John Reimann's personal blog

A Dream Upon the Death of Louis Proyect

Dreams are like a good plum cobbler, mixing up all sorts of flavors – or emotions and thoughts – combining them in an unrecognizable way but with each ingredient also retaining its own distinct flavor.

Louis Proyect died the other day. His death shocked me, especially because he was about my age and height. (I have a theory that shorter people – like dogs – have a better chance of living longer. Yesterday in the park there was a very nice, friendly Great Dane puppy. I was thinking, “Nice dog. Too bad he won’t live very long.”) But back to Louis… and me:

Louis was a prolific writer with an encyclopedic knowledge. He wrote about everything – music, movies, but especially politics. He was a self-defined “unrepentant Marxist”, like me. He played a great role waging an unrelenting war against the Assad supporters on the left, exposing the  poverty of what passes for their “thinking”. And we must never underestimate the enormous damage they do to the intellectual/theoretical life of the left, especially among younger people and those with less knowledge of history in general. But he carried out his politics on the internet and on the internet alone. That is what enabled his enormous knowledge, but living on the internet also means being exposed to too much “noise”. It also means a weakening of the human bonds that tie us together. We cannot organize purely on the internet. The internet’s potential means enormous intellectual wealth combined with enormous emotional poverty.

So, as I said, I’ve been thinking about Louis, whom I knew and tried to work with for a time. Here’s a dream that popped into my sleep last night. Like all dreams, this one combined various seemingly unrelated issues in my mind. The reality is, of course, that it’s all related in our feelings:

I’d arranged to buy some sort of small dinghy from a guy for $40. I was supposed to go to his house and get it, but I don’t remember ever doing so. In fact, I don’t think I ever got around to doing so. But then I was in the dinghy with a few other people and we were motoring across the SF Bay with a small outboard motor that we have. The motor is very loud and we couldn’t hear anything else. I remember thinking this would be very pleasant if we had a quiet electric motor. For some reason the motor attached near the middle of the boat and extended down through a well into the water, rather than how most do on the stern of the boat. But those are small details.

We reached San Francisco and pulled into this little hidden cove whose existence hardly anybody knew about. The first houses we saw were huge, modernistic, poured-in-place cement mansions which must have costed many millions. Then as we motored along we passed by a scene that was like something out of rural Appalachian ultra poverty. There were several burned out shacks. Doors and windows gone. Just empty shacks, blackened in part by fires. Then there were some that were occupied. Not burned out, but totally run down…. and they were clearly not much to look at when they were first built. The exteriors were just bare plywood, not even painted. Laundry hanging on lines. I’m just realizing now: They looked not that different from, only slightly better than the shacks that you see in the homeless encampments that some people build. Like the one just a few blocks from where I live. A little more substantial but not much.

A motley crowd of people was standing around doing nothing. Just standing there or wandering around. I thought they looked like they were the product of generations of inbreeding. I wondered what this entire unknown community was still doing in San Francisco of all places, here where property values were so high and right in this beautiful little hidden cove, land that potentially would be so extremely valuable (as those other multi-million dollar mansions showed). A group of young people – four or five – were standing around. One young woman – a teenager, really – had a nose ring on the side of her nose. They were holding something together, dipping their fingers in something and putting the fingers up to their faces. From my vantage point at first I thought they were sniffing glue, but then I saw that the young woman with the nose ring was just gathering up the last crumbs of potato chips and eating them. She and her crowd had some real life and were actually very attractive. They gave me some hope for the future.

Then I woke up.

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