The wind of change
In 1990, you could dare to hope. Today, our thoughts are co-opted and monetised, like everything else that used to be free.
Have you had a crummy week? Let’s put it in perspective. Imagine how much crummier it would be if your job was to programme the in-store music for a supermarket.
I think I was in Condiments this week when I heard the German-inflected lyrics of power ballad Winds of Change. This monument to glasnost was released in a more hopeful age, a time when you could forgive Klaus, the lead singer, his bad perm, leather cap and the fact English was evidently his second language.
It was 1990. The Berlin Wall had come down, and tyranny was so much rubble on the street. You could suspend your pessimism about human nature and dare yourself to hope.
I follow the Moskva
Down to Gorky Park
Listening to the wind of change
Gah! What a dirge! I was supposed to be shopping for staples and was otherwise in a neutral mood: now all I wanted to do was call my local cemetery and buy myself a plot.
What a mess “the children of tomorrow” had made of perestroika! In 1990 we’d begun to warm to each other. Now Russia is all up in our Facebook feeds, wearing trench coats and moustaches, while America’s high on its own supply, sniffing the solvent of nationalist populism. If only we’d listened to Scorpions!
Luckily for me, the playlist was interrupted by one of those cheerful in-store announcements which sound soothing but, in fact, are chilling. It went something like this:
“Thank you for shopping at New World! Please make sure your little ones are properly seated, and are not standing, in your trolley. We would HATE for them to become SERIOUSLY HURT in a fall, even though we are not liable for any injury, especially brain ones. You checked your rights in at the door, let’s make that clear. HAPPY SHOPPING!”
(That reminds me of a similar safety announcement on board flights, when they tell you, somewhat redundantly, to “make sure children’s fingers and toes are well clear of any moving parts”. If the fuselage of a cruising Airbus A320 isn’t the mother of all moving parts, I don’t know what is.)
Anyway, don’t think I’m letting Countdown off the hook. I was in a reverie I was rather enjoying recently, when I was interrupted by the over-bright instore announcement “Hi! I’m Sophie Gray, editor of Food magazine, and I love feijoas!”
I’m not sure which part of this sentence mattered least to me at that moment but I appreciate a good non-sequitur, and this was a pearler. That said, I resented the interruption of my flow.
Do you know what I mean when I say flow? It’s basically when you’re wholly absorbed in something – something pleasurable and fulfilling – and being so fully immersed, you briefly forget about your own existence. In this way it’s the opposite of zoning out. You’re zoning in, deep into your own fundament; and when you’re all up in there, you don’t want Sophie Gray to be up there too.
“Flow” was coined by an eminent HungarianAmerican psychologist with a name so long and extravagant it would blow my word count, and has been around since at least the mid 70s. But today, the word has been uncomfortably co-opted and monetised by the mindfulness industry, like everything else that used to be free.
For example, there are few such products more annoying than Flow magazine – an overpriced colouring-in book, really, marketed at “paper lovers”. I mean, exactly who would admit to not liking paper? Everyone’s a paper lover, in the same way we all adore oxygen and value carbon. This kind of sell is so irritating that I could just spit.
Flow is produced in Holland. Now we can thank the Dutch for many things, including stroopwafel and The Hague, but if Flow is anything to go by I’m concerned they’re taking their eye off the ball. When a typical article ponders “What to do with a book? Hold onto it or pass it on to enlighten someone else’s life?” then there’s the risk Flow readers are too deeply
Now Russia is all up in our Facebook feeds, while America’s sniffing the solvent of nationalist populism.
immersed in the float tank of their own existence and need to prise open the lid.
I’m all for small acts of kindness but I’d suggest now isn’t the time to minutely examine every personal motivation, unless you’re personally motivated to do something about, say, state-sanctioned homophobia in Budapest, Holocaust denial in Krakow, or kids in cages in New Mexico. It’s like Klaus always said:
The world is closing in
And did you ever think
That we could be so close, like brothers?
When you’re squeezed, your only hope is each other. I think that’s what he meant, anyway, because he goes onto to suggest combining his guitar with someone’s balalaika, which in my estimation is a metaphor too far.