Slow is Beautiful
by Céline Semaan
“Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology toward the organic, the gentle, the elegant and beautiful.”
― E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
Every time our posts make their way to right wing media, the first thing white supremacist pundits attack about our work is the word “slow.” After which a series of violently ableist tweets follow, attempting to shame our organization using all of the pejorative and harmful words related to being slow, slowing down etc… When I first conceptualized the organization in 2008, even my peers would ask me “Why slow?,” insisting I reconsider using such a negative term associated with the body of work I was presenting. I even had a numerologist try to persuade me that the word “slow” had a low vibration according to their calculations.
However, slow is beautiful. Have you ever watched a regular scene shot on your phone in slow motion? Automatically, and almost biologically, it lifts tears to your eyes and shifts your perspective to how magical our world is. In fact, the capitalist, ableist, and patriarchal forms of oppression that we are demanded to perform under demonize the very notion of slowness. Not only is it deeply ableist, it is also deeply stigmatized in relation to immigrant bodies and the constant productivity that this system requires from its working class.
However, slowing down is a familiar concept some of us in the Global South were taught to embrace; slowing down and being are still, in fact, sacred in many cultures of the Global South.
Across our many different interpretations of the concept of slowness, there is this idea of contemplation that serves as a guiding principle. For someone who was deeply affected by the war, on a cellular level, I was a child who couldn’t bear sitting, contemplating, or being still. Later when we arrived as refugees in Montreal, I was diagnosed with hyperactivity, ADHD and PTSD by white teachers who loathed me. Of course my mother would dismiss all of these “western” labels, and convince us all that it was alright— that I’ll learn to slow down. Slow Factory has been a way for me to personally channel my trauma into action through a way that not only helps heal myself—but could help heal the rest of the world.
The way Western values imposed themselves on the Global South through occupation, bombing, and chaos practically erased the luxury of stillness and slowing down. By being anchored in the values of trust and interconnectedness with Nature, we could have a heart rate that matches the ebb and flow of Nature while also creating a world that isn’t in a rush to die.
What is more radical today than a slow movement demanding we not only slow down and abolish oppression, pollution, exploitation, and white supremacy, but that we also slow down and contemplate on a collective level, on a spiritual level?
In the book “A Third University is Possible”by la paperson, the author talks about syborg identity, a queer version of cyborgs, that it is empowered to act as a virus within the system of white supremacy. The idea of becoming a “decolonizing machine” aligns well with the notion of slowing down. In a way, Slow Factory and the slow movement is precisely that: A decolonizing machine.
Céline Semaan is a Lebanese-Canadian researcher, designer, public speaker, and entrepreneur. She is the co-founder and executive director of Slow Factory, an institute and lab that transforms socially and environmentally harmful systems by designing models that are good for the Earth and good for people. She currently sits on Progressive International’s Council alongside Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy and has published in Elle, the New York Magazine and Teen Vogue. Her inter-disciplinary work at the intersection of fashion, climate, and politics has been covered by numerous news and fashion outlets.