By Gouthama Siddarthan, New Age Islam
17 August 2015
That Facebook has become a part and parcel of the social media hardly needs reiteration. Its phenomenal growth at the global levels stems from the fact that any Tom, Dick and Harry can step into it and partake of the abundant freedom of expression available on its inexhaustible pages. Carried away by its wonderful success, several organizations rise to the occasion and put forward their own perspectives and perceptions, luring the readers to their fold.
Against this background, the Facebook has been abuzz with a viral celebration for the past one week. That is the App that has been hogging the attention of all. It poses a question where you stand among the Mahabharata characters and in the process, christens everyone after the name of this or that epic character. For their part, the Facebook aficionados take part in the App game with gusto, basking in the epic memories. This social media sport has been deeply penetrating and devouring all buffs cutting across caste, creed, credo, race and language. On the surface, it all looks like an innocuous sport. But tearing open the camouflage and going deep down inside, one can perceive a psychologically deep micro-politics operating subtly.
First of all, the way the selection of characters suiting Facebook buff is designed in a superficial way. This innovative (?) initiative would have been welcome, had it been conceived and executed in such a way that one’s resemblance to a particular Mahabharata character is highlighted in proportion to the amount of likes, comments and sharing made by the person. But on the contrary, the moment you get your name registered on the app, your look-alike Mahabharata character is mentioned just like that, with no deep contemplation behind it; casual, light-hearted and what not!
The characters trotted out for everyone are the same Krishna, Duryodhana, Karna, Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Shakuni, Bhishma, Dhritrashtra, Dhronar, Ekalavya, Kunti et al.
Well. Where comes the micro-politics?
First of all, the hidden motive is just to re-establish the myth that only these characters are synonymous with the epic. (It militates the alternative perspective or reconstruction theory that fixes attention on other characters than the mostly talked-about characters and thereby retains the mainstream consciousness of the popular characters.
Alas! The moment one mentions Mahabharata, only the popular characters surge into consciousness or their names are pronounced. In fact, the epic is incomplete without the roles of the lesser mortals who have been left out of the pages of the long old tale. Not many know about Aravan and Barbareek who are inseparable characters in folk tales, about Hidimbi, Ulupi, Gadothgaja, Babruvahana and Chithrasena, who are hidden tribal characters, about transgenders Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, about characters of marginalized sections Shalya, Athiratha, about Vidura caught between Dharma and power, about Kripachariar, Balarama, and about valiant heroes of small provinces Sathyaki, Kritavarma, Jayadratha and Bhurishravas.
That only the popular icons of the epic are projected, relegating the ‘lesser mortals’ to the dark background is a sort of a single-point or linear politics. This initiative has totally turned a Nelson’s eye to the plurality of mega epic which is indeed swarmed with innumerable characters and perpetuated the wrong impression imprinted in the mainstream collective consciousness that only a few magnificent and grand personages make up the epic.
In fact, behind this Facebook game is hidden a national political viewpoint that is dead against the plurality of the Indian landscape made up of diverse arts and cultures and which is hell-bent on creating a linear nationalistic mindset.
The psychological politics which is an extension of the single-point perspective is highly lethal. India abounds in a plenty of languages which have their own indigenous, ancient and wonderful literatures, arts, folk tales and cultures. A man living in his provinces has a consciousness brimming with his culturally native tales and stories. When chips are down in his personal life, he impulsively turns to the repertoire of old folk tales that his native language has unconsciously filled his mind with. For examples, in Tamil Nadu, the cultural icon Kannaki’s tragic life tale is usually cited as an inspiration whenever a man deviates from his marital life. Like this, there are scores of folk tales and characters in every language here.
The Facebook Mahabharata app is just a tip of a massive psychological technology iceberg which sets out to destroy the perennially imprinted cultural images that have become the warp and woof of all minds, handed down from genes to genes and which tries to put the text of Mahabharata and its main characters in that place.
You may argue that the western company that has designed this app may go to the extent of indulging in a religiously coloured political and psychological game. The question may crop up how this game might benefit that ‘foren’ firm.
My dear friends! The game being played here is a mighty technology chess game. It is a modern political chess that attempts to convert the modern technology into psychological too. In the current game, the players are not in; they are out. So, we must keenly observe whoever are moving coins and how they are doing it in the massive arena called technology, at an unimaginable level.
There are several fun apps in Facebook. The users of social media are using them just as a pastime. After spending sometime on these fun apps, they will just forget them. So, one cannot agree that these apps will have a major impact on the consciousness of the users.
This is how you may argue. But this is only a specious argument.
So, you need not pooh-pooh my argument; don’t misquote me as saying that immediately all the Facebook users will switch over to the conception that it is only Mahabharata that is omnipresent and the Tamils’ rich cultural heritage will be demolished, ushering in a great cultural revolution.
It is my outlook or viewpoint that regional languages’ vibrant and vital imageries deeply rooted in the people’s consciousness are psychologically and gradually dissolved and the vacuum is being filled with a different and power-driven imagery. Of course, all this will not happen instantly. But psychological brainwashing has an immense power of cramming the people’s minds with ideas that the powers-that-be want to be entrenched. The fun concept of ‘time pass’ will not only help you pass time idly, but also instil in your mind a deep imagery.
It is a post-modernist concept, a reality beyond the realm of reality; an invisible one at that.
Well. Who Is Playing This Game? With What Benefit?
Today’s politics is not merely vote bank-driven; it is also based on a cluster of psychologically and culturally powerful images. In Tamil Nadu permeated with the Dravidian ideology (criticism on this count is quite different), if the people’s attitude and identity are to be changed, their tale-oriented tastes must be altered. This is the psychology.
Viewed from this perspective, one can clearly understand that a cruel and inhuman micro-political game is on to keep the people under the thumb, exploiting the gargantuan appeal of technology.
Since today’s man has the mindset of postmodernism, having shed the modernism. So in order to attract and appeal to him, it is a sine qua non to use the postmodernist trap and mandatory to operate on several planks, technological and post-modernist, in keeping with the current generation’s tendency to mock, scorn and ridicule everything and everyone.
Behind the façade of ‘just for fun’, there is a hidden agenda to construct the image of Hindutva. This is the micro-politics. At this juncture, one may post the question whether Mahabharata is a Hindutva text. But that is beside the point. My main concern is about the ongoing subtle technology-driven attempt to cleanse the human mind of its regional, cultural and artistic icons, ideas, folk art and folk literature.
Our Tamil language blessed with a history spanning more than 2000 years looks like having been cleared of its indigenously rich folk tales and as a result, the modern literature has become dry. Except Silapathikaram which has withstood the onslaughts of time, all folk tales such as Nallathangal and Mariyathai Raman have vanished into the thin air.
The modern literary creators have created an environment that has made it ridiculous to speak about the great Sangam literature and which celebrates only the western ideologies and western literature.
All this is happening as a fall-out of the game. The name of the game is micropolitics. Its technological tentacles, inhuman and evil, are tightening their grip over ancient arts and ancient cultures that every language has.
Translated into Tamil: Maharathi
Gouthama Siddarthan is a noted columnist, Short-Story writer, Essayist and a micro-political critic in Tamil, who is a reputed name in the Tamil Neo-Literary and Little-Magazine Circle