Advani’s propagandist appropriation was complete, except for the chariot. Advani’s chariot was not really one. It was actually an airconditioned Toyota, repurposed to look like a chariot. This caricature of the divine Rama dwelling in an airconditioned Toyota forms the defining allegory for the emergence of the Hindu rightwing in postcolonial India. Despite its avowedly pre-modern rhetoric, the political imaginary of a primordial Hindu utopia was decidedly wrought in the crisis-riven crucible of postcolonial capitalism. Rama might have been born in Ayodhya, but he did not dwell in a Hindu temple. Instead, he dwelled in an airconditioned Toyota, the likes of which were soon going to take over the Indian economy, as part of an immense political-economic catastrophe still unfolding at the time.
Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto
Credits roll. Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto—a novel about two women who make a film about the 1901 Balangiga Massacre, grappling with the uneven legacy of the Philippine-American War—ends on the note of an infernal karaoke. At the stroke of midnight, we find the protagonists, Magsalin and Chiara, looking on as Magsalin’s three uncles warble over a melodramatic backing track, their voices sweetened by the microphone reverb. The tune is by Elvis, whose baduy hip swinging, macho tremolo, and matchless popularity across the archipelago have made him an honorary Filipino if there ever was one. Only this time, the uncles have swerved the obvious belters like “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock,” picking instead the baroque-country anomaly “Suspicious Minds.” The song’s lyrics—We’re caught in a trap / I can’t walk out / because I love you too much, baby—become Insurrecto’s own refrain, capturing the deranging, recursive relationship between colonized and colonizer.
Today’s needull is review of the book – Annie McClanahan’s Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First-Century Culture (Stanford, 2016). The crisis that happened in 2008 might not be over yet despite the positive reports in newspapers.
Following Marx’s intervention, McClanahan pulls out from her close readings of these texts a central contradiction of our time: as subjects in a time of debt, we are called upon to follow and act upon our desires and needs for shelter, sustenance, and security, but then are then turned into pariahs of unregulated desires once the moment of crisis hits. McClanahan demonstrates how, in these ideological explanations of crises, the structural level of capitalist macroeconomics always drops out. What Dead Pledges restores to our understanding of the 2007–2008 crisis is how capital accumulation depends on individuals taking out credit and debt; but explanations for the crisis have consistently misplaced the blame onto those of us who have been forced, by a declining productive sector, to turn to debt to reproduce ourselves and to survive.
Today’s needull is an interesting discussion on why students help other students cheat. This is something that would have happened to all of us in school or college.
We weren’t close friends — we knew each other only as “the person who sits near me in bio.” What motivation did I have to help him? Well, he was retaking freshman biology as a sophomore, so I (condescendingly) felt a little bad for him. But more importantly, I was a nerd and didn’t have the social capital to say no, which was why cooler kids had been copying my homework for years. I considered whether Jacob needed the help, whether I might get caught, and whether he and his friends would consider me a bitch or a goody-goody if I ignored him. That cheating itself might be wrong didn’t enter into my calculations.