cutting labels

so we sit
and throw our tantrums
crying like spoiled children;
stupidly
noisily
impolitely
screaming
screaming
for justice.

while the mai-baap* government
plods steadily on
grand as a sunset
and inevitable
as death.

My sister and I can't have been very old when we started cutting the labels off our jeans. While it may seem like teenage defiance, I have graduated to cutting (visible) labels off my shirts, and recently, a new pair of shoes. We liked the quality of the denim, but damned if we were going to wear someone else's name on our butts. In the years since I left Shillong, I have been mistaken for South American, Malaysian, Indonesian, and more recently Samoan, Tongan, Fijian and South African. In the light of the recent actions of the Indian government with relation to the Bhopal Gas tragedy and the fiasco of the court passing judgement, the war on tribal land for bauxite and coal, and now the repulsive Civil Nuclear Liability Bill...I am almost glad I do not wear my Indian identity on my face.

Bhopal is the classic story of corporate cost-cutting gone wrong, though it has only really gone wrong for the people who were and are being affected by the terrible gas leaks of 2-3 December, 1984. Warren Anderson is free to enjoy his millions, safe in the knowledge that neither the Indian nor the american governments have the balls to go after him. And with Dow Chemicals taking over the assets (but *not the responsibilities) of Union Carbide the shareholders were taken care of too. I, for one, would have been stunned if the courts had actually made anything more than a token effort at justice, seeing how the CBI has been trying to get poor Anderson off the hook for years, and how it was the Indian Government that let the bastard leave the country in the first place, after they had arrested him for manslaughter.

And then comes the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill. As if it were not enough to demonstrate that large American Corporations would have no real trouble from our police or judiciary, the government (by the people, of the people, for the people) has decided that this might as well be made law. The insurability of an American Corporation, you see, is SO much more important than putting in realistic controls to make sure they are not over-burdened with financial claims should the equipment screw up. Capitalist exploitation at its beautiful best, the profits without the responsibility.

I have little understanding of politics, much less of economics. However it doesn't take a degree in biology to realise you are being raped; by the same government (by the people, of the people, for the people) that is supposed to protect you. I wish the stranglehold of corporates and national governments over our lives was as easily removed as the labels from our clothes. But here we stand, in the curious position of a person sold into slavery, not knowing whom to hate more- the bastards that sold you, or the bastards that bought.

NB: Cut a label...sign the petition against this bill.

*mai-baap=father-mother, a role many see the government as playing, particulary in the imperialistic scheme of things.

16 comments:

Blind Dayze said...

cutting & signing right away..

Ta'fxkz said...

man, i grew up not able to afford the branded clothes - dreaming of the day i would nonchalantly have the amphibian on my chest or the denim label to slip my belt under ... i would envy the shoe prints of the kids in school who made a statement of the brands they represented

it was in early 2000 that i stated discovering the concept of No Brands, and i discovered it when a corporation was trying to capitalize on those who did not want to flash a brand. Later it was a Calvin and Hobbes strip that got me thinking...

Now 5 years since the first time we met for a beer, i think i am ready to puke on all brands without exception.

I now say that Cutting the label is not enough, if you already voted for them with a purchase - they really care 2 hoots about 2 kids cutting the labels.

Neither am i too enthused about brand Greenpeace - and i am not sure my 2 bits/bytes worth digital petition (sounds petty, i know) will make a dent beyond click through catharsis and imaginary sense of victory/involvement in revolution bigger than myself.

The real battle (to me) would be, to talk to more people about Plachimada, Bopal and their bastard cousins. To frame alternatives to dependence on corporations. To spit blood at the mention of dehumanized amorality in any shape or form (be it profits or policy).

feddabonn said...

blind: cheers!

