Monday, May 16, 2016

What should you wear in an emergency?

Kaleidoscope's neighbour has an one year old girl. In a sad incident today the girl fell on a half cooked and still boiling fish curry. It was a sudden accident that attracted about fifteen people to gather and to instruct. The most significant question that came immediately after the decision of taking the child to a hospital nearby was what should her mother wear? She was in a nighty- a popular form of informal night dress which one is supposed to wear while remaining inside the home.

It was debated among the spectators and she was not given the privacy to change her clothes as the family has only a couple of rooms. She could not say a  thing but left hesitantly in her nighty.

When she came back in the afternoon. The discussion was how rational it was for her not to change her clothes, and that no one would mind, not even the men at roads who watched her on her way. This discussion continued for hours with an addition that it was an emergency otherwise you should not wear a nighty outside and how embarrassing it is to go out like that even in an emergency. 

P.S. The girl is fine now with some second degree burns on one of her legs which will take some time to heal.

I do not know about the woman and her feeling about the clothes and the discussion, whether this 'embarrassment' would ever be healed.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Archaeological Imagination and the imagined present: Reality and its Juxtapositions

This post is about the imagined nature of our present time. It is in support to the contention of archaeologists in the cultivation of imagination. It is important to note, at the beginning, that archaeology is considered itself as a discipline of imagination (Thomas 1996). To extend this argument I suggest that archaeology is about imagination not because of the paucity of material remains to 'reconstruct' our past, but more so because we live in imagined world and each and every moment of our life are imagined moments.
Before going into the abstraction of the imagined nature of our everyday living, I wish to present two cases of the jumbled up space in Haldia - my work place to show in what ways reality is misleading and reality is imagined.

CASE I: Haldia Govt College and the beer bottles nearby.

Haldia Govt College used to have a huge tract of land. I have gathered the information that the college had about 50 acres of land which was never fortified. Even today when college administration can identify about 25 acres of land it does not have any boundary wall. In 2009 after the famous Nandigram incident several families have started to take refuge nearby. Most of them were political refugees from Nandigram. Initially they set up shanties - make shift arrangements which eventually is converted to semi permanent structure. Now they have successfully brought electricity, installed hand-pump for water. One of the major occupation of these people is to bring and resell scrap materials which ranges from factory waste, smashed car scraps from highway accidents to beer bottles. Since there are two bars nearby, the most conspicuous material is beer bottles. There are thousands of beer bottles, hundreds of whisky, vodka bottles and many more country liquor bottles being stocked every week.
The beer bottles nearby the college building - juxtaposed space

Possible archaeological inferences: 


Its less than a hundred meters away from the college building. Therefore, in a site formation process the material remains that archaeologists might have is the college building. That means a building with blackboards, laboratory equipment and then thousands of beer bottles. What would they infer?
1. Bottles were most important aspect of education in 2016
2. Students were encouraged to drink because drinking has direct linkage to concentration that early men believed.
3. The educational institution had a wine manufacturing unit too.
4. Teachers and students used to drink together and drinking was an integral part of that civilisation.

CASE II: the removal of Lenin's statue

While there are several industries in Haldia, it nevertheless also had many strong labour movements under the leadership of CITU. The erstwhile Member of Parliament Mr. Laxman Seth provided leadership to install several association offices in Haldia. One of such office is  a two story building near railway track close to Bandar (meaning port) railway station. The most conspicuous emblem is a lively statue of V. Lenin.
The Lenin Statue which is now removed

Now, since there  is a political change in the state, the two story buildng known as Shramik Bhaban (building for labours) lies there, which is now a home to some of the still faithful followers of CITU. The building is slowly decaying without maintenance. The Lenin statue has been removed from the place.

Possible Archaeological inferences:

The material remains of the past symbolising left labour movement is decaying, perhaps being destroyed purposefully. With such removal of the statue if Lenin, now, the history only survives in the oral narratives. The more the time passes by, there is lesser chance to the history to survive with material remains. This is typical of power shift and an indifferent attitude towards history that makes even the present imagined.

The Imagined Present

While as  discipline with scientific hangover rooted from positivist philosophical tradition archaeologists were once hopeful about the possibility for a 'reconstruction' to a certain degree of accuracy. It has increasingly recognised the impossibility for a 'reconstruction.' It is impossible to reconstruct because of several practical reasons. First, there is paucity of material remains to reconstruct, second, even the written records may be misleading (written with a voice, voice of the powerful people), third, and more importantly there is juxtaposition of time and space (as we can see even in present time, the Haldia case matters, right?). 

While archaeologists and to a certain degree social scientists have accepted the fact that there is no single reality, and with the age of postmodernism we are increasingly stepping towards the multiplicity of reality. However, postmodern philosophy and postsructuralism talks much about the perspectives (an emphasis on how we see, rather than what we see, as we find in Woods, 2011, p. 7). 

However, what these juxtaposed realities suggests is that it is perhaps the time to rethink the present as well. Are we not living in a present which is filled with so many juxtaposed, jumbled up and hodgepodge, extremely heterogeneous realities and power play that whatever we think about time, and more importantly how we take note of it, how we fix it in our everydayness is also imagined?

We restore our faith in the material entities of our time. But can we really believe that the material reality is also constant and not a changing one? Or can we rest our assumption that there is any unchanging  narrative of the present? If we secure foundation of meaning and live comfortably in our narratives of the meaning, are we not living in an imagined reality?


Monday, May 9, 2016

Civilisation and question of love: part VI aggression, nature and our illusions

Taken from http://en.artoffer.com/Ricardo-Ponce/O-T-Emotions-Aggression-People-Men/4780


One of kaleidoscope's favourite philosopher-cum-Archaeologist Professor Gordon Childe commented that civilisation is  time when people started to have an aggressive attitude towards environment.

What is an aggressive attitude?

It means at least three things,
A. You forget that the thing you are dealing with has its will and consciousness (at least it has its internal working)and you tend to deal with it as only a material to be tamed for your own purpose.
B. you tend to make it twisted for your own purpose.
C. You tend to behave violently when it resists!

How does it affect you?

When you are aggressive towards anything, what you do is that you pursue self interest maximization, you behave rationally (from your often restricted and selfish economic rationality only) to undermine the value of everything else.
Hence throughout the history of human civilisation we devised several shortcut methods for our own good. Here are few examples of such shortcut methods and potential dangerous outcomes.
1. No need to hunt grow your food
Result: high level of malnutrition in most part of the human civilisation, crop failure and famine even in 21st century Africa.
2. No need roam around, settle down
Results: power inequality, slavery, class formation (hence struggle!), resource accumulation, greed and warfare (even today)
3. No need to have individual identities, remember people in classes(kinship, age set,caste and so on)
Results: you tend to objectify people and do not dwell on the richness of individual relationships. You suffer when you cannot fit in to categories (everyone knows the pain of being attracted towards a kin and not being able to tell, even share with others)

So, what's now?

On the one hand we have developed aggressive attitude towards nature, people and other things, and on the other hand we have forcefully created our environment and the violently tried to adapt ourselves in. Today we occupy several different built in environments everyday where we are constantly adapting. In the morning we are at home then on road then on vehicle then at office with work then we break at canteen then again back to work then again on road, in a vehicle then back home again. I know the above sentence has been monotonous but just think about the tremendous psychological and also physical pressure we are taking to adapt ourselves in environments in which we are forced to adapt. To adapt to this complex world human babies have to spend almost one third of their life in learning!

When we tend to dwell in this complex world  of ours we are being told and made believe that civilisation is  gift to make our life easy! Kaleidoscope with his pea-size intellect is still searching for 'how civilisation has made our life easy?'

It has rather made us forget fundamental beauties of consciousness like falling in love, making love, appreciating nature as it is, living in harmony with others and appreciating the fact that world is a home for not only the human species but for all!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

May day: two narratives

Narrative 1

Kaleidoscope's friend's driver on a highway on their return journey from haldia.

Kaleidoscope: do you have association where you can organise for your benefits?
Driver: no, sadly we do not have one. If we had we could shout out slogans for payment hike, we would never want to work for more than  8 hours until we get a handsome overtime... we could make blockade in the roads to meet our demand. But we do not have one.

Narrative 2

At eastern diagnostic centre on Free School street kolkata.

The floor cleaner arrives. He works at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and gets a salary. These cleaning services at different commercial buildings are his extra earning opportunities. He belongs to traditional 'Mathor', i.e. the scavengers, a Dalit caste.

Cleaner: tomorrow is may day... will celebrate!
Kaleidoscope: how will you celebrate?
C: will attend the morning assembly, hoist TMC flag and then work.
K: you will work tomorrow? Tomorrow is a holiday, isn't it?
C: yes and that is why we will get just the double pay!
K: then? Will you work more?or its the same?
C: will try to work more and then in the evening will have liquor

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Insecurity, information age and unemployment: From Uber ride to assembly election

Kaleidoscope with his smartphone now a day often rides app based cabs to when he is in a hurry. He has several reasons for it, the most primary is the unwillingness of the yellow taxi drivers to take him home through 'country roads' - nothing of John Denver sort of romanticism though. Once, in such a ride the cab driver was playing FM radio. Wonderful songs in a romantic evening was disrupted by Ola cab advertisement which asked people to download Ola app and ride for Rs. 7 per km. Till then Uber was offering ride for Rs. 9 per km. The driver immediately turned the volume down.

Today Kaleidoscope encountered a similar event at one of the street side saloons where he goes once in every month to maintain his civilised look. The saloon has a television set and in the evening it becomes one of the nodes of popular public sphere meeting place. People come and talk about matters that affect their lives. (Kaleidoscope is fortunate that such space exists otherwise his thesis could not have been completed, but that's another story). Today while surfing the channels one of the local hero looking youngman stopped at a news channel and when the channel started speaking about failure of Trinamool Congress (TMC) government he immediately moved from it and ended up in some South Indian movie channel. He stopped there for quite sometime and no one dared to tell him to change the channel. Kaleidoscope could feel the uncomfortable moments which lasted for quite sometime until one of the saloon boys asked him to switch over to the IPL match which was about to begin.

Moments later he spoke about an encounter of the Central Reserve Police Force officials lead by local police with TMC's contesting candidate of the area and how she successfully drove them away from stopping her making a gathering. By the way, we need a short footnote here, tomorrow is the election  and today there is no way people can gather like this. An even small foot note is that the woman in question happens to be the law minister of the state!

A few questions that drives kaleidoscope at the moment, these are:
1. The insecurity of the Uber driver and TMC worker is similar in nature, with winning election becoming a source of employment to many, where are we heading?
2. With this extreme form of fear with information, aren't there going to be extreme form of defense vis a vis violence in the political process and election?
3. How long can the state deny the fact of the rising unemployment is driving youngsters to remain insecure and seek shelter under political banner?

(One of kaleidoscope's colleagues reports of theft of a very old wrist watch! Today one of the saloon attendee reports the theft of one of the rear view mirrors of his motorcycle! Think of the grave poverty on which we are sitting on and relaxing)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Civilisation and Question of Love: Part V Choices we Make


Taken at Max Life Style, in City Centre II, Rajarhat, Kolkata
Kaleidoscope wishes to discuss the question of choice which has become so much important in a late capitalist society. He teaches his students that development is the question of the enhancement of choices. One of our famous noble laureates speaks about development as freedom, Kaleidoscope like many others understands it is a freedom to choose. Therefore increasingly we are looking for more alternatives in our lives. We wish to avail services where we feel that we are having more choices. Lesser choices most frequently disinterest us.  
The bigger questions are therefore:

A. Does enhancement of choice mean empowerment?
B. How enhancement of choice connects expenses, restlessness and craving?
C. What happens to those (or them) whom we do not choose (or choose to leave behind)?
D. How do alternatives enhance our freedom?
E. How the question of love, choice and alternatives connect?

Choices and individuation

The most significant gift of the civilisation is freedom of choices. What we are taught to truly value is our independent individual existence. For example while a generation earlier it was taught that one must not forget the value system of one’s “culture”, one must be dutiful towards his/her significant others often including neighbours, with the advent of capitalism the philosophy has been turned upside down. The futuristic growth model which the state and market as scholarly twins of the industrial revolution thought needed a push. In order to satisfy such a need the state intervened family matters in the court of law through the army of state machineries, market continued to send army of products which first challenged the local products and then completely wiped them out with international standard branding. Therefore, while Kaleidoscope wears a Levis Strauss jeans he can truly identify himself with his friend Jan Kaweretzke staying at Berlin. However, this was not enough to break the bond of the family and community; therefore, the twin of the industrial revolution has given another dimension, a dimension that is stronger than such “pre-modern” bonding, i.e. the power to become INDIVIDUAL.

It means that

1.       Marry the person you like.
2.       Leave him/her if s/he does not suit you eventually.
3.       Choose from different alternatives and crave for more.
4.       You do not need to depend on the family and community for basic things like food, shelter, clothing, education, healthcare and of course employment.  

Interestingly the individuation issue is way too opposite than what we are taught by the millions of years of evolution. We have been co-operative with each other, we lived in communities, and we evolved and become the major force of the planate because of this co-operative ability. Within merely about two centuries we are becoming independent individuals. Today while market is providing us with choices like never before, state is doing constant surveillance over families. For example in many countries the state can sue a person to a slightest of ‘negligence’ over their children. State compels you to send your children to school, can take away your child if you do not behave with them according to the legal terms of appropriateness.

