Book review: Facebook Diary2 min read . Updated: 22 Jul 2016, 10:01 AM IST
A book that shows how Indian politics is making use of social media
Both The Motorcycle Diaries of Ernesto Che Guevara, written in Spanish, and Kerala finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac’s recently released Facebook Diary, in Malayalam, have a harmony of tone which brings together the personal and the political.
Two socialist memoirs set in different ages and different milieus. The former, reflecting an age of romantic rebellion and revolutionary zeal, set amid the sprawling landscapes of Latin American aspirations and confusions in the 1950s. The latter, a more measured digital-age response to the contemporary terrains of global economic and environmental crises, while remaining firmly rooted in the rich soil of Kerala. Yet, if Che’s voice is filled with the frolic and zest of youth and the poetry of non-conformity, Isaac speaks as a seasoned politician, mature and objective in his analysis.
In the preface, Isaac writes about the inevitability of the use of new media for contemporary politics in India. But he soon realizes its potential in breaking free of the limits imposed by traditional media. He cites instances of women textile workers and coir workers in Alappuzha being able to project the trauma of their oppression through the digital media when other media chose to ignore them. Social media can thus take upon itself the task of a vigilant public sphere which remains sensitive to the issues of the marginalized. It is interesting to note how the nostalgic language of a humanitarian socialist dream throbs in the words of a Communist Party of India—Marxist (CPM) politician even as he speaks of party affiliations and ideologies.
The book is a compilation of Isaac’s Facebook posts over the last two years, arranged in 10 thematic sections. For example, the second section explicates a pet dream of Isaac, the need for organic farming in an age of rampant pesticide use and environmental destruction. The posts awaken the reader to a consciousness that our ways of farming are linked to our indigenous cultures and ways of living, to our philosophy of life itself.
These entries cut across the terrain of Kerala’s contemporary sociopolitical and cultural history with a raw emotional energy that is endearing in today’s world of ruthless power politics and empty sloganeering.
Amid the divided aims of our complicated postmodern lives, here is a voice that paints a world which seems more sustainable and tenable than the one we inhabit now. The posts embed the dream of a new Kerala in non-partisan language.
Meena T. Pillai is director, Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram.