ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A Call to Slow Down

We, who have grown up on the fable of the hare and the tortoise, with the moral that slow and steady wins the race, have, over time, stopped believing in this story. So much so that it sounds silly even if one wishes to believe in it. Knowingly or unknowingly, we have imbibed the logic of capitalism that equates speed with efficiency—“the faster, the better”. Being “successful” and winning the race was also the mantra in the hare-tortoise story. Possibly, now we have accepted that the rules of the game have changed and that we need to learn new “morals” and be the hasty hare in order to win. 

Tortoises of the world, however, object and resist. They wish to retain their pace as well as the belief that there is nothing wrong with their way of life, and the world should let them be what they are. Even the mighty speedy hare had to stop for a nap, they remind. There was nothing wrong in taking a break. What was wrong and prompted the tortoise to throw its hat in the ring, was the chest-thumping triumphalism and (what proved to be false) pride in one’s greatness on one hand, and the undermining of the other’s capacities on the other—sadly, a given in today’s scenario.

Slow movement activists, if they do not mind being equated with the tortoises, are also raising questions on the modern techno-centric life that demands them to become hares at the cost of losing the inherent music of being alive, different, contemplative and creative. They plead for deceleration of such a life. Don’t get them wrong; they are not the ones we call lazy, indolent, or “slow” aka losers. What they are fighting for is more profound—a pause to reflect and the desire for a deeper relationship with one’s self and with nature in order to fathom the inherent interrelations and complexities of the situations we confront. For example, they will say that it is not in any way disconnected that drought and floods are plaguing us simultaneously, and the generally expressed wonder at this simultaneity is only because the larger picture is given a miss. What they are fighting against are the abuses of capitalism—its instrumental rationality, its ethos of reducing people to passive consumers and disconnected selves, its relentless urge to conquer nature and people, its lack of accountability and long-term thinking, and its unabated bombardment of senses, so much so that the taxed mind wants only to get numb at the end of the day. 

The most prominent strand of slow activism is the slow food movement, though there are calls for slow science, slow technology, slow urbanism, slow journalism, and slow scholarship among many others, arising in various fields in different parts of the world. The slow food movement started against what is largely depicted by the “McDonaldisation” of food. It advocates for food that is “hand-crafted” and depends on the local produce and cuisines, as that is better and closer to both the producers and consumers as opposed to “fast,” “take-away,” mass-produced food. It also advocates for sustainable and cooperative small-scale agriculture, as opposed to large-scale food production. As we have already “caught up” with the “take-away” culture and our farming is proving more and more unsustainable, possibly more experiments like Kudumbashree in agriculture are the need of the day.

Another movement that is becoming stronger across countries is one for slow scholarship. The reasons are evident when one looks at the state of scholarship everywhere, with teachers rendered vulnerable, and working under performance anxiety, stress, and fear. This movement is against making scholarship a product that gets quantified and measured. It counters a culture of anti-intellectualism that is opposed to critical thinking. Instead, it demands a space of reflection, collaboration, and caring academic cultures. Mostly undertaken by feminist scholars, it questions the prevalent dictums that “more is better,” that publications are better than giving time and energy to teaching, and ought to take precedence over personal and interpersonal lives. 

The slow movement is essentially a movement in favour of the “commons.” It is a call for cultures that promote sustainability and conviviality. Perhaps, a spin in the hare and tortoise story is the brainchild of some slow activists. In this spin, once the hare and tortoise realise that not only do they have to cover a meadow, but also swim across a stream, they fathom that collaboration will be the best strategy and will prove to be more fun too. The tortoise perched on the hare’s back enjoyed the green meadows, and the hare passed through the river easily sitting on tortoise’s shell. And both reached in time to enjoy a good pahadi lunch at a dhaba near the finish line. 

The views expressed here are personal and do not reflect the collective view of the journal.


Image courtesy: Canva


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