“We are the music makers…
and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
Erich Fromm said that we are creatures that evolved to become creators. Blessed/cursed with spacial, temporal and self awareness we not only react to our environment, we mold it to suit our own needs and desires (though climate change suggests that we may have vastly overestimated the control we have over our planet). We marvel at the magic created though a sublime combination of analytical mind and opposable thumb. Science has bestowed us with more material gifts than any mere diety could previously have promised; and so we worship, prostrate and hungry, at the altar of progress. But in our blind obedience we have surrendered our own individual creativity; all too happy to buy rather than build, the creator has devolved to become a consumer.
Passive consumption is not only an insult to our innate individual creativity, it is a brake on human potentiality. The entertainment industry is a factory like any other, it breaks down the beautifully anarchic, wildly diverse imaginings of our species into formulas, genres and bite-sized chunks which are perfect for ‘the market’. Ultimately this process leads to uniformity and mediocrity as variety is replaced by choices of ‘brand’ – which in reality means no choice at all. Processed dreams, like processed food, have been stripped of everything that makes them worthwhile; and like processed food the manufacturers are forced to add something to the mix in order to keep them palatable – ‘shock’ (sex & violence) is their ‘salt’ and ‘special effects’ are their ‘E numbers’. We are left with something that looks and smells like (soul-) food, but tastes like shit.
Sadly what is true of our crappy, mass-produced entertainment industry also has much wider, more dangerous implications for human society as a whole. Everything that humans create – from tin openers to social orders – must first be dreamt. As a diverse gene pool creates greater potentiality for life, so a diversity of dreams (the dream pool?) creates a myriad of potential human futures. The profit hungry world of the factory tolerates a certain level of creativity, to keep the wheels turning there must be a steady stream of ‘new’ and ‘improved’ objects and the latest ‘fads’ are always good for a bob or two, but anything that cannot be easily ‘packaged’ will not be tolerated and something that questions the ethos of the market will be actively opposed. Alan Moore has famously observed that “there is an inverse relationship between imagination and money” and the oxymoronic ‘creative industries’ have proved him right time and time again. But we hamper creative freedom at our peril.
The next time the market entices you with it’s baubles and slide-shows ask yourself, “Who’s dreams are these?” Upon deeper inspection that which we think is our ‘heartfelt desire’ is often little more than a media induced craving; if the market ever really satisfied our desires then it would negate any need for a market – contented people do not need to ‘shop around’; shopping is not therapy, it is a symptom of the neurosis created by the suppression of our innate creative urge. Honest desires cannot be possessed, they are not selfish; you want to share them with the rest of the world. This is what makes desire so dangerous; dreaming is a revolutionary act.
The greatest dream of all – and potentially the greatest gift for mankind – is the Utopia. As Oscar Wilde noted in his 1891 essay, ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism‘…
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”