side’s legitimacy does not imply the other’s lack of legitimacy. However, applying a single rule of judgment to both in order to settle their differend as though it were merely a litigation would wrong (at least) one of them (and both of them if neither side admits this rule).

In simpler terms, unlike a ‘litigation,’ where a legal (or merely argument-related) judgment is made – on the basis of rules or laws the parties agree to – about the rightness and wrongness of the claims or arguments involved, an instance where there is no agreement about the relevant rules of judgement, constitutes a differend. Further, a differend constitutes a ‘wrong’ (p. xi):

A wrong results from the fact that the rules of the genre of discourse by which one judges are not those of the judged genre or genres of discourse.

In other words, a differend (that is, a wrong) occurs when someone applies rules to a situation where those rules are not valid – such as adjudicating a game of soccer by means of rules applying to rugby, or a marriage in terms of the rules pertaining to a corporation – in the process committing an injustice to one or all of the parties. Or, closer to what I would like to discuss here, the grounds (‘genre of discourse’) on which a party refuses a certain imperative, are not recognised by those who issue the imperative or ‘mandate,’ who judge on the basis of a different, irreconcilable ground (‘genre of discourse’), in this way committing a wrong to the former.

When this happens, one is confronted by a differend. The point is that, should such a situation be assessed in terms of the ‘phrases’ (rules, criteria) relied on by only one party, it would amount to injustice. Furthermore, given this irreconcilability, it follows that a differend cannot be ‘resolved.’

Does that sound familiar? If it does not, you have been asleep, or comatose, for the last four and a half years. Who has not experienced the frustration, and sometimes heartache, of being incapable of crossing the bridge of (mis-)understanding separating yourself from family members, friends or colleagues since 2020, particularly once the so-called Covid ‘vaccines’ were released?

Some accepted these gratefully (in the belief that they would live up to their promise, to cure them of Covid, or protect them against the ‘virus,’ while others, regarding them with scepticism for various reasons, refused to bow down to peer and government pressure by submitting to the iatrocratic imperative, to ‘take the jab.’ And no matter how furiously defendants and detractors (respectively) of the ‘vaccines’ argued, and judged one another, neither side could convince the other. It was a clear example of a (soon to become) global differend. (For a more extensive and penetrating investigation regarding the ‘pandemic’ from the perspective of Lyotard’s differend, see my paper on the topic.)

Just how deep this differend went, and still goes, was evident from the (by now) familiar alienation between individuals who were once bosom friends, as well as between colleagues who once worked together amicably, but now tend to avoid one another wherever possible. When the ‘vaccine’ issue obtruded itself within families, it arguably gave rise to the bitterest arguments, separation, and heartache, in many instances with no apparent chance of reconciliation. Why is this the case? And is there any way to resolve a differend? To grasp how a differend is recognisable as something where the positions of opposing parties are completely irreconcilable – incommensurable, in fact – perhaps paradigmatic instances would suffice to make it comprehensible.

Referring to the holocaust denialist historian, Robert Faurisson, Lyotard discusses such an example in The Differend. According to Faurisson, after analysing thousands of documents and consulting many historians, he has not found a single ‘deportee’ witness who has ‘really seen with his own eyes’ a gas chamber – one which was used to execute people at the time it was seen. In other words, the only proof that he would find acceptable is that one who died from its use bears witness to this. Lyotard puts it this way (p. 3-4):

His [Faurisson’s] argument is: in order for a place to be identified as a gas chamber, the only eyewitness I will accept would be a victim of this gas chamber; now, according to my opponent, there is no victim that is not dead; otherwise, this gas chamber would not be what he or she claims it to be. There is, therefore, no gas chamber.

How does the differend operate here? Faurisson demands a proof formulated in terms of a demand that his opponent is unable to satisfy, in the guise of a survivor of a Nazi gas chamber who actually perished there. How so? Because only such a survivor would have witnessed the gas chamber functioning. Clearly, this is an impossible demand to satisfy, says the opponent, for obvious reasons. Hence the differend – Faurisson and his opponent have incommensurable, irreconcilable criteria. For the former only a survivor of a functioning gas chamber would suffice; for the latter it is sufficient that the gas chambers (at Auschwitz, or Dachau) are still there to inspect.

One more instance of a differend should suffice to clarify its meaning; namely the dispute concerning land rights between Australian aborigines and development companies in Australia. Legislation that has ensured the land rights of native Australians was enacted after the so-called ‘Mabo’ High Court case in 1992 (McIntosh 1997), but it has not succeeded in subduing simmering signs of the irreconcilability (that is, a differend) between what commercial developers want, and what aboriginal peoples can now claim; namely the right to make decisions regarding their ancestral land.