Rationality as New Barbarism:

All these are done under a powerful concept of ‘rationality’, often which is backed by another heavy loaded term “scientific.” The scientific rationality in the intellectual sphere has fuelled in the process by inventing child psychology, individual psychology, discovering diseases which were not there before the advent of certain forms of life styles. With increasing specialisation in the academic disciplines we have invented and regularly updated DSMs, by the American Psychological Association and then thrse are used across the world without often thinking about the contextual and cultural richness of different places other than America. The rationality based on logic has taken away to a significant extent the vital inputs of affect and emotions. Rationality often speaks against emotions. For example with scientific rationality we can make fun out of our medieval ancestors, even to a certain extent our own parents who still believe that there is something called afterlife and work for divinity. From a purely scientific point of view we can say human life has absolutely no meaning at all. We are outcome of a mindless evolutionary game. If tomorrow our planet is blown up, nothing will happen to the universe, and it will continue to mind its own business. Hence, any meaning that we attribute to our life is a delusion.

How does it make a person feel who continued to thins his unfulfilled aspirations will be fulfilled in the next life?

How does it make you feel if you have just fall in love and your love is reciprocated?

Yes, it is gruesome, science, or for that matter rationality is gruesome exercise.

The indifference:

With the enhancement of choices and formation of atomic individuation we have learned another thing, i.e. indifference. In fact, our building architectures, essential life commodities teach us to become indifferent everyday.
 
South City Shopping Mall, Kolkata

Mies van der Rohe Seagram_building Chicago

Technopolis office building, Sector V, Kolkata

The pictures above shows indifferent architectures designed to cater the issue of space rationally. All three has amazing similarity yet are designed for different purposes. They are all air-conditioned, indifferent towards the outside world, they all reflect, i.e. simply throws back the outside world, not allowing them to enter into the inner space.
While our buildings, air-conditioned cars, houses, and offices are indifferent, we too are indifferent. What we really care about is the question of choice. While we are having many things to choose from, our mind continues to crave for more. Even what we crave for years or decades only gives us a momentary pleasure and then becomes part of our regular life, making us crave for more. Therefore, we are increasingly becoming indifferent towards the world that surrounds us, relationships that contend us to focus on our individual pursuits which are actually shaped by the strategic nexus of state, market and science. Because there is an uneasy relationship between individuals (who also crave for relationships along with other things) state, market and science our species is increasingly becoming restless, tensed and dissatisfied.

Love and the trickledown effect of choice:

While we have an enhanced ability to choose from ever increasing alternatives we have started to believe (unconsciously may be) that we can get everything we want. We have forgotten to accept the defeat. Whenever we face a defeat we tend to seek revenge. Because of our indifference towards the world in which we tend to live, we hardly have anything to care for. When the question of love comes, it is often seen that we tend to seek everything from a finite person, and when we fail to have it all we seek newer relationships. Often badly hurting the persons whom we choose to leave. Often we do not leave, we continued to stay but in a void, constantly thinking and seeking other possibilities. Kaleidoscope can still remember one of his friends saying out of frustration that he cannot find new pornographies. Many of the so called new pornographies are actually old ones and repetitive.

The two scholarly children of industrial revolution, i.e. state and market along with their best friend science is sincerely manufacturing individuals with choices to make. Increasingly state-market-science nexus in their affair with individuals is pushing people far away from the affect and love, replacing them with scientific rationality and polishing them with choice. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Civilisation and Question of Love: Part IV Farming and Biggest Blunders

Yes the exploration continues over the question of love. In doing so kaleidoscope wishes to show how the advent of farming has severely affected the nature of love. While kaleidoscope says so, he presumes two things first, love is a different feeling than sexual drive. Although sexual drives do have significant connection with love, but love as a feeling can transcend sexual impulses. Therefore, one can love asexually; one can love even without thinking about sex at all. Second, love is a pleasure that comes instantaneously but it requires investment of time and emotions to nurture it. It does mean that if you do not have time you would definitely lose love to a significant extent. 


Love is a highly valued commodity now a day

Love is highly valued but less thought of or cared for. We tend to equate love with commitment to monogamy. We tend to equate relationships with the concept of property. Therefore, everything related to commitment boils down to the question of physical relationships. Being physically intimate with someone else than your partner is the highest form of betrayal. Even in the court of law this holds to be true. In this blog Kaleidoscope wishes to address the issue of love, temporal investments in love and its link to farming and rest of the civilisation.

THE HISTORICAL BLUNDER


For millions of years we were happy with hunting and gathering. We have colonised most part of the world and yet remained hunters and gatherers. The massive mistake, yes kaleidoscope calls it a mistake was conceded by a group of people about 10 thousand years BC somewhere near south western Turkey. The surplus theory which says that the entire civilisation, development etc. has come out of agriculture surplus has actually resulted in misery in average Homo sapiens life and has generated population explosion, and a class of elites (Diamond 1997).
What makes kaleidoscope conclude that farming was a blunder? From purely biological point of view farming before the advent of market economy has yielded nothing but toiling of our ancestors. We were supposed to be expert climbers of trees, trapping games and collecting a wide variety of food to satisfy our omnivorous selves. Instead of doing that we have started taking care of wheat plants throughout the year and there was no look back. We cleared up rocks for them, we fetched water for them sacrificing our lumbar spine and in return wheat has given us carbohydrates. Because these plants needed constant care they have domesticated us. We could not roam around freely. Even today we crave for a vacation, and we spend thousands to enjoy the vacation. If we did not cultivate we could have been much smaller in number with much larger space to live in and a much larger forest to roam around.
Although it is difficult for today to imagine the dire consequences farming sitting in an air-conditioned room enjoying all the luxuries of capitalist society, however we are enjoying all the luxuries at the expense of our ancestors who died of malnutrition, settled to take care of plants in settlements which were hotbed of infectious diseases.
In a foraging society people are usually happy with a wide range of foods to eat, almost no question of malnutrition. In contrast with settled farming society people are to depend more on a particular kind of diet. While our ancestors thought that they need to work harder to make farming more profitable, they did that and for a while they fetched returns too, but the philosophy of their life altered fundamentally. The new philosophy said the harder you work the more profit you make, thereby you are more secure in life.

FUTURISTIC DREAMS:

The very concept future might be linked to farming. In a hunting gathering society there is no point of thinking about tomorrow. It has been a society which is ever present. Everyday you need to go out with your band to hunt and gather. You get your share, you eat, you sleep, you play and you listen to myths and perform rituals. When games and other resources are increasingly becoming scarce you migrate. Not much to think about. With the advent of farming you are constantly thinking about the future. The entire life's philosophy is futuristic in terms of yield, weather and uncertainties. Living in future is a trend that we have inherited and carry with us all the time.
As many of the ethnographers who have worked with recently settled hunting gathering tribes know how difficult it is to make them understand the importance of savings and having bank accounts. Kaleidoscope has studied the savings behaviour of Santals and compared them with neighbouring Mahato communities to find a stark difference. In Jindal Steel Works at Salboni he has found that while Mahatos are able to save some amount of the compensation money, most of the Santal families have made immediate expenditure mostly by celebrating festivals, and in consumption of liquor.
The whole philosophy of work harder for a better tomorrow (which of course never comes) is rooted to this grave mistake of farming. Therefore, Santals who are still hunter and gatherers in their soul fail to understand the need for savings for a future. While we were told that hard work will result in better (luxurious) future it was a lie. It was a lie because what we consider luxury today becomes tomorrow's necessity with newer luxuries hanging beyond us.

FUTURE, SPECIALISATION AND LOVE:

When we constantly think about future uncertainty and luxuries we tend to toil harder in our work at hand. Our brain is taught constantly to work harder with an immediate and also long term goals to achieve. Working hard does not end. We have to be very focus on what we do. Therefore, we are to choose from the available alternatives. These alternatives are given by historical forces, such as family, friend and other associations. Most often we fail to choose what really interests us. Therefore, we are living in someone else's life from the very beginning, we take the burden of someone else's dreams, we are worried about future which was designed for someone else.
In a relationship we tend to equate property rights over the rights over individuals. Womenfolk are the worst sufferers of such a concept. They have been equated with land and reproductive instruments. With time these have only become altered to adopt different forms. Even today virginity is considered as a woman's greatest virtue. Faithfulness is equated with pretention of having a happy life within the lawful marriage rather than love and care.
With such entanglements of someone else in my body and soul we tend to mount on a career horse to reach a future, thereby making our lives ever more complicated. Durkheim once stated the difference between mechanical solidarity (feature of pre-modern society where people usually perform similar tasks) and organic solidarity (modern society works as a organ system with specialisation, people perform different specialised roles). Yes we are specialised to perform certain kinds of works and we do them with ever greater hardship.
Therefore, we have specialists for everything. We even have specialists for working on love and relationships we call them poets, writers and sometimes Archie's gallery. Specialists are framing words, taking photographs, painting and selling them to us in exchange of our labour in our particular field.
The more we engage future, the more we need to work harder, the more we work hard in a specialised arena the less we have time to do other things. The more we are integrated in organic solidarity the less we have time for other things, such as love. Increasingly our species would become lonelier and miserable with machine like soullessness.