Prague Astronomical Clock, Prague, Czech Republic, 2009
An interesting post popped up on one of my favorite websites — Atlas Obscura — about time, clocks, and time zones. The post is ostensibly about submariners (I’ve taught quite a few, both post and pre-duty assignment), but it’s really about controlling people with external concepts of time — to the point of violating their inherent circadian mechanisms.
A couple of points made earlier in this blog — the Tribal/Magical v-Meme doesn’t care much about short timekeeping. In the piece, they note a transplant from an Amazonian tribe to New York City had basically an impossible time matching schedules with the non-profit who was sponsoring him. He had been used to the concept of time keyed to the natural world — such as having everyone meet at sunset. Here’s the pull quote:
But even more confusing than passing through multiple time zones in a matter of hours is moving for an extended period of time to a culture that tracks time differently. Nilson Tuwe Huni Kuin (Tuwe) grew up in the Amazon as the son of the chief of the Kaxinawá people. In 2013, he moved to New York City to study English and filmmaking. Ryan Paixao volunteered translation services to Tuwe during this time, and remembers the confusion caused by the differences in how time was kept.
Peoples like the Kaxinawá don’t tend to use exact timekeeping, and will meet up at a general time, like sunset. On one of Tuwe’s first days, “I was meeting him, and after a while the people from the non profit were panicking,” says Paixao, who was there when the group finally reached Tuwe by phone. “He was like, ‘I’m getting on the train now, that’s the big deal?’ He thought they were all ridiculous…to track time to such a precise minute.”
One of the things that is interesting to note is how the obvious disconnect might contribute to social friction — and through that, v-Meme conflict. How do you feel when some one is late? What does late mean? How do you feel when someone is late to a meeting you didn’t set the time for? It’s not hard to generate time conflicts — here are a couple:
- A person is late for a meeting the boss declared the time for. That person said “I didn’t have a reason for being at the meeting on time because I didn’t have anything to learn or contribute.” How do you feel? (Either the person is egocentric (Authoritarian v-Meme) or Performance-based (had another job to do.)
- Boss sets the meeting at 7:00 AM in the morning, before buses start running to your school. How do people feel? (Survival v-Meme — can’t get to school, Performance v-Meme — plan ahead to account for lost bus service, Communitarian v-Meme, different members of the community live in different places, with varying levels of bus service.)
- The meeting must be held at 1:00 AM in the morning because the client is in China.
How we process these events are clear bellwethers of our own sense of time, and the v-Meme level we adopt for the event. The attitude on the 2:00 AM meeting may range from “Show up for Communitarian v-Meme Support” to “we need this contract to survive.”
If you’re a ‘never show up for a meeting late’ kind of person, what does that say about you? Answers can, and will vary– and if anything, show how we move up and down the Spiral dependent on situation and our feelings.
One final point — in the article, one of the points made is how the Navajo and Hopi, all gathered in the Four Corners area, all use different time zones on their reservations. Essentially, they use time zones as a way of delineating In-Group/Out-Group dynamics. With that, we can see that one can use time not just across v-Memes, but intra-v-Memes as well to discriminate status, power and control. It’s certainly not about synchronization and performance.