“Crisis is the best time for the growth of capitalism”. capitalist class find in turbulent times, a glorious opportunity to pursue their interests. they know very well how to take advantage of the ongoing trends and manipulate the demographics and popular mindset. this bourgeoisie sentiments are often garbed in a rhetoric that is sometimes on the face but many a times so subtle that you miss the exact point they make you root for their rhetoric and simultaneously their products. but in recent times, this rhetoric is centering around two major axis- Army and Ayurveda. Almost all products of modern times are using one of these rhetoric to make a case for their product, and this concern is not just economic, this rhetoric takes its roots from the prevalent political conditions of our time and its subsequent appreciation and legitimization in the popular culture. when something attains enough importance to be the rallying point of a community, culture or nation as a whole, it also becomes a commodity. in a capitalist world, sentiments can be fetishized to serve the purpose of the bourgeoisie class. if you take a cursory gaze on the Television commercials of recent times, everything from motorbikes, cement, cooking oil, building tiles are being sold in the name and using the face of army. sometimes the desperateness to use the imagery is so strong that these product makers try to forge connections where none exist. motorbikes use the masculine imagery to equate army with virility, and thus the keywords of chivalry, strength, honor etc become the keyword of the bike as well. but for a product like cooking oil or cement the analogical rhetoric doesn’t work and so a related imagery of a selfless, sacrificing image of army personnel is emphasized and then a plea is made in a subtle manner to reciprocate that selfless service by love and respect, the material manifestation of which is the product advertised. actually army and ayurveda have emerged as the center points which produce myriad discourses and at the same time they legitimize and validates these discourses. not only nationalism or service, army has become a legitimizing agency for a lot of things in our popular culture and these ads are reinforcing just that. similarly, the newfound obsession with ayurveda is not as much an appreciation of the rich legacy of Indian past but a rhetoric for the growing crop of population who have a myopic sense of self and other identity, that is, who see certain people as “others” and the material world of these people are seen with grave suspicion. assimilation is sacrificed for a nostalgic assertion of a mythical and anachronistic golden past. Ayurveda has become the parameter to judge the epitome of not only the purity of product but also the purity of sentiments of the producers. certain brands have become so vocal in this new found meaning that they are equating their products with national sentiments and a call for buying their products has become a call of duty for the patriotic and zealous citizens. these “swadeshi” brands are placing themselves against the MNC’s, foreign manufacturers and even Indian companies with seemingly western influenced products, all being the part of the extended “others” this rhetoric has two fold impact on the advertisement strategy of brands- firstly, little known ayurveda based firms have started asserting their position very firmly in the advertising world, and this rhetoric has played a vital role in their upward surge. secondly, and curiously enough, those brand who were in the firing line of these ayurvedic brands, these extended others have tried to remodel their products on this new rhetoric. So, a lot of brands have now started asserting themselves as a part of the “ayurveda brigade”. by bringing in ayurvedic variants of their products they are trying to recoup the space lost to them due to paradigm shifts in marketing and thus ayurveda has become a space for negotiation for competitive brands, and their success will depend on one, how successfully the rhetoric is employed, and secondly, are these brands able to shrug off their image of “others” or are able to reinforce an image of “swadeshi” which will validate their use of rhetoric of “ayurveda”. it’s not only the employment of rhetoric what is important but the validity of your agency to use that rhetoric, which depends on both perceived image of the brand by the consumers as well as constructed image of the brand for the consumers.
And this image is further enhanced by their brand ambassadors, often represented by the celebrities, who through their huge following have the potential to sway the audience on their side. But there is another point in this process, these ambassadors are not playing a character, not taking a character’s garb but are using their persona and public image to make a case in their favor. out of the many brands there are some particular personalities who figure prominently in these endorsements. An Indian actor, widely known for taking up patriotic roles and who is visibly vocal about army, nationalism and current government is one of the most visible celebrate who appears in most of these advertisements. Similarly a veteran actor, who has achieved a legendary status in the industry and still commands considerable following, and known for his involvement in government endeavors, is another prominent figure to endorse such brands. But a new emerging giant of ayurveda based FMCG products is using the face of its current founder, a spiritual guru known for revolutionizing yoga in India. These figures use their personality as a ideological statement, their image give particular meanings to the words they speak, produce particular discourses and people of different domains- one, who support the discourse of nationalism/swadesi/nostalgia of the past; other who support the actor or his off-screen views and the third who support the brand. Most of the times these domains are overlapping and often we find multiple layers of engagement co-existing with each other.
When nation becomes a medium to sell a product, then the whole idea of nation, everything it constitutes and everyone who adheres to it, become subservient to the vicious circle of capitalism, which not only create a facade of wants by creating an illusion of incompleteness, scarcity and need, by utilizing such rhetoric not only it reinforces a material basis of emotions like nationalism by defining it in its exteriority, its tangible manifestation, it turns nationalism into a product to be sold in the market. Then capitalism acquires not only benevolence but also legitimacy and credibility which garb the ulterior motive of the rhetoric and make us the consumer of the fetishism. We are obliged to feel that serving capitalism is serving nation. We satiate our egoistic desire of serving the nation, if not by active participation in the process of nation building, then by the passive process of consuming the products, the manufacturers of whom make us realize that we are giving service to the nation. Consumers get a sense of self fulfillment by supporting the most visible form of nationalism that is army or indigenous products. We can afford to close our eyes in indifference to every mis-happening because we believe we are doing our bit for the nation. This self fulfillment is as much a facade as the perceived scarcity we internalize so that we have to fulfill it through capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t fulfill the tenets of nationalism, it just satiate our false ego and make us feel better about ourselves and at the same time adds another category of differentiation- “capitalism of the self” and “capitalism of the other”.
As Slavok Zizek puts in, “the underlining point is that- pay so that you don’t have to think”.