The Ministry of Whines
This article has been written by Anonymous. All views represented are of the author’s alone.
In hip hop culture, diss tracks are the way in which the stories of the greatest rap rivalries have unfolded. The “beef” between Kendrick and Drake is essentially a bunch of rap tracks with a line here or there making a snide reference to the other. The same goes for Nas and Tupac and Kanye and Jay Z (maybe it was more than a line when Kanye releases a song titled “Kill Jay Z”). This is a reduction of conflict to the literal in a space which allows you to broadcast it immediately to the world at large, assured that it will reach its intended target. It is a phenomenon I would call Diss Piece Discourse (or, if said with food in your mouth, “Dispy Disco”), and I would love to spend a few hundred words building a theory around this phenomenon. But let’s get to the reason you’re reading this, law school.
Law School communication has evolved from the start of my time here. The SBA Noticeboard has become an institution in its own right. While the old SBA page was mostly used for congratulating moot wins and general bragging while desperately trying to fight the shadow of falling law school standards, something changed with the SBA Noticeboard. The Noticeboard was a space of expression devoted singularly to the 400 people around you. There are multiple e-mail threads and controversies shaping this context if you’re willing to dig deep into your mails, but one thing is clear, no one estimated the force SBA Noticeboard would become. Mail threads just aren’t in anymore. Writing an e-mail is just too cumbersome: you have to move away from the social media you were earlier browsing to a glib Gmail user interface, open a new window, type in the recipients (hesitate for a minute before you type in pgstudents and mppstudents; you only do that if its really major), and then you type out your valuable contribution. Facebook is much more instantaneous, you’re on Facebook anyway, you click a notification, give your unsolicited opinion, press enter and go back to looking at doggo memes.
If you add batch/project group/PFL team/committee whatsapp groups to the mix, you now have a deadly combination on your hands. Not only is this super instantaneous, it demands a reply. It’s possible someone didn’t check their mail or their Facebook for a long period of time, but no one abandons their phone for that long. The ability of whatsapp groups, through both its “seen” feature and the expectation of a reply ends up demanding discourse. You’re officially ignoring if you were to leave a whatsapp message on “read”.
The ability of the SBA Noticeboard (and to a lesser but much more incisive extent, Whatsapp groups) to provide a common ubiquitous platform to air every grievance/need/opinion/thought/idea/rumination/question/wetdream/complaint/suggestion/whine/doubt/demand/fear/inquiry/more-whine/recommendation/contribution/some-more-whine/discussion has led to the evolution of diss piece discourse in law school. A form of communication where we talk to people in our immediate surroundings by tagging them on posts, alluding to easily decipherable anonymised references (saying things like “a certain 2nd year”- for a place with only 400 people, almost everyone should assume that everyone knows everything) and worst of all, by not even referring to them. The saddest bit about the SBA Noticeboard is the complete and absolute bureaucratisation of interaction amongst the student body. Instead of asking the person responsible for a certain thing, there’s an increased tendency to float the question to the world and ask if “something can be done about this”. A malevolent hurricane of snide remarks and passive aggressive responses stringing together the bits and pieces that make this place up, reminding everyone of their jobs with the sheer force of visibility and laying bare the emptiness of our social worlds.
In a small student body of 400 trapped together for half a decade, what can keep us from driving each other insane is simply knowing each other. The next time a presidential candidate tells you they’re “approachable”, take a small breath and understand the rotten implication. When the mere achievement of being someone people ask questions to is converted into successful virtue-propaganda, realise what it says about general law school interaction. We were all too occupied with our responsibilities and our deadlines and our commitments that somewhere along the way we forgot to speak to each other normally, like human beings do. Now, when I want someone to stop singing at Chetta, the default reaction is to fire up that Noticeboard button with a healthy dose of self-righteousness and broadcast my whine. I can flare my whine up to all of the law school population and eventually someone will see it and do something about it if I tag them enough times. More so, I have the ability to demand a discussion on what I want to whine about. Joking around is trivialising the topic, we must all take my whine equally seriously. My victory in one of those unfortunate comment threads is quantified with likes. It is my bureaucratic fantasyland reality show where I have the license to become the human embodiment of an annoying notification, a space of absolute and unqualified entitlement, a story where I am both the protagonist and the author.
It’s no different from a rapper writing a bunch of lyrics about some other rapper, the passive-aggressive degenerate clone of a rap battle. The next time you decide to broadcast your whine, just release a diss track. Atleast we’ll have new music to listen to.