Imaging Goa – V

Image Source: Booinn

Goa and Goan-ness has become an object of consumption. ‘To become an object of consumption an object has to first become a sign’ says Jean Baudrillard. Let us call such an object, an object-sign. Hence, the economy of signs is important to understand how Goa and Goan-ness is consumed. Here let us enter the economy of signs to understand the commoditization of Goa. An Object-sign is primary in a consumer culture. A sign offers social codes to the object and saturates it with meaning and value. It links the object into the lifestyle of the people. It is triggered by as a well as triggers social formations. Often consumer products are status symbols and produce both collective and individual identity. If we reflect deeply, we will realise that difference in status is generated by the circulation of symbols. The status is experienced in the signs and not merely in the objects they signify. In some way ,we become the sign that we consume. Signs offer us social value and meaning and thus trigger the desire of the objects that they indicate. The logic of consumption works beyond the object of consumption. This is why the way Goa is imaged produces desire in certain categories of tourists. We can see how our visitors consume Goa and Goaness to reinforce their social formations. Goa offers status and contributes in the formation of individual and collective identities of the visitors. Consumption of Goa and Goan-ness at its core is a symbolic exchange. It provides status or symbolic value to visiting tourists as well as hosting hosts who run the tourism industry in Goa. We can also trace that we Goans also consume different Goals depending on the symbolic value it offers us.

Social, political and economic status is assigned on the basis of the possession of the object-sign. In the middle ages the relation to the sign and status was unequivocal. The sign was inseparably linked to the signifier and there was no class or sign mobility. The feudal order of sign was dislodged by renaissance and enlightenment churned universal ideals like human equality, natural law and transcendental reason. These ideas forced a change in the fixed order of signs of the feudal period and brought about the proliferation of signs in which everyone could participate equally. Here everyone can access a copy of the sign and commune in the society. The original sign is multiplied in its copies. This is where simulation of signs becomes a system of control and power. With the coming of the industrial revolution and growth of capitalism the logic of sign developed further and went to eliminate the relation of the copy and the original. Here it is the copy that matters above all. The best example can be found in the way paper currency which began as representing a value that is calculated in terms of gold steadily came to stand for itself as we have it in what we call fiat money. The copy becomes the original. This means the copy then gives us status. Thus, for instance, a car of a certain model offers a certain status. This means excess to status is symbolised through the possession of a car.

The consumption of Goa is not original but only a simulated copy for several of us. With the death of the original, the copy ceased to have any relation with the original. What we have today is merely an order of simulations. This means a sign gave up its denotative function. It stopped representing reality. This simply means that it swallowed reality while it simulated it. This is why we have several Goas consumed in Goa and outside . The real Goa is disappearing in the copies masquerade as real. Everyone is happy to sell as well as consume these copies. This is why we do not feel the need of Goans to host the tourists. Any person can run tourism in Goa and claim to offer a Goa experience. What is sold is a simulation or a copy and not the real but nobody cares. Just like Chinese food sold on our streets only resembles its Chinese version and is literally far from it, we have several Goals consumed and sold today. We have simulations of it everywhere without having the original. We have reached the death of the sign where the sign no longer performs an indicative function but simulates the original. We are used to consumption where commodities are no longer determined by their use but by what they signify. If we buy a car only as a means of transport then a person does not have to buy a specific brand of high price. Thus, in a very real way we are marked by a symbolic exchange that is ruled not by use value of the commodity in a strict sense but by a broad meaning of use-value. The sign offers a status value and hence we buy and sell things to reinforce our existing status or to climb the social ladder. Status is the new use-value and hence, we must heed to the fact that Goa is being sold and bought in all forms not merely for an economic gain but to enhance status value. Goa has become a sign in the ruling economy of symbolic exchange.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao