A Hunger Artist offers food for thought

"While Kafka's story came as a jolt
to those who pretended to be moral.
The so called civil society's antics
come off as insincere"
Ever the coulrophobic, Franz Kafka's books tapped the future of social pain. The kind of pain we feel when we see self appionted management teams like "Team Anna" and other deep-pocketed champions of civil society vying for attention and feedback. Driven to make us believe we are witnessing the birthpangs of protest-politics their actions scream rather loudly to draw our attention to the heinous aspects of civilized life and cohort us to change our ways before it is too late. I wonder how many of us asked ourselves why the "anti-corruption" drama continues despite a clear lack of popular-support and public interest? Every single one of us at an intuitive level knows corruption is a systemic feature of capitalist society. Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiency, and market intrusion into government effectiveness in the form of regulation and lobbying respectively. As for "Black money", it is merely a good diversion tactic which is fast losing its charm in the public eye as an excuse Sh. Ramdev and Sh. Hazare have conjured up to keep the public from becoming aware of the reality behind, or examining their totally bogus claims to power. As for those who still think they are gentle souls toiling selflessly in honest expectations, and are unconcerned with power, kindly move along.

One spectacularly clear and direct example is his story "A Hunger Artist". Surely for the masses, the hunger artist's demonstration could not be a means to witness first hand the effects of extreme hunger on a male body. Harder still, is to accept the notion that the social purpose of his performance was to ease social anger by drawing attention to a distraction/nuisance. Just like Sh. Ramdev and Sh. Hazare, the hunger artist had no real reason to abstain from whatever gastronomical delights and proclivities he had grown accustomed to "off the stage", but he fasted because that was his "art".

"Ars gratia artis" Looks good on the MGM logo, where we are distracted by the roaring lion, but in real life art must solve a social purpose or better still, should try to create a social purpose if not invent a social problem. In the story, the Hunger artist's emphasis was on aesthetics. Who in their right mind at that time would not like to experience the thrill of watching someone shrink in 4-D and slow-motion? So we have reason to believe raw entertainment like this was really enjoyed by the people in the old days but the post-modern mind is too sensitive. Sh. Ramdev and Sh. Hazare's focus seems to be on steering the legislative process in the short term and changing the basic features of the constitution in the longer one. It is here that the social pain mentioned earlier is felt, the activist is raping an art-form and social tool at the same time for political gain while weaving a web of false pretensions and fake persuasions to gain ignorant followers.

While Kafka's story came as a jolt to those who pretended to be moral. The so called civil society's antics come off as insincere attempts at power-mongering at best and fascist ploys to go back to the Vedic period at worst.

The Nation needs perhaps a Fasting Act of some sort to preserve the sanctity of such tools involving self-inflicted denial of basic rights which the civil society historically used only when they believed in their cause.


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