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Slow Down Culture

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stoplight.jpgThis is an article that someone forwarded to me in an email, and although (apparently) written by a non-Muslim, I thought that it was pretty relevant and important to all of us here. Basically, it deals with globalization and fast food culture and how it’s sucking out our appreciation for life.

This is in fact something we find in the Qur’an and Sunnah… I’d give examples, only I can’t actually think of any right now! :S So insha’Allah if you wonderful readers could post relevant ayaat/ahadeeth, that’d be awesome! :)

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An interesting reflection: Slow Down Culture

It’s been 18 years since I joined Volvo, a Swedish company. Working for them has proven to be an interesting experience. Any project here takes 2 years to be finalized, even if the idea is simple and brilliant. It’s a rule.

Globalize processes have caused in us (all over the world) a general sense of searching for immediate results. Therefore, we have come to posses a need to see immediate results. This contrasts greatly with the slow movements of the Swedish. They, on the other hand, debate, debate, debate, hold x quantity of meetings and work with a slowdown scheme. At the end, this always yields better results.

Said in other words:
1. Sweden is about the size of San Pablo , a state in Brazil .
2. Sweden has 2 million inhabitants.
3. Stockholm , has 500,000 people.
4. Volvo, Escania, Ericsson, Electrolux, Nokia are some of its renowned companies. Volvo supplies the NASA.

The first time I was in Sweden , one of my colleagues picked me up at the hotel every morning. It was September, bit cold and snowy. We would arrive early at the company and he would park far away from the entrance (2000 employees drive their car to work). The first day, I didn’t say anything, either the second or third. One morning I asked, “Do you have a fixed parking space? I’ve noticed we park far from the entrance even when there are no other cars in the lot.” To which he replied, “Since we’re here early we’ll have time to walk, and whoever gets in late will be late and need a place closer to the door. Don’t you think? Imagine my face.

Nowadays, there’s a movement in Europe name Slow Food. This movement establishes that people should eat and drink slowly, with enough time to taste their food, spend time with the family, friends, without rushing. Slow Food is against its counterpart: the spirit of Fast Food and what it stands for as a lifestyle. Slow Food is the basis for a bigger movement called Slow Europe, as mentioned by Business Week.

Basically, the movement questions the sense of “hurry” and “craziness” generated by globalization, fueled by the desire of “having in quantity” (life status) versus “having with quality”, “life quality” or the “quality of being”. French people, even though they work 35 hours per week, are more productive than Americans or British. Germans have established 28.8 hour workweeks and have seen their productivity been driven up by 20%. This slow attitude has brought forth the US ‘s attention, pupils of the fast and the “do it now!”.

This no-rush attitude doesn’t represent doing less or having a lower productivity. It means working and doing things with greater quality, productivity, perfection, with attention to detail and less stress. It means reestablishing family values, friends, free and leisure time. Taking the “now”, present and concrete, versus the “global”, undefined and anonymous. It means taking humans’ essential values, the simplicity of living.

It stands for a less coercive work environment, more happy, lighter and more productive where humans enjoy doing what they know best how to do. It’s time to stop and think on how companies need to develop serious quality with no-rush that will increase productivity and the quality of products and services, without losing the essence of spirit.

In the movie, Scent of a Woman, there’s a scene where Al Pacino asks a girl to dance and she replies, “I can’t, my boyfriend will be here any minute now”. To which Al responds, “A life is lived in an instant”. Then they dance to a tango.

Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious of living the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists. We all have equal time throughout the world. No one has more or less. The difference lies in how each one of us does with our time. We need to live each moment. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

Congratulations for reading till the end of this message. There are many who will have stopped in the middle so as not to waste time in this globalize world.

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Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Manas Shaikh

    April 8, 2007 at 1:32 AM

    That was amazing! I too remember some Hadith that says don’t hurry.

  2. abu_sa1f

    April 8, 2007 at 2:55 AM

    Good lesson to take from this article, well worth reading. The global culture now is to be fast and quick; it is as if attention to detail and trying to maximise quality is ignored — think of your local fast food joint, they can hand you oily fries, fatty fried chicken and a can of drink in minutes and you can probably eat it in less, you may have “saved time” but the way eating such food can contribute to damaging your health, could it then be understood that you’re actually “killing your time” thereby losing more of it? Doing thing’s fast is useful, but to have this as a trait in your culture alongside poor productivity and damage to other facets of life just shows the weakness of such a way of life!

