Dreaming vs Pretending

How can you tell difference between dreaming and pretending? I dream of a better world where people don’t let greed get in the way of humanity. I dream of food systems that do not destroy our planet and the people who live on it.

This dream slips into pretending when I tell myself and others that this “dream” is coming true faster than it is. I say things that sound good, but are not 100% true in order to shape others’ opinions and make myself feel better. This is a form of manipulating myself and the opinions of others.

So, if pretending is a form of manipulating, dreaming is a form of envisioning. Dreaming is seeing that is possible, and inspiring change though small acts that add up. A few times when my dreams were dashed, I slipped into pretending becasue I wasn’t ready to let that dream go.

I wonder how long I have been pretending that the big “systems change” events of our time start from small personal sacrifices. When will I admit to myself that big, seismic change is shaped by massive natural and geopolitical events like wars, natural disasters, pandemics, and not from idealistic performative individuals.

I was on Nestle’s website yesterday reading all about regenerative farming and how they are changing the world and “empowering” women and small holder farmers through education programs and blah, blah. As I am reading, I am seeing, in giant corporate lingo, the very words activists were using in underground urban agricultural circles in 2012 and before that. Terms like “systems change”, “just food systems”, “regenerative agriculture”. How long does it take a dream to trickle into plastic corporate lingo?

Or, I am being bitter at what is clearly a sign of “progress”. Shouldn’t I be glad corporations are taking up the mantle of food justice?

Well, let’s look at the facts: has anything fundamentally changed about how food is not only grown, but harvested and distributed in the past 10 years? Are farmers and farm laborers getting paid more, adjusted for inflation? Is Nestle taking material financial hits in the name of farmer well being? Or are corporations simple being forced to re-frame and re-brand the same systems in the face of a shifting target market demographic? A generation that is concerned about our dying planet?

I can’t shake this haunting suspicion that I am pretending. Hey, we may all slowly perish in the storms of climate change, but hey, we sure made it sound good while it lasted.

There’s this new kind of attitude about emissions: “We don’t REALLY have to fix the climate crisis. Tech will figure it out” or, “We can offset all our regular operations’ carbon footprint with drawdown schemes that involve a forest on another continent –it won’t involve cutting our own fossil fuels as much as privatizing large swaths of ‘developing’ countries.

It’s a diet pill mentality that assumes: “I can eat processed foods and live a sedentary lifestyle and still have cut abs and be super healthy if I just take turmeric pills every night.”

When the dream dies, we pretend.

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