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An American [mis]understanding

Samuel Arabia


Growth is exciting and powerful but according to natural laws is inextricably linked with death and decay. They are two sides of the same coin. American growth-oriented policies (economic and physical) have long been predicated on the exploitation of resources, and hubris of man. The component of natural life these ideologies always choose to neglect is death - it’s the mortal antithesis to the seemingly untouchable glory of material accumulation. We learn at a young age that things don’t live forever, but as we grow we’re inundated with ideas of immortality and infinite growth throughout material culture - we forget the greater rhythm of life we’re a part of. By removing the element of decay from our conversations - specifically in business contexts - we deny (or are denied) the lessons of death from permeating in our daily lives, and our habits of decision making.
From the dawn of christian theology to the colonization of the US, to westward expansion, men have been acting on dangerous assumptions of infinite growth. Yet, despite the loudness of this ideology there are alternative priorities that embrace both sides of the coin, the necessity of both growth and decay to sustain.


This process was centered around deep literature review & analysis. The texts revealed disturbing truths about the language and intent of american economics across its entirety. The biggest obstacle was trying to find the actionable lessons in this research - the ideas in decay that are exciting and enriching and supportive - not just stories of success through misunderstanding.


Historically and globally there are numerous ways to understand growthxdecay outside of a neoliberal capitalist context. From our previous tenants on this land - early american builders who used defunct buildings as brick quarries for new homes, or the caretakers before them who understood the crucial role of decomposition in the agricultural landscape - to the lessons of traditional chinese gardening - wherein the changing of seasons is highlighted for it’s mirroring of human cycles from birth to death, and spring to winter - or in the culture around death itself - as in the case of the Oven Crypts of New Orleans that are physically built to embrace decay as a temporary, community function - and possibly greatest of them all, especially in the late stages of capitalism as we grapple with how to make new life from old ideas, the fungi - who digests the decaying matter on our planet en mass without complaint - there are lessons to learn still. See more in the gallery of alternatives on my capstone website:

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