Simulacra…of the fumes

Simulacra… of the fumes

by Seema Amin for

On September 2nd the Prime Minister visited Ashulia to lay the foundation for the ‘first’ women’s dormitory in the RMG hub. In her speech to the garments workers, she spoke, among other things, about being vigilant of those who conspire against the industry.

‘The odd numbers indicate illegal streets.’

(or, avenues of illegality).

Lacking such discernment…

Singapore, somehow, I ended up on Street 19. A discreet odd numbered street address.

The on-line booking for a hotel, done in a haste for a visa for Thailand, where I had lived all my life but was not a permanent resident or citizen, led me and my mother to an infamous street…as infamous as things get in that island city-state. We spent the night ‘not’ staring through the curtains of that box-yellow room, out at the blue-dresses and demure hitchhiking of the night girls in the Chinese brothel. How did you manage to get me here. 

In the evenings of that four day trip, between Belgian cafe and migrant workers and the night safari and the Tamil auras of the ‘old’ British dominion (supposedly it has the most encompassing bookstore in the world–o Books! Bereft of Beings!), I would walk through that illegal street and eventually, languidly, discovered a new pleasure of associations….the ‘perfume’ of the burning money, the burning wastes on a Sunday…or was it Friday…where the night girls would redeem their week, by burning the wastage…I began to associate this familiar smell of burning waste, backward forward in time…

‘What’s that smell?’

It takes a split-minute for the fumes of burning waste, from the medicinal tree-blessed  courtyard of the one tin-house still surrounding us from behind like a crescent-quiet legion of white flag-like green-until-fodder for the flames–leaves in Indira Road, to overtake, pervade, spread invisible bat wings through the open windows…

I shut them, one by one, and as the cough lingers…wonder what it was like, that death by smoke, since touching a flame never insinuated burning by fire.

Was it yesterday– no, the day before, I was listening to a certain daughterness speak of risking her life for ‘dukhi manush.’  The Wretched ones…How the working women should be vigilant of conspiratorial fire agents.  Desperado…

Remember, remember… The twenty-fourth of November.

What kind of conspiracy keeps the owner of a factory with in the premisis half an hour before the fire breaks out? Keeps supervisors on the panopticon of the locked door…  The circle here is not even purgatory, our barbed spaces are still linear, upward and downward.  No great need for some great tower.

But circular the entangled mesh of law, relations and politics…Incestuous tainted line…

Power is so crude here and the umbrellas subterfuge for the boats sinking, surviving…

The fumes speak of another world, similes that have not become metaphors.  Why can’t we burn ourselves. Like the streets that breathe the new week.  We’re redeeming every crime with the confessions of a burning house, Theater of Simulacra. Bibi Sumaya is invoked as a symbol of women’s self-empowerment, to the garments workers.  There is another Sumaya, who herself has perhaps become a sign, now her left eye hazy while her right eye remains blind.  She told me about the presence of The Man half an hour before the fire. The fourth stage of the sign-orders, Baudrillard:

“The fourth stage is pure simulation, in which the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. Here, signs merely reflect other signs and any claim to reality on the part of images or signs is only of the order of other such claims. This is a regime of total equivalency, where cultural products need no longer even pretend to be real in a naïve sense, because the experiences of consumers’ lives are so predominantly artificial that even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, “hyperreal” terms. Any naïve pretension to reality as such is perceived as bereft of critical self-awareness, and thus as oversentimental.”

What is ‘real’ is 300 trained killers on the loose… The first three stages:

  1. The first stage is a faithful image/copy, where we believe, and it may even be correct, that a sign is a “reflection of a profound reality” (pg 6), this is a good appearance, in what Baudrillard called “the sacramental order”.
  2. The second stage is perversion of reality, this is where we come to believe the sign to be an unfaithful copy, which “masks and denatures” reality as an “evil appearance—it is of the order of maleficence”. Here, signs and images do not faithfully reveal reality to us, but can hint at the existence of an obscure reality which the sign itself is incapable of encapsulating.
  3. The third stage masks the absence of a profound reality, where the simulacrumpretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original. Signs and images claim to represent something real, but no representation is taking place and arbitrary images are merely suggested as things which they have no relationship to. Baudrillard calls this the “order of sorcery”, a regime of semantic algebra where all human meaning is conjured artificially to appear as a reference to the (increasingly) hermetic truth.

~ Simulacrum and Simulation

And what is more real still: Fakir-Buddhijibira, Sadhu-bachanor lorai te namche aro koto jon.

April overshadowed November. And will September overshadow the entire journey by sign?

‘Noka markai Vote dan.’  A sign without a history.  The most potent sign it seems.

Songs evade signs is hunger without reason.

I recall teaching the intellectual preamble to a song to my students in Sriracha:

‘When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.’

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