by Roark Mitzell.
I find a certain reckless spirit inside our modern economy in which it seems everyone wants to throw off legitimate restraints and gratify disordered passions – and do so quickly. I am not alone in my assessment. In his book, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here and Where We Need to Go, author John Horvat coins the term “frenetic intemperance” to describe this restless, explosive, and relentless drive that so often manifests itself in the marketplace.
This term, frenetic intemperance, really hits the mark. I think one of its main components is surely our speed fetish.
A fetish can be defined as “an activity or object becoming a fixation to a person who devotes a compulsive amount of time or thought to it.” I suggest here, that modern society, and particularly the post-seventies, post-modern generations have succumbed to an addiction to “speed,” which is simply the act of moving rapidly. Oddly, the word “speed”comes from an Old English word, “spaed,” which meant “wealth, power, success,” akin to “spowan,” which denoted “to prosper or to succeed.”
Somehow, the Old English concept of success has carried through to our present definition of rapid movement. And therein, lies a part of our present dilemma.
This fetish for speed is not always successful. A number of weeks ago, I ran across the tail end of a news show which had reached the human interest final feature. In that segment, a very knowledgeable grocery shopper offered a system for the best way to navigate the aisles in a speedy fashion and more, had an equation to discover which checkout line would move the fastest. Beyond the problem of the complexity of the equation, it took five minutes to calculate each line. That meant that if you were in a store with eight busy check-out lines, it would take forty minutes to compute the fastest line.
This struck me as a great example of how we are encouraged to approach life with the prospective of spending a lot of time to save time even when it fails to deliver. We are especially programmed to accept this mentality, implicitly and explicitly by advertising.
In view of that, I began to pay attention to commercials – everything is turned toward speed.
That night I saw a commercial for a car whose greatest feature was that it could go faster than a cheetah. Forget gas mileage, safety, or cost. This car could GO! Then there was the kitchen floor mop that could do your floor in half the time, so you could go out on your front porch, drink tea, and visit with imaginary neighbors (whose names you probably don’t even know).
Of course, the fitness expert popped up as well, telling you he could have you looking amazing in 90 days. And what about those high energy drinks that could allow you to make the best use of your time by helping you stay super-charged, longer?
Intrigued by the commercials, I began to pay more attention to signs in the street and storefronts, ads in magazines, and everywhere else. In no time at all, I became convinced and found compelling evidence that we have a speed fetish in our culture. As mentioned before, a fetish is an imbalance. It is anything which you place more importance upon than it is intrinsically worth. This regard can turn to adoration, finally worship, and ultimately a fixation which overturns reason or logic and dominates life in an extraordinary and unnatural way.
With this dominance in mind, here is what I began to notice. We, of course, enjoy “fast food,” which was once “fast” and inexpensive. Gone are the days. And we have “Quickie” Marts, “Quick” Six beer distributors, and drive-thru’s (to save time). We must not forget the “One Stop” shopping stores which you can dash into after using a “fast cash” machine. For particular problems, or needs, we can always resort to “Turbo Rapid-Refund,” use “Sir Speedy” copying, “Fast Signs,” take your pet to the “Galloping” groomer, get things signed and sealed by “Speedy” notary publics, and call on “Speedy” rooter for clogs.
For conveniences at home, there is “rapid” shave for the men in the a.m., with a breakfast of instant oatmeal. Later, as meals go, you can save time with “minute” rice, instant mashed potatoes and steaks, and add a cup of instant coffee. For communication, speed dial is essential, with the fastest hook-ups to the Net, and you can squeeze in a bit more computer time if you buy a lose-weight-fast program, take some pills to quickly burn-off fat, or better still, take a real short cut, and get your stomach stapled.
The result is we have created and compartmentalized time for work and play, and have filled out civilization with labor-saving and time-saving devices, yet one of our biggest complaints is: “I don’t have enough time!”
Truth be told, our insatiable drive to save time has become a speed fetish that finally feeds upon itself; a kind of drive to move, manipulate and micromanage the various components and compartments of our lives, from friends and family, to work and play, to production and consumption, at any ever-increasing velocity.
If frenetic intemperance represents a drive to throw off all economic restraints, then it must surely share a symbiotic relationship with our speed fetish. This drive proclaims that happiness is found in gratifying desires through goods or achieving monetary financial success and all of this must be done quickly if we are to have true happiness.
However, the “happiness” of instantaneous, perhaps impetuous purchases or monetary success is an illusion. These relationships are neither profitable nor organic, and will end up in a spiral of greed, emotional impetuosity, and eventually, a tipping point which I believe will lead to a socio-economic crash of biblical proportions.
The answer lies in a vision described in Return to Order, which proposes a return to those principles that gave rise to a society that fosters humanity and artistry as well as production and profit. Working within a moral value system, we need to return to an economy that balances the needs of producer and patron. It is a refreshing vision of an organic Christian society that offers a balanced economy with a reasoned, measured cadence which is neither an elusive pipedream nor a paradisal utopia. It is society as it is meant to be — without the speed fetish.