Ankita* (name changed on request) switched on her computer, in her staff room, for updating daily diary and other academic tasks. As usual, it’s a ‘ritual’ every morning she follows on reaching school. She sees a mail from the principal and it consists of a ‘memo’ stating that she has enticed disciplinary action, for failing to tie her hairband a few days ago.
“My workplace sometimes can shame even the patriarchal notions of Taliban, too!” she tells me sportingly.
Her cold reaction makes me curious. I ask her, “Are not you scared of such a ‘memo’ affecting your future growth in this organization?”
“Not at all. A ‘fatwa’ or gossip cannot decide what I am, no matter how harsh the judgments are. I am what I am and it’s my own business to wear what I wish to!” Ankita* replies instantly.
This case of Ankita*, a chemistry teacher, in my view, needs to be studied for it holds the merit of a critical discourse on functional aspects of workplace fascism which is rarely reflected upon. In this cue, I would like to highlight the theme of the book “The Society of the Spectacle” by Guy Debord.
Debord traces the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation: “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.” Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.”
“The spectacle is not a collection of images,” Debord writes, “rather, it is a social relation among people, mediated by images.”
Ankita’s matter hypothetically proves the fascistic praxis of how capitalistic workplaces care more about the image representation or appearance than about the liberty and labor of the ‘being’. How teachers like Ankita* wear or dress up bother the board rooms more than her teaching skills or labor, reflects the patriarchal tendencies of employers and their organizational rules in the 21st century, too.
There is also no second thought that, in any workplace, the employees enjoy lesser powers of negotiation of their volition, unlike their “bosses” who demonstrate their tyrannical mindset with the help of their intergenerational privileges. This genre of corporatist fascism leaves little room for internal reformation, interaction, and renaissance of relations. Truly, modern workplaces including education units like schools, etc. have become the centers of domination of profits and care very little about learning outcomes.
Over a WhatsApp chat with me, Dr. Jignesh* (name changed on request) teaching math at an award-winning ‘best’ college in South Mumbai laughs at his standpoint experience on how he was reminded by his principal that he cannot wear Kurta because it’s “not a formal dress”. He sarcastically says, “And this is the same college that promotes nationalism, while shies to differentiate between western formals and desi formals.”