Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Civilisation and Question of Love: Part III The Age of Shopping

Chaplin in Modern Times

The day kaleidoscope went to spend the night with friends, the day when the idea of exploring the question of love and civilisation was born, his friend cooked a lot. There was wonderfully cooked mutton, bhetki fish intended to be consumed in the late night dinner. The food was wonderful. There were crabs being bought from nearby restaurant which tasted awesome. It was a known fact that that much of food was not required. But they have arranged presumably out of an insecurity. Whenever kaleidoscope and his friends at the workplace drinks together they usually waste a lot of food. On each night they decide that from the next day they would not order but infallibly repeats the same mistakes again and again. Throughout much of the history people have lived under scarcity. Today's wastage has been viewed as sin by most of the religions. Only kings and and nobles were allowed for such a luxury. Today's philosophy has changed. Today we crave for more, we crave for things which we does not really need. We crave for things that was not there even the day before. 

Before going straight  to the point kaleidoscope wishes to focus on he film "pyaaar ka side effect" where Rahul Bose projects that the emotional disruption of a breakup is directly proportionate to the amount of money a person spends on shopping. Although he gets disappointed to see his girlfriend Mallika Sherawat does not shop much.
There is a song by Kabir Suman "ei sahor jane aamar pratham sob kichu" (this city knows all my first experiences ) where in one line of the song he claims to learn for the first time that one can buy anything with money. Money is a wonderful concept of trust.

Trust none but money:

What makes a shop keeper to exchange anything for a handful of papers? Papers have no material value,we cannot eat money, but we trust that we can di anything we want with money. It is a psychological construct. Money is the most efficient form of mutual trust that has ever been designed. From cowrie shell to barley bag to gold coins and now numbers. Money has systematically become most efficient and universal form of trust. Money is universally convertible and universally acceptable. Therefore, based on this mutual understanding, millions of people work in coordination. Our medium of trust as it appears converted from social relationships to economy, or more precisely to money.

To elaborate this point further kaleidoscope wishes to present a few of his field experiences. The weekly markets,or he haats are always his favourite places of doing fieldwork. What makes a haat different from market is the approach towards money. In a haat even today you would find that the seller does not much interested in counting the  money or checking the originality of a note. They will just take and dump the money in their pouch. While in urban markets the picture is completely different. They will count carefully, look for the originality of the note. The difference is between formalism (neoclassical economy of profit maximisation) and substantivism (economy embedded in social relationships and mutual trust). These two forms show two clear differences. With market based capital economy we trust none, but the money. While in pre-capital society mutual trust based on social relationship is extremely important. You don't need to count money from the person you know.

You shop... you suck (?)...

The consumerism is a much recent phenomena. Most of the tag lines that popular advertisements promote were considered selfish about a fifty (or thirty) years ago. Capitalism has worked really hard to promote consumerism so that they can dispose their products. Capitalism is surviving simply because it is constantly increasing its productivity. Today the phone from which i am writing this blog will not last more than a couple of years, or i might lost interest in it to buy a new one. The sofa on which i am sitting will need a changeover because it will become out of fashion.
Holiday means celebration with Coca-cola 

We have transformed our religious festivals as shopping carnivals. There is a new religion if consumerism. Where the rich invests and the rest buys. This is a wonderful religion which asks us to do what we really like to do. It asks us to crave for more, buy more and consume more. Most other religions for the rest of the human history has told us to go for nirvana, which is bloody tough to achieve, capitalism is the only exception. 

So why do we lose love when we shop? It is true that we tend to see monetary exchange in everything. Our spending of quality time means the power of purse to buy a quality ambiance, good food and wine. The choices for a life partner is also some how linked to the status and class, based primarily on money. The trust that we have over future is our trust on money. We do not have much trust on persons or relationships. Next time when you shop, you must also remember that giving expensive gifts to the person you think you love does not mean that you can measure your love with the amount you spent. You are spending because capitalism wants you to spend. Next time when when you make time out with your friends at different restaurants or pubs do remember that you are actually commodifying relationships with the power of money. When you claim you trust a person, whom do you trust, the person or his purchasing capacity? When you say you want to see a future with a person, whom you see, the future with the person or with his/her accessories? When you think/ or even feel that you actually love a person, what comes next? future, right? and what comes with future? 

Conceptual borrowings:

Polanyi, K. (1944). The great transformation: The political and economic origins of our time. Beacon Press.
Polanyi, Karl. "The economy as instituted process." Trade and market in the early empires 243 (1957).

Dalton, George. "Economic theory and primitive society." American Anthropologist (1961): 1-25.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Civlisation and Question of Love: Part II Images We Live With

It seems that the question love in the civilisation is constantly poking Kaleidoscope's insatiable soul. Kaleidoscope is surrounded by people who wears masks, Kaleidoscope also has masks to wear. However, while making conscious choices for making friendships he is usually looking for persons who has least number of masks and especially he choose to be friend with those who surrender their true selves in moments of intimacy. This is nothing unusual, we all do it at some point of time. In this article Kaleidoscope wishes to trace the origin and continuation of the "images we live with."

Imagined lives, imagined cares and imagined communities:

The money economy in a capitalist society has largely replaced older maintenance system which was based primarily on the family, kinship, age-sets and community. People in small scale rural communities knew each other face to face. With the advent of capitalistic economy, market dominated neo-liberalism shaking hand with the state machinery has largely replaced the functional value of such communities. Now it is okay if you cannot spend time with your family because you are working quite far away. You can expect professional help by calling a center when in need to get the professional help. State will look after your old age needs when the young part of the population is busily engaged in contributing to the growth of the nation. There are numerous aspects of such imagined life, beginning with the very notion of the nation, and national identity to Elvis fan club. These imagined communities as we will see is contributing to the images we live with.

Choices we make images we build:

Not many years back dowry and bride price has been quite an acceptable thing. Although the society in which Kaleidoscope lives has substantive existence of dowry but at least there is a rising concern that taking dowry is a crime and in at least urban centers there is some form stigma attached with it. While earlier the marriages were fixed by the families sitting together exchanging dowry and bride price now we fix our marriages. We see each other in restaurants, pubs, we hang out to get to know each other and we give money to the waiter and to exclusive stores. In consequence the exchange is there not in the form of Dowry or Bride price but in the form of feeding the capitalists. 

There has been a video (referred above) projecting one of the prominent bollywood actresses Deepika Padukone boldly stating "MY BODY MY CHOICE." "To marry, not to marry, to have sex before marriage, to have sex outside marriage, to not have sex at all..." 

The late capital society has enhanced the freedom of choice. While kaleidoscope teaches development to his students, he often refers to the question of choice. Development can simply be seen as increasing freedom for people to choose to live in a particular way. However, this choice is an endless succession of depthlessness too. For example when we choose our spouse, friends and neighbours, they may choose to leave us. The incompatibility in a relationship (which is increasingly becoming a common feature) will make us lonely, severely affecting our mental well being.  As the individuals are storing enormous power of making choices and freedom to live in a particular way we are heading towards a situation where the space for such words as commitment is increasingly becoming difficult to maintain. The harder it gets to commit the lonelier our species would become and we are heading towards that.

Late capital depthlessness:

Simulation, Implosion and Hyperreality has been catchy to what kaleidoscope means with the loss of love. 

Fast-track advertisement using Woman's body and the tag of sale. Projecting the desired body and not the products. 
The film Nirbaak projects the love for the self in the mirror (role played by Anjan Dutta, especially the mirror smooching scene). While Susmita Sen is disappointed with his lover, he was told by Anjan Dutta "Love yourself, for a change." Perhaps the simulation and hyperreality is surrounding us. Today we tend to identify ourselves with the supermodels. We love wine, fast food, and yet desire a body of a supermodel. Hence, we are constantly constructing body as "desiring machines" that casts off socially articulated, regularised and subjectified circumstances (Deleuze and Guattari 1984).
The question however remains when we started to lose the essence and stepped in the hyperreality? Perhaps Kaleidoscope would argue it started with advent of script. The essential arbitrary nature of the scripts especially the slippery relationship between signifier and signified (yes our all time favourite Saussure) started the hyperreality. However, the nature and extent of its extension has seen unprecedented growth affecting every aspect of our life with advent of late capitalistic consumer society.   Hence we tend to shape and wrap our body the way in which it is acceptable and 'attractive.' We meet with friends, or fiancee and then keep ourselves busy with mobile phones.
A typical scene that we encounter everyday.
We are heading towards

1) a new flatness and depthlessness in our conversations, relationships and in choices too.

2) an endless search for uniqueness of selves while its sleeping away.

3) a replacement of affect with euphoria.

4) A constant nostalgia - in Boym's sense the lost home, longing for a home that no longer exists

The question of soul:

Hence what we have is images, hyperreality in our everyday life. We touch body, we touch photographs, our romance and fantasy is increasingly shaped by pornographies and virtuality. Advertisements are playing even more crucial roles. While we spend hours online, making new friends, communicating through whatsapp, we often lose the depth. We touch body, we enjoy sex, we enjoy shopping but we forget to touch the soul. Well there are people Kaleidoscope knows who can ask what is a soul? 

Concepts taken from:

Baudrillard, J. (1990). Cool memories. Verso.
Baudrillard, J. (1990). Seduction, trans. Brian Singer (New York: St. Martin's Press,1990), 31.
Baudrillard, J. (1994). Simulacra and simulation. University of Michigan press.
Deleuze, G. (2004). Anti-oedipus. A&C Black.
Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1988). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia.  Bloomsbury Publishing.
Jameson, F. (1991). Postmodernism, or, the cultural logic of late capitalism. Duke University Press.
Lyotard, J. F. (1984). The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge (Vol. 10). U of  Minnesota Press.
Lyotard, J. F. (1988). Le différend (Vol. 46). U of Minnesota Press
Vattimo, G. (1988). The end of modernity: Nihilism and hermeneutics in post modern culture.

Vattimo, G. (1992). The transparent society (pp. 68-69). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The civlisation and question of love: Part I Brutality on Animals

Kaleidoscope plans to write a series of short entries to reflect on the reasons for which he thinks, and he thinks for quite some time now that human beings are yet to learn to love. Alternatively, they knew to love but over the years in making this civlisation stand they have forgotten the very nature of love. There are several symptoms of loss of love in human species, viz. incompatible expectations, heteronormativity, equating love with sex, stigmatising body, culmination of trust with sexual absenteeism, so on and so forth.

To begin with Kaleidoscope wishes to present the brutalities on animal with an archaeological perspective.

The background:

Kaleidoscope wishes to thank one of his friends Sourav Bakshi. A discussion with him on a couple of days before, after several rounds of whisky has fueled this idea and ultimately Kaleidoscope has managed to begin the writing. The discussion was about capitalism and why it is becoming increasingly inevitable that we are falling more and more in the trap set by the system. Kaleidoscope could not remember how the question of love came, but he can remember quite well that he said "the loss of love is linked with the advent of agriculture, or may be before and we are still heading towards a wrong pathway." Sourav smiled and they started smoking again. On that night Kaleidoscope before going to the bed decided to write a series of messy texts tracing the loss of love. So, here it goes. 

The mass extinctions:

Although it is difficult to discover the rafts and sea going canoes simply because of the lack of preservation, there are evidences suggesting that human beings started sea expeditions as early as 45,000 years ago especially between New Ireland and New Britain (O'Connel and Allen 1998, 2007). Somewhere around this time human beings were able to reach Australia, which was a greatest movement from the Afro-Asian continent to a completely new and isolated place. 

Just imagine what would have happened to an advanced brain sized, colour visioned Homo sapiens. S/he would encounter completely different sets of animals. If it was Kaleidoscope and his friends today they would definitely like to take snaps, take selfies and then start documenting them as if these animals are from outside world. However, all that the Homo sapiens  had was advanced flint weapons, co-ordination skill and a hungry body. Hence giant Koalas, Dragon sized lizards, Diprotodon, two tonned Wombat, Kangaroos giving birth to tiny and helpless fetus like youngsters all marsupials with abdominal pouches became targets. There is no direct evidence to prove but it is highly likely that we have made them extinct within a few thousand years. Most of giants about twenty four species were annihilated within this time period (Flannery 1994, Miller et al. 2005, Brook and Bowman 2004).

About 16000 years ago Homo sapiens have finished sloths from Alaska and Siberia. 16000 years ago North America minus the New York or Los Angeles meant thick forest, huge variety of animals to be an excellent laboratory for evolution to operate in isolation from other parts of the world. Yes there was Mammoths and Mastodons, Bear sized Rodents, Giant ground Sloths. Within only 2000 years of human habitation all of these unique species were gone (Koch and Barnosky 2006).

The taste of domestication and stupid evolutionary theories:

From the perspective of evolutionary theories most successful species after human beings ought to be chicken and cattle. Calculating the sheer number of offspring that these two animals have would definitely conclude that these two are the most successful in terms of “survival of the fittest.” The dairy industry almost always separate kids from their mothers immediately after birth. The mother cattle is supposed to be pregnant or lactating all the time (Pinkas 2009). The beef steak we dine on our weekends over glasses of quality wine or beer is actually taken out of a calf which was immediately separated from its mother and locked up in a cage almost the size of its body so that little movement is possible, thereby generating soft and juicy steak that we enjoy. The day it is released to stretch out, or touch other calves, smell their kinds is the day it is approaching towards the slaughter house. In evolutionary terms these domesticated animals are the most successful
A typical raising of cattle to make soft beef steak. 
animals but are at the same time most miserable too.

Harlow's experiment showing infant monkey clinging to its cloth mother while sucking milk from the metal mother. 
Do we even care to think about what animals feel? Harlow’s experiment with infant monkeys where he keeps two artificial mothers proves that animals do seek love and care, more than we think they do. Harlow provides two artificial mothers to young monkey. One made of metal another one made of monkey far identifying clothes. The one made of metal also carried milk with artificial nipples attached to it which the cloth mother did not have. It is seen that young monkey sucked milk from the metal mother but still cling to the cloth mother. It spent rest of the time with the cloth mother (Harlow 1958). Later on several scholars have performed such experiments on other animals and have found similar results.
The brutalities on animals have only increased over time. Today even many of those who claims that they love dogs have abandoned them when sick, or simply have beaten up out of frustration coming from other issues. A simple google with such key words as brutality on pet dogs would show hundreds of results. People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals  regularly show the ways in which advanced civilization is treating animals which is more brutal than before.

Objectivity and the loss of love:

One of the main reasons for which Kaleidoscope feels that Human beings are yet to learn to love is their failure to understand and incorporate subjective dimensions. When we see animals or even when we claim we love animals what we do is we tend to identify an object in an otherwise subjective being. Kaleidoscope claims that the question of love is a subjective domain, i.e. when you love you love a conscious being that has its own choices. Perhaps learning to accept their choices is not given in our genes. When we engage in a relationship we tend to do the same. We seek self satisfaction from subjective beings, objectively. In order to control other person we have elaborate rules like heteronormativity, marital stereotypes, blah blah blah. The question is why Kaleidoscope claims that his species is heading towards a wrong direction when the question of love comes. One response from the write up is that even when their craving for food is satisfied, there is no shortage of examples of torture on pets. The issue of mass extinction of animals even when Homo sapiens only had stone weapons and its continuation even today when poachers are killing endangered species like Rhinos and tigers indicate a continuation. Therefore, it is quite obvious the memories that we inherit through our genes or the practice that we have in our everyday life is of a brutality which has no space for soft emotions like love. Yes, of course there are exceptions. It is indeed of a great ray of hope that at least people have idealized (no matter how diverse it is) the feeling of love.     


Brook, B. W., & Bowman, D. M. (2004). The uncertain blitzkrieg of Pleistocene megafauna. Journal of Biogeography, 31(4), 517-523.

Flannery, T. (2002). The future eaters: an ecological history of the Australasian lands and people. Grove Press.

Harlow, H. F. (1958). The nature of love. American psychologist, 13(12), 673.

Harlow, H. F., & Zimmermann, R. R. (1959). Affectional responses in the infant monkey. Science.

Koch, P. L., & Barnosky, A. D. (2006). Late Quaternary extinctions: state of the debate. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 215-250.

Miller, G. H., Fogel, M. L., Magee, J. W., Gagan, M. K., Clarke, S. J., & Johnson, B. J. (2005). Ecosystem collapse in Pleistocene Australia and a human role in megafaunal extinction. science, 309(5732), 287-290.

O'Connell, J. F., & Allen, J. (1998). When did humans first arrive in greater Australia and why is it important to know?. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, 6(4), 132-146.