Slow brewed for the connoisseur

by Rob Horning

21 November 2005


I am always quick to condemn convenience as a value, so I am especially prone to its corollary, the reactionary celebration of the slow and the inaccessible things in our culture as inherently worthy. This was crystalized for me at the Indian restaurant where I had lunch—not only was I supposed to enjoy my Masoor Dal from the buffet because it had been “carefully slow-cooked over an open flame” (probably for several days, as it lingered on the buffet table) but a tablecard instructed me to order an Elephant beer because it is “slow brewed for the connoisseur.”  Slowness implies a kid of dedicated concentration that is enviable, in short supply in our hyperaccelerated, adult-ADD society. As we become less able to focus, we prefer that what we consume somehow contains focus, concentration within itself, in reified form.

Since convenience and expediency have become core mainstream values, it’s inevitable that the slow and the difficult will become signifiers for an elite class and their patience and enlarged understanding. Of course, the elite have more time and money to spend to access and process difficult works, to linger over non-essential matters—Bourdieu calls this culural capital and links it to the habitus that separates old money from new. But it trickles down, so that anyone seeking class distinction can appeal to their appreciation for turgid, baffling instances of pop culture: for example Gus Van Sant’s Gerry (or any of his recent films). It means rejecting the facile Franz Ferdinand for something like Lightning Bolt. Or this pursuit of slowness as a class marker can manifest as a preference for antiquated modes of communication—a rejection of cell phones and email. Technology breeds a never-ending series of privileged anachronisms.

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