Originally published in Arthur Magazine No. 32 (Dec 2008)
“The Analog Life”
by Erik Davis
Illustration by P.D. Hidalgo
Is it really so horrible to imagine the planet down-shifting for once?
You can hardly blame anyone for feeling the fear and panic that helped drive October’s near financial meltdown. Scanning the headlines or the newsfeeds, our eyes greeted a steady pulse of bummer lingo. “Global Recession.” “Great Depression.” “Financial Collapse.” Serious words for serious times. But there was another phrase I kept stumbling across, less apocalyptic certainly but still delivered with a grim fatalism, that struck me differently. The economy, we were warned, was showing signs of a significant slowdown.
Slowdown? I don’t know about you, but I could use a bit of a slowdown right about now. Take things easy, not run around so much, maybe poke around the garden and restring that guitar. Hold a neighborhood potluck, learn emergency response, can some tomatoes. I haven’t finished rebuilding the office, and haven’t even cracked The Man Without Qualities.
OK, I am being a little facetious. After all, “slowdown” describes the debilitating stuttering of capitalism’s endless Big Bang-like expansion, an enormously powerful wave of transformation that in some manner or another floats almost all of our boats. If this immense flow of nested feedback loops, production networks, and capital flows starts to slow, then things don’t just mellow out. They start to fall apart, like a Chinese acrobat—scratch that, American acrobat—whose spinning plates lose their momentum and inevitably fall to the floor even as the poor fellow keeps his balance. That means families get pushed into poverty, small businesses close, poor folks grow desperate and rich folks even more selfish and mean.Continue reading