By Dr Saulat Nagi
The art, which once incited resistance, in the world of today has apparently lost its subversive force. The contest between the feudal and the peasant, the dacoit and a folk hero; a love affair between a village heroin who regularly swam across the river to meet her beloved appeared to have eclipsed in the past. The concept of wage labourer/slave does not seem fit in with a well-dressed, neat and tidy individual. Despite the fact that working hours are prolonged, and human beings remain occupied with work despite drawing the curtain down for the day, the idea of slavery barely trespasses the boundary of thought fixed by the constant process of indoctrination. The walls stretched between the two genders have been torn down. The apparent hostility to the sexuality has lost its iron-fisted control over the society. While conforming to the taboos, every kind of violation of the taboos, having all sorts of relations based on so-called vice are accepted and recognised as norms. Religion has more to do with blasphemy than the honour killing or even incest.
Today, the technology being the dominant agent of change has brought its own culture. The laptops, the Smartphones, the Kindles have introduced a drastic shift in the mass culture; the human relations are the worst victims. The technological rationality has broken all barriers hindering/impeding the thought yet it has become instrumental in ensuring the impotence of critical thought. The direct human interaction has withered; the phenomenon of having a debate has slipped into oblivion; the process of reflection is choked since someone else has taken the task of thinking for the majority. Despite living in the 21st century, it is a perfect scenario for George Orwell’s 1984. Hegel was precise in stating, “progress of reason is no progress of happiness.” Since reason could not muster the rationality, what is real is not rational. The reality demands acknowledgement and not the knowledge.
On the other hand, the imperialism and religious Mafia are both in hand and glove to create an all-omnipotent and invisible enemy. Spinoza was quick to realise it in the 16th century when he stated, “ignorance and superstitious beliefs spread like wildfires, and I believe that religious leaders feed that fire to secure their position. Religious authorities of all hue seek to impede the development of our rational facilities”. “Strength of conviction,” says Irvine Yalom “obviates the need for an inquiry.” One wonders under these stifling conditions when the only rationality is status quo, and only progress is searching wisdom in the dark era dominated by regression, what kind of art could counter this stylised barbarity.
“Only in art,” says Marcuse “can bourgeois society tolerate its own ideals, because what occurs in art occurs with no obligation. Bourgeois culture must restrict the attainment of freedom to art, as it cannot allow it in life.” But bourgeois society has its own contradictions. Whereas it allows the art to flourish, it makes sure that art must remain within the confines of certain limits. It must continue to be the art of appeasement. After doing certain activity even against the bourgeois system, one is at liberty to have his catharsis without denting the system and causing any expansion of mind. Under the capitalist society, the function of art is to limit anarchy and alienation, which have penetrated deep down in human society through thoughtless activity, the endless cycle of buying the trash is one of those. The limited option left open to the art is to “bring chaos into order” (Adorno).
Capitalism has never felt shy about using religion against which it initiated its movement of enlightenment. When and where required it enhanced and strengthened the forces of reaction. For instance, Goldman Sachs openly backs Modi. According to Norbert Haering, the process of demonetization has many capitalists such as Gates Foundation, The Better than Cash Alliance, Omidyar Network (eBay), the Dell Foundation Mastercard, Visa, Metlife Foundation behind it. Despite massive suffering by the majority for whom it turned out to be a disaster, BJP won a landslide victory in UP. The Hindu card has worked exceptionally well for the rulers. If religious maniacs are promoted in Pakistan, the fanatics like Adityanath who are tipped as the Chief Minister of Utter Pradesh, are no exceptions either. Fanatics do not create any threat to the property relations.
Hence they create no threat to the system. Art has the potential to withstand the onslaught of the established reality. But under the conditions of absolute misery, sheer poverty and religious orgy, which art has the ability to resist these scourges. When the idea is to stamp the omnipotence of capital on the hearts and minds of the younger generation, all other sources of entertainment including art, which challenge the established fact, are seen alien and untrue. The topic of human interest, empathy and collective love sounds as if someone is trying to sell something, which cannot be sold otherwise.
To be continued
Dr Saulat Nagi is based in Australia and has authored books on socialism and history.