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  • The Big Ben clock is seen during sunrise in London March 30, 2015.

    The Big Ben clock is seen during sunrise in London March 30, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 March 2015
Movements could fight for a shorter workday and work week as a valuable aim not only for attaining the pleasures of more leisure...

I am not talking cosmically, biologically, or philosophically. I am talking time to do things.

Ask anyone to do something new. Make it something  worthy and valuable. Ask if they would like to help make it a reality. Odds are way over 90% they will say I would love to help, of course, but I just don't have time.

Join an action. Read a book to learn together and become good at teaching others. Help create a new organization. Help plan a new demonstration. Even help review something or say what you think of such and such an event. Time gets in the way.

Someone says "I have no time." It may be a way to deliver a gentle excuse rather than saying get lost, I think your suggestion is idiotic. Someone else says "I have no time." It may mask laziness, cynicism, or whatever is their real reason for not relating.

These situations happen quite a lot and it would be good to have sincere, effective ways to overcome the obfuscation and arrive at real communication. But there is another "I have not time" meaning even more important.

The person who says it is really saying, I would like to do x or y, but, can't. No time, no time.

I am working on setting up an online ZSchool. It entails suggesting that folks enroll in courses partly for direct benefit and partly to get the project up and running for future benefits. About 500 people - out of all those hearing about the project - have created an account, providing an email that I can write to. Perhaps a quarter of those folks have enrolled in one or more courses. The rest have looked at offerings but not enrolled. So I decided to ask those who hadn't enrolled, why they hadn't and I got a whole lot of replies.

Some had very particular personal comments - I am ill, I will be away from the internet, I have just retired, I have had bad experiences with school, I teach and don't want to relate to classes in off time. Some, though surprisingly few, mentioned finances. I thought this would be more people and I suspect it was a much larger factor among those who didn't sign in at all, and who I therefore could not ask their reasons. One dimension would be not being able to pay. Another would be simply thinking it is wrong to pay and wrong to seek payment. I will return to that concern in a follow-up essay.

Among those who did reply, however, there was one reason highlighted in literally every single case.

Over and over people wrote: I looked, I loved the idea. I was attracted to quite a few of the courses and I hope it works. I wanted to participate. I simply could not set aside any time for it. I just have no time.

Why is this answer so important?

Suppose we are trying to change the world and putting out appeals for various projects, tasks, undertakings, and so on, as I hope we all are, at least in some degree. WE are highly focused on making our explanation compelling, moving, valid, and being sure the projects, tasks, and undertakings are worth doing. But suppose that in instance after instance people reply that they want to participate but can't because they have this sneeze that keeps popping up whenever they try to do anything - or I because such and such a law precludes their doing so, or whatever the reason might be. Replies reveal that one obstacle is so ubiquitous and powerful that it is interfering with chances of successfully changing the world. If we are serious about changing the world, we have to address the obstacle and find a solution that overcomes it, don't we?

How about addressing time?

I am saying the squeeze on people's time or at the very least on their perceptions of their time, or both, is a giant obstacle preventing broad and enthusiastic participation in literally anything that transcends people doing anything outside their basic daily life functions. And changing the world for the better is certainly outside those functions.

What can we do?

First, when there is a project, movement, or event that needs participation, those planning it can try to build into it circumstances that free up for people as much time as they need to have if they are to join in. This is what some kinds of day care and car pooling do. Maybe we can figure out other benefits movements can provide those who participate which will free their participants from other responsibilities or functions.

Second, maybe some people handle time less well than others. Maybe there are ways they could do things faster that people could learn that would give them more time for other pursuits. Perhaps movements should teach such skills.

And finally, third, movements could fight for a shorter workday and work week as a valuable aim not only for the attaining the pleasures of more leisure, but from a slightly different direction than is usually discussed - gaining time.

If people have no free time to allot, the best plans,  intentions, and possibilities will atrophy. A plan without people to participate is empty.

Win more free time to win more freedom.


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