Manifesto of Decelerationism*


Laura Couttie

 

We stay awake at night, my contemporaries and I, we cannot sleep, for the streetlights shine like beacons through our windows, and Oh! the clamour of cars, buses, trucks—hissing, beeping, honking, whirring. The wailing of a siren sounds in the distance and quickly, moving ever closer, the noise louder and louder, reverberating as though driving straight through this very room!

These wondrous beasts, leading the charge with a hunger in their glowing red headlights, constantly driving us forward, faster, faster! This model is out-dated, throw it away—the latest and greatest is speeding off around the corner, hurry and you might just catch it.   

This vehicle named progress hurtles forward at breakneck speed, a runaway train, born of the 20th century, the driver having fallen out long ago. When will it stop, when will it crash? How can we know where it is headed?

A warning whisper is heard: we are headed into a storm of unprecedented proportions. Tearing through the night with no lights to guide us, our fetish for growth and advancement sending us all hurtling towards an early grave.

As we are racing, out of the corner of my eye I spy another vehicle coming towards us, identical in make and model, the driver’s eyes wild with single-minded intention, in them I see a reflection of myself and in that split second I recognise the ugliness of my nature. At the last second I spin the wheel, and—Crash! Over and over, our capsule of destruction rolls—bang, bump, thump…

The morning sun peaking over the horizon finds us battered, egos bruised, embarrassed but not yet defeated. We awake to a new day, a new millennium, and we know that we must change course.  

Abandoning the spluttering, dying beast, lying like a bloated, beached whale—the rotting carcass of Modernist idealism. We take up the bicycle, that wonderful contraption, and in a chorus of two-wheeled unison we declare our intentions for the world to hear:

 

MANIFESTO OF DECELERATIONISM:

  1. We intend to sing the love of compassion, the habit of modesty and thoughtfulness.
  2. Courage, nerve and truth will be the essence of our poetry.  
  3. The 20th century glorified the destruction of the past—a selfish push for progression, blasting into the future with no concern for the consequences. We will slow down the feverish race, and practise restraint, moderation, frugality, simplicity.
  4. We weep for the magnificent treasures of the earth that have been destroyed by our forebears’ desire for growth—the oceans, the rainforests, the ice caps, the reefs.
  5. We want to embrace those who stand up for what is right, for what is hard—their footprint may be small but their legacy is great.
  6. We stand together, at the beginning of a new era! We now live in the age of the machine, and what have we to show for it? We must look back and learn from the mistakes of the past if we are to pass on this earth to our children.
  7. We condemn war—game of destruction and death, played by our leaders for spoils and accolades. No longer shall we follow other nations into battles for resources and power that are not ours to take. In war there are no victors, only countless victims.
  8. We will fight for our universities, libraries, schools—institutions of knowledge and freethinking. It is up to us to keep avenues of free speech open and to listen to those whose voices have not been heard.
  9. Museums—cathedrals of history and visions for the future. Let us reclaim these institutions of the people, by the people for the people; let us reject the highly paid, bureaucratic chiefs who run them only to fill the pockets of their comrades.
  10. We will fight misogyny, racism, sexism, and any other –ism or –phobia that seeks to discriminate and denigrate our fellow humans.  
  11. We will sing of crowds united in fighting for justice and equality; we will sing of the multi-coloured, multicultural vibrancy of our cities and countries; we will sing of troupes of bicycles, taking over our streets like swarms of bees; of community gardens where neighbours delight in the fruits of their shared labour; of a return to common courtesies and care; of a world where we stop to unplug and greet our fellow human beings.

 

It is with bright minds and strong hearts that we launch this Manifesto of Decelerationism. For too long we have been dragged along by the Modernist machine, that roaring beast, and its insatiable appetite for bigger, better, faster. Now we must slow down and witness the broader impact of our actions before it is too late.

The rate of growth we have become accustomed to is no longer sustainable, and has revealed itself to be fundamentally suicidal. If we want our civilisation to continue, we must stop to reconsider how we are living. We have to curb our destructive inclinations, wean ourselves off the teat of capitalism, liberate ourselves from the shackles of material excess.

For many years common understanding has led us to believe that movement equals progress. But so many of us watch the world speed by, an effort just to catch up without a thought to where we are headed. Time rushes by so fast we forget to look around—the time to slow down is NOW. Pull the reigns, slam the brakes—wooahhhh…

The challenge of our times is a hard one, for it requires us to swim against the tide that pulls us ever forward. We must slow down. We must reject the urge of progress for the sake of progress.

Let us take a lesson from Aesop’s tortoise. Slow, considered and deliberate shall be our mantra and our method. This journey is a marathon not a sprint—let us not burn out before it is finished.

 


*With reference to F. T. Marinetti: http://www.unknown.nu/futurism/manifesto.html

 

Laura Couttie is an emerging writer, curator and arts administrator based in Melbourne. Laura was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (Art History) with First Class...


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