Scanning Retrospective, No. 15

Foresight Snippets – No. 15

[Originally published] August 2001

  • Feeling Poorly? It Could Be Affluenza
  • Tired of Fast Life? Try “Slow Food”
  • The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Children — Truax vs The Lorax
  • The Ghost in the Machine

Feeling Poorly? It Could Be Affluenza

There is a plethora of TV shows which celebrate greed and the relentless pursuit of material gain at the expense of everything, including integrity, dignity and personal relationships. Survivor and its sequel brought into sharp relief (and to a global audience) this ethos of “smile while you stab ’em in the back in order to win.” Similarly, Big Brother and (shudder) The Weakest Link also appear to be celebrations of greed and the single-minded pursuit of money at any cost. These game shows are simply surface indicators of a deeper obsession with getting (and subsequently spending) more, which has been called “affluenza” — a combination of “affluence” and “influenza.” This “mental virus” is an example of a meme, such as we reported in Snippets No. 11 (30 April 2001). Affluenza has been defined in various ways — such as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more” — but when you boil it all down, it is essentially an unsustainable addiction to economic growth. It doesn’t appear to matter how much or how little the person actually possesses — it is a burning desire for more. The Voluntary Simplicity Movement is a reaction against this relentless and unquenchable thirst. There has even been a TV show called “Affluenza” which showed how people have escaped its clutches to achieve a more balanced life.

Sources: The Word Spy
Affluenza TV Show web site
Voluntary Simplicity resources at

Tired of Fast Life? Try “Slow Food”

Something else which is generating associated counter-trends and dissenting voices — an effect we described in Snippets No. 8 (15 March 2001) — is what has been called “Fast Life”. The Fast Life meme is the belief that we must do things ever faster and faster; travelling, working and even eating. In reaction to it, the “Slow Food” Movement was formed in Italy, and takes as its symbol a little snail. The Slow Food Manifesto states: “We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods. A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life. Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food. Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food. In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.”

Source: Slow Food Website

The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Children — Truax vs The Lorax

We are all accustomed to being assailed by marketing and advertising designed to portray a company or product in a positive light. In the USA, this practice is now extending more strongly into primary schools, with material actually funded by industry groups being portrayed as neutral educational material, complete with lesson plans and student worksheets. The popular and famous Dr. Seuss book The Lorax spoke of the consequences of unrestrained exploitation of natural resources, in that case, forests. In response, the (American) National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association and the Hardwood Forest Foundation have funded the production of a children’s book, called Truax, designed to counter the negative portrayal of loggers in The Lorax. The book tells the story of an eco-friendly woodchopper named Truax (i.e. “True Axe”) who defuses the anti-logging tantrums of the green creature Guardbark, “the keeper of trees”, portrayed as a psychotic tree-hugger. The mild-mannered and reasonable Truax eventually helps the misguided Guardbark to see how unfair his view of loggers is and that they both ultimately “want the same thing.” Needless to say, environmentalists and teachers are somewhat taken aback by this tactic. It presages a time in the nearer-term future when it will be of primary importance to discern the true underlying interests of the producer of any material designed for educational purposes.

Sources: National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association web site
Article by the late Donella Meadows, founder of the Sustainability Institute
The Utne Reader Online

The Ghost in the Machine

You might have noticed some spelling errors in the email version of the Snippets over the past several months (they are not present in the web version); namely, incorrect double-letters appearing instead of the correct single letter. My records indicate that these have been introduced after being sent to the Official Mail email list, and are not actually present in the original files (of which I maintain copies). Comparison of the original files with the versions received through Official Mail show anywhere from 1 to 3 such instances in most of the Snippets emails! Information Technology Services have been informed of this and are attempting to track down the cause, but it has now become an “X File.” This is an interesting situation because one would have assumed it was the author of the email who produced the errors, not the technology transmitting it! Such is our unquestioning belief in the workings of our technology…

Foresight Snippets are interesting, intriguing or weird things we find during our strategic scanning which may or may not have direct obvious relevance to Swinburne, but which do provide signals about what the future might be like. Brought to you by the Foresight & Planning Unit.

An archive of the Foresight Snippets and a list of Frequently Asked Questions are available at [deleted].

Copyright © 2001 FPU and Swinburne University of Technology.
Feedback is welcome. Send feedback to [deleted].

NOTE: In all the posts in this series, the original source URLs are left exactly as they were when published 20-odd years ago. This means they will almost certainly be dead links (or good ol’ 404 errors). I do not have the patience or inclination to follow-up or find any archived or re-located versions of those web pages (because, well, life is too short). But, if it really bugs you, I invite you to see if you can find archived or relocated versions of those dead-link pages. And if you do, let me know, and I’ll update these posts with due credit to your detective work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: