When capitalism hijacks your dreams

The other day I had a dream I was on holiday in India. More specifically, I was wandering around some temples and if I remember correctly- I was having a rather amicable time. The ancient architecture was interesting and the walls were covered with ivy. After a while some mystics invited me into their house and -to my delight- started performing an enjoyable rhythmic piece on their drums. They were playing to me and some other tourists that also had been invited in for this special occasion. All was going well until the point where they stopped. As I tried to leave they started demanding money for their performance from me and the other tourists. It transpired that this ostensibly spontaneous and welcoming performance was in fact just a ruse to make money. So I politely refused, got annoyed and promptly woke up.

Upon my awakening, I groggily pondered about travel, mass tourism and human relationships in a capitalist system. What struck me was that capitalism has created a global society which is so obsessed around monetary exchange as the main driver behind human behavioural dynamics that even in the netherworlds of dreams, it’s now not uncommon for musical mystics to demand cash for their talents.

It seems that nothing is sacred any more. The next step from disingenuous buskers infiltrating rapid-eye movement sleep would probably be something like full-on advertising in our dreams, such as in this Futurama episode. Maybe, one day the ‘Mad-men’ who spend their days tirelessly trying to manipulate us into buying stuff we don’t need will manage to achieve this. It’s really not all that far-fetched seeing as the techniques in modern marketing already attempt to alter or exploit our subconscious feelings, as Adam Curtis demonstrates in his brilliant four-hour long documentary, The Century of the Self.

Perhaps, one day advertising will become so smart that our brains could be programmed to dream about certain products without us even realising- maybe this already happens. Maybe, those Indian mystics were actually paid by the Indian tourism board to try and convince me to visit the country.

We’re heading to a strange place. When the sole underlying basis for our existence is to pursue short-term profit, notions such as generosity or openness quickly dissolve into obsolescence. These ideas become redundant when humanity’s only goal is making money.

It’s a problem which is rarely talked about. Sure, most of us realise that industrial capitalism is rapaciously destroying the world’s ecosystems and creating a class of super-exploited humans. But I think the way that capitalism affects our every-day behaviours is overlooked. When all our actions are underwritten by the words ‘What’s in it for me?’ we have a serious collective problem. After all, why would any musicians spontaneously play strangers a piece when they’ve been brought up their whole lives to make money from everything- yes I’m talking to you, dream-buskers.

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