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.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - LEAH MCFALL -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.