airiefairie (airiefairie) wrote in talk_politics,


Downshifting literally means switching to a lower gear in life. It is a curious social movement that promotes a new, or should I call it, old lifestyle, and in a way is a utopian escape from the realities of modern urbanised life. People who "downshift" are often ones who have been very successful, who have made building a career the purpose of their life, and who have very little time for having a personal life. Then suddenly something dramatic happens in their life, a major shift in their thinking, possibly some cataclysm which makes them make a complete 180'. The idea underpinning downshifting is that if people could remove their focus from all the useless stuff that they buy just because they can, and if they reject blatant materialism and mindless consumerism, even from a purely pragmatic standpoint they would be having much less expenses, and would therefore need to work less. Only then would they be truly free to do the things they have always dreamed of doing. So the motto of downshifting is "Being, rather than having".

Downshifting was born as a reaction to the post-modern society which is trying to convince us that those who make the most money, who drive the shiniest cars, who live in the most modern homes, are the truly successful people. With time, our society has put social status and career-making on a pedestal, and turned it into god.

But, the downshifters ask, what is the point of having state of the art furniture at your home, insanely expensive paintings, and the latest scream of technology, when you can barely spend a few spare hours in that home, you have no chance of enjoying all that, but instead you just get there to have dinner and sleep, and then go back to work early the next morning? Isn't it sad when the only time you can see your children is when they are already asleep, and in order to silence your guilty conscience, you would rather buy them expensive clothes and fancy gadgets, as if all that stuff could substitute the time you could have spent with them yourself? Isn't it stupid to have all the money that could buy any vacation in any place around the world, but not to have the time to actually go there? Is it worth it to work every evening until 10 p.m. and return home crushed with work, without having the time and desire for anything, just to give most of that money for food and transport to the workplace, and maybe a few gadgets we would easily do without anyway?

Those are the questions posed by downshifters, and to a great extent they make sense. Unless you have no other option but to work hard to make ends meet, of course. Meanwhile, the advocates of this lifestyle are using the main argument in its favour: the rapid decrease of stress as a direct consequence from downshifting, or at least "living slowly" (which is another similar lifestyle movement). When you do not work until late evening, when you regularly have full rest on the weekends and when you have enough time tp spend on your favourite occupations, you would certainly feel less exposed to stress. This instantly reflects on your health. Additionally, when we are not under pressure, when we cut down on the alcohol and smoking, that too has a positive effect. The more time for sport, going out in nature and good food shared in good company (and eating slowly), the better for our body and health, and for our life overall. Surely it is not always possible to afford that, but when it is present as an option, and we choose the reversed instead, then there is a problem. Downshifters criticise modern society mainly for turning constant growth and expansion into a purpose rather than a means, and they propose a more sustainable lifestyle instead.

Sometimes people decide to slow the work tempo and break this day-to-day routine only after life has already pressed them tightly against the wall, either through a heavy disease or some other serious problem. The truth is that we shouldn't be waiting for that to happen, and instead, even if we do not exactly embrace the downshifting lifestyle like some people have done in the most extreme cases, we should still gradually learn to live more adequately, and to find ways to get more time which we could dedicate to ourselves and the people around us. Otherwise, life would have passed without a trace, and without us having enjoyed it.
Tags: society, utopia
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