RSS Feed

A matter of time

Posted on

One of the great frustrations of Westerners who choose to visit or live in a developing country involves cultural differences in the way people use and measure their time.

Every activity in industrialised nations is scheduled around the clock.
It is precisely that regimented adherence to "time management", and the achievement of work targets, which has of course driven our progress from the Industrial Revolution until this day.

Our morning wake-up alarms are set.
We expect trains and buses to depart precisely on time.
It would be nice if our bosses pay us on the allocated day.

Much of the world however, does not operate with such concern for the passage of time.  It has a more laissez-faire approach which results in local phenomena such as manana, Pacific Islands time, or one with which I have a more intimate knowledge,
"Papua New Guinea time".

The newcomer in these communities has two options.

1.  Fight it.  Whinge, whine, and bitch about it. 
     Try to change it.  Tell the people and the world how inferior
     their civilisation is compared to your own.

2.  Go with the flow, even if only out of concern for your own
     blood pressure.

Option one implies that Westerners have some superior life skills, including time management, which need to be mimicked by all societies around the world. 

So who is "right"?

Many of the communities in "developing" nations have existed more or less with their current philosophies, ethical and social values for thousands of years.
Compare that to our own unstable and frenetic activities. 
We have seen an explosion of technology, and unprecedented destruction of our environment and family structures in the relatively short period of time since the Industrial Revolution.

Have we simply been rats on the treadmill of life who have lost the ability to get off, or at least slow it down a little to enjoy the view out of the gymnasium window?  

Well folks, the treadmill is now defunct. Ratshit. Cactussed. Kaput.
Too many of my friends were thrown off it by the sheer mass of big feet pounding it into overspeed.
Treadmill wizards are attempting to repair the whole kaboodle with string and sticky tape.
It requires a total re-design and reconstruction, to accommodate all members of the club simultaneously, and at a regulated speed.

And if the Pope and his ilk continue to uncontrollably shove new members in through the front door, then the whole freakin' clubhouse will implode and eventually collapse.
The treadmill will then cease to have any relevance whatsoever.

Perhaps it is time for us to pay some attention to the simple, wise and dignified human beings who live in the cultural slow lane, and learn some of their secrets about longevity of society.
For it was one of them who said;

"You Westerners have the watches.

We…………………….have the time."    

Read and post comments |
Send to a friend

About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

26 responses »

  1. Cactussed? Now, granted. Up until my trip to the Grand Canyon a few years ago, I'd never seen a cactus before but…what exactly???From contextual reference, it means f'd up (or thereabouts) but CACTUSSED? I love that. I'm going to start saying it to mess with the coworkers. Oh, and I like the point of your Vox post, too. I'm all about digression, unfortunately.

  2. Being a Grey Nomad fixed it for me. I haven't worn a watch since (though Liz has a fascination with clocks all around the house).A glance in the general direction of the sun is close enough up the bush.Of course this will all fly out the window if I end up 9 to 5'ing it again.

  3. MT – Yeah it's an Aussie thing. Most commonly I use it in the context of "that (object) is completely cactus." (meaning broken, f'ed up)
    GOF – love this entry. I read it Saturday night (US time) and I'd just finished reading Dr Seuss to P at work – I wrote a comment in Cat in the Hat lingo, and then lost the bugger to the internet gods. Now I can't remember it… however: when I was at USyd, I had a professor who had a whole shelf of books on running businesses such as factories without having regimented shifts for their employees. I always intended to go back and borrow a few, but I guess it's too far away now.
    It's so hard to get out of the time-clock loop. I've lived my life that way a few times in the past and I really liked it. However, now that I work a single-staff-member job, it's hard to run it without being regimented by the clock.
    I find it curious when people get really uptight about time when they don't need to – such as when my Love's ex calls us three times to update the time when she's dropping The Kid off. We don't care, we'll keep doing our own thing around the house, and when she gets here she'll just join in whatever we're doing at the time. No biggie.
    Then again my parents worked in the Solomons before I was born, and my best friend started life in Kenya and moved to Goroka for some of our teenage years, so I guess I was lucky to grow up around people who were more relaxed about things.

  4. It's grand. I'm stealing it!

  5. When I was in Ireland, people were surprised by my weather "forecasting" and time-telling — I watch the skies. I was surprised fishermen hadn't learned what my father taught me. Of course it's not 100%. ;pYou must get far enough away from people and do the same, wherever in the world you are! I'm in the Ozarks.

  6. It's surprising how well it works. I guess it helps when you don't have many clouds floating by.I don't know if it's just a Victorian thing but I know the term as Cactus maximus. I have no idea where it came from though.

  7. Well I guess the whole "cactussed" thing has been pretty much sorted out already.I like making a bit of a stand for retaining Australian language. I am happy to occasionally make some "Americanised" spelling corrections if they make more phonetic sense than the spelling we inherited from England, but we have some wonderful original words and phrases and I plan to introduce some here in the coming weeks.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experiences LOM. I think we are already seeing moves from some employers to increase flexibility of working hours. Working from home using computer links will probably hasten that trend.I would like to think that I am not so reliant on clocks, but in reality I get a great sense of achievement out of getting a job done on time or arriving at my destination precisely on time.Your best friend must have some very interesting stories to tell about Goroka. I knew it as a picturesque jewel of Australian administration in the highlands, before it deteriorated into anarchy and lawlessness after PNG independence.

