Is the Emperor Wearing No Clothes?

Image Source: Wikipedia

The third round of the election is over. This effectively sealed votes of Goans and other Indians in the EVMs. As the EVMs and the poll bugles go silent, it is time to reflect on the great elections in our country. The wheels of our democracy were on our fingertips. Now that we have done our job, democracy will leap forward on the power of the EVMs. The spectacle of democracy is taken over by the silent EVMs. The fate of the victors and losers are sealed and everyone is waiting with great expectations. We can find an analogy about the condition of our democracy with the prayer wheels of Tibet where a person attaches a piece of paper with a prayer written on it to the wheel and turn it around mechanically. Lo and behold the wheel is then praying for the person. Such things do not just happen in some old fashioned societies. Think about the canned laughter on the television where the response of laughter to a comic scene is included in the soundtrack itself. Even if you do not laugh but simply stare into the screen, you feel relieved after watching the show. It is as if the soundtrack has done the laughing for us. Something similar is happening with the EVMs. It is as if the EVMs produce our democratic choice, even when several political parties and the voters do not want EVMs in the first place. Our Government and the Election commission have full confidence in them when the voters as well as many political parties raise doubts about them. Just like the Tibetan Wheel prays for the intercessor, it literally means once the voter presses the button, It is then for the EVMs to make the choice for the voters. Strangely Democracy then runs on the wheels of EVMs. We have indeed stepped into a strange condition. This strange condition may be identified as interpassivity.

Interpassivity is a condition in which the object itself takes upon the task of enjoying the show instead of subject. Look at our mobile phone, now we do not have to remember the numbers of our family and friends. It is the mobile that remembers for us by storing them for us. The digital age pushes us to store, films, songs, books in the computers without feeling the need to watch or hear them. Even pornography survives in an interpassive way where one enjoys watching others enjoying themselves. Similarly when the terrorist attack though suicide bombers, we have interpassivity. Thus, in our strange world, the principle of surrogacy has become central to our life. EVMs are also thought to be surrogating democracy for us. Maybe another example might give us a profound understanding of our interpassive situation. We all have experienced an embarrassing scene where a person who tells a bad joke himself laughs while no one bursts into laughter. Here the person acts out himself the expected reaction of the audience. The promoters of the EVMs look like the person who cracked a bad joke but compliment the machine when everyone else has serious questions about their just functioning. This reminds me of the famous horse shoe on physicist Niel Bohr’s door, who when asked whether he believed in the superstition that says that a horseshoe on the door brings luck replied that he did not believe in it yet he thought that it worked. Our plight is the same. Several among us have no faith in the EVMs yet we have to believe that they work. The champions of the EVMs seem to repeat the advice of Blase Pascal to the non-believers or the atheists. Paschal is said to have told the atheist to act as if he/she believes and assured that belief will come to him and her. Much in the same way we are told to believe in the ability of the EVMs and our act of belief will prove them right.

We seem to be faced with what Freud called fetishist disavowal. Let us take an example to understand it. It means that I know that the things are the way I see them, that the person in front of me is a corrupted weakling but nonetheless I respect him since he wears the insignia of a judge so that when he speaks it is law that speaks through him. This means I am to believe his words and not my eyes. We are pushed in a similar situation in the context of EVMs. Every time an EVM malfunctions, it seems to benefit the BJP. We can see this with our eyes. But we are to believe in the words of the champion promoters and the authorities concerned about the EVMs and not our eyes. Thus, we undergo what may be called a symbolic castration when we have to close our eyes to open our ears. Each of us in this context undergoes symbolic castration because it introduces a gap between what I am immediately and what I am called to be, a domesticated silent citizen. In this sense every bhakt of the political Neta is symbolically castrated though it is difficult to admit and is obscene to talk of the same. It is important to decode how ruling ideology interpellates us. Maybe in a very real way EVMs castrate our democracy and take away its life giving potential. Zizek has simplified fetishist disavowal as belief by proxy. It is a situation when we believe in the belief of others around us. We seem to have to believe in the EVMs because experts and those responsible for our elections believe in them. Our belief in the EVMs is a belief by proxy. It may be that nobody truly believes in the efficacy of the EVMs but none have the courage to call the Emperor for wearing no clothes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao