The Pro-Peace Case to Stop Changing Our Clocks

The first reason I’d like the United States to drop the whole ordeal of changing clocks twice a year is that it causes endless confusion and missed meetings for groups, organizations, and events that are not contained within the little 4% of humanity that lives in the United States. To make cross-border zoom meetings work, you have to either get people in the United States to learn what Coordinated Universal Time is, or make 96% of the world change their meeting times because the United States changed its clocks (or just expect them all to know to do that).

It’s similar, I guess, to wanting the United States to adopt the metric system, ratify human rights treaties, ban guns, or provide healthcare or college. There’s a great big world out there on the dance floor. Sitting over in the corner smoking and acting superior isn’t the best way to participate.

Of course there are other parts of the world that change clocks too, and