  3. Affad Shaikh

    April 8, 2007 at 3:16 AM

    “Basically, the movement questions the sense of “hurry” and “craziness” generated by globalization, fueled by the desire of “having in quantity” (life status) versus “having with quality”, “life quality” or the “quality of being”.”

    I find the statement a bit obscure. The logic is that globalization has created this environment where things are ‘rushed’. I disagree with the logic of this.

    The idea of globalization, in modern times, with the shrinking of time- traveling from place to place- how we shared information- the radio, telegrams and telephones- and now how information is managed. Those nations leading these developments set the trends as well as imposed a “global culture”. America was well suited to spearhead this after WWII because of the socio-economic conditions. Before that this process was a mixed process of various nations, empires directing this trend.

    Unfortunatly, the strains of war left America in its own social upheaval, morality and life style changes drastically changed. Look at us, the way my parents lived and worked has literally changed during the course of their lives. Never before in history has techonological advancements had such a drastic impact.

    Unfortunaly, part of the issue here is that these changes are not managed well- as humans we are weak- and the results are what we have. Some might say that American Fast food culture led to this, but that was part of what America itself was going through- now a counter culture is developing to balance that out, ie. eating organic, eating free range, being more green, these are all trends gaining greater traction.

    The lifestyle changes were set in the early 1990’s and only now are there trends countering American lead globalization.

    Before, America and the West controlled the flow of information, specifically the news. In fact, India and Brazil leading the “non-aligned” nations during the Cold War called on the freeing up of media so that developing countries could truly be “free and democratic”. They understood that to be able to report on issues, they would be able to handle and manage the development of their nations better.

    As to the quality lifestyle issue. I think the best story, one we all have heard is the Harvard business grad telling the fisherman about how he can set an ideal lifestyle of just laying back. If you haven’t heard feel free to leave me a message and i can respond.

    This truly tells the story of how the developing world has maintained the essence of “quality life” unfortunatly, more and more of these societies are opting out and pursuing massive social changes in order to provide more by making more from the global trade.

    Granted this issue is something we can sit comfortably and debate about, but at the end of the day, these societies do not have running water, or are dealing with common illnesses, or have high child mortality rates etc. For them there is no debate, bettering the nation so that there is a larger piece of the pie is the call of the day. (lets not discuss corruption, cornyism etc. those are matters not being discussed here)

    What I am trying to get at is that to equate globalization as the root of a “rushed culture” is mistaken. There is the verse in the Quran that states “Verily we have divided you into nations and tribes, so that you may get to know each other” (something along that line) and globalization is leading us to do so.

    In Islamic history, globalization was a natural course of the Ummah’s development. For the first time people could go from Africa to South East Asia without fearing for their lives- Ibn Batuta is a great example. Even if we look at the current level of “Islamic Revival” from Russia to here in America, the access and availability to information on Islam is fueling the surge of curiosity that is developing.

    So if we are looking for a scapegoat on the lifestyle that exists, I think it is important to look at the lack of morality and family values that governs the economic interests of globalization, not the process it self. Companies such as the one you work for have effected this trend and they also have worked on changing trends- from affording maternity leave or purchasing fair trade coffee and living wages.

    It is critical as participants in the process to not just be consumer drones, but rather active and involved global citizens.

    Thanks for your insight, it was a wonderful reminder of the globalizing forces that exist today!

  4. Affad Shaikh

    April 8, 2007 at 3:19 AM

    Sorry I left out the point i was making with India and Brazil, but basically, now we have channels like Al-Jazeera or Geo TV in the Muslim world that are making the news rather then reprocessing Western News information.

    This shows that there is a realization that there needs to be greater localized control of globalization forces, and that globalization is a two way process not just a west to east or north to south.

