Slow fight againSt the rat race

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TECHNOLOGY -

STOP! Stop the rush­ing, rac­ing, el­bow­ing to com­pete in a hyper-wired world whose mantra is to move fast, what­ever the di­rec­tion.

That is the mes­sage the Slow move­ment has been gen­tly spread­ing for a quar­ter cen­tury.

“In this road­run­ner world, it can some­times feel like there is no op­tion but to fol­low the hur­ry­ing herd. But there is,” says Carl Honore, whose 2004 book on the move­ment, In Praise of Slow­ness, be­came an in­ter­na­tional best­seller.

It all started 20 years ago in Italy, with a protest against the open­ing of a McDon­alds’ res­tau­rant led by Carlo Petrini, who went on to launch a move­ment de­voted to “good, clean and fair” food.

Since then Slow food — as it be­came known — has spread to 130 coun­tries and spawned count­less sis­ter trends around the world, from slow cities to slow money, slow de­sign, slow travel and even slow sex.

There is also slow par­ent­ing — the sim­ple art of tak­ing time for one’s chil­dren — and slow wear which pro­motes sus­tain­able clothes, all car­ry­ing a com­mon mes­sage into ev­ery corner of our lives, win­ning mil­lions of adepts around the world.

Mov­ing at the right speed

“The Slow phi­los­o­phy is not about do­ing ev­ery­thing at a snail’s pace,” Honore told AFP in an in­ter­view. “It’s about seek­ing to do

More peo­ple are grow­ing tired of the con­stant rush­ing and rac­ing to com­pete in a hyper-wired world whose mantra is to move fast. — Re­laxnews ev­ery­thing at the right speed. Some­times fast, some­times slow, and some­times com­pletely still.”

When the slow guru gave a talk about the phi­los­o­phy last year, a priest in the au­di­ence came up to him af­ter­wards and con­fessed he had just had a rev­e­la­tion: “Lately I have been pray­ing too fast.”

Af­ter two decades spent watch­ing the move­ment grow, Honore now be­lieves it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore it hits the main­stream: “We are at a his­tor­i­cal turn­ing point,” he said.

Even high-tech firms — af­ter decades spent driv­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tion of the global econ­omy — are now recog­nis­ing its ill-af­fects, lead­ing Google, IBM and oth­ers to launch a re­search group into in­for­ma­tion over­load.

Stud­ies by Mi­crosoft or Hewlett Packard, quoted by the move­ment, in­di­cate that mod­ern-day of­fice work with its con­stant in­ter­rup­tions — by e-mail, phones, text mes­sages — can slice 10 points off a per­son’s IQ.

An IBM man­ager re­cently launched what he called “slow e-mail” to en­cour­age staffers to use the medium bet­ter.

And in an­other sign of the times, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron has banned cell­phones — whether smart or not — from his cabi­net meet­ings to keep min­is­ters fo­cused on the task at hand.

London-based re­search es­ti­mated that some 20 mil­lion peo­ple in Europe were ready to give back a chunk of their wages, in ex­change for a slice of ex­tra time to re­lax and spend with their fam­i­lies.

Slow change

“Speed helped the world tip into moder­nity two cen­turies ago, but now it may be driv­ing it into the abyss,” warned the Ger­man philoso­pher Hart­mut Rosa in a re­cent book.

Slow ad­vo­cates see the global eco­nomic cri­sis — caused in their view by an ob­ses­sion with fast growth, fast con­sump­tion and fast prof­its — as the lat­est val­i­da­tion of their world­view.

“In In­dia, de­spite the rise of un­bri­dled cap­i­tal­ism, there is a real de­bate about the dangers of speed. Peo­ple are not happy about los­ing their fam­ily ties, ne­glect­ing their el­ders,” said Honore.

Even in speed-driven Ja­pan, where there is a word — “karoshi” — for death through over­work, the Sloth Club was cre­ated a few years ago to lift peo­ple out of the go-fast cul­ture.

Each year in Aus­tria, the meet­ing of the So­ci­ety for the De­cel­er­a­tion of Time gath­ers sci­en­tists, artists, lawyers and ex­perts de­ter­mined to push the slow agenda.

Five years ago, the con­cept “Slow” turned up next to noth­ing when punched into an In­ter­net search en­gine. Now, says Honore, it pro­duces mil­lions of re­sults as the phi­los­o­phy spreads around the world.

“Peo­ple are chang­ing the way they con­sume,” says Jean Lher­i­tier, the French head of the Slow Food move­ment. “They’ve had enough of spend­ing their lives stuck in traf­fic jams, push­ing carts down su­per­mar­ket aisles.

“But the trans­for­ma­tion will take sev­eral decades.” — AFP

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