Slow Life: We Manage Everything
It is customary to believe that station zero and birth date of the new philosophy is year 1986 when not far from central squares of Rome – Piazza di Spagna – McDonald’s decided to open another café. Despite the fact that the chain had won hearts around the world including Italy, Roman intellectuals decided that there was enough fast food in their centuries-old city already and opening of another restaurant in historic part of the city was obviously over the edge. Group of protesters was led by a respected Italian publicist and intellectual Carlo Petrini. For several months his small team wouldn’t let developers get to work. Gradually not just friends and relatives but also ordinary Italians, who liked the concept of protecting national cuisine suggested by Petrini, started joining them. The way the journalist himself used to say, I’m not against McDonald’s – I’m against everything becoming “McDonald’s” – fast, universal and featureless. However the corporation won because the land was rented legally and municipality decided not to make a big deal out of it and took the company’s side therefore the café was opened after all and it keeps operating nowadays. But the situation wasn’t defeat of Petrini and his campaign at all, it was more like their victory because not only did they manage to show that own traditions can be protected even with relatively small powers, but also to elaborate entire philosophy in the process that is called to bring humanity back to calmer and more conscious life.
Geir Berthelsen and Carl Honoreé became Carlo Petrini’s associates, they created entire Institute of Slowness – snail became its symbol – and wrote fundamental works on “deceleration” that offers people a special way of downshifting that doesn’t require moving close to Indian Ocean because one can get pleasure from life here and now. In late 1908s – early 1990s slow-lifers started gaining increasing popularity in Europe and their activities moved to a practical level. Members of the community began establishing direct contact with municipalities, cafés, shops, universities and even large companies, proving with actual numbers that calm, not tired like long-ridden horse, people are happier, healthier and more effective than a modern city dweller with head full of deadlines, concerns and tasks.
At first they only managed to slow Italy down because local citizens eagerly agreed that they basically had nowhere to rush, that they should live deliberate lives avoiding stress and permanent lack of time. Even more so with normal deceleration not being laziness but a natural need of both head and body, so there was nothing to be ashamed of. Mediterranean cuisine sold in local restaurants became a true symbol of fight against fast food therefore a separate Slow Food movement emerged. Its followers suggest savoring food to turn its consumption into a whole event – not eating just to get full. Members of the community are anti-globalists in a way – they want less and less uniformed restaurant chains around the globe because those, according to them, kill uniqueness of each particular culinary tradition. Alongside food, another important line of work of Institute of Slowness was a sphere that got called Slow City. Currently about 200 cities all over the world joined in the movement. Within the framework of their work local authorities with the help of activists try to increase comfort of citizens by fighting noise, dirt and traffic. A very important purpose of such activity is creation of as many green areas, viewing platforms, park squares and other cozy spots as possible, where every citizen can rest from rush and fuss and, as some may put it, blankly stare. More to that, members of the movement watch over creation of reasonable working conditions at work places in cities, over strict carrying out of work schedules not to allow over-times.
Sure enough, it may seem from the outside that Slow Life with all its treatises, articles and manifests is a utopia and an option for some small towns that require publicity but in fact it isn’t. As already mentioned Berthelsen assures, people create majority of fuss and chaos around themselves with own hands. The researcher insists, proving his conclusions with actual numbers, that living deliberately and consciously one, to the contrary, can manage to accomplish more because this way stress and incessant deadlines don’t distract psyche and brain from work and labor productivity increases by 15-18 per cent. Despite relatively young age of the philosophy each day more and more people on all continents become its adherents. Even in China and the USA, that don’t resemble small European towns, especially Italian ones where it is customary to drink coffee on piazzas and talk for hours, in terms of pace of life, numerous activists of the movement, that is supposed to become a salutary magic wand for humanity in 21st century, emerge.
One way or another, it has already entered all spheres of human life because Slow Fashion already exists – aimed at production of universal clothes that doesn’t require to be changed every season by doing shopping. In Scandinavian countries Slow Television concept gains increasing popularity where calm and peaceful TV-shows are matched against our customary clip-like editing and bloody news. In the same area, in Sweden, decision has recently been adopted on transition to 6-hour-long working day because labor productivity not only doesn’t fall but, on the contrary, grows, which was established by means of many-year-long experiment. And, think of it, this is Sweden, one of the most successful and rich countries on the planet where citizens aren’t normally called lazy – not at all. More to that, very recently Slow Rest concept emerged where one shouldn’t run around every possible landmark of a city at rapid-fire speed – it suffices to pay attention to a couple of them but embrace them to a full extent. Such tours are already offered by “slow guides”. Well, decelerate, manage everything enjoying your life because you cannot chase everything anyway so why participate an a priori no-win race?