Who is on the plum tree?
I had the opportunity to come across Atindriyo’s perspective and subversive poetic voice through Dr. Ampat Koshy. Atindriyo delivers his relevant perspective about the globalisation of social networking in terms of the future of poetry. He and a few like him push the limits, deconstructing classical, establishment poetry.
Thank you, Atindriyo for your great piece.
By Atindriyo Chakraborty
Let’s start from a single point and its apparent positive and apparent negative.
The Point – A vast majority of people who write want their writings to be read by many people and Internet, especially Facebook, satisfies this urge to reach out.
The Apparent Positive – The easy flow and ready availability of poetry and poetic expressions without the obstacles – those monstrous publishing houses with their clouts, touts, pimps, agents and other sharks standing in the way, minimal censorship hassles, no need to put any extra effort or spend any extra money for publicity, marketing and pitch.
The Apparent Negative – There’s nothing stopping poetry we find lousy from hitting us.
Today we have gathered under the banner of social networking – the white knight of globalization. You don’t have enough money or power to approach a literary agent of a big publishing house, to spend for publishing and publicity, you don’t have enough money or power to lobby at the corridors of the award-givers, so you are pissed, and there are many like you who are similarly pissed. And then the Gods said, “Let there be Social Networks!” Now, you are happy because you can make your work read by a lot of people, and the big brothers of publishing are happy because you are not mad at them anymore.
What? Are you asking for more? Good, there is self-publishing! Spend a lump and here we go.
What? Are you asking for even more? Beware! Now you enter the jurisdiction of the dark knight – power/domination.
These two knights serve their master who currently goes by the name ‘globalization’ and who rules over the castles our socially conditioned existence. One such castle was christened as the ‘culture industry’ by a couple of scholars in 1944.
Of Masterpiece and Masterpisses
Lyotard has given us the ‘differend’ which implies confrontations pertaining to language in which the ends are left open.
He uses the example of a masterpiece in explaining the concept of ‘differend’:
A writer has written a masterpiece. No editor agrees to publish it. Now, how can she prove that it is a masterpiece? We want to extend the question into the zone of the future that is coming but is still unknown. How the writer can sustain as a writer — who knows that she is writing masterpieces and it is the very knowledge that confines her to a solitary cell — no one else is there who knows it too, because the works just do not get published? Her masterpieces do not get known as masterpieces due to the very quality of being masterpieces.
Let’s stretch this illustration: The writer uploads it on her Facebook profile as a note and on her blog, tags a hundred people on each, copy-pastes the link on all the free platforms available on Internet, including on the Facebook profiles of ten thousand people. It’s not “published” in the traditional sense, but it’s on the public pool, as a free resource. It goes ‘viral’. Thus, it becomes a masterpiece. In this way the Internet, apparently, resolves this particular conflict and it does not remain a differend. Of course, it’s not a free lunch. She has to be in a social-economic-cultural-educational position to have access to the internet, have enough means to pay her internet bills, throw open her Facebook profile for advertisers to infiltrate, and socialize with a lot of people on the virtual sphere so that they don’t get pissed or remain indifferent to her masterpiece. Thus, any scope of her choice of reclusion and/or poverty gets nullified because she wants to make her masterpiece a masterpiece but she hasn’t got enough money or power or contacts to do so. It is this very want that both the white and the dark knight of globalization seek to safeguard and strengthen and this very choice that they seek to deny. Thus, what we see here is not a negation of a differend. Lyotard still gets the last laugh.
Calcutta got the enlightenment-pump in the 19th century when it became the capital of what was then the biggest British colony in terms of population, geographical expanse and the wealth it generated for the British Empire. There’s no documented ethnocultural pre-colonial history of the geographical locus of this place. Calcutta was established and developed as a city by the colonizers keeping their colonial needs in mind. The “Western” perspective, i.e., the perspective of the dominator tells us that mapping, documentation and profiling of culturally identifiable units is necessary. Moreover, the perceived dominant position which those culturally identifiable units that had subjected themselves to such mapping etc for a long span of time hold in the power-play of history has led to a definite inferiority-complex in those ethno-cultural units which have not subjected themselves to the same for such a long span of time. This complex is reflected in the way such groups approach their cultural roots.
This inferiority complex causes discomfort the ego of the dominated and it is only natural that the dominated will try to appease its ego by embracing the perspective and perception of the dominated. Thus, it is not surprising that the intelligentsia of Bengal has learned to approach its Bengali identity as a group in a “Western” way, i.e., by mimicking the dominators – be it the colonizers or the globalizers. This mimicry can be seen in every discourse the intelligentsia partakes, self-styled avant-garde art and literary being no exception. For example, because of the fact that this city has been a major platform for several artistic and intellectual ventures on the 20th century, a significant chunk of the cultural-elites over here had started terming Calcutta as the Paris of the East.
Bengali is my ‘native’ language. I read and write both in Bengali and Engli$h. I think and speak using Bengali. My grandpa and six generations before him were colonized, my father was nationalized, I have been globalized. Because the West wholesomely penetrated the East through the exact geographical locus where I am right now, these parts have a tragicomic cultural history. For all practical purposes, the city I hail from was established by the colonizing forces. The mission of ‘Civilizing the brutes’ began from this city and its surroundings. The Engli$h language, along with ideas of Enlightenment, was the basic signifier of the domination, and those who practiced, assimilated and perfected the lessons learned from the West did so for gaining access to the world of the dominators. Despite our political national independence, the power-matrix has remained largely similar. Globalization has strengthened the roughly three hundred years old world order. My grandfather needed to know the Engli$h language to be ‘up there’ and so do I. Human existence is social and hence I have no choice but to be a relentless player in this game of domination in writing or otherwise. That’s my first choicelessness.
Though I write using the colonizer’s language at times, I would like to assert that I am not Aerial and that language is not Prospero. I have not inherited the Western ‘cultural’ heritage by easy birthright. When my voice is to be heard on a global/Western stage and context, I can ill afford to be the bastard child of Macaulay. But, am I not exactly that?
I do not want my writing to fall into the void which I have explained while dealing with Lyotard’s example of the masterpiece. But I have been pushed to the edge of the cliff beyond which lies that scary realm of silence. The fightback begins from this very point. I represent myself and my own voice. The enemies are represented by the dark and the white knights and their great master who currently goes by the name ‘globalization’. I have no desire to fan up or the flames of the sort of want which the author in that example has, and I don’t want the great master to determine my wants and deny my choices. That master is big and strong and so are the two knights. The sole weapon in my arsenal is subversion. Given that my want is to not let my voice fall into the void of being unheard, I have to fight them back and move away from the cliff-edges. I have no option but to subvert. Therein lies my second choicelessness. But that my wants are not the sort that can be fulfilled by neither my bastardom nor my oppressedness.
There are many out here whose aspirations are akin to mine. Let the oppressed writers of the world unite (and subvert). They have nothing to lose but their projected sanity. They have the world to win seats of power to decentralize.
 Adorno & Horkheimer, The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass-Deception, 1944
 Chaudhury et al, Margin of Margin: Profile of an Unrepentant Post-colonial Collaborator, Anushtup, Calcutta, 2000. http://ddts.randomink.org/Engli$h/mom-book/ch_1.html.
 I refer to hegemony here as that of the ‘Culture Industry’, following the understanding of Adorno and Horkheimer.
 This term and the title of the next chapter are drawn out from the same essay as mentioned in Footnote 2.