At issue is the fact that developers rely on commercial property rights pertaining to land development and profit-oriented sales, while aborigines argue that their ancestral burial grounds are located in the disputed land – a manifest case of a differend: clashing claims resting on different ‘rules of judgement’ – a Western notion of property, on the one hand, and a pre-modern conception of land as not ‘belonging’ to anyone, but as being sacrosanct to those whose ancestors are interred there.

Recall that earlier I alluded to Covid ‘vaccines’ marking the site where the most vehement divergence of opinion and alienation between mutually accusing, former friends, and family members occurred during the ‘pandemic’ (which is not to deny that such a clash of standpoints also happened as far as lockdowns, masking, and social distancing were concerned). This differend repeated itself in media space, where one witnessed the harshest disagreements on these topics which, furthermore, displayed an unmistakable dimension of power – in the sense of ‘official’ media projecting the message of a superior claim to credibility, and gaslighting all detractors from the official narrative to boot. Keep in mind that this terrain was – and still is, largely – shot through with what is probably the most pervasive differend the world has witnessed in the history of humankind.

It is not difficult to find representative examples of this. Considering the supposed importance attached to official, televised presidential media communications, on 16 December 2021 President Biden made an ostensibly authoritative statement on Covid ‘vaccines’ and ‘boosters,’ when he announced (The White House 2021):

For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death — if you’re unvaccinated — for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm.

But there’s good news: If you’re vaccinated and you had your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death — period.

Number two, booster shots work.

Three, boosters are free, safe, and convenient.

Despite Biden’s confident claims regarding the vaunted efficacy and safety of the ‘vaccines,’ there are numerous claims to the contrary, backed up by scientific studies. Just how negligible ‘vaccine’ effectiveness was in countries where large numbers of people were ‘vaccinated’ is made apparent in a recent article by Ramesh Thakur, while another, where Dr Robert Malone presents the findings of Dr Denis Rancourt on worldwide ‘vaccination’ mortality figures (at this stage, with more probably to come) – equally divergent from Biden’s pronouncements regarding ‘vaccine’ safety and effectiveness – amounts to a harsh contradiction of those (by implication mendacious) claims.

Even as early as 5 January 2022, an article titled ‘Covid vaccine scientific proof lethal,’ published on the Saveusnow website (which may be removed at any time by the representatives of the official narrative), opens with the statement that:

Over One Thousand Scientific Studies Prove That the COVID-19 Vaccines Are Dangerous, and All Those Pushing This Agenda Are Committing the Indictable Crime of Gross Misconduct in Public Office [Bold in original].

The 1,011 articles cover different but related topics, the links to which are provided. They cover numerous adverse ‘vaccine’ events such as portal vein thrombosis, fatal cerebral haemorrhage, acute venous thromboembolism, cerebral venous thrombosis, myocarditis, and many other cases of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia. In the light of these studies, the author(s) remark appositely that:

The ‘safe and effective’ false propaganda, put out by public officials who now are continuing to push this vaccine, is a clear breach of duty. A public office holder is subject to, and aware of, a duty to prevent death or serious injury that arises only by virtue of the functions of the public office.

Many have breached that duty and, in doing so, are recklessly causing a risk of death or serious injury, by carrying on regardless of the now-confirmed dangers associated with COVID 19 injections. Some of these risks are blood clotting, myocarditis, pericarditis, thrombosis, thrombocytopenia, anaphylaxis, Bell’s palsy, Guillain-Barre, cancer including deaths, etc. [Bold in original]

It is hardly necessary to add more of the same; there are numerous examples of such scientifically founded contradictions of Biden’s (and one could add Anthony Fauci’s and Bill Gates’s) spurious claims about ‘vaccine’ safety and efficacy. An indispensable source of information on this is Robert F. Kennedy’s book (2021), The Real Anthony Fauci. Bill Gates, Big Pharma and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health (New York: Skyhorse Publishing), where he writes (p. 28):

Dr. Fauci encouraged his own canonization and the disturbing inquisition against his blasphemous critics. In a June 9, 2021 je suis l’état interview, he pronounced that Americans who questioned his statements were, per se, anti-science. ‘Attacks on me,’ he explained, ‘quite frankly, are attacks on science.’

To be clear, this stand-off between those – like Fauci, Gates, and Biden – who told bare-faced lies about the efficacy of the ‘vaccines’ (which have arguably been very efficacious in terminating millions of people’s lives, but not in saving these lives), and those who have relied on scientific studies to demonstrate that this is not the case, marks a Lyotardian different.

To this should be added the millions who, from the outset of the ‘pandemic,’ smelled a rat concerning the lockdown, masking, and social distancing demands, and – without necessarily being able to put a finger on it, just ‘knew’ something was amiss. They, too, comprise(d) the millions whose insights and intuitions contrasted glaringly with those of the millions who fell for the ruse. This is also a component of the same differend.

