The Decaf Resistance and the Missing Red Ink

We have resistance everywhere. People register their resistance in various ways. The politics of resistance is part of our life. We can see it working at several levels in our life. While we have experienced several shades of resistance and have become part of the same, may be time has come to understand what has been called following Slavoj Zizek, ‘ decaf resistance’. In the market ‘ decaf resistance, can be seen in Starbucks Coffee shop where a customer not just enjoys a coffee but also feels that he/ she is doing something for climate change or for the education orphan children as Starbucks pledges to put part of the money that one has paid for coffee into planting trees or educating orphans. Market thus, tames our guilt that may show up as resistance by boycotting its products as those responsible for promoting climate change and other evils.

Resistance is an attempt to re-appropriate a thing that one senses as lost or denied. Thus, the market buys into our instinct of resistance and tame it down. It is like having a decaffeinated coffee. We still have a feeling of enjoying a coffee but it is without the sting of a coffee. Market has entered what Michel Foucault calls micropolitics and taken us on its side. We have mindlessly walked in the dialectics of power and resistance that gives a illusion of resistance while we submit ourselves to power. Thus, we can find products like coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol etc. We may even think of virtual sex without real sex. We may have also decaffeinated politics. While we indulged into these things, we have the illusion that we are still resisting when truth is that the teeth of our resistance cannot bite anymore.

In politics we may look at some leaders or party as ‘decaf’. For instance, we may not like the divisive nature of BJP but we may think let us give them a chance and see. We who otherwise might vote for its opposite party may still vote for BJP because in our opinion the opposite party does not have any credible leader or we may think that one strong leader in the party will deliver the goods. Our resistance then becomes decaffeinated and we end up voting for the party that we are resisting when it comes to its ideology. This becomes an instance, where in we have surrendered to decaffeinated politics that domesticates our instincts of resistance. We can also see that our anger against a party or a leader may be displaced by either changing the leader as it was done with the Chief Minister of Gujarat before the crucial elections or by secretly partnering with a party that is critical of the ruling Government. It decaffeinates the angry voters who otherwise may vote the ruling parties rival but ends up voting for the partner Party, thus benefitting ruling party.

Caffeinated politics can take multiple forms. Maybe an example will illustrate this better. Zizek talks of a visit to a coffee house where the visitor orders for a coffee without cream. The server tells the visitor that they do not have cream but they can serve him coffee without milk. This means we can have several coffees of our individual choice. We may, therefore, have coffee without sugar, mint, masala etc. What we are left with is only black coffee. Really? What we have is a coffee of what we make of it. We have ‘decaf’ coffee. Thus, our resistance can be weakened in several ways while decaffeinated politics takes hold over us. But we can still recue decaffeinated politics. To do this, we may have to find a way of deconstructing or decaffeinating it.

Maybe an old German joke illustrate how we can rescue decaffeinated politics . A member of German democratic republic is said to have got a job in Siberia . To maintain secrecy, he agreed with his handlers that he will use a code which said that if the content of the letter is written in blue ink it means the message is true, but if the letter is written in red ink it means its content is false. The man wrote a letter praising Siberia but in the last line he wrote that it is difficult to get red ink there. Thus, he cleverly inscribed the code within his letter. Decaffeinated politics inscribes political twist in the reigning politics. The only thing missing is ‘ red ink’. This means we can rebel against any politics, decaffeinated one too. The only thing is we have to be able to do is to articulate the absence of ‘ red ink’ .

The opposition in India seems to have articulated the absence of ‘ red ink’ in the politics of BJP. The new nomenclature of the opposition alliance INDIA seems to have put the BJP and its leadership in a quandary. The condition of BJP is almost like a boyfriend who is asked by his girlfriend. ‘ will you marry me? No! stop dogging the issue! Give me a strait answer!’. This is means only acceptable answer to the girl is ‘Yes!’ . Everything else, even a straight ‘No!’ counts as evasion’. The plight of the BJP is similar. Everything that critiques put straight against the opposition will count as potential insult to INDIA. Indeed, the ‘ red Ink’ has gone missing for the BJP. It has a plight of having a forced choice which says, ‘ You are free to choose, on the condition that you make a right choice.’ Thus, right choice is one that chooses authenticity before INDIA. One time one could not criticize our PM . Today it seems that time has come where our PM cannot criticize INDIA without losing his authenticity.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao