Friday, February 27, 2015

Hegemonic Hypocrasy: From Body to State

The broader question of this quasi technical essay is to understand to whether our hypocritical selves help sustaining order of things which we technically call structure. There is a significant scope of using Gramsci's (1971) concept of "cultural hegemony" as the structure is a structure of  dominant groups that maintain their power by gaining the consent of the populace. Ideological manipulation has been the primary technique of doing that. Dominant groups use “symbolic violence” to encourage subalterns to adopt a worldview that is consistent with their own interests (Bourdieu 2001). Public perceptions are influenced by disseminating national ideology—a state-sponsored system of beliefs— across various societal outlets including education, media, religion, and folk wisdom (Omi and Winant 1994). 

The central concern (may be difficult to accept) of my argument is that primary mechanism of such hegemony that dictates to a large extent over how we live is hypocrisy. When I refer to "how we live" I refer to how we the people of semi-urban, formally educated, middle class Bengali people live in and around Kolkata. To establish this argument I will refer to some of the posts made by Kaleidoscope in this blog.  

The private parts and eagerness to share:

Kaleidoscope in his if it is private post explains why he sometimes write private issues in his blog. He reports "Kaleidoscope wants to share what is personal... but he does not want to share it with people who physically know him... In web world, with crores of pages, Kaleidoscope's words are kept as safe and secure, with a hope that there are people who read them... may empathise them..." The interesting part of this hypocrisy is the amount of risk involved. I am told in an "interview" that Kaleidoscope has never been asked any question regarding what shit he writes in the blog - because no one cares to read them, and bothers to take them seriously. Yet Kaleidoscope feels relieved from the burden of not carrying all the "irrepairable stuffs" (click here) with him (?). He occasionally dumps them to the Worlds and words. Kaleidoscope smiles and says its a risk well taken.

Therefore, Kaleidoscope successfully fits himself in the stereotypes of proper. Now if Kaleidoscope is burdened with some emotional vulnerability, why cannot he simply speak the truth and not hide himself in the mask of "messy text" (Click here for a detailed study of Kaleidoscope's messy texts). I think it has something to do with his definition of proper/improper, order/chaos, good/bad, love/hate, sex/heresy. This is precisely the reason we are taught that we are born because god wanted us to born (not sex), we should have sex only with one person (even if you do otherwise keep it secret), we should love a single person (even if you have romantic feeling for others, hide it, let it go). And ultimate triumph is not over the land or wealth but over the sexual rights of the women of land. Therefore incidents of rape continues and we tend to stigmatise a rape victim and often not the rapists. For a similar reason we tend to scandalize "improper" love affairs. 

Therefore, we learn to be hypocrite in our maintenance system and we manifest a fine tuned hypocrisy in our projective systems. 

The caste and religion dilemma:    

There is no caste based hierarchy in West Bengal -  at least that is what we are taught to believe with long years of "communist rule". Theorising this issue has been championed by Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya. He writes about party-society, which has over the last three decades displaced the older patron-client form of relationships. Bhattacharyya (2009) argues:
“Land reform legislations and local government bodies (the panchayats) were the tools and the CPI (M) (as well as its peasant wing, the Krishak Sabha) was the primary agent to bring about this change. The new politics set new norms of transaction to which every political outfit – the ruling side as well as the opposition – had to conform, willingly or unwillingly. In this organizational grid … [the] political party was largely accepted as the chief mediator, the central conduit, in the settling of every village matter: private or public, individual or collective, familial or associational.”

Now as Bhattacharyya noticed the dominating nature of party which has effectively displaced older caste and religion based networks which is apparently true in most of the cases, but what happens when this political network is under challenge with the rise of new political or other forces? When the dominating political power group is loosing its grip, perennial classificatory systems rejuvenate. Therefore, Kaleidoscope in his field visits noticed:
1. Teli-Bagal caste based conflict related to access to land and water in West Medinipur
2. Dominance of kinship networks in Bardhaman through the oligopoly of cold-storages
3. Caste-tribe dilemma and use of tribal sentiments to make a political change and sustain skewed allocation of resources in Bankura
4. withdrawal of support from the "harmad bahini" because of involvement of Muslims in Paschim Medinipur.

The Hypocrisy is when we are told to believe that West Bengal is a secular country where communism is not impossible to achieve, we are actually taught not to speak (remain silent) regarding the issues of communalism, caste-religion political games. Silence and silencing discourses can play an important role in the perpetuation of legitimizing myths and the social order (Bhattacharya 2009; Clair 1998). Some scholars have even asserted that secrecy is indispensable to power (Foucault 1978) and lies at its very core (Canetti 1962). 

He-who-must-not-be-named is real Lord Voldemort(s): 

While our greatest Sita is associated with Agni Pariksha- Inspector Clouseau seeks to know whether there was "Not even a little smoochie-woochie?" happened between Nicole and another detective who took his chances with Nicole in Pink Panther 2. This apparently fun-filled dialogue exchange once again reinforces the stereotypes a) you must make love with a single person, b) being faithful means you are monogamous, c) love is singular, d) your right on your body is defined by the structure and settings, blah blah blah!

In a similar tune we are taught not to trust our fellow citizens hence we fail to make Rizwanur a hero, villagers misrecognise Kaleidoscope and his HoD, and there is unnecessary religious view points come out in everyday discourses. 

The puzzle which pushes me is that the situation in which we live in is not a perfectly fitted hegemonic false consciousness (hope someday social scientists would find a true consciousness!), because we know what we make out of caste, religious, and class differences. We know about our romantic feeling, bodily involvements. If this is precisely the case then social silencing of everyday realities cannot be equated with hegemony, or similar dynamics that imply false consciousness. On the other hand yet silencing, of ethnic difference or monogamy per se is compatible with understandings of hegemony, as the process of silencing clearly reinforces power structures. 

At least in "Worlds and Words's" present state of condition, my interview and association with Kaleidoscope I would rather define Kaleidoscope's present state of being Hegemonic Hypocrasy.

PS. After reading this draft Kaleidoscope continue to remain silent, and I think it is better not to poke unnecessarily


  1. For that caste-party debate refer to Partha Chatterje's discussion in E.P.W...

  2. As long as patriarchy is here (& I know very well it will remain as it is for ages to come) these Hypocrisies regarding sex & monogamy will continue to remain.

  3. The state has shaped us from the time immemorial - and we are law abiding citizens in many more ways than we know