It was frustrating doing my Bachelor’s in a private university in India and talking about politics. You cannot talk about things like poverty, caste system or even the functioning of governance in rural areas because almost everyone in the class is middle class/upper middle class and don’t even know what a village is might look like. There was an especially ridiculous moment when while trying to develop a campaign to get people in rural areas to drink only pasteurized milk, the lot of us in class made up fantastic ideas of what rural India looked like and how we could influence people we didn’t know a thing about.
So what do I do? I look for a bigger world, a diverse background. Hey I can’t get into a govt college in India, I’ll go to another continent and see what the world looks like from their perspective. Spend a fortune and a great amount of time applying to extremely streamlined courses- the kind you don’t find in India. The first day in and it’s like a potluck of political and social backgrounds and everyone’s brought their own flavours on every conceivable topic. Neoliberalism, Marxism,Feminism,Postcolonialism, Aural and Visual Politics, the works! It’s quite the menu and everyone’s interested in one or all of them. The professors aren’t here to lecture, but merely prod and gently tug and push, you can say anything and everything is graciously acknowledged. Sounds like a veritable academic experience right?
But what do I talk about when in a class on Hip Hop and Politics, we travel from the US to UK to Canada and then just circle around those countries. How about when we can’t seem to move out of a Disney studio in Hollywood while discussing Visual Politics? Then there are those jerky rides through feminist movements during the Civil War or even the full ferry on NHS. No, it’s not like I have nothing to say about any of that, in fact I can wax eloquent on any of those topics. But what’s the point of the potluck when everyone only samples one dish? Are the rest there merely for show and colour?I could feign righteous anger about the NHS in crisis (talking neoliberalism) and the risks of privatising healthcare but er, farmer suicides/large scale displacement/ access to education and food and water in the rest of the world! And hey,this isn’t a ‘whose problem is bigger?’ thing,but whose problem do YOU think matters?
Looking back I realise even when I felt suffocated merely studying Indian politics in comparison to the West, I was atleast trying to expand my outlook. The world is a small place in the First World. China, Japan,Brazil,India,we appear on the menu as side dishes, to complement the main course,but can never be the subject matter as a standalone.
And as far as Aural Politics goes, how about this