Creating Happiness – Rijul Kochhar
Guest post by RIJUL KOCHHAR
It is a minute and a half long, and from the moment you see it, you will know that there is something sinister about it—a scenario of forced forgetfulness. It is displacement incarnate, and what is it doing, this aesthetic of obscenity? Is this retribution or charity, or retribution through charity, the developmental discourse of murderous sustainability through erasure? You will be puzzled and worried, harried and then it will make you sleep again in pious numbness, for isn’t the world—its deep blue sky and crystal fluid and cleansing sunlight, and bright flowery faces, its innocent time—just so beautiful! You will find that you cannot respond to it, physically, humanly, for it is not receptive to the organic. It cannot be mediated. It is a ghoul, perched to haunt and hypnotize us out of the memory of its past terrors. You remember, lenore, and wasn’t it to be nevermore? It is an electrical transmission and nothing more, or is it? It is a triumph of pre-postmodern, oily chic, so cloaked in ancient blood, that the blood has caked and turned black and fallen off, revealing the identical colour of the master’s heart, now you see it, now you don’t. The laceration has been hidden by the three-day apoptosis—the extra-cellular matrix, the forgetful memory’s collagen. But you will need to dig outward and inward from here, and very deep. It is there on my screen, this light of blood-lust, “Vedanta: Creating Happiness”, and every time a new or repeated tale from half way across the world is beamed, news every quarter of an hour, this monstrosity accompanies those facts like some leech feeding on reality. You remember Sontag, and isn’t she who had her way with those words: “Now there is a master scenario available to everyone. The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.”
There is a framed vision of hills, vital and vulval from the night. There is little evidence of the deeds of the framer of this vision, but you know better. The master’s fodder, his fuel, is now trumpeted, and we see it as the forced, living vitality of a sheep tied for luring the carnivore. There is smoke from the dwellings, for it is early morning, but you do not know if this is from the embers of battles from the dark, the death-wind of the dug-out entrails, the sweeping tale of history desecrated. It is the vision of paradise, but before that you know this is in the voice of the serpent, whispering softly the visions of its own terrors, you’ve been sucked in. There is the apparatus of life, alright, and there is the graffiti of childhood abandon on the wall, and ‘aw’, but you wonder where is the awesome body whose shadow now you see flickering behind the rolling panopticon, the hands tugging the strings on this stage. It is the visage of forced happiness, remember they’re ‘creating’ it. There is music and sun, and water and playing faces and you will feel them all rustle past, like the radioactive, atomic breath of a brilliant thousand suns. You are energized. It feeds on suffering, this thing, on poverty, on forgotten lore, forcing them to be resurrected, prop-like, for the final take, and if you rewind enough times, there you see, in their eyes reflected, the master’s guiding hands, tending its flock. You know that even here, the edges have been left sharp, but the incongruity of the seductive voice, its message, and its hidden visage are becoming apparent. Slowly.
They have used children to get to you, tens of them by the busload it seems, but somehow, so devoid is their habitus that you are almost retching. But of course you’re not, and here comes the rising smile. They have used parents, juxtaposing the misfortune of their quieter days against the intoxicating charms of this toxic, beneficent present. But you know that they’re just standing there, ashen skies and cosmic barrenness, and is it bad cinematography or can some things just not be directed, like mercury, to follow the stream on a specified path? The infrastructure of one’s own ways has been left standing, but it is almost like a taunt—see the fun you’re missing just down the road, at the quarry! The monkey god-mask gives the holy game away, but is it not a game already dealt, for you cannot question or ‘point out’ the errors in the plot? It is idyllic, bucolic, rustic here, but you know better, for you have seen the dust and roar of motor mayhem on once-spindly paths. It seems that memory is from elsewhere, a different constellation, a bad dream of smoke and fog, cloak and dagger. And you think deeper. There were then those gaping chasms of bitumen, or mere flattened deadness, because bitumen was too long-lasting for the job at hand. Anyway you think, it must be a displaced memory, and you’re adding objects together that aren’t supposed to exist. There is the comforting, satiating menace of fortune-made-good—a computer and school and a nurse—but you wonder if they have just not been planted here, for they seem too clean, too light for the indigenous melanin that is in the skein of this place. You wonder where the real apparatus of murderous splendour is in all this, for what is the ‘deal’—modern times indeed. Where is this place, if not the corner of some foreign field, the manifestation outwards from some brain’s dark, salvational nightmare and a suave PR exercise? But it is a floating signifier, no worries about what is signified, for it is a whole new grammar of symbolism—terrifying and pregnant and moist with bitter medicine and a Singapore in Niyamgiri, because it is also the stuff of your own fantasy.
It is the voice, however, which is deafeningly making you forget, because like a stuck record or some worm-like tune, its sing-song deviousness remains with you, burrowing its way in. You will see that the innocentization will extract its own pound, for it is making you lustily smile. There is the accoutrement of wet bodies and nimble limbs, but you will, it is hoped, soon jolt out of that paedophilic slumber. What is history, or memory, when the script-writer has brought ahead the day of judgement—you had none of this, this abandon, this purchase of mobility and communication and this leisure to dream. We have condemned your ways, but now it’s the memory we seek to neutralize. Guilt by association, you feel, and they have come, the advance guard of good times. You have never eaten, but there is feed now; never smiled, but there is ‘happiness’ now; “we wonder if your mother ever smiled”. They have brought dreams to dream, the cacophony of careers and debentures, and you almost see the little girl now, a fat-cat in the big bad world of ambition. But do you, or will this all dissolve, you wonder, in the bits and bytes of proffered desire and soaring stocks. There is, then, finally, the figures of welfare, lakhs of faceless recipients, and see how we have done this, clean eyes and sparkling visage and lighter consciences to go around the table!
You are too old for this game; you’ve seen too many players and you’ve peered under some of their skins. You’ve turned over some of their sleeves and exposed their deals. Time is the ultimate seduction, it feeds on memory and leaves behind an emaciated, sanitized cadaver of what was once fearful in real-time, what was once seductive and lusty, what was once demonic truth. But time keeps a kernel of the real, and you will find it in the folklore of the terrorized, in their hushed voices and deadening eyes. This is all gone now; the memory is raw, much too raw, but this minute and a half long psychotropic course on my screen is in the business of striking as hard to numb as fast as it possibly can—it is winding down the clock, running out time of its own orbit, forcing its own forced exculpation around the world, and you will know it. But what will you do? This, after all, is the discourse of development, and you will exclaim at its rapacity, but isn’t this the latest concept of sustaining a ‘vision’, this minute and a half long take on made-to-order forgotten violence. This is the expertise of ‘public relations’, and what a useful turn of phrase you wonder, what analgesic, psychotropic genius this is!