@ta: ah, din mention...all our 'brands' were cheap pirated copies. you pretty much had the option of slapping on any label you wanted on a pair of jeans or shoes. in an odd way, piracy (clothes) is consumerism at its worst, now that i think of it.

label cutting and digital signatures may make little 'impact', but at least they indicate a consciousness about the issues involved. is that 'enough'? no...nothing is ever 'enough'. would protesting on the streets "make a dent beyond click through catharsis and imaginary sense of victory/involvement in revolution bigger than myself"? would picking up a gun be any more than that?

symbols of resistance are precious, and often because what we are fighting ARE symbols. if coca-cola were destroyed, would plachimada be safe? if the tatas were destroyed, would singur be safe? if the home minister were to change, would the tribes be safe? all of these are just symbols, and are easily replaced. this is not a war that will ever be won.

you have said your real battle is: 1) to talk to more people. why discard a talking point (label cutting/digital signatures) that has proved a very good *talking point?
2) to frame alternatives to dependence on corporations: i agree with this, and i can see how label cutting and signing online petitions does not make an obvious difference here. but wouldn't these smaller actions at least get people started on that track of thought?
3) i'm not sure i understand the bit about spitting blood.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora feddabonn,
The Nigerian delta (one of most oil rich places on Earth) is another place raped and pillaged by Shell, in this instance, where the people live in squalour as the money flows into the coiffers of the multinationals with a few Nigerians in the pay. We read little of what happens there.
We read and hear ad nauseum now about the Gulf in the states simply because it is has now happened to a mainly white developed western technocrat nation now feeling what is liked to be raped instead of being the raper.
Bhopal is another technocratic Hall of Shame banner of course. It all seems so overwhelming at times.
Will sign and send the petition.
Cheers,
Robb

feddabonn said...

it does seem overwhelming robb. times like these, i go back to one of my favourite poems: september 1, 1939, in which auden says

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

i couldn't put it better.

Ta'fxkz said...

i fear our urbanite wars being reduced to symbols

i refuse to participate in any resistance that hangs on me entering my email id which is already in the public domain unless there is a comprehensive follow up plan that i can a) believe in and b) i can object to if i disagreed at any point

GreenPeace is also a brand and i like some of the things they do like, i dislike my buck stopping with a signed petition

Today we do not get to see public executions and i feel our urbanite culture leaning towards these mouse click protests that it almost inoculates real engagement.

Remember what Michael Moore said in the end of the movie The Corporation, "they expect you to watch this and do nothing, it is in your hands to prove them wrong" while i take his words with a large dose of celebrity salt, i think he has a point worth thinking about

(i typed a much larger response and lost it)

The spitting blood is a pushed metaphor that i guess i will trip on and confuse even more, so i will leave that out for the moment.

Ta'fxkz said...

"refuse" is a strong word, but i am trying to say i am suspicious of any "resistance" that requires so little participation from their patrons

Anonymous said...

hmm. i think i see what you mean. to tease a little more of your thought out though...

are symbols ever 'just symbols'? doesn't history show that people have been most willing to die for symbols? while communism, christianity, islam and 'freedom' are concepts, their symbols seem inalienable.

we all choose our levels of engagement. in an urban/online world, don't our mouse clicks 1) increase the width of low-level engagement (eg. robb signing a petition for india) and 2) keep people engaged who would otherwise be entirely disengaged?

i understand your argument for *more engagement. however, is it an either or, discrediting (us) marginal protestors?

~baruk

Ta'fxkz said...

Depth over breadth is the direction i think i gravitate towards

I guess i will pass on having my "ideas teasing out" parse

feddabonn said...

fair enough...i think we need both. cheers!

mesjay said...

have you sent this piece to some publication? do so if you haven't.

feddabonn said...

@mesjay: thanks! i'd like to keep these rants to the blog for now, at least. what i am sending out are the more ambiguous 'art' work.

reuben said...

You know, some smart corporation or entreprenuer is going to make a big business off cutting labels.

Gauri Gharpure said...

never ever thought of 'label cutting' got me thinking..

i am not really sure of signing petitions, especially online ones.. in a vague way, seems a way of protest afforded to a select class with so many pre-conditions (computer, internet, english, educated, etc) may be.. not sure..

btw, why don't you embed target= "_blank" in your html links.. that way, they would open in a new tab and one can read your post in one go and jump to the links later.

feddabonn said...

@roob: i believe there is a brand now called 'no logo'.

@gauri: i see what you mean, however disagree. i think we need to make our 'leaders' know what we are thinking, using whatever means we have.

thanks for the link suggestion. am doing it going forward!

reuben said...

And so you have it.