The only measure of an event’s affective magnitude is the size of the cavity it leaves within. Today, elections ended in JNU amidst euphoric celebrations of a landslide victory, waving red flags, and electronic media reporters holding huge microphones carefully tucked behind, assessing and re-assessing the corner from where to grip the event and turn it into a media-event, packaged with subtle hints of sarcasm about the red republic of JNU. I shall not watch the tele-event, however. I was there. Among those standing on top of the tables and shouting about the roaring margin of victory were some of my friends. We hugged, shook hands, and congratulated each other. And then, I slowly distanced myself, trudging away to think over a lonely lunch as the slogans faded and evening preparations took over.
Within half an hour, I came back, and assessed the size of the cavity. There were a few tables lying on their heavy legs, a while earlier the defeated were sinking into them, and the victorious were mounted on them every time the loudspeakers informed us.The ground was covered with pamphlets with candidates’ names asking to be voted for. They had made their last requests to a not-to-be requited love. The white tent was moving slowly to the rhythms of the breeze. The canteen boys were finally wrapping things up to take themselves to bed, after nearly 36 hours. The carpet, covered with dust brought in by thousands of feet was being swept, and there was nobody to participate in this non-event, except the two sweepers. As I stood in the distance to soak the hollow within, I heard slogans resounding within me, red flags waving, untiring bodies refusing to listen to themselves. The site, barren and abandoned, contained the vibratory being of the act which had dislodged itself. The humour, the passion, the commitment, and the dream, they had all moved to camp elsewhere, deserting the sheet that hosted the consummation. I stood there till I could bear it.
It wasn’t the first time I had been a part of an event, instantiated by the coming together of a collective will, and dismembered all too suddenly. Yet, it is an inevitability that continues to disturb. After all, the elections were not only mandated to elect, but to also bring to life a collectivity that makes a case for itself, that refuses to die because indeed, it has a life of its own. Life, after all, is what escapes all outsides gripping it, it is what now has a will of its own, what now has a direct unmediated link to the life-source. It is what has escaped, unless contradicted by its own will, the reasons for its having come about, the ontological claims upon itself. But the election event of today, did not come to life in this sense, it did not assert itself, it could not refuse to listen to its masters. It did not surrender its will because it could not even consolidate a will of itself. Shall we say then, that apart from being called upon to deliver a numerical verdict, it was an event programmed into its being and programmed out of itself after the verdict? What sort of meaning could be ascribed to an event programmed in this manner? How do we program ourselves to participate in events that are mandated to cheat us, so to speak? How do we allow ourselves a euphoria that, we know, shall end abruptly by jumping into the abyss? The problem I am posing here is a problem of will when up against a pre-destined fate, an eventual course that refuses to respond to the will beyond a point. How does volition get sucked into euphoria, into that the idea of which is so powerful that it brings together the collective before the collective has come into being? What this means is that the imagination of the euphoric collective overwhelms the individual volition, the former wills the latter before materializing itself.
The above is significant to note because in a heavily mediatized world the first casualty is that of the will. It is mutilated but not buried into absence, instead into all-pervasiveness, with its dead limbs hanging all around us. The will is compromised because we see willing agents everywhere exercising their choices, demanding rights to making choices, yet not making any. My argument here would be that every encounter of the will with another, mediated by the media is an ‘encounter of loss’, it must register losses on both sides. We are looking at a grid in which whenever two nodes form a direct connection, they must lose the material they are made up of. It is primarily because of the material of the will which is essentially internal, therefore any form of externality is antithetical to its being. This needs an important clarification. I do not mean that it is impossible to witness a positive encounter of volition, when mediated. However, I would argue that for that to happen, volition needs to negotiate with desire playfully retaining an unpredictable thrill which could only be understood in its theatricality, a kind of dramaturgy. The mediatized volition therefore needs to hide its nakedness, a direct assault on a willing viewer. The nudity of the encounter otherwise renders an erotic charge to volition which cannot sustain itself, must leave behind a deep hollow, a pale lethargy of post-coital surrender awaiting all euphorias. The dramaturgy, therefore, is required to disallow consummation but retain interest.
That the sexual vocabulary was called upon to sharply negotiate the inflexion points of the argument above does not state the limitations of language as much as it renders a particular type of imagination to the notion of an ‘event’. I’ve used the basic distinction of erotics and poetics in one of my published research papers as well. This is a meditation on event, the mediatized, the euphoric, and the destiny of an event. But most importantly, it is about volition, and understanding how volition breathes, how it encounters, and what comes out of it.