Our constant hustle and bustle

24 / 7. Late capitalism and the attacks on sleep
SLEEP / Today's working life and economy have created a mental climate that promotes individuals who are constantly busy, interacting, responding, communicating – and thus a type of human being accustomed to dwelling, hesitating, wondering or daydreaming.


When you walk in public space in the European capitals, you can come across benches with grooves in. You can sit on the bench, but you can't sleep. It is uncomfortable to lie down. People who want to go for a nap must go somewhere else.

The small example is not just a picture of how to remove unwanted elements from public space, such as homeless, poor, crooked existence – it is also an attack on the dormant, unproductive human being.

Many things are under attack these years: free play time, retirement age, friendship, education and cleverness, mental health, all because we have to produce, run stronger, consume, around the clock, 24 / 7. However, we do have our sleep back, our hell. They can't take it from us. The place of rest, retreat, recharge, the dream zone of the dream, the true life, the phase in which we process hope, worries and turmoil. Sleep is perhaps the last place to create a break with the ever-active waking and increasingly goal-directed life.


The sleepless soldier

But sleep is also under attack. In the United States there is a sparrow species that can stay awake for up to seven consecutive days during the migratory periods. The US defense has investigated the brain activity of these birds during the sleepless periods in hopes that it can be used on humans. If you can reduce the need for sleep, you have the recipe for the perfect soldier: more efficient, more obedient, cheap to operate. History shows that the actions taken in the army end up occupying other areas of society: the sleepless soldier ends up as the sleepless worker and the sleepless consumer. The scandal of sleep is that no value can be extracted from it.

During the industrial community, the worker's rest was ensured because he was more efficient afterwards. But not in the knowledge society where rest and recharge have become too expensive for capitalism. The demand for rapid output, the absence of long-term planning, purchase and throw-away consumption, removes the incentive to turn rest and health into financial priorities. The number of pills for insomnia has increased dramatically in recent decades. Our lives get poor in the meantime, rich breaks. The only exception is sleep, which is not seized by working time, consumption time, advertising time. Yes, we still want to sleep, but today's working life and economy have created a mental climate that fosters individuals who are constantly busy, interacting, responding, communicating, and thus a human type accustomed to dwelling, hesitating, wondering, daydreaming, the sides of life that are actually associated with sleep. As we know from the writer Marcel Proust, rest is a prerequisite for awakening, for awakening, memory, developing ideas, yes, all the riches of our soul and consciousness life.

The promise of waking up

Gray does not share the optimism of the 90s and zeros for the "pluralism of the information society" – it creates more homogenization, where the performative and operational replaces qualitative content. At times, his criticism of capitalism becomes skinger and black and white. He is best at engaging artists and film directors such as Jean Luc Godard and Chris Marker, because they both point to the image and the visual as crucial to how we see and think about our world. The way we look has over the past 50 years "fundamentally changed" (Godard). The image and the imagery are the king's path to memory, to visions, to grief, to deep historical consciousness, in short, to becoming human beings, to connecting with each other and to the world. The 24 / 7 community puts all this under pressure.

According to Gray, the queue is a picture of something often overlooked: the ability to wait.

In his film essay La Jetée shows Mark what it means to be surrounded by images without an inner necessity, to live in a world stunned by images. The film shows the difficulty of realizing what has always been the real business of film media: "To imagine or dream another time […] to locate a utopian moment." The dream of life is "a promise to wake, to wake from a sleep…".

The two things are connected, the dream of life and the waking. Therefore, sleep is an ecological impetus: Without sleep, we lose sight of the changing of the seasons, for the rhythm of the day, the pulse of time and the commodity (Bergson), for the uneventful (Blanchot), for attention to everyday small repetitions (Lefebvre), the work of remembrance (Proust) , that is, the connection with the world that is not first and foremost guided by accumulation and constant production, but which is a compassionate, discovering and caring vigilance. Also included in this ecology is the ability to wait.

24 / 7: The illusion of a time without waiting

In a scene from director Chantal Akerman's documentary D'est (From the East, 1993) about the Soviet before the collapse you see people standing in line – maybe they are waiting for the bus? They all stand still, watch, some whisper, others speak. A gripping scene. According to Gray, the queue is a picture of something often overlooked: the ability to wait. Which is not just an empty wait, but something more basic, that which springs forth through "the unproductive absence", the ability to listen to others, wait to speak until it becomes one's turn. The wait is for Gray the seed of social. Waiting is an act of patience and respect that is a prerequisite for democracy.

The sleepless soldier ends up as the sleepless worker and the sleepless consumer.

The forms of control of the 1990 have become invasive. They have spread to areas we had never imagined, eaten into the innermost engine room of social. Control today works through our constant hustle and bustle, which has made us impatient, worse waiting, less listening, less thinking. If the climate fight is to succeed, we need to exercise our patience, because the wait and breaks in our lives serve as a crucial charge of sensitivity and receptivity to how vulnerable we all are and where the riches of life are to be found.

Occasionally when I wake up, I lie listening to the sounds of the street, a roller coaster in the early morning hours, a dog, a church bell on Saturday, and the sound of the ferry that I remember from my childhood… it's like I'm more awake ...

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