Meme Dissertation: I Do Not Dream

Meme Dissertation is a column that breaks down the history of a meme, how it has evolved, it's current context, and what the current use of it says about our society.

 

In the annals of anti-capitalist memes, alongside Eat The Rich & Be Gay, Do Crimes sits another top-hitter. An always relevant, quippy comeback.

screencap of a Feb 9 2020 tumblr post. an anonymous user asks "dream job" and user fireproofs responds "i simply do not dream of labor"

dream job?

i simply do not dream of labor


Oh, but you do. We all do. We just have a warped idea of what labour actually is.


WHERE DID YOU COME FROM, WHERE DID YOU GO? / Origins


It's harder to pinpoint the exact moment a phrase came into common usage than it is for a photo or graphic. It's harder to track because it can change ever so slightly like a game of telephone.


The phrase was popularised when tumblr user @fireproofs responded to an anonymous ask in early 2020. But a tweet from late 2019 had a very similar message.

@thetrudz tweet reading "My “dream job” is...not working. No work. I don’t dream about labor."

Somehow it is unsurprising that it was a black woman who first critiqued the system, but it was someone else who popularised it before we all jumped on board.


Searching Twitter for "I simply do not dream of labor" - the phrasing from the 2020 ask - leads to lots of references to "that tumblr post". While searching for the phrasing of the 2019 tweet only leads to repetitions of the phrase, not references to where it was seen.

It's impossible to know if this was multiple discovery (two or more people independently but simultaneously coming to the same idea, usually because the social context is primed for it to emerge) or direct inspiration without attribution.


No hate to @fireproofs if it was inspired because, honestly, at the rate we take in tweets, texts, memes, TikToks, jokes, and screencaps, it would be impossible to pinpoint where a brain-caterpillar crawled in before it came out as a butterfly.


THE MEME IN THE WILD / USAGE


This one is simple. It's used as a reply to the question "dream job?".


Sometimes it is tweeted/posted/texted as a lament after a particularly hard week at work. It's one of those things that you hear people say, and you either laugh because you've never heard it before or because you have. It's an 'it's funny because it's true' kind of thing.


IT AIN'T THAT DEEP THO / Analysis


It is interesting to note that both of these posts were made in the few months just before the pandemic took hold of the world and forced us to reassess the current system. Surely the stark truth of essential workers being called "heroes" while simultaneously being underpaid laid bare the hypocrisy of what types of labour are valued and disposed us all to memes which ridiculed such hypocrisy.


Dream job?

It would be accurate, if unhinged, for someone to answer that question with "landlord". Which is a job, albeit one which requires very little labour and instead hinges on owning capital.


This is because labour, within capitalism, does not produce vale in proportion to hard work.

You know this if you've ever worked food service or retail, then moved into an office job where you were paid twice as much and worked half as hard.


What we think we value (because of ingrained capitalism), and what we actually value is different, and no time has made that more obvious than a pandemic stay-home order.


After this past year where each moment not working (from home, or at essential businesses) was spent holed up in our houses, putting weight into the words 'find a hobby', our dream lives have started to look a little different. A little truer to our passions that to financial stability. But that is an issue with the structure of financial stability, not with the labour we enjoy.


The problem is labour has bad marketing. We hear "labour" and we think: the daily grind, hustle culture, underpaid or unpaid internships, unappreciated overtime, the ever-turning wheel of industry. We think of a system that exploits our work to create surplus value.


But we do dream of labour, just not like this.