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Wasted : The Mars in Me


MarsAkshat Jain

Should we have to live with the waste that we generate or should we be able to hide it somewhere? Have we not become nomads on a global scale, a society which can only be understood through the social psychology of a nomadic community? We are aware of the destruction of our ‘global village’ and the need to move on. So we send feelers into space, so the event of finding water on Mars is met with so much jubilation. We are not joyed by the fact of finding the existence of aliens but by the existence of a new territory we can move on to.

This new territory lets us dream again of a reality other than our own, of problems that deal with nature and not man or man made things. For we have found that it is much easier to deal with the processes of nature than the ones unleashed by human systems. Look at how happy we are to find natural disasters, at least we know what to do, at least we know the protocol. While the system, with its random errors and viruses completely baffles and horrifies us, exposing our fragility.

And is it any surprise that this nomadic sensibility comes to us with the nuclear bomb, not one because of the other but simultaneously. We can completely destroy our old settlement in the manner of nomads who set fire to the land before moving on to a new one. And we don’t even need to use nuclear weapons for that; with complete control and deterrence on earth, it has effectively become a wasteland. Anyone that stays back is already lost. Humanity’s history will be written elsewhere. The earth has reached its end, it will only serve a functional purpose, the underbelly, the back end of the theatre of the real that is someplace else. Life truly is going to be elsewhere.

Earth will finally be a colony as a whole. It’s not Mars that we will colonize and that’s where we have got the logic of this planetary imperialism wrong. By moving to Mars, Mars will colonize Earth. Mars will be where freedom lies. The land of the free, home of the brave. America already provides an early example of this and Hollywood movies on this theme are already painting space explorers as adventurers, the best people of humanity, (as opposed to what? maybe resource wasting monsters who don’t care about the plight of the present poor but are deluded by an idea of grandness). The Earth in its entirety will be subalternized, just like it is in respect to America. It is America that is going to Mars, not humanity. The final victory of Capital where it finally establishes both itself and communism at the same time, communism on earth as the final solution. Finally a safe distance between the elite and the masses such that the elite don’t exist. The dream of equality finally reached on Earth.

Ideally speaking, there won’t even be any poor people on Mars for it will be too prohibitive to carry them there due to the exorbitant cost of potential sabotage. But only machines who do all the work the poor are supposed to perform on Earth, and the poor will be employed here to make those machines. A classless society on Mars supported by a speechless society on Earth, machines speaking for the laborer (but isn’t that already well underway?). Speechless not because they can’t speak, but because they speak too much and none of it matters, none of it is real, for reality is now at Mars. Earth is just an appendage, and that not for very long, soon it will just be preserved as a cultural heritage site, for old times’ sake. The white man will be in Mars and assume his burden again. Heritage sites, like colonies, do not speak, they are spoken for. Equality will reign everywhere, the State having withered away to Mars.

Even the police force left here to maintain order will be simulated, there will be no need of order except for its own sake, like in Disneyland. Order for nothing else but itself, because order is a good habit. For if the earth is not needed to humanity, then it can be left to complete anarchy and breakdown like all waste, but it won’t for it is not merely waste but a site of historical importance. History doesn’t speak, it is spoken for. And so the Earth is doomed, we already know it, that’s why we are not even seriously trying to save it. Expressions of complete nomadic behavior, the genes of which aren’t that old. Only a few thousand years ago, we were nomads, and we cosmopolitans have been in the making anyway, with all this travelling and world migrations and culture mingling. What is America but a nomadic territory where people are raised with American (nomadic?) values? Globalization and our dear cosmopolitan values are the nomadization of our psyches.

Herein comes back the question of waste. Should we hide it or put it in front of us, where we can see it, live with it. Should waste be a constant reminder of how we live our lives or should it like a traumatic event be buried faster than it is generated, farther than it can be reached, or sublimated into outer space, which is the latest ingenious solution to the problem of the remainder, throw it into the void of space and hope for it not to return. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but what else can we do? Either the waste has to be conjured away or it will accumulate everywhere, burst at the seams of our hopelessly aestheticized imaginaries. And isn’t this also the task of poets and poetry, hasn’t this been their task for some time now, to show society its filth, from Dhasal to Nabarun. And if we should fling shit in their eyes in literature, why stop there? Why not actualize the poem and see what happens? Are we as a society even able to deal with our waste anymore? Don’t we produce too much of it entirely to ever be able to come to terms with it? Just like we can never come to terms with how big some corporations are and how much money some people make? Can anyone make sense of the Ambanis, the waste of our economic system?

What a society it would be, if the oceans refused to take our trash anymore, if the landfills just vomited as soon as we filled them, if the space trash came back into the atmosphere like an asteroid hurtling towards Earth? And won’t this hurtling trash destroy an entire city like an asteroid, trash turned into a natural weapon, and why not a big city from where it probably originated, maybe Mumbai, maybe New York? It was already seeping into us slowly, taking its revenge patiently through our air and water, breeding new diseases every day; it had already turned nuclear as well, irradiating us, present disembodied, but now it has also entered space. So where should our waste be? Where else but in front of us? You will obviously ask what that means. ‘How can waste just stay in front of us, doesn’t it have to go somewhere? Where would we live if trash took our place?’ These are good questions dear reader and valid anxieties. But trash has already taken our place, it’s only a matter of living in reality. ‘But that’s not enough’ you will say, ‘empty statements, clearly I do not live in trash, my shit goes down the tube as soon as I take it, my house is as clean as a hospital, I take a bath every day.’ Yes you are right dear reader, you do live in what appears to you as cleanliness. And very well if you are willing to live like that. But what if your cleanliness is already irradiated? Do you feel safe from cancer, where do the carcinogens reside, in your fruit, water, air, mobile phone?

‘But at least I don’t live in the kind of waste you talk about. At least I am not dirty. Let me do what I can, so what if the world is going to shit, at least I can keep my corner clean.’ Yes, good thinking. You definitely should keep it clean. But for how long? How long before the waste starts hurtling back? Before history goes on to Mars and your clean places are nothing more than a wasteland, or more accurately a desert. Would we generate less waste if we weren’t disposing it off so easily? We already are talking about recycling, a completely circular world, defying all laws of thermodynamics. Who cares about the laws of thermodynamics in a nuclear age anyway? But even recycling is somehow too easy, a little too pleasing an idea. It doesn’t reduce the production of waste but only manages to put it back into circulation. And as the mass increases, it circulates at an ever faster acceleration, till what? Till we inject ourselves into Mars. So what if we stop putting waste back into circulation? Waste has become integral to the circuit, without its judicious management, the circuit does not complete itself. It stops working, the waste accumulates, till what? Till we stop wasting to save ourselves.

If the logic of Capital is to benefit the capitalist, then waste generated out of Capital also will be used by the capitalist once it is put into circulation. Capitalism is nothing without its waste, it needs to produce it and recycle it to fulfill itself. Since we are so unable to stop its production, we can atleast try to put a stop to its consumption. And one end blown, the circuit blows off itself. We have to then find a way to stop producing the waste that is accumulating all around us and we know what revolutionary perils lie there.

(Akshat Jain is a student of School of Media and Cultural Studies in TISS, Mumbai)

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