Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Daylight saving time and its detractors

Dear Hannah,

Because daylight saving time is around the corner we can expect to hear that tired old joke from that useless old Indian:
‘Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.’
"Only a white man" is the phrase used not only because Indians didn't travel the world and discover the Chinese or the Africans or the Arabs or the people known as the Real Indians In The First Place (some of who really do use daylight saving time); but used as a preface to a statement found necessary because Indians had never invented clocks.  Morning was morning to the Indian because he didn't have a difference between 8 and 8:30; because he didn't own a business which opened or closed; and because he didn't sit around wondering like Benjamin Franklin, who invented daylight saving time as a joke, whether there was any way to most properly utilize the daylight.  Or a fire-stove.  Or the lightning.  Or apparently the wheel, which the Indians had never seen until they had witnessed anything as ridiculous or miraculous as a honky.

And this leads us to wonder what they had been thinking about for the four-thousand-plus years before meeting William Bradford.  The whole time they had apparently been dragging things around like children.  Asking what they were thinking is a white question in itself, and like many things that whites ask an exercise in futility.  What we know about the Indians is that we do not know much about origins of the Indians.  We know that they had many languages but not necessarily anything like writing; and that because many of them did not have any writing that many of them do not have much of a history -- aside from the ones written for them primarily by white historians; and most usually concerning the times after Indians began having contact with whites*.

Much has been said about the honest savage's not having a word for "lie" (whichever tribal language this involves; since it certainly does not involve all of them); but we know more of white atrocities and white selfishness and white treachery because white people were incapable of not putting them in our records.  The native's innocence is owed primarily to our ignorance, and his Golden Age is only golden because it's been forgotten.  Down south, somewhere beyond the United States where brilliant men had already discovered math and astronomy and calendars, it is said that some men invented hieroglyphics and others had a history which was kept in knots on their ropes; a kind of morse code intended to explain what exactly happened to their ancestry.  The pre-white history that we know of the northern tribes is largely conjecture, invented in the absence of records by silly white anthropologists guessing about the meaning of pot-shards, being paid because other men became extremely good at growing barley and spinning cotton and saving daylight**.

The Indians have invented many things alongside the rest of us, of course -- invented tortures and ridiculous fables about their origins (which going back to my earlier statement is a kind of a lie, whether or not they had a word for it) and ways of taking land from their neighbors and the thing we hate known as slavery.  We know that they invented languages and (apparently tuneless) songs and (debilitating) drugs of choice and (false) religions and (uncomfortable) types of clothing.  They had rulers and ruled, honor and shame, war for war's sake and expressions of gender.   Many believed the pursuit of agriculture was effeminate (as recounted by Alexis de Tocqueville), and (as the Boy Scout term "Indian Guide" originally intended) that boys should be raised by the men; which led them to be out-fed and out-trained and out-bred by the woman-raised pale-face.  They never rode on a wheel.  In four-thousand years nobody had ever become a botanist or a historian of value or an industrialist or written anything like Hamlet.  There was something brutal like Sparta, but nothing beautiful like Athens.  Few people invented anything approaching a castle.  Four thousand years and stretching back into infinite darkness they made nothing.  But that wise old Indian makes fun of us for daylight saving time.

In his defense there is a certain wisdom to letting others run themselves ragged inventing things and building things and ignoring their families for us.  Not with daylight saving time, but with time in general.  Maybe because a good chunk of me is Mestizo (and maybe a little too influenced by Christianity) I understand better than most the value in not being a drone.  But because I'm part white I understand the value in celebrating one.

If we choose to spend our lives in a little more leisure, talking about religion and politics and pretending to be wise and enjoying our families instead of seizing every minute in a frenzied pursuit of wealth, forgetting that our minutes eventually become seconds and the seconds eventually melt into nothing; if we do this and laugh at the man who's jealous for time and burns himself out and then wonders where his life went, we may certainly shake our heads and wonder what he's doing.  We may laugh at him for holding on too tightly to the one thing he's incapable of keeping, and praise pastors and movies for lampooning his materialism.  But if we are smart we never really suggest he ought not to be doing it.

The lifestyle may not be for some of us (especially those of us from California).  But it is in a sense for us.  Every advancement in industry, every boost to the economy, every invention of luxury is an improvement upon the lifestyle we have***; and the man who pinches pennies and shifts hours and runs himself ragged building a business is just as important as a mother or a soldier.  He builds so we can enjoy.  His labor means our leisure.  He owns a business so we can work eight and skate.  The wise old Indian thinks he's worth mocking because he arranges his time carefully.  We believe he's worth celebrating and defending with every ounce of our souls -- which is why we live in lands that used to belong to the Wise Old Indian.

Your father,
-J

**I have little patience for books like 1491, volumes written with a huge asterisk and a permanent maybe.  You can only find so much from pot shards and needle bones; and too many careers have been built around nothing more than conjecture.  1491 is the godless man's angels on pinheads.  We love to make fun of the old theologians; and then we make unjustifiable theorists rich. The difference is that instead of telling us about angels nobody ever saw, they told us elaborate stories about Indians whom nobody has ever heard speak.

**The Bronze Age Jew, on the other hand, despite the widespread understanding that his histories are questionable, has been honest enough to make his ancestors look as all of ours should -- which is to say he made them look horrible.  And despite even Paul's insistence that believers "not cling to Jewish fables," the Jewish fables shame the patriarchs, count the injustices of their race, and prove that even after all of this they are worth our keeping and reading.  No man was ever perfect.  No race was ever free of blemishes.  The Jews are great because they told us they were awful; and left a record of themselves so ugly, that we are forced to respect them the more for telling it.  They want to teach us a lesson.  We would be wise if we'd listen to it.

***If I've given you the impression that building something isn't enjoyable I apologize; especially since anyone of any sense knows that building something of your own is incredibly addictive.  The Stone Age Indians were not even wise enough for the Bronze Age Solomon.  Solomon absolutely complained that toil was meaningless, since everything we worked for would be left for another -- and probably for an idiot.  But he said that right before he said this:
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 
To enjoy your work is just like anything else, and must be taken in balance.  I have yet to decide whether a man obsessed with his work has been cursed or been blessed: and although nobody on his death bed has ever wished he spent more time in the office, we wonder whether the time he spent in the office could be entirely considered a waste.  A man who is occupied for his own benefit is at the very least occupied.  How many men have fallen apart because they couldn't figure out what to do?  How many of us have been ruined because we loved doing things other than building?

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