Waiting for a New World

Subhendu Dasgupta

At present, we encounter the word online frequently. Every moment. Online Classes. I have just heard it.

Students are in their homes. Teachers are also in their residences. Teaching is happening.

A friend of mine told me that his daughter has to take online lessons on dance. The friend has to buy a smart phone for this. Thus a market for smart phones and internet supply has been created.

Problem is mine. Profit is for smart phone companies and for providers of internet network. Profit for Capital. Capital is always in search for markets and it creates markets. We do not realize on every occasion.

Once a parent provides a smart phone to a school going student, it's difficult to take it back when not needed. He feels that we are forced to introduce our children into the polluting world of smart phones.
Introduction of the smart phone has created a process of exclusion.

An example. Private art tutors are used to teaching lessons to students either at the residences of the teachers or of the students. The parents have stopped both without providing the usual monthly fees to the teachers. Most of the art teachers do not know how to teach art online. It may be the other way round. The students do not know how to get lessons on art online. A substantial number of art tutors are now jobless.

Online education has started a process of exclusion. Teaching in schools in villages is fully closed. Introduction of online teaching there is impossible. The students, out of schools, are trying to get engaged in several kinds of work that would provide economic support to their families, where the usual earners are now jobless, income less. The long struggle for child education and abolition of child labour is now becoming problematic. The class division has been created in a new space. Between those who are able to be in online teaching and those who are not.

In the space of online teaching a student is not meeting another student. There will not be formation of student communities in a school, in a college, University. The students will remain out of the process of doing anything as a group, as a community. There will not be Students' Associations, Unions, and student's politics.

The teachers are not coming to the academic institutions. One is not meeting the other. The community consciousness will diminish. The political associations of the teachers will suffer.

A guardian is not meeting another guardian. No space for discussion of parents on the issues of education, on the rules of the institutions.

And in the time of transforming education from the domain of the State to the domain of private capital, online education is an instrument for the emergence of Education-Capital.

A student is not meeting a student, a teacher is not meeting another teacher. Similarly a teacher is not meeting a student and the other way round. Beyond the space of institutional teaching, there remains scope for inspiring the students by a teacher on social, cultural, political issues. I was introduced into politics during my school days by one of my teachers.

A report of an Education Commission was published during my teaching period in the University. As far as I can remember it was Mehrotra Commission. It was prepared as a part of the New Economic Policy and New Technology Policy of the then Central Government.

The introduction of electronic technology in teaching, in class room teaching was proposed in this Report.

We, the then members of an anti-government teaching community raised our voices against this proposal. We thought that it was in essence a project of exclusion of teachers from the classrooms in the institutions. A separation of student communities from the teaching communities–physically, culturally, socially, politically.

On the other hand it was a project of Capital. Technology-Capital, Industrial Capital.

I can remember an example of the introduction of technology in the domain of knowledge. Instead of giving lectures in the class room and in seminars, the method of 'Power Point' presentation was introduced. Instead of explaining the points through lecture, a method of projecting those points in typed sentences on a screen to just make them visible.

The difference between explaining an academic issue through verbal discussion and through projecting the sentences on the screen is not merely technological but ideological. The beginning of dissemination of knowledge not by the physical presence and interaction between the 'giver' and the 'taker' but by the virtual presence of the two. We thought of this possibility at that time, now we are experiencing it in reality.

Now my friends, often political friends are inviting me to present talks online. They suggest either to use zoom technology or video recording.

I will have to speak in front of an invisible audience. I will remain separated from them. I will remain alone. A dangerous political project.

A section of the audience, who are important elements for the making of my thoughts, do not have the technological facilities. And thus they are erased from this interaction. On the other hand I do not get comments and questions from a section of audience whom I consider important for the construction and reconstruction of thoughts. I am erased from this facility.

Meetings are online. Making of posters online. Singing of mass songs online. Seeing wall writing online. Speeches are online. Distribution of leaflets online. Opposition politics are online. And, as a result, supervisory control of State and Capital over opposition politics becomes relatively easy.

Once there was a movement against the installation of computers in offices. We were participants in the Movement. We were criticized as anti progress. Nowadays we deposit electric and telephone bills online. We do our activities related to Banks online. As a result there are retrenchments of staff in these offices. During our movements against introduction of computers in the offices we campaigned against these possibilities.

Now a step further in this direction. Introduction of online in work places. 'Work from Home'. Now effectively a staff has been engaged for 24 hours to do job for the company. Now there is no meeting of each other among office staff. The possibility of construction and continuation of a political space Trade Unions has been demolished. The power of employees has been replaced by the power of employers.

Nowadays we generally do not think on these subjects. We are conditioned to think on the subjects available online. Every day we keep ourselves engaged on what is available online. Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, post, forward,, search, etc. And average lifespan of each and every thought is minimum 1 day and maximum a week. Immediate writing, fast posting, reading within a time period, as short as possible. Do quickly. Online is pushing you. Do not waste time in thinking deep into the subject. As a result we are away from the habit of reading books and lengthy articles, the sources of serious thinking.

The message is do immediately. Online is calling you. Do not take time. Time is going out of your hand. If you take time you will be out of domain of online. A great loss.

And thus a great gain of Capital and the State.

Excluded from this domain of online are the residents of the lower spaces of the society, economy, culture and polity.

To me it is a gain in a way. There arises a possibility that the lower space will now get an opportunity to prepare on their reading material, construct their ideas, build their thoughts and make their politics. There will be worker intellectuals, peasant intellectuals, adibasi intellectuals, forest dweller intellectuals.

This will be a gain in this time of loss--turning the disadvantages into advantages.

Vol. 53, No. 22-25, Nov 29 - Dec 26, 2020