  9. Doesn't work too well here Peter where we can go a month without even seeing the mountain 1 mile away, let alone the sun because of the fog and rain;-)I think I would feel lost without a watch on my wrist…..I remember the day in Castlemaine (I must have been about 9 or 10) when my parents bought me my first watch, and there has rarely been a day since when I have not worn one.And I do like the cactus maximus……origins probably from Julius Caesar?

  10. I also get a great sense of achievement getting a job done in a certain time frame. With tasks at home, though, I tend to measure them in songs, rather than by the clock. Yesterday I was procrastinating on buiding an outdoor sleeping box for my ferrets until I wondered if I could get it done in under twenty songs or not.
    I used to be a precisely-on-time person, but my Love has mellowed me out on that. We had an appointment together today, and in the past I would have been anxious, watching the clock like a hawk and trying to chivvy him along to being on time, and then noting exactly how late we were when we got there. Now, I did note what time I would have left to try and get there on time, but I didn't notice the time there until we had already been there at least five or ten minutes, and I didn't notice what time we went out the door. I call that progress.
    My friend has very white-blonde hair, and was very tall, even as a kid. That made her experiences in Goroka even more interesting. lol. She'd have been there in the mid-eighties. Anarchy seems to be a good way of describing it.

  11. I'd also have loved to have seen somewhere like Goroka before the anarchy.
    lol @ your comment to petermcc:
    "Et tu, Brute? Cactus Maximus!!!"

  12. You feel like sending some clouds our way?It's been wonderful weather for cycling and walking back home with a flat, but the river only looks good in a stark kind of way. We haven't had a fishing comp here for over 10 years now.

  13. Don't get me going on Am. vs. Brit. spelling! -too late I was taught British spelling by my mother (back when parents taught their children to read and write before kindergarten?). She was raised 20 miles south of Canada in the UP of Michigan.So, I retained that, as well as a heavily-Great Lakes-influenced accent, until a few years ago. I've worked at the same place for just shy of 14 years and plenty of coworkers will tell you how weird it was when I began "losing my accent" and gaining theirs.We are not amused. I liked My Accent, not Theirs!Anyhoo, at uni, I tried very hard to switch to Am. spelling because we'd get marks off for Brit. spelling and I was on academic scholarship (which paid about 2/3 of the way!) and A's were counted 94%-100% (that's what you get for going to private school, state schools have the more lenient 90-100=A). You can see why I tried so hard!At the end of four years, it was a total mish-mash. I couldn't remember half the time what I was writing! A few years ago, when I started doing nanowrimo, actually, I switched because everyone informed me that I "just had to" come over to Am. spelling — if I ever hoped to be published in the States, I'd have to convert. I tried — and then haven't really worked too hard at getting published.Now and then some Brit. spelling drops in but I've almost eradicated it. I miss it less than My Accent. ::sniffs and pets invisible accent::

  14. I call that progress:)

  15. We've had 80 inches of rain this year…well on our way to the 150 inch annual total.You could perhaps have a "Alice Springs" style regatta on your dry riverbed?Then again I should not make fun of serious drought. At least Brisbane's dam levels have risen above 50% for the first time in many years.

  16. Rhymes? Good enough a reason as any.

  17. Your blonde friend would really have been the centre of attention in PNG.Everyone wanting to touch an feel her hair.I have no problem with being punctual and precise. Probably remnants from pilot training. I used to annoy the hell out of Globet, teaching her to drive I would insist on the car speedo needle precisely bisecting the 60 kph dial marker as we passed the 60 sign approaching every town.And measuring time by songs….you wouldn't wanna have too many Hey Judes or American Pies in the lineup or your schedule would be right up the creek 😉

  18. Nah, see the American Pies are perfect for those times when you want the feeling of satisfaction of cleaning up that sh*thole of a kitchen in ONLY THREE SONGS!!! – but without at least a Hey Jude in the lineup, you don't have a prayer! 😛
    Besides, who needs American Pie? I have Weird Al's "The Saga Begins"!!!

  19. What a pity we can't hear the accent as well as your original writing style.Thank you for "getting going" of the issue of spelling.In Australian schools for many years teachers abandoned notions of correct spelling….anything was OK. I thought it was poetic justice when internet search engines required correct spelling before something could be found. Unfortunately I now note Mr Google now tends to find the correct spelling for any old piece of crap you type into it. I am disappointed ;-(

  20. Thanks LOM…this morning has been a whole lot of fun.Now my solar power has run out, and I have to do some work.You keep workin' on that kitchen 😉

  21. Over 50%. Wow.How does 8% grab you? And that is the biggest percentage. We are going to 100% bore water and I am thinking the quality is going to improve.Currently we have to boil water from the tap or let is sit open for a couple of days. The supermarket is selling plenty of water in 15 liter containers for drinking.

  22. Some writing is at the livejournal, linked in my Vox sidebar. It's crap. I could post some of the older stuff, too, to illustrate what crap it is. I don't think any of the fiction improved, sadly. Having only started in 05, perhaps that's normal.

  23. Hope you get some rain soon. With our constant over supply of water we, up here, unfortunately tend to take it for granted.I will be travelling to Vic next week so it will no doubt serve as a reminder that everywhere else is not lush and green.

  24. Thanks m-t, I will check it out.

  25. You better get down here soon. It's overcast and windy this morning and I'm sure I heard a raindrop hit the window 10 minutes ago.Bring it on.

  26. Park your car outside and wind the windows down.Guaranteed to work. Beats praying and rain dances every time.;-)


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 )

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: