The Market

Real man Farhan Akhtar prevents violence against women on behalf of the Delhi Police, Al Gore makes millions to save the planet from temperature gain, Amnesty International recruits Peter Gabriel to be their conscience, Aishwarya Rai counters Polio and HIV/AIDS, Unicef heralds Aamir Khan as the expert on child rights, and Narendra Modi hires Amitabh Bachchan to spread Khushbu Gujarat Ki.

And we lesser mortals, legends in our own minds, emulate our stars and wait for our moment to go viral on Facebook and Youtube, while these corporations churn out billions in our name via offering us a supposedly free platform. Even Michael Moore, the multimillionaire activist, sells a few more copies at the Left Forum. Rape won’t happen again, wail our criminal leaders on our television screens; while gives us a marketable online page to cry for justice.

From activisms against capitalism to advocacies by corporations, from revolutions on the streets to enactments on television sets, from underground coalitions of committed comrades to publicized hobnobbing of social media elites – the nature of agitations has probably undergone radical transformations in recent years. From tactical opposition against brand positioning, to using marketing as a tactic in the struggle – the organizing principles of movements have perhaps witnessed drastic shifts. From teach-ins of topical significance, mass sloganeering across college campuses and independent publications from basements, to the dying library culture, thriving business of institutionalized coaching and emergence of the big media – the character of education has, of late, seen systemic revisions.

Individualistic values were traditionally attached to marketing strategies that lured the consumers into choosing between options. Now even the collective values are being marketed rather profitably. This near complete synthesis under the auspices of marketing is the mark of capitalism – well received, embraced, and adapted to, in our times.

One could argue that capitalism transcending all barriers and uniting us in our greed is supposed to be a good thing. After all, until this stage is reached, there would be no way to successfully combat its ills so that a higher stage of human development can be aspired for. What one merely wishes for is a sufficient critique of this synthesis during our times that can translate into, and bring alive the spirit of organized dissent. For when Bob Dylan went electric, there had erupted endless controversies; today, he endorses Oris luxury watch without even a glitch.

Maybe then we have to stop looking at the chosen few individuals for answers, subsumed as they have been under, and also benefiting from, the marketing diaspora. Maybe the climate of a universal superstore that sets the capitalistic standards of success and fame should be allowing us to think beyond it. The world of marketing has already done its job. Maybe its time we started doing ours – by imagining a new world, a hype-less society whose tireless activists need no corporate endorsements, no mass approvals, no mention in the weekly lists of bestsellers, no official state recognitions, no standing ovations at mega award events.

Better still, perhaps such folks, the flag-bearers of an alternative world, the proletarian heroes, the working class agitators, the unsung poets are already in our midst. And, we fail to notice them time and again, enamored as we are by the layers of seductive marketing – deluded by the promises from the visible, hypnotized by the cheerleaders of the exploiters, and beguiled by the antidepressants prescribed in the form of reassuring words of our false gods. We oftentimes fail to notice that the agents of oppressions can creatively manipulate their subjects to relish a higher degree of degradation, given that it happens with greater tacit participations of those they oppress, and in the process, manufacture a coterie of luminaries that convincingly speak to the grateful lot of us on behalf of our benevolent masters.

What we need to do then, is to unmask the majority hype, recognize the minority dissent, and replace the entire system. Lock, stock, and barrel.

Saswat Pattanayak is a New York-based journalist, photographer, atheist, third-wave feminist, LGBT ally, black power comrade and academic non-elite who refuses to give up his association with Kindle. A true comrade.

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