The Importance Of Very Short Videos – OpEd


The importance of very short videos (video clips or the more generic term TikTok videos) in creating a democratic culture can hardly be undermined. In a system of wage-slavery what the very poor do is not only sell their labor but also their time. Time is one thing that is eternally in short supply for the weak and the downtrodden classes. They’ve to constantly work to make ends meet; and when they don’t work, they must look for ways and means to forget the physical and mental pain of brutal exploitation. This has already been said enough times and I’m merely restating the point, which is that the poor are caught in a vicious cycle from which any escape seems unlikely. Lives are lost and generations come and go in the process of giving away their time to pointless tasks that neither help them grow emotionally or spiritually.

Usually these videos take a minute or less than that to communicate a message. Assuming that a daily wage laborer has an hour or two of leisure that he or she could spend with themselves, these videos can fill that space without demanding too much effort on the part of the viewer. Of course the presumption is that a laborer is able to afford a smartphone. Even if one is not able to do so, assuming that a group of people are able to afford one, this could make a difference. The education of the masses happens in terms of their relation to the world outside them. Given the limited time at their disposal any education, however basic, with regard to their condition is meaningful. 

Although in the beginning I was dismissive of very short videos and the TikTok culture of wasting time watching mostly stuff that has no direct relevance to one’s life, it is only after a period that I could see the potential in these videos to create a proper democratic culture. The logic applies to the “education” that is possible through messenger apps as well such as WhatsApp, despite the fact that these apps are abused by political parties to propagate lies against opponents. It does not mean that these apps cannot be tools for a democratic society, especially in conditions where the weak have almost no stakes in the functioning of the system.

There is no price that can be placed on the quality time that one spends with one’s family or friends or the company one loves or doing creative work for the sheer joy it brings. The poor and the lower middle classes obviously have little time for all of this stuff. They not only need to work to save for themselves but also for their children. Their entire lives are washed away in the process of trying to stay afloat, trapped as they are, in the turbulence of petty problems.

They’ve no time to reflect on questions that really matter: why are we here on this planet in the first place? Does life have a meaning at all beyond what we see? If the sun is someday going to set for the last time for each of us and all of us eventually, what does it mean for us as a species to imagine humanity’s future? These questions one asks, in the context of the cycles of life from childhood to old age and death. But these are questions that could be asked only in a society where there is no wage-slavery, where people do not have to sell their bodies or souls and the time at their disposal for survival. A wage-slave can only ask questions related to his or her condition as a wage-slave.

Globally, the ranks of wage slaves are increasing by the minute. More and more people occupy soul-killing jobs for the sake of money. They need the money for themselves and more often than not for their families. Science and technology are forces of liberation when they are collectively owned. When these instruments that liberate humankind are in the hands of a small group of people, it is futile to expect emancipation in the true sense of the term. The joy of work is only when one works for oneself or when one does something for its own sake. Some are born to be actors just as some are born to be scientists and some are born to be thinkers. You cannot reduce what a person is naturally endowed with and force them to do things just to earn money or occupy a position of power.

In the chapter, “The Power of Money in Bourgeois Society,” from the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Marx says: “Love is a power that produces more love. Likewise, impotence is the inability to produce love.” The point, of course is, where money is the only power that prevails, how can love be produced? If a person is working for either money or power or simply survival, he or she is incapable of loving the work because the work is not an expression of the self. What follows is that a person is incapable of loving him or herself too. People who feel no love for themselves or take no pride in what they do and who they are, what love or loyalty can we expect from them? How can you expect a loveless person not to hate other people?

This is the context for the importance of very short videos. They can be used to make people think beyond money and power. A lot of people, I am sure, would be happy to do something that they liked, even if it paid them less as long as they have enough to survive on and they don’t have to compromise on their dignity. But, that’s almost never the case. Money or power are the only means through which one can buy one’s freedom because we are born into a system of wage-slavery. It means that, unless you are born very rich, you just have to go through life until you reach the point where you are secure only because you made enough money, and nothing else. A person has to give up the most creative years of their life, so that at some point they can start being creative, because they don’t have to depend on anyone for their survival. Sadly, creativity is a little more than just security and comfort.

The whole point in making very short videos is that they encourage people to form a different perspective on their lives. Very short videos could be used to trigger the imagination to reflect on oneself at a fundamental level. Most content-creators focus on entertainment or on attempts to offer a “real” version of things. Some of them are brilliant and the videos they come up with are phenomenally good. Unfortunately, that does not help beyond a point because it reinforces the status quo. What we need are short educational videos that help people build bridges between one another. People have to look at their lives creatively and critically for the sheer joy of it. Those who take joy in the act of living are less prone to cruelty and hatred because they are not miserable or unhappy with themselves, which is the result of an uncreative and loveless existence. 

Prakash Kona

Prakash Kona is an independent scholar who, until December 2022, was a professor at The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad, India. He was “removed from service” for making allegations of corruption against an unscrupulous university administration and is currently challenging his dismissal in the court of law.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *