Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Fearful Dreams

- Imagine you are dreaming. You are dreaming this very conversation you are having with me. And then, still dreaming, you wake up, understanding that your conversation with me was a dream.
- And then I wake up from the dream, and tell it to you.
- Yes.
- Have you ever had a dream like that? 
- I have. How do you feel when our president claims that every crime he is accused of committing is actually being committed by his critics, every lie he is accused of telling is a lie perpetrated by his opponents? Is it like trying to wake yourself up from a dream in which your reality is revealed to be a dream?
- Something like that.
- And could it be that the dream you struggle to awaken from is of a particularly terrible kind? The kind of dreaming called sleep paralysis in which you dream you are under threat but cannot move. In our country there is supposed to such a thing as a market in which all human nature is abstracted out except the desire for profit, and our only freedom in relation to the market is how much we allow the government to regulate it, government itself deprived of all functions except regulation of the market. Between these enclosing walls of market and government human nature is paralyzed, and an ominous fear is generated, the result of a total lack of security: anything can be expected from hundreds of millions of human beings isolated from each other by self-identifications in the products they consume, isolated and self-identified by their race, gender, wealth. The president's supporters mock us, accuse us of dreaming, and in this particular sense of having to live in this world of sleep paralysis, we agree!
- What do we do about it?
- Let's go back to the dream of our real conversation being dreamed, and in the dream waken up from. Do you remember being young and, as we say, dreaming of a life of love, friendship, adventure, achievement? How do those dreams look to you now?
- A lot of what I dreamed of came to pass, but it was not much like what I dreamed.
- How different?
- Temporary, mixed up, confused, but deeper, much deeper.
- Much better?
- Yes.
-  Plato makes the argument that only those who have the experience of the higher pleasures of knowledge know their superiority to the pleasures of the body. Would you say that about waking and dreaming?
- I don't follow.
- Dreams are stories. Reality has story too, but it is a story of interruptions: of reflection, play, imagination, experimentation, detachment.
- Then what we can do about being accused by the president's supporters of lying, of dreaming, is to point out we are experiencing these times of interrupting consciousness and therefore are awake. You've had the dreams and I haven't, so I ask you if the dreams of real life that you wake out of in your dream have these marks of consciousness.
- They do not. They are mere narrations, passively listened to stories.
- Then we search for these marks of consciousness in the words of the president's supporters...
- And don't find them.
- We who are awake know they are dreaming, but they themselves don't.
- They are caught in the fearful dreams of sleep paralysis.*

Quantified Society
* 'The more eclipsed the public becomes, the more citizens come to believe in their omnicompetence. Self-contemplation through pluralistic public discourse—necessary for genuine public self knowledge—is regarded as superfluous. Reassured by cognitive biases inculcated by the culture market that they already understand the world and themselves, pseudo-individuals prefer consuming opinions that they already agree with over facts they believe they already know.' - Trumpism and the Dialectic of Neoliberal Reason, David Lebow