Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cairo, Kashmir and the anatomy of post-modern resistance


Since a lot of people in Kashmir, ranging from Mehbooba Mufti to Ali Shah Geelani, have spoken in comparative terms about the unrest in Kashmir and the one we saw in Egypt, I wish to resist the temptation of wanting to do just that. I will, instead, try and draw some lessons from the revolution that the world witnessed in Cairo and put that in the larger political context of ‘post-modern resistance’ in order to understand the anatomy of tomorrow’s revolutions. Of course, some of my own observations here are reinforced by the insights I gained from the recent youth struggles in Kashmir.

Post-modern resistance is extensively characterized by its impressionist nature (as opposed to modernity’s essential preoccupation with ‘methodical’, ‘pure’ and ‘real’ forms of political engagements) and hence revels in its use of virtual space, activism, and politics. Post-modern resistance is not against individuals (policies or persons) but against the system as such because it has lost its faith in the system as a whole; hence post-modern revolutionaries would be unwilling to settle for anything less than systemic change, if not systematic. This form of resistance also attempts to demolish all ‘meta-narratives’ as is true of any post-modern project: state and its all-pervasive system is the meta-narrative here and hence they would be de-essentialised by the post-modern revolutionaries. Many of us might mistake them for anarchists because we think that post-modern politics is irresponsible politics.

Post-modern resistance is also intensely subjective and personal for, in a certain sense, it can be seen as the result of personal and existential angst and search for meaning by individuals in the era of faceless globalization, standardization and de-personalisation. The need and desire for meaning manifests itself in the political struggles for common causes, making such struggles both public and personal at the same time.

The politically conscious Gen-Y
There is a general perception that that the new generation, popularly called Generation-Y, is apolitical in nature and that they would not engage in anything other than personal endeavors, and that politics is certainly not one of them. Cairo and Kashmir have shown that we did not understand the Gen-Y. Gen-Y may not be political in the traditional sense of the term, that is, politics is not the only thing they engage in nor are they very persuaded by organized forms of political life which they tend to think is degraded. And yet they proved to be political animals, as Aristotle said, by their politics of fellowship albeit often in the virtual world. Didn’t we make the mistake of thinking that the young Egyptians and Kashmiris are not too bothered with politics and political struggles?

Beyond the ‘command and control state’
The post-modern form of resistance that Gen-Y engages in is not subservient to the grand narrative of the ‘command and control state’, which indeed is the traditional meaning and role of the state. They are neither hesitant nor unwilling to change the status-quo and question all authority figures because they view all authority figures with deep suspicion, and harbor even deeper hate for the arrogance of the state that they grew up seeing in everyday life. The system, for them, is not indispensable: systemic transformation is the motto. To me, this explains why the new forms of resistance, be it in Kashmir or in Cairo, are not cadre-based, centrally-directed, ideologically singular and not dependent on the whims and fancies of individual leaders many of whom are willing to be sold out for a price.

Redefining the meaning of politics
Politics is traditionally understood to be concerned about power; how power and resources are allocated, who wields power and how. Post-modern resistance seems to be demystifying this negative notion of politics: power, they seem to be saying, is not what is at the heart of politics: it’s empowerment that forms the inner core of politics. Power focuses on those who have it; empowerment, on the other hand, focuses on those who do not have power. The Kashmiri youth who take to streets in resistance seem to be saying more about who should not have power and much less about who should get it. They seem less motivated about the glories of power and much more about the need for empowerment. Gen-Y also does not consider empowerment to be an act of charity that comes from the bounty and large-heartedness of the state and the ruling elite.

Practicing new forms of patriotism
Patriotism can be an intensely troubling issue for a lot of youngsters and yet the new-age revolutionaries seem to be practicing a much more liberating and sophisticated understanding of patriotism and love for their nation. For long, many of us believed that patriotism is obedience towards the ruler, incumbent regime and the ruling elite. It was believed that protesting against the policies and personalities of the regime was unpatriotic. Kashmir and Cairo show that patriotism cannot justify misrule and mal-governance.

The return of romanticism in politics
Many of us also tended to dismiss resistance, radical change, and talks of revolution as mere “campus romanticism” bereft of any practical value and worldly wisdom. “They will change when they face the real world”, we commented when Gen-Y refused to shun their dreams of systemic change and revolution. The resistance and struggles in Kashmir and Cairo have managed to bring back the much-needed element of romanticism into our political vocabulary and vision for political change. University and college campuses in these resistance zones were full of romaticised versions of ‘liberation’, ‘azadi’, ‘change’ etc. which a lot of us thought was nothing but short-lived enthusiasm and that Gen-Y would soon lose interest in their pursuit of political goals: we were utterly wrong.

Let it be said that mature, serious and in-depth political analysis by political scientists and policy pundits will henceforth remain incomplete if it fails to appreciate the power and significance of romanticism in politics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

article is both appealing and appalling. appealing in its all sense except in the sense of todays conservative political practices. definitely its an appalling one for the greater nationalists....