Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Dream About Capitalism

I had a dream where I was at some kind of a political rally, and I was supposed to give a speech. These guys were asking me if I was a "red." I told them that "red" is kind of a dated term but, if anything, I am an independent. I have trouble aligning myself with any established political party. I also pointed out how it's kind of ironic that, today, the color red is associated with the Republican Party, as it used to be associated with communism.

"I don't particularly like capitalism," I said, "I think it has hurt a lot of people."

"Yeah, but it has also helped a lot of people," one of the guys said, "and it works because it takes our inherent selfishness and puts it toward a social good: creating wealth, jobs, etc."

"Call me naive," I said, "But I don't think people are inherently selfish. Look at most tribal cultures, where the good of the community is placed above the good of the individual. I think selfishness is learned behavior, that capitalism actually conditions people to be selfish."

The guy made a weird face.

"Speaking for myself," I continued, "I am not motivated by the desire to accumulate wealth."

"Yeah right," the guy said.

"No really," I said, "I own an art gallery that makes me no money personally. We are lucky if it is self-sustaining. But I do it because it contributes something meaningful to my community, and this is reward enough for me. This makes me happy. In the process of owning the gallery, I had to un-learn capitalism and learn different values, not based on selfishness. Most of the happier people I know are not motivated by selfishness, but by other values: community, helping others, self-expression, experiencing life. Most of the unhappiest people I know have bought into the capitalist mindset that you do things to make money to accumulate wealth, property, and possessions. I know people who have literally traded their lives for money, for capital, and are deeply unhappy."

The guy gave me another weird look, and then I woke up.

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