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What separates humans from other animals? I believe it is our uncanny ability to dream and to pursue those dreams to realize them. Everything invention that we have is the product of an idea, a dream, a desire and the striving towards its realization.
While our dreams have given us the ability to inhabit every livable area of the earth, to reach the depths of the oceans and walk on the moon to help us escape slavery and to win us rights and dignity, they have also become our enslavers.
Just as we ourselves can dream and work to make those dreams come true, others can sell us dreams. Being sold a dream is one of the greatest threats that we have today. The notion of being sold a dream is one of if not the main source of many of today’s problems from terrorism, to economics, to the environment. You’ve been sold a dream when the one calling upon you to dream does not stand behind the dream, but merely pedals it like a street hawker trying to unload his products.
So it is that young people are inspired to dream of freedom and a better life through hate and resentment. Or they are convinced of the virtue of debt. Before being sold a dream, it is advisable to make sure that the sales person will guarantee the dream being sold. That is that he will also work for the realization of that dream. This is what separates a Martin Luther King from a would be terrorist.
This idea became clear to me reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. Reading this book about the irrational counter-economic farming principles at work in North America and many parts of the world shows that farmers have been sold a dream no one stands behind.
As the flow of corn continues to increase, prices sink, more corn is produced, more machinery is purchased on debt, more seed is purchased for a share of profits, more land is subjected to poor farming practices and the farmer becomes a cog in the wheel of a petro-chemical industry whose only imperative is to increase sales.
At the same time the food industry is busily trying to come up with new and creative ways to dump the mass produced, processed garbage they call food onto the market. And again the dream of being able to feed your family and eat what you like, when you like is sold to the consumer. And while scientists in labs toil away trying to find new ways of splitting molecules so that the flavour remains, but the sugars and fats pass through our systems as if we were pipes, we’ve lost the original pleasure of what food is: something to be savoured.
The idea of being sold on a dream happens in more than just the food industry, but is happening all around us. It is a dream that sends young people to university accumulating debt they may never be able to repay. It is a dream that has someone buy a home they can’t afford with a no money down mortgage. It is a dream that causes people to rebel in the streets and demand democracy.
In no way do I aim to discredit dreams. Were it not for a dream, I wouldn’t be where I am today, but I do challenge everyone, myself included, to look carefully behind the curtain and see who is selling you the dream and why. What do they have to gain and you to lose. And when you go and sell your dream to someone make sure that you can deliver on that dream.