  5. Abu Bakr

    April 8, 2007 at 3:39 AM

    If you want to understand the relationship between globalization and third world poverty, watch this documentary:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5399796928596929639&q=war+by+other+means&hl=en

  6. Ta marbutah

    April 8, 2007 at 9:51 AM

    A related Hadith: “Calmness and patient deliberation is from Allah and haste if from Satan” (Tirmidhi)

    This hadith refers to everyday activities and not acts of worship. A person is encouraged to conduct his daily activities with calmness and patience, as acting in haste often leads to spoiling one’s actions. However, when it comes to worship, a person is encouraged to hasten toward good i.e, embark upon good acts with determination and eagerness, and then complete them with calmness, concentration and devotion.

    -above hadith and short commentary taken from Provisions for the Seekers

  7. Amad

    April 8, 2007 at 1:02 PM

    And if you are a book worm, and want to get an entertaining, enjoyable and ‘the happening all around us’ flavor of globalization, read Thomas Friedman’s “The Lexus and the Olive Tree”…

    The passing of time ‘in a blink of the eye’, days that pass so quickly such that the weekend is upon us as if the week didn’t exist shouldn’t come as a surprise. Our Messenger (S) prophesied this sign of coming of the Day of Reckoning… ponder over this hadith… it is just as if the Prophet (S) was sitting amongst us, talking about today’s day and age:

    “The Hour will not come until time passes so quickly that a year will be like a month, a month like a week, a week like a day, a day like an hour, and an hour like the time it takes for a palm-leaf to burn.” [Sahih, Sahi Jami-us-Sagheer of Albani: 7422]

  8. Affad Shaikh

    April 8, 2007 at 3:47 PM

    Thanks for the book list and movie. I have read Lexus and can recommend a few more books off the top of my head that go into things a bit more in depth:

    Economics background: The Political Economy of International Relations

    Flow of East to West Knowledge: The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization

    And a cross section of topics: Globalization by Malcolm Waters

    Finally for a great documentary, better then the one listed above and more focused on the roll of financial institutions and the Washington Consensus watch: Commanding Heights: Battle for the Worlds Economy

    Again, my point was who controls the process. What we see today is a grassroots movement to reclaim the process and make it more meaningful. At the same time there is a usurpation of this movement by the very multi-nationals that created this mess, as well as a whole hearted acceptance of western culture at the expense of the societies own culture- Japan and the fast food culture, Pakistan and the health care fiasco, the list goes on- there needs to be more localized control of the process.

    Part of the whole globalization scenario is the Muslim revival taking shape across the world and in some Muslim countries themselves.

  9. Pingback: Slow Down Culture at Ijtema

  10. Shahzad

    April 9, 2007 at 12:30 PM

    Whether to live fast or slow depends on the situation. We are taught for instance, to be quick in doing good deeds. So if an opportunity arises to serve someone’s need, perform an act of tawbah, or to prohibit some sort of manifest evil, then we should be quick to act. One of the key factors that made Khalid bin Waleed an excellent commander was that he would move quickly from battle to battle so as not to give the enemy a chance to regroup.

    On the other hand, slowness and deliberation are prescribed when performing salat, reading the Quran, listening to someone, spending time with one’s family, etc.

    Unfortunately, Muslims become ineffective when we rush the things that shouldn’t be rushed and procrastinate or leave off the things that should be done quickly: at personal, family, community and global levels.

    I find the hadith, “Allah has perscribed ihsaan (excellence) in all things..” to be an inspiring source of this balance. The operating concept here is “Excellence”: In order for us to be “mohsin” (a pursuer of excellence) may require us to slow down for certain things or to speed up with other things.

    A second source of this balance is by studying and apply the Sunnah in our lives. For instance, try praying the duhaa prayer in the middle of a busy morning; it will slow you down and force you to reprioritize.

    And Allah knows best.

  11. In Pursuit of Justice

    April 9, 2007 at 3:22 PM

    I think you will find the post below interesting and pertinent to this discussion:

    http://muslamics.blogspot.com/2007/04/seven-quranic-habits-we-should-all.html

  12. Hafsa

    April 10, 2007 at 7:06 PM

    In this age of technology, when you are so “connected” all the time, it’s kinda hard.

    My manager recommend a similar book . It’s called In Praise of Slow

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