The precise measurement of time, combined with technology and capitalism, is a powerful force in controlling our lives.
Ancient kings, chiefs, and shamans realized the power of time. The calendars of past civilizations were more than simple charts. They represented the power control people and nature.
For example, a 25 ton Aztec stone calendar in the Anthropological museum in Mexico City symbolizes the ancient power and control of technology. Those masters of technology had the ability to seemingly control natural events and he rhythm of life – – when to plant crops, when to appease the gods, when to go to war.
Mastery of the modern clock confers power to control the pulse of daily living. “It is the clock and not the steam engine that is the key machine on the Modern Age,” says social critic Lewis Mumford.
The shamans of modern technology and time have revved up the pace of modern life to the max. The increase in speed has us in a rush to nowhere. We are expected to multitask like computers, to juggle a number of balls in the air -family, work, relationships, community.
The Titanic has become a metaphor for the folly of speed, says Richard Swift in his article for New Internationalist magazine.
The race to set new records and impossible schedules drove the ship’s captain to plough the new ship full-throttle into a icefield. His preoccupation with speed cost 1,500 lives on that fateful night in 1912. Since then, the toll on lives from the frenzied pace of modern culture has only increased.
The use of stimulants is increasing to keep us more alert with less sleep. The U.S. air force routinely gives pilots amphetamines to keep them alert for hours at a time. The U.S. pilot who ordered the bombing of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan made the questionable decision while on speed.
Some soft drinks, like Jolt, have increased caffeine and sugar. Diet drugs have used amphetamines to rev up metabolism in order to burn off the calories produced by too much sugar consumption.
Speed is part of daily life. We are evaluated to make sure we are “up to speed.” The masters of time have invented different categories of time, such as “quality time” that we spend with loved ones in which we are supposed to give full attention to one thing only.
Capital has sped up, too. The faster that money can be turned over, the faster a profit can be realized. Day traders sit at their computers all day waiting for the value of stock to increase by pennies, at which time they will sell. It’s like a giant, global Las Vegas.
Day trading, which accounts for 25 per cent of all trading, is not based on any real value in stocks. Decisions are based on a herd mentality that magnifies minor fluctuations. That group-think led to the greatest loss in NASDAQ’s history – – 13 per cent of its value in just 3 hours.
Karl Marx admired capitalism more than he should have when he called it “the most revolutionary” of social systems. Industrial production has increased through “just in time” inventory control. Workers are simply cogs in the grinding wheel of industry.
In a free trade zone of Southern China, young women workers live on one floor, production takes place on the second, and inventory is stored on the third. For “security purposes,” women workers are locked in, resulting in deaths from factory fires.
It used to be that time was a measure of natural events -rotations of the earth, the time it takes to cook rice, a woman’s menstrual cycle. Industrial society has pulled time out of nature and colonized new worlds.
Time measurement transformed Europe from a marginal outpost of a Mediterranean power into global colonizers. The imposition of industrial time on backward colonies was a source of pride.
Work-shirking natives could be dismissed as slothful and incapable of wise use of time. Local methods of telling time were swept away in favour of standard time for which Europe was the reference place. “Indian time” is used as a dismissal of a natural rhythm of life.
When time is removed from natural cycles and events, contemplation and critical thought can be dismissed as a waste of time. And a questioning public is the enemy of turbo capitalism.