To conclude: if a differend indexes a place where it is futile to try to bring different parties to an agreement because adjudicating their divergent standpoints by means of the ‘phrases’ (criteria) employed by only one of them would ineluctably constitute an injustice, is there any possibility of overcoming or ‘dissolving’ the differend, given that it cannot be resolved?

After all, the official side in the present situation has been trying, since at least 2020, to force a (pseudo-)consensus (through a veritable legion of so-called ‘fact-checkers,’ such as those under the banner of Reuters), but cannot actually succeed (even if, to its supporters, it ostensibly does succeed), because the other side, the ‘resistance’ (including Brownstone), is just as actively challenging the claims promoted and policies pursued by the mainstream. So how can this make way for agreement, by and large?

The answer is quite startling. As far as appearances go, if one of the parties to the differend factually gains the cratological (power-related) upper hand so decisively that all opposition disappears, and the triumphant party effectively clears the decks of all dissent, it would ostensibly disappear, although in principle it would still obtain. But the differend would be overcome, or dissolved, only if something – an event of such far-reaching import – would occur, that one side of the field within which the differend manifests itself, would, for all intents and purposes, be decisively defeated or demonstrably proved to rest on spurious grounds.

What kind of event would this (have to) be? It might take the form of a military intervention of sorts, where the military forces on the side of the ‘official’ narrative (or of the ‘resistance’) are decisively defeated. Or (more likely), a high-profile court case at a widely recognised, international court (such as the International Criminal Court or ICC), where persuasive evidence of criminal behaviour or malfeasance on the part of representative parties of either the mainstream narrative (or the resistance) forces the court to deliver a verdict that effectively destroys the discursive foundation of one of the parties (and hence the criteria or rules it employs to advance its case).

That this could happen under present circumstances, where the upholders of the official narrative still wield immense power, is unlikely, particularly judging by the fact that the International Common Law Court of Justice in Brussels (which unfortunately does not have binding jurisdiction over people), has already determined precisely such a verdict, as Kevin Annett writes:

The International Court that forced Pope Benedict from office in 2013 has struck a blow against the COVID corporatocracy by convicting top officials of Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, China, and the Vatican of Crimes against Humanity.

The Court’s verdict sentences seventy-five individuals to life imprisonment, seizes their assets and disestablishes their corporations, and lawfully prohibits the further manufacture, sale, or use of their COVID vaccines as ‘products of medical genocide and mass murder.’

After a four-month trial convened under International Law, the judges of the International Common Law Court of Justice (ICLCJ) issued their historic verdict and sentence today, along with Arrest and Expropriation Warrants against the defendants.

The convicted individuals include Albert Bourla and Emma Walmsley, the CEO’s of Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, Xi Jinping, President of China, ‘Pope’ Francis (Jorge Bergoglio), ‘Queen’ Elizabeth (Windsor), and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.

Would it not have been unimaginably exhilarating if this court verdict and (hypothetical) sentence had binding power? But it does not. Hence, the struggle continues, and we shall never give up. That this is worthwhile was recently confirmed when the news broke about the World Health Organisation suffering a colossal setback, when it failed to get the amendments approved which would assure its sought-after ‘pandemic treaty’ to be ratified. There are other victories too, which we, the resistance, are pursuing, without the least thought of ever backing down.

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  1. Thank you for this treatise.
    You describe the ‘differend’, one of which is glaringly apparent in NZ Family Court practice and jurisprudence, a filth-pit of colossal proportions.
    But heck, it’s just one of many tools to destroy the core family, THE building block for any functioning society.

  2. Bert Olivier, you are a very courageous man.
    We hope that your treatises and essays find widespread recognition.
    Two things if I may: critical thinking is IMO essential to determine ‘differend’. Kant’s masterpiece “Critique of Pure Reason” is foundational for this determination.
    Second item: The gas chambers in Auschwitz and Dachau were constructed AFTER the war. The sordid idea of gas to kill people is promulgated to horrify people and to make the Holocaust narrative even more horrible.
    Why use of de-lousing gas? In this respect it is much easier to use hermetically sealed rooms. Put as many persons in there as possible and WAIT. Not even long. No gas to pump in, no gas to extract, no danger to the operating personnel, no chemical evidence.
    But ‘extermination’ is just another elaborate tale. Why extermination? Concentration camps were slave-labour camps for war production, which were highly regulated (Kommandanturbefehle Auschwitz, look it up!), and inmates had best possible living conditions in accordance with what was available, in order to be efficient. The truly horrific times started when supply lines were bombed and even civilians were dying of starvation and Typhoid.
    Make no mistake: it was barbaric, but the tale of gas chamber extermination is …a tale.


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