Monday, May 21, 2018
January fms 2018
Imagined Courthouse (& its Contempts)
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
FMS#355 || Faridabad-NCR || January 2018
I received a very well composed message on WhatsApp the other day. It was elaborate, full of detail, and rich in feeling. It was a message exhausted by complaint.
What was it about? At what time did you receive it?
In the afternoon. It was about a few things. The crux was the cruel ways of extracting work. And it was about young workers and students of Industrial Training Institutes who are taken in as apprentices by companies.
Why are you calling it an exhaustion of complaint?
Because the message lists the many steps taken to register complaints. First with the supervisor, then HR department, then ITI teacher, then principal, and then the District Magistrate.
And you’re saying the level of exhaustion is directly proportionate to the number and stage of complaints filed.
The thing is, experience tells us that the procedures of complaint-making don’t work. Mostly, complaints get ignored. This is common knowledge. Even so, it is through the language of complaints that a critical edge is presented.
Let me get this. You are saying we know complaints don’t work and yet our very mode of expressing ourselves is by complaining.
It puzzles me how those who have sharp observations and thoughts become plaintiffs when they speak and write. As if they are standing in and addressing an imagined courthouse.
And you’re saying this a kind of habit of living that must be investigated.
At one level, it is evaluated on a daily basis. ‘We are not being heard’ and ‘there is no justice’ are things that come up all the time in everyday conversation.
No, she’s saying something else. It may be part of everyday conversation that complaints don’t work, but that’s not the same as investigating it. Because it’s true, whenever we step up to express a thought or a critique, we surrender to a language of complaints and petitions. The plaintiff lives on.
This riddle can perhaps be thought through a few questions — about why complaints have such a sway over our lives; about concepts which we think through when complaints fail; and about languages that get sidelined by the dominance of complaints and petitions.
There are languages that cut through. Just last week I saw a picture in a newspaper — faces lit up with laughter. You get it — in a newspaper!
Yes, yes. In a newspaper. Carry on.
They were faces of young people who opened up the toll gate because they were not paid their wages. No one had to pay the toll. For four hours. And laughed for the photograph in the newspaper.
I have to say, laughing and dancing faces ruffle up settled relations of power.
It’s a contempt of the imagined courthouse.
Maybe this is how language escapes efficacious comfort zones.
What does that mean?
Well, it just came to me. How do I explain it! When we accept hierarchies of social stations, take them as stable, unmovable, unbreakable, and let pulpit-heads dominate, we’re well within efficacious comfort zones. I do think there are many cracks in this, much seepage, but some phantoms hang heavy.
Cruel intelligence uses these phantoms with great efficiency. Stay in your place, it reprimands. You won’t get any more time than this, it commands.
And yet these lines do keep breaking.
Only to be hastily repaired.
And then they break again.
How often, how much must they break before the repairers will be exhausted?