Structure, Play, and Indian Society

Image Source: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images

The rising second wave of Covid-19 in our country has become a Tsunami. We are facing what Jacques Derrida might call a rapture event. Etymologically, the word event has a disruptive meaning. It has a sense that implies: ‘to come out or fall out’. We have to agree that we are in a state of collapse. Our medical infrastructure seems to have collapsed, our morals exhibit depravity with black marketing of essential drugs and maverick manipulations of other important resources, and our admiration has failed to prevent super spreading events. We are fast imploding from within because of this failing war on coronavirus. The virus is raging havoc with our lives. Our medical workers are fatigued. Some have even died while serving the sick and the afflicted. Our vaccine doses are drying up. We face shortages of beds and vital oxygen. The people are dying in hundreds and the families do not have any way to give them dignified funerals. The dead are simply huddled like animals and taken to the crematoriums and the burial grounds. We may have to agree without being too cynical that the structure of our society is giving way. What is appalling is the state of insensitivity of our Government. Our rulers seem to be overly concerned about their PR image. We can see how several tweets were suppressed. Even some attempts were made to police those who raise genuine concerns on social media. The only silver lining in the dark cloud is that our honorable high courts saw the writing on the wall and stood firmly with the struggling people and our overworked medical staff did not give up hope.

This event of rupture is horrifying but it can be a great moment to understand the structurality of the structure of our society that holds us together like a glue. We usually imagine the structure of our society with the help of linear models. It gives us a sense of progressing ahead. Politically, we saw a consistent narrative that told us that we were stagnating under Congress. Our secularism was recast as our weakness. The Hindu Rashtra and the Ram temple were installed as our ultimate triumph. Pakistan was painted as enemy number one on the road to our economic, political and social paradise. The minorities were brought under the needle of suspicion. Life seemed to be moving towards our collective abode of progress under the leadership of a strong leader who has acquired cultic glory and then came the thunderbolt of the coronavirus and our society exploded and today it is imploding today. It is interesting that when time is thought in a cyclic manner in our land, we get trapped in the linear Western imagination of time moving towards a glorious destination. Perhaps this enslavement to linear progressivity has to be revisited to understand what has happened to our society. This is why the disruption brought about by coronavirus has to be thought of as an event in the Derridean sense. This exercise has the power to open our eyes to the play of the structurality of the structure of our society. To do this profound examination, the deconstructive thinking of Derrida may assist us.

Against linear progressivity, Derrida invites us to think that every structure has a centre. This centric thinking is allied to circularity rather than reigning linearity. It is the centre that holds the entire structure together. It opens a play that holds the shape and all the parts of the structure. The centre organizes the play of the structure and it sets limits to its play of the elements by marking the boundaries to the play. But the centre is not structured and stays outside the play that it organises. This means the centre that monitors the play of the structure is already de-centred. Now thinking with the decentred centre that structuralism plays the structure of our society does manifest another picture of our society. The centre or centres that organize the play of our society includes our Governments and its entire apparatus of control. We may also include other factors like caste allegiances, business interest etc., what we name as centre/centres. Within this imaginary world, we may be able to see how we have changed over the past several years and reached a point of disruption triggered by the global pandemic.

The ruling centre has structured the play in our society through its divisive and hate ridden political discourse. Michel Foucault has shown us how we are constructed as subjects through discursive disciplinary practices. Perhaps, a short reflection is enough to reveal to us the manner in which disciplinary practices embedded in the political discourse decreased the trust levels and increased intolerance in our society. Suddenly, our society got into a play of binaries between loyalty and disloyalty, nationalists and anti-nationalist, Hindus and sankari Hindus. But the centres that structured this play of our society remained decentred. We see this in the way our national resources got handed over to vested private interest. We can see the colonial divide and rule policy being re-enacted as we became busy fighting real or imaginary enemies from within our society while a vested interest went away with the trophy.

This is why the disruption of the second wave of the lethal virus seems to show us that the centres that generated the structural play of our society are actually the agents of the vested corporate interest. Nationalism, political ideologies and even the highest political office in our country seem to have become the hiding place for this vested interest. The linear model of progress that we held on so far has become manifested as one that is bending backwards to benefit the cronies of the ruling masters. Hence, we have to understand the double edge diagnostics of the disruption of the lethal virus. On one side, we are feeling the pain of loss of precious life of our loved ones, and on the other side a heartless mishandling and insensitive unpreparedness of our Government increases our agony but it also opens our eyes to the failures of our rulers. We can see sheer incompetence of the men in the helm glaring into our face. The triumphalism of the ruling benches is falling away. As we pick up the pieces of our life in the context of this devastating disruption, we are fast realizing that it is the virus that has taken the centre stage and is structuring the play of our society. The failed government is displaced and is gasping for breath to retain its place. The virus is also de-centred and is everywhere spreading shivers and panic. Maybe it is time to understand the structural play of our society and those that benefit while we play with hate and intolerance and take steps to remedy our plight.

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