Sunday, October 16, 2011

Slow Down, Bessie.

It's mid-Autumn, which, of course, has its characteristic smells, sounds, memories, and compulsions. It's the most beer-friendly season, where warmth and family (in whatever sense family manifests) become more important than crazy hot nights. Even though Americans don't often operate how we used to when seasons actually dictated our lives, there's still some sense of needing to store, to take note of what we have, to plan. We see the animals doing it, and even though we can still get avocados in November, we're more compelled to use at least some seasonal vegetables. Many of us start staying in and drinking more, going into a little pre-hibernation or getting closer to our "best" friends.

This season, along with my reading habits and living habits, have me thinking about these ideas; the tenets of Fall. After an exceptionally rowdy boyfriend's birthday party, and the two days of hangover that have followed it, I'm taking at least a month off. Not just the sauce, but caffeine, highly processed foods, overly-salted or sweetened stuff, store-bought drinks, and other things that just basically suck for my body (and my psyche!). I'm sick of consuming things and wasting so much. It's a full-time job to organize your own waste efficiently, but I'm going to at least make conscious decisions on what to buy. I don't need to get bottled drinks. I don't need to get that candy bar (which is pumped full of air anyway), and I certainly don't need to get spring and summer produce in the dead of winter! (Although, I must admit, giving up avocados all winter will be very difficult!)

I'm reading a book called Eaarth by Bill McKibbon, and I think this feeling I'm getting relates largely to his sentiments about the planet's Autumn, when we sober up and realize reckless consumption can't last forever. Basically, McKibbon reasons quite astutely that the workhorse, not the racehorse, will need to rule the principles of humanity's future. "Durable | Sturdy | Stable | Hardy | Robust | These are squat, solid, stout words. They conjure a world where we no longer grow by leaps and bounds, but where we hunker down, where we dig in." (Emphasis his) We are so used to demanding and getting exactly what material conveniences we want (and yet being constantly mistreated, oppressed, and repressed in essential ways) that the idea of personal sacrifice seems ridiculous to many. I'm certainly exhausted after a hard day of work and have had my fair share of microwaved Lean Cuisine broccoli fettucini. But I'm starting to invest far more value into the notions of Durable, Sturdy, Robust. They speak of more depth; they resound.

Connect Slow Food and Cittaslow with the current buzzy Occupations and finally publicized raised consumer consciousness (I may just muster up the gumption to move my money into a local credit union instead of the big bank it's been in for my adult life). The push for locality and conscious consumerism is hard in ways; some of us have been showed the inconvenience and price tag of paying attention our whole lives. Yes, it takes time to make meals. It takes effort to know what's in season. But the kinds of sacrifices we should be making are far more rewarding than the injustices that we endure regarding our livelihood.

I've been seeing a commercial lately that seems cute enough to work for lots of people my age. But I now have a hard time even being able to see the sense in it, and I have a feeling more and more people are starting to feel the same way. It's animated and the narration throughout it actually says that you accumulate Stuff through your life in your tastes and documents, and that Stuff is what defines you; it's who you are. It shows others who you are. Through the spot the cute little animated characters have balloons of music notes, calculators, computers, whatever that are attached to their blue and pink heads at all times. The end of the commercial is as follows: "...what are you without your Stuff? Better yet, without your Stuff, who are you?" It's a scary concept to consider "within the normal bounds of American ideology". I mean, by that logic Ghandi was a total loser, and so were all those other minimalists. If you don't have Stuff, like say, you're a refugee mother trying to freakin' feed her children in the Somalian drought, well. You're nothing, I guess.

No, it's silly to think that. It may seem like a harmless commercial but ads are powerful propaganda. With this said, my thoughts for the Occupiers everywhere boil down to this. Remember that while we are constantly brainwashed, our political power is constantly revoked, and our voices are constantly trivialized, we also have more power and responsibility than we sometimes think. The demands we make for freedom and justice really must mirror personal loosening of the shackles of consumer bingeing. It's got a strong hold, but it's important to even just be conscious of the Power we have. Not only the angry, demanding power we have, but the Hardy, Durable Power we have to hunker down and make things work for the Winter that's ahead. It's one of the grand human and American values a large portion of us have forgotten. I'm not trying to be holier than anyone--I'm a wimp who rarely follows through on any of her grand decisions. But we gotta try to wake up. Wake up and smell the leaves, feel the shift, gather the family, and tally the store.

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