We are trapped in the fantasmic economy of a promise of the ‘good life’ – all the while grappling with the time of not-enough, not-good-enough, decay, exhaustion, ruination. Never enough money, never enough love – says Lauren Berlant (2011). But there is the ever-receding promise of perfect love, perfect life, tiny house with a garden, cherubic children, mild autumns and the rising dough of bread. It is the promise, however fanciful, however hegemonic, that forms the drive-force of life. Berlant unpacks the feeling of insecurity of living at the margins as the acute feeling of wanting to get inside the economy of opportunity and fantasies that drive it – they want to be exploited, she says – just so they are in the game.
Moved by Berlant’s powerful words, I think of a drunken conversation many years ago on a cold night in New York that I compared the subway station to a gamestation. When you are in it, you have to play by the rules, it’s litte hits and misses make sense, its losses and gains cause mirth and dismay. In the end, you have to come out and it all seems like it was a passing reverie, it couldn’t really have been real or urgent. The night ended in a predictable crack of dreams – as if it had not even occurred. But the reverie retained its marks on my consciousness. I learnt not to take dreamlike experiences seriously any more. It gave me a sense of balance between the here and the there.
It is this urgency of being in the inside of reverie and its many folds that I wish to address, and, of course, the attendant pain of being ejected out of reverie. Capital unfolds an acute register of optimism and forces us to participate in dreamworlds, I agree with Berlant here. But my provocation would be that capital’s is not the only (perhaps, it is the most forceful at this historical moment) dreamworld playing on our minds. The lives and words of many are not organized around hegemonic promises and the painful experience of ‘never enough money, never enough love’. And the painful experience of diminishing, exhausting, never-occurring perfections are the very ladder that we climb and un-climb to live between this material, immediate world and others. This is a pain that consciousness burdens us with.