Absence of Hope and the New Politics of Opportunity

Rajaraman Sundaresan writes on the everyday pathology of violence and conflict. The author is a social science mimic and is an alumnus of Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Bhubaneswar, Odisha. His research areas include science and knowledge studies. He takes the particular example of demonetization to illustrate how survival is being linked to the forceful integration of technology to lives. 


Conflicts, when seen under the framework of ethics, have deeper meanings that attain a tacit voice. Conflict situations such as war, calamity and disasters have a different set of characteristics and grammar compared to conflicts that one encounters in an everyday life. Retaining one’s own culture, identity, language calls for an understanding of life and life-systems in an everyday sense.

The everyday pathology of violence and conflict is what I am interested in, especially at a time where policy moves such as demonetization have rendered not only a psychological effect but also threatens to create a new-self linking science and technology.

Conflict actually exists in many categories. For example, when a state language is forced upon as a medium of instruction in schools, the tribal children who speak their own dialects confront a conflict over their language which is linked to their life-world. These conflicts are internal and can’t be measured through tabular columns, survey questions and statistical data’s. These conflicts not only leave behind a psychological trauma over the self but give way for a systematic erasure of a knowledge world which stands voiceless.

This everyday pathology of conflict and violence in that sense puts people, their land and their knowledge-world into a continuous process of   hopelessness, that today one wonders what kind of a democracy are we? And what do we mean by social change as a process? These ethical questions never seem to be part of our constant struggle for a better world and a happier life. In fact, at a more fundamental level, one feels that concepts such as tribal empowerment, patriarchy, caste oppression are empty words without confronting such questions in an everyday sense.

Today, the situation of tribal people across the country has not only worsened but has certainly achieved a new kind of a national conspiracy which is being executed upon them with concepts such as development, education, science and technology. Voiceless is a situation, when a particular tribe, culture, language, knowledge world and identity as a whole stands still between the thin lines of ‘silence and being without voice‘. It in fact has a different effect on memory where one, no more can hope to return to his original self. Such, a situation is not only about the power or agency of voice but more about a situation, where there is ‘absence of hope’.

A modern society, dominated by majoritarian social dynamics has its own sense of justice which politicizes the situation of ‘absence of hope’ as lack of opportunity. The very moment absence of hope translates into lack of opportunity; it’s no more about plurality, diversity or redeeming the original self, but more about the creation of the new-self with respect to the majoritarian rule games. This very act of translating a community, a culture or for the matter of fact an identity according to the majoritarian rule game sounds like a business model rather than an empathetic social structure for the integration of knowledge cultures.

This paradigmatic creation of the new-self which is formally recognized and validated as a process of social change needs an anthropological understanding between the evolutionary idea of history and the process of evolution itself. This everyday conflict that one encounters when confronted with a policy or a curriculum in a school or society, formulated according to the majoritarian rule games, needs a story-teller from the margins who recognizes the dichotomy of hope and opportunity.

Most pillars of social change, such as modernization, development, technology and so on are today portrayed as weapons of new opportunities by the politicians, corporations, think tanks and NGO’s by exploiting this very situation of ‘absence of hope’ which not only is the politics of opportunity but also is a way to recreate a new kind of social contract between the state and the society.

Let us take the example of the recent demonetization move. The rhetoric of Demonetization as a policy move is seen as an opportunity on one hand to battle corruption but on the other hand, it tries to create the foundations for a cashless economy ignoring the everyday pathology of conflict and violence that it has inflicted.  This politics of opportunity as one understands is about creating a new-self which is technologically dependent and leaves the rest obsolescent. In fact, one of my friend put it brilliantly when he said that “Modi might be a Chaai wallah, but his policies resonate that of a shopping mall wallah” . It is this politics of transformation that needs to be captured as a tribute to the evilness of the Modi regime.

At a fundamental level the demonetization move is about the penetration of technology into our everyday lives which determines our life-world and life-chances. In fact, survival as a basic right becomes dependent on technology. Technology in such a world view is no more an applied science but becomes a new epistemology which tries to link citizenship to life, lifestyle and livelihood. In a deep and fundamental way, it is about the forceful integration of technology to one’s right to life and today in a strange way you can say that ‘ if you have a smart phone, you have your right to life’.                         

Feature image  The Hindu

  • K SHESHU BABU

    On the pretext of development, the policies are encroaching ‘ fundamental rights ‘ of citizens of life and freedom. The meaning of ‘ development’ is being moulded to mean ‘ development of corporate and bourgeoisie whims and fancies to earn profits by exploiting poorer sections of people and their meagre resources’ .