Capitalism is never just about money. It’s a mindset.
Neoliberalism – which for simplicity’s sake, is a term I’ll be using in this article as a substitute for ‘capitalism on steroids’ – applies to all aspects of life under the given system. It affects the way we evaluate all that surrounds us, and we do it by calculating its ‘value’.
When we look at a tree, we don’t assess its beauty for the sake of it; we consciously, or inadvertently, appraise it by taking into account its aesthetic appeal, its location, or the amount and quality of timber it is expected to yield. Under neoliberalism, we think in numbers; we think in dollars and rupees. It’s a mindset that promotes objective evaluation of living and non-living things around us, where the aggregate of the object’s constituent values, determines how worthy it is of attaining our interest.
Rishta-finding is an objectively-structured practice that has been honed to perfection over centuries under capitalist influence. It has progressed beyond the hands of “rishta-aunties”, or uncles. There are numerous online services that help marriage-ready citizens find suitors, and they operate a lot like modern dating sites.
It’s a mathematical process. Evaluating a 26-year old bachelorette as a person who is more than the sum of her constituent parts, is far too subjective an approach in neoliberal society. The rishta-finding network, works by breaking down a woman into anatomical and social portions that can be individually rated.
We calculate the value of the color and texture of her skin: wheatish complexion scores higher than bronzed skin, but comedones drag the value down in proportion to their density.
We measure her height, weight, nose size, and other biodata. Each must fit within the ‘goldilocks proportion’ – not too high, not too low – as determined by the prevailing cultural trends of the region.
Educational and financial background is important, but these parameters receive less weightage than the male. This weightage is determined by the role each ‘commodity’ has been designated play in the society. The values are tallied into a final figure that can be printed on an imaginary price tag, and you’re offered relationship choices based on what you can afford. If you’re a scrawny male with bipolar disorder, you cannot afford a ‘9’; just like if you’re a security guard working night-shifts at a gated residential district, you cannot afford a car priced at forty lac rupees.
This is not just true for rishta-hunting. The same neoliberal principles apply to modern dating, where humans are literally rated on a scale of 1 to 10. Even for casual romance, an uneven pairing of ‘hotness’ ratings may cause shock and awe; because it cannot possibly be that preferences may sharply vary, or that a person is more than the value assigned to it based on society’s own arbitrarily chosen parameters.
Neoliberalism, almost by definition, is a system where it’s every man for himself. If you’re poor, it’s your fault. If you’re alone and loveless, it’s your fault.
Maybe if you’d worked harder, you’d been richer. Maybe if you’d exercised more and slathered more skin-whitening cream on your face, you would’ve found a rishta by now.
Capitalism asserts that money – and the basic necessities of life it may buy – only come to those who deserve it. It does not take into account inherent advantages and disadvantages that play their part in the system. A person may have fair skin by birth, through no effort of his/her own. A person may be fat because of a hormonal condition, through no fault of his/her own.
But the privileged have no reason to acknowledge these difficulties. The appropriately muscled, adequately tall, fair-skinned, hunks and dolls of the world wouldn’t dare admit that their good fortune in the dating/rishta department, is at least partly the result of them winning some form of genetic and social lottery.
Meanwhile, we – the fatties, darkies, and shorties of the world – will forever wander the streets of Capitalistan, begging for love and intimacy. But we won’t find it, because we don’t deserve it.
Then there’s another perspective…
Love is not a commodity. Love is a basic human right, and we’re all meant to experience it. Once that is acknowledged, it is meaningless to be ‘grossed out’ by the idea of “ugly” people seeking physical intimacy; or to laugh at the wedding photos of a thin man marrying a very large woman. People become people again; not values that need to be matched.
Love may need to be embraced as the senseless, undefined, non-profit emotion that it is; and lovers may need to be de-commodified post-haste.