Ramblings on the Dangers of Losing Political Complexity
British documentary film-maker Adam Curtis in his recent documentary ‘HyperNormalisation’ reasons that in the past four decades or so financiers or governments have banished the perspective of complex, real world and turned everything into simple fake world. The term HyperNormalisation was coined by professor of anthropology Alexei Yurchak (at UCLA) after observing the life inside Soviet Union, few years before its collapse. The professor says that everyone within the Soviet knew how the systems are failing, yet citizens as well as politicians in order to not question the status quo (or to not think of an alternative) pretended that everything is perfect. Of course, Adam Curtis’ perspective and Mr. Yurchak’s term have to be closely scrutinized before fully embracing it as fitting theory for the contemporary times. But, in general we all could witness how fakeness, self-delusion and deceptively simple answers have gradually drowned the complexity of problems. This hypernormalisation isn’t something that only matches with the geopolitical maneuvers. It’s not necessary to study Trump’s rise to the big stage to fully understand this propagation of deceit; we can understand it by even observing our domestic political stage and behavior of local media.
Genius film-maker Stanley Kubrick said, “If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered”. These are prophetic words when you consider how the self-styled thinkers and politicians portray themselves in public forum or social media. It leads to a followers vs dissenters culture never allowing the room to study a problem or issue’s profound complexity. The system wants such cultures to thrive because the simple argument of those groups is this: you are either against us or with us. India is a country that’s best known for its cornucopia of distinct, rich culture or diversity and complexity. These are the terms confusing our rulers; and serves as an obstruction for natural resources plundering multi-nationals. What they expect to spread is a simplified version of India. There’s a lot of economic gain for the people at the top in spreading this simplified vision, although time after time Indian people have fought against it. From manufacturing patriotism to demonetization drive to Mr. Modi’s vision of growth to transformation in education policies to the Centre’s cunning stand in the burning state issues, we could feel how the rulers wants to divide the general public into two, simple camps.
The common people of Indian also need to bear the blame for succumbing to the well designed manipulations. It’s kind of fashionable statement to say ‘I am not interested in politics’. The politics always boasts an interest for us, the common people. We generally misunderstand politics as some fight & argument between two corrupted parties. While our media likes that simplified version of politics, the real political maneuvers are done by ruthlessly playing with livelihood of common people. Nowadays, the complexities in political and financial world are endlessly muddled that we find it soothing to witness the ‘black-and-white’ vision of news channels.
For the past year or so, our Tamil Nadu state is facing some explosive issues and going through paradigm shifts. Starting for Cauvery issue and the falsely spread Tamils vs Kannadigas conflict to the recent Jallikattu-related issues, the state’s politicians and media are so intent to keep things simple. Caste, money and undying greed for power have become the primary ingredients for politics. So it has become simple for the topmost ADMK partymen to whole-heartedly accept a new leadership. The state governments’ complex, interlinked mismanagement of Cauvery river water was the primary reason for the conflict. Nevertheless, there’s a sensation in turning it into a simple fight between Tamils vs Kanndigas. There’s a perfect demarcation point in making bull-embracing event (popularly referred as “Jallikattu”) as the conflict between insolent, young Tamils and PETA or rest of India. Let’s recall or observe the large-scale protests of students in Tamil Nadu supporting Jallikattu. The Tamil identity has helped a lot in bringing all of us under united single front (the ‘Allanganalur protest’ initiated yesterday was the strongest of all the past week protests). But, again the media (even the Tamil 24 * 7 news channels) and politicians turn Jallikattu related issues into Tamils vs PETA or State vs Centre. The powers that be (both national & state level) are looking for options to break this incredible unity.
In such a simpler version, the corporate lobbying to decimate indigenous cattle breeds is kept in the dark. National media doesn’t care about thousands of protestors in the Tamil Nadu streets because they have a simple view of Jallikattu: it’s a brutal sport. When ‘we’ utter the word ‘Tamil culture or tradition’, ‘they’ reply how ‘Sati’ was once a tradition. The debates are so elementary, trying to imprison people under ‘this’ or ‘that’ camp (or ‘we’ vs ‘they’). Tehelka’s investigative reports and national commission on cattle research points out how the annihilation of pure cattle breeds is directly proportional to the import of several exotic cow varieties. The extinction of pure cow breeds have already started and it’s escalating with these kinds of bans which give no economic rationale for poor rural people to own the bulls. Dairy farmers too have already started to not rely on native cattle. The large-scale contribution of cows to Indian economy will be replaced with exotic breeds (which can’t be owned by people in society’s lower strata like now) and soon our country may come to rely on milk imports. The words like ‘sex-selected semen’ used for cow breeding tell the unimaginable catastrophe in the future. Even the viewpoint of judiciary is so inane and simple on the Jallikattu issue. Either the state or central governments are stupid and ignorant or very clever and ignorant. Whatever it is, there’s a complex chain of things in motion to banish the indigenous cattle breeds or misdirect Jallikattu protests as an archaic mindset of Tamils. We can’t say there has never been any form of cruelty on bulls in the Jallikattu event, but my point is that we have to go beyond the cruelty vs tradition argument.
More than 40 Tamil farmers have committed suicide in the past month or so. This is one of the worst agriculture crisis faced by Tamil Nadu farmers ever since the independence. The Chief Minister Mr. Paneer Selvam only recently declared the entire 32 district as ‘drought-affected’. National Human Rights Commission and various farmer associations put the death toll over 100. As usual there’s a simple view for Tamil Nadu agrarian crisis (ongoing for the last five years): rainfall deficit. Media arms itself with catchy hashtags (#savefarmers) and melodramatic music to observe the tragic issue. But in the public forum, the interlinked issues of demonetization drive and worst mismanagement of Tami Nadu government (following the 75-day hospitalization of late Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalitha) are rarely addressed.
I believe that there are solutions or hopeful prospects to thwart the plans of small to large-scale oppressors. People representing a united front will always be a threat to such invasions. But, it has become very important to understand the political complexities behind the troubles faced by our society. Or else the hyper-normalized, simplistic perspective will forever misguide or keep us in the dark, irrespective of innovative digital technologies to learn information.