Politic of Mimetic Resonance and our Ecstasies

The great Buddha taught us that desire is the root of all suffering. Desire never seems to leave us. We all experience it all the time. It animates our world. Do the Buddha. Banish desire. Without desire, we may not have a reason to live or a reason to die. But excessive desires and their lack of fulfilment push us into discontent and depression. Hence, Buddha’s road to liberation from the slavery of desire is emancipating. Paradoxically, one requires to desire this freedom from desire. Hence, critical scrutiny of desire is very vital. This desire to examine desire arises in the contest of mass behaviour in our society. Suddenly, the people in our country have entered a mode of ecstasy and are behaving like one single person. Everyone seems to be expressing a single desire. The work towards the third coming of Modi seems to manifest this singular formation of desire. We can feel a certain rush of energy in the motley crowds around him. Our politics has turned the public space into a spectacle. We can feel the pulse of vital energetics that is animating our society. Maybe we could describe it with an expression of Jacques, extimate. The rush of energy that is felt is both eternal and intimate. Lacan used the term to catch an ambivalent experience that is external and is palpably at the very core of our sense of self. We can see that extimate phenomena are activated in our society.

Where do extimate phenomena reside? It brings us ecstasies. It is the mark of excess or surplus. This embodies something more that energizes our politics today and reminds us of the charismatic leadership of Max Weber. We may also think of auratic aesthetics of Theodor Adorno. Maybe we have to think of politics as marketing to understand the mass frenzy that we experience in our country. Maybe lessons from consumer markets have become dogma for the winning political establishment although tables are fast turning against them. The sensuous transformative ability of people (called mimetic faculty by Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno) to resonate with the surrounding may be behind the rising mob frenzy. This mimetic resonance is a ‘mutual becoming encounter’. It is at once constitutive and distitutive. It makes and well as unmakes the self as one finds oneself in the other as well as one loses oneself in the other. The mimetic resonance works because we are embedded in what may be called as a mimetic archive (social archive) of our society. Mimetic archive is the storehouse of our shared and sharable embodied habits, symbols, myths, meanings, and aspirations which convert persons, animals, things, and rituals into a large symbol as it acquires a social life. Thus, we can see how Modi, the holy cow, thrishul, tilak, Chhatrapati Shivaji and saffron colour acquire meaning and symbolic power out of the sediments of the mimetic archive of our society. It is in the context of the encounter that the participants draw from the resources from the mimetic archive and resonate with the leader, ritual or symbol and enjoy the extimate relations. Perhaps, we in Goa saw this activation around rising controversies around Chatrapathi Shivaji.

Maybe we can find an explanation in extimate ecstasy for the mob and crowd frenzy that has come to animate our politics. This is why it is not just the hauntolgies or the losses in the past that the people feel but also ecstasies or anticipation of the future victories/ achievements that fire the politics in our society. Hence, we have to study both our hauntologies as well as ecstasies with critical attention. India has truly and fully become a mass society. We are enjoying our extrimacies to the fullest. We may have to give up Plato to understand the depths of resonance affecting our society. The platonic habit of thinking has made us captive to think that what we know is only a copy or representation of the thing. The ecstasy that the people burst into is not a copy of a future victory but it is a real resonance of it. We may use musical concepts like transposition to understand these explosive encounters. The people are addressed by the encounter to resonate with the double event. The encounter also embodies the future glorious event. The people have a sensuous ecstatic experience of the tomorrow in the today. Constitutive resonance that animates these encounters chiefly occurs at the aesthetic and not so much at the cognitive level. Hence, it is difficult to offer rational resistance to it. Besides, our aesthetic dispositions to respond to these explosive events are manipulated and our resistance is weakened. This power of resonance to generate solidarity is the synergy that animates our politics and mob frenzies that often turn violent.

This means the social is in the individual subject and the individual subject is in the social. This is why our mimetic archive is working, making us vulnerable to mimetic resonance. Mimetic resonance is not all bad. It can be therapeutic too. In religious events, we can see that ecstasies are emancipating several people. But in politics mimetic resonance can render us vulnerable to mob violence. We see this happening in our society. While mimetic resonance, helps us to theorize the dynamics of power, it challenges us to seek ways of contesting and resisting people and processes that are engaged in manipulating the mimetic archive of our society. Building awareness of the people of their vulnerability is the first step in this direction. We have to really think that the current BJP and its propaganda machinery have become an industry. We need counter-leadership that can lead the people to interrogate and contest the propaganda of BJP and its right-wing allies. We can already feel the pulse of this counterculture. Above all, along with our hauntologies we have to watch our ecstasies.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao