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Are we moving too fast?

In her article Finding Time The fast, the bad, the ugly, the alternatives, Rebecca Solnit deliberates her opinion about the fast paced, industrialized world we live in today. She brings up several different topics such as the loss of personalization the internet has caused. And the deficiency of time when people commute to their high paying jobs.

Solnit’s four main culprits of loss of humanization today are; efficiency, convenience, profitability, and Security. Together these four are making us more and more like machines and less and less human.
Today in the industrial, economic America, efficiency and convenience are most important to our fast paced lives. One of the examples she uses in her article is the buying of a book. Web sites such as amazon.com are fast, and efficient. We basically have to press a couple buttons and we have bought a book. But there is something lost when we don’t even leave our room to purchase a book. Solnit states that, “The virtual version rips out the heart of the thing, shrink-wraps it, sticks a barcode on, and throws the rest away?. We cannot grow from what we already know, and we cannot go beyond what we know when searching online. When we go to a book store, we have to opportunity to explore other options. We will see a whole store of books we never even hear about. Same goes for the example of using a treadmill instead of walking outside. Yes, it may be convenient but what about fresh air, the leaves turning colors and flowers blooming, or people we may meet on the way. I entirely agree with these two arguments. I go to bookstores quite often. Usually not to buy a book, there is just something about the environment that I love that I can’t find on a web page.
Her third topic is profit. Americans live off of competition and profit. The media today is one of the main offenders. Bigger and more is better. It has imposed in us a mentality that we always need more. We are no longer satisfied with a home and a car. We need the cottage, speed boat, and platinum television. This need for more is causing an immunization to limited time with family. Children are becoming used to rarely seeing their father. And in the modern world, many times their mother as well. Money may not be the route of all evil, but it is quickly becoming the route to depersonalization.

Solnit is showing us what many cannot see. America is moving too fast. As a college student I don’t even have a job right now. But between classes, homework, and other obligations, I rarely have time for myself. It is all about competition, making it to the top, and if we slow down for a second we may never get there. I believe that we would all agree that we should slow down, take a trip to Hawaii for a couple weeks. But we all dread what we would be coming home to. We cannot survive getting behind, it just isn’t practicable.

Solnit explains that it is all in the language. The way the media, our professors, our bosses, or our peers tell us what is best for us. Much of what is said is about things, material things that we can purchase. But that has very little to do with what makes a human a human. The objects that we cannot describe are what separate us from all other creature, such as Emotions, relationships, compassion, and forgiveness. These are things companies cannot advertise, that people cannot purchase in a store. And these could quite possibly be the most important part of our existence.

The main idea that I got from this article was to just slow down. Take a breath, look around and see all the wonderful things in my life that have nothing to do with competition or material items. In light of Thanksgiving coming up, we should think about all the things in our lives that we are thankful for. And don’t forget about the language that many times cannot be spoken.
molly murphy

Comments

For the most part, I disagree with the Rebecca Solnit article, and her views on the economy and the loss of personalization in America. Sure, often you will hear people talk about the golden age: “when doughnuts were ten cents for a dozen, gas was sixty cents a gallon, and you could walk right over to the neighbor’s to borrow a cup of flour.? however, technological advances make businesses much more profitable and can connect people on a global level.

Large corporations have been able to keep price low and competitive for consumers and reduce polluted emissions substantially over the past few decades due to the advances that Solnit criticizes. More efficient assembly lines and factories are just two advancements that help both the consumer and the environment. Most of the raise in prices is attributed to inflation of the American economy.

As far as the depersonalization of America, the advances in computers and the internet that allow people to connect across the country, even across the world far outweigh the negative effects of online shopping. With the social utilities such as MySpace and Facebook that are now available, you can connect with classmates, friends, and family instantly. Webcams and microphones allow visual and verbal interactions to take place over thousands of miles just as it would be face to face. Online shopping allows for quick and easy purchases, which in turn allows for more time spent with those that are important to you.

After reading Solnit’s article about the depersonalization of America, as we know it, I feel that she may be right in some respects but very much so wrong in others. Sure America may be moving too fast, but why may I ask is the United States the best country in the world, because of those things that Solnit so vividly opposes. Some of her arguments do make sense, that is because she is restating a fact. Of course buying a book online detracts from the possibility of finding other books and resources at a bookstore. The question I ask is, what is the problem? When most people go to a book store to get a book they are most likely looking for something specific anyway, so why intrude on the efforts of those that just want to save time and in today’s world, gas money. However, this is just my opinion. I am not an avid reader, however, if I did need a book I would most likely order it offline to save myself the hassle of having to go to a local bookstore such as Barns and Noble to try to find the particular book. Furthermore, I would argue that there are other disadvantages to this idea. What happens to when one goes to the book store, or rather any store in search of something and the item is either unavailable or not in stock? In which case the item would have to be ordered anyway to be picked up at a later date or one would have to venture to another store which would effectively waste more time and money.

As for the example of running on the treadmill v. walking outside, this couldn’t be more wrong. Human interaction does not happen. For example, here at the U when walking from class to class you are either a) with friends b) on the phone or c) listening to your iPod. Where is the interaction in that? Sure, there is human interaction but do you meet new people? I for one can say no to that question and I’m sure many others can also.

In my opinion I do not think that America is moving too fast, I feel that we are moving fast and ineffectively. I disagree with one of the last points you made in your statement, if we should all take a vacation for a couple weeks in order to slow down, how is that going to happen if we do not work, travel is expensive that’s a fact.

Molly,
I think you, as well as Solnit, uncovered the flaws of our American society and our impersonalizing world. As our world continues to develop, as you stated, the ordinary human interaction slips through our fingers. Being at the U of M, it is easy to go by completely unnoticed. An average student rolls out of bed, catches the bus, goes to class, and comes back without even saying a word or catching a glance. We are too restricted by time, or time-management in that case, to pay attention to our community or even our surroundings.
Not only is that a problem in our society, but the rapidly growing economy puts a dent in our wallets the size of the Grand Canyon. I was actually just discussing this with my friends late last week. What is going to happen to the generation in which our kids are in need of an education? Will we really be paying ungodly amounts of money just to get the bare minimum education of a master’s degree? It seems that the working world now accepts no less than a four-year college degree to make of $50,000 on the high-end.
Molly, I too worry about the rapid changes in our world and the need to simply mellow out and enjoy the small things. The luxuries of past decades have become our generation’s necessities. Hopefully, for the future of our society we can regress back to the more simple times before we actually hurt ourselves or our planet.

Molly,
I thought you made some really good points in your analysis of the article “Finding Time: The fast, the Bad, the Ugly, the Alternatives,? written by Rebecca Solnit. I could understand and relate to what you said about being a college student and not having time for the little things in life. I agree that by doing everything online with the simple click of a button we as people are missing some of the simple luxuries of life, such as seeing the leaves changing or getting some fresh air. But I do not think that this is entirely a bad thing. You stated that you don’t have time for yourself, and buying a book online is one way that you can free up some time for yourself. Instead of having to go all the way to the Bookstore to pay for the book, you can find what you are looking for and take about five minutes to order it. Doing this can free up some time for you to just breath. Not that going to the bookstore is that stressful, but it can be a pain in the butt to have to go all the way somewhere when it is not necessary. I agree with what you said about slowing down, but realistically I think it is one thing to say you are going to slow down, and another thing entirely to actually do it. For example, with our lives here at the U. Many of us are taking at least 15 credits and are involved in activities. Between our classes and sports and jobs and who knows what else, there is not that much time. Personally, almost all of my time during the week and a lot of the weekend it dedicated to school and activities. I could quit my activities and not take as many credits, but that makes my life interesting. It’s hard, but it makes it worth it. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to be fast paced, but maybe it’s just because I like living that way.

Molly,

I really enjoyed reading your position statement, the fact that American society is too fast is something that I have thought about before and have had some opinions about. I understand the points that you have made throughout your article, and the one that I have the strongest opinion about is how fast Americans jump at competing against one another.

Back home, I live near Green Lake, WI which is a popular vacation place for the upper class from Chicago. I have had a chance to cater and landscape at different homes around the lake, and watching how people interact with one another sometimes makes me wonder how people can be so impersonal to one another. Every home along the lake is a million or two million dollar home, with the pool, tennis court, game room, movie theater and stainless steel appliances. I would guess from the way the neighbors act around one another, they are in constant competition trying to out-do one another. They never have the chance to get to know each other and they appear that they don’t want to get to know one another; they just want to be better than the other. The people that have to have everything need to work day and night to pay for all. These people don’t even appear to be happy, they always want more and in order to get more they often have to work more and hurry more, missing the finer parts of life especially family life.

I am guilty of trying to have the best of everything and wanting more things than I really need. I like to look back at what my parents refer to as the “good old days.? Times change and I didn’t live in the sixties and seventies like my parents did, but nearly everyone seems to agree life was simpler back then. People were happy with what they had and were more entertained with getting together and socializing rather than working most of the time to buy more things than they need. I want to be happy with what I have, but the pressure from companies to purchase their products because without the product, you are not complete is hard to say no to. The article by Solnit brings up the point people with less cash are often richer in culture and their enjoyment of life. I agree with this one hundred percent. If people would just slow down, get back to getting to know they neighbors instead of out-doing them, and stop thinking they need everything, I think life could be like the “good old days.? I think the idea that we as Americans need the newest things and more of them, is the reason why life is so fast paced in this country. Things need to slow down, I think everyone should take a moment and reflect on where they are going, and see what they are missing in this fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world we live in today.

Andrew Otto
Response

Molly,
I really like reading about your opinion; it makes me feel good that someone else out there has the similar ideas as me. The world, the United States in particular, has become centered on technological advances at the same time abandoning our history and culture. I really like how you pointed out media as a large factor to this problem. They have imprinted our minds with the idea that we need all of these expensive things, and this continuous bombardment of high class citizens has narrowed our overall purpose in life to personal financial improvement. A few class periods ago when Jeff Ward asked a few students why they we were coming to college, I was brainstorming what my response might be in case I was called upon. I probably would have given him a generic answer about how I wasn’t done learning or something like that, when really; my purpose for going to college is to eventually become filthy rich as an adult (Not billionaire rich, but relatively well-off).
As much as I love this country, I admit that we need to mimic the culture of others. For example, Europeans have more vacation time than Americans. Rather that living to earn, they are earning to live. I was in Scotland a few years ago and the people over there didn’t really take things as seriously as we do here in the states. That’s not to say that that is good, but I believe that we need to lighten up in a few areas, no pun intended. We spend too much time inside staring at a computer or at a TV, when what we really should be doing is getting outside more often and becoming one with our community. It makes me kind of jealous of my parent’s generation; they never had to deal with many of stresses in life that our generation are, and will, face.