Between Bare Life and Bare Death

Power operates today as bio-power. It has put a shape of what Michel Foucault calls governmentality. Governmentality is power that controls populations and the masses. Huge masses are sought to be controlled through biopower. This power work in the zone that Georgio Agamben calls bare life. When politics is employed to bestow bare life on some citizens, we have bio-power dividing people. Perhaps, people of Kashmir might be the best example of citizens forced to live what Agamben calls bare life. Just today, I heard the speech of Mehbooba Mufti at the meeting of INDIA alliance at Shivaji Park in Mumbai. While discussing the plight of the her fellow Kashmiris who cannot protest in public or even vote today, she succinctly indicated that all Indians will suffer the same condition if we continue with the reigning Government. She, thus, seemed to telling us that dark days that offer us bare life will come unto us, if we do not act and vote out the present Government.

Bare life is produced and inflicted on the people through what Foucault called disciplining power. Politics has become a disciplining power that puts people under strict regimes of disciple. What one has to eat, what one has to dress, whom one has to marry has become part of the disciplinary regimes. Violence is used to disciple people. These disciplinary regimes have produced the promotion of disciplines that teach us regimes of diet, exercises or yoga, other health rituals, choice of marriage partners etc. Our journey to bare life has taken our disciplinary society to society of control of Gilles Deleuze. We can summarily say thar societies of control use machines as chief instruments of control. The coming of social media has become a tool of propaganda in our society. There are good sides to the social media yet the good often get trapped in an echo-chamber and does not reach everyone while what is popularly called WhatsApp university is made to reach every one though the mechanism of its broadcast groups. Thus, bare life continues to be offered to the people while the resources of the nation are handed over a select power elite who then create monopolies. Besides, issues of national security also accelerated the coming of bare life. Slavoj Zizek says that security is an ideology and we do not question anything centred around national security. Thus, activists, journalists can be arrested and no one questions their arrests. Even corruption seemed to have become an ideology as we do not question the arrest of the leaders of the opposition while the same leaders who are deemed as corrupt become clean if they join the ruling party and we accept them in silence.

Unfortunately, we have embraced bare life as good life. Even the promise of a so called Hindu Rashtra may be bare life par excellence. The bio-power that is primary working on our bodies seems to have become necro-power that decides who will live and who will die in our country. We no longer seem to be interested in the administration of life ( health, education etc) , but have taken a liking to the administration of death. Politics that decides who belongs to India, and who will have to be sacrificed on the altar of ethnic-religio-nationalism demonstrates the coming of necro-politics in our country. This necro-politics, is being reinforced by what Byung-Chul Han calls immunological thinking. Immunological thinking decides who is required for the immunity of the nation. Those people or citizens who are thought to pose dangers to the immunity of our nation are considered disposal. Thus, bare life has turned to become bare death to some of people. We can see such an immunological thinking, already in Thomas Hobbes, who thinks that left to ourself ( sate of nature), we being egoistic will kill each other and hence, have to sacrifice our life and limb and hand it over to a ruler who is then duty bound to protect the life and limb of everyone. Perhaps, we seem to think in Hobbesian fashion and are walking towards what Hobbes calls Leviathan. With the death of democracy, we may ask: Are we installing a Leviathan in the name of Hindutva? Maybe we are guilty of walking towards our own unfreedom.

The fact that there are nations that seem to define themselves by their religions both in the West as well as East some among us want our secular democracy be transformed into a theocratic state. Some critiques describe this desire as a desire for a Hindu Pakistan in India. This desire to have a theocratic state of our own like other people affects some Indians both in India and abroad. There is a lot of effort, energy, ideology and money being invested to realize this dream. This desire being a mimetic desire has a violent side as taught by Rene Girard. It brings into play what Girard calls scapegoat mechanism. The religious minorities that share also cultural and genetic heritage then are demonized and can be scapegoated to bring in the post-democracy Hindu Theocratic state. At this stage, we are indeed in a precarious condition and are sliding on a moral slope that might stain hands with the bloid of our own. Since bio-power has metamorphized into necro-power and we seem to delight in the manner in which our Government administrates death, we may be in a real danger of genocide. I do think and hope this position mine is a hyperbole. But I do have a fear. Evil is banal. Hannah Arendt has taught us this in the context of the trial of Adolf Eichmann. The best among us humans can do unimaginable monstrous crimes. Hence, lest we offer bare death to our very own, just to enjoy bare life, it is time that we wake up to a kind of society that we have come to become and begin remedial actions. This may require us to shun aside our immunological thinking. Immunological thinking is linked to fear. We live is a world where fear has become an industry as well as great resource for politics. We have challenge to rise above all fear with courage and work to build an inclusive, prosperous and happy India. Between bare life and bare death there is more life. Let us embrace more life.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao