Resisting a Loss of Image Dialectics

A felt sense of loss is increasing everywhere. We can see it in Brexit or even in the recent mob invasion of the capitol building in the USA. The farmers in India are profoundly haunted by the fear that they will be pushed in deep loss in the face of the three new laws that they call black laws. The common denominator that we might be enabled to trace in almost everything that is afflicting humans is a deep sense of loss especially a profound loss of sense of self. We are perpetually bombarded with simulated reality where the real is lost in its copy. Perhaps, among several other reasons, this fact of being forced to cut off from reality may be the real reason for the present plight. The psychological impact of this flitting image world is producing our life today. Politics today is also completely dependent on the perception that is almost managed with the help of a simulated world. We are continuously facing simulations, we are dislocated from reality and we have to constantly cope with the loss of natural environment. We fast pushed into one dimensional life. Our interactions are becoming shallow and instrumental lacking depth and substance.

We have lost what Walter Benjamin called the dialectics of image. The image has stopped shocking us. Art is no longer interrogative and has almost lost its emancipative potentials. Where once the work of art had a unique aura because the subject had to go to the work of art, now art walks to us on the wings of technology and we have lost its critical importance. It seems that the copy is outperforming the original. The world of simulation is intoxicating us by blurring the boundary between the real and the dream world. This means the dialectic of image is at a standstill. We have the challenge to wake up from the non-dialectical slumbers induced by the world of simulations. In the wake of the rapidly changing sensory landscape, Georg Simmel pointed out that it is difficult to retain a sense of self. The dance and dynamism of the sensory landscape has set in a sense of loss of some vital part of our selfhood. Today we are more alone and have to cope with anonymity than ever before. Perhaps, it is this loss that has set in prime time for identity politics where everyone seems to be longing for the security of a walled garden.

The loss of sense of community is replaced by imagined liminal communities as we can see in the case of white racist supramists in the USA or the Hindu supramists in our country. The individual having been more and more isolated and a fragmented form primary relation tends to opt to belong to imagined communities and this belonging is sustained by the world of images manipulations. We have indeed entered new horizons of aesthetics that have come to dominate our consciousness and fire new utopias for us to chase. This is why we need to embrace critical life. The aura of art that is rooted in its singularity and belonging to specific cultures is dead. We are flooded with images that are simply copies of copies. This condition is called simulacra by Jean Baudriard. The pace at which we receive these images overwhelms us and our attention span is weakened and shortened as well as the images are emptied of the denoting power of them. Hence, we read meanings that comfort us into them. We have reached an arrest of our thoughts and we think in narrow familiar categories. This is why imagined communities have become the new glue for the uprooted and anonymous individual of today. These imagined communities also construct their imagined demons and enemies that have to be expelled. Therefore, societies that glue individuals to imagined communities are always on the boil.

We need to cultivate critical life to face the predicament of humanity today otherwise we will be lulled into conformity that will transfer people resources to the power elite while we derive our sense of self from the imagined communities that are based on race, ethnicities and cultural monism that masquerade as nationalisms. With the closure of the plural universe of meaning, humans are ready to walk in several unfreedom(s) only to feel safe and secure against a real or imagined enemy. This means today humans are pushed into conformity rather than being tricked or cheated into submission. This is because they too get their pound of flesh as they derive their sense of self on the basis of imagined communities that are churned and sustained by the power elite that generates the mesmerising world of images. We have uncritically submitted to the totalitarian world of images. We seem to have reached the full circle of one dimensionality that was critically described by Herbert Marcuse in his celebrated book, One Dimensional Man. Our culture, discourse and politics have become one dimensional that clearly support the self generated by the imagined communities.

We have to critically approach the euphoric world of images that has come to enslave us. Therefore, it is important to understand how we live a caged life because of its hegemony over us. The social closure imposed on us is impoverishing our lives. This is why it is important to trace our response to this framed life. We have to consciously give up the repressive sublimation that we employ to cope with the sense of loss of self that is afflicting us and find ways and means to sustain to cope with our deterritorialized lives and the sense of self that we suffer. The escape into imagined communities destroys our society and hence, we have to find ways to resist it. Perhaps, we have to come to terms with the damaging impact of the world of images on us and our society. To set us free from the entanglement of the lure of the imagined communities, we have to learn to mark a critical distance with the world of images. To bring this into effect, we have to resist their aesthetic lull that seems to captivate us. This is best done by recultivating real and direct social relations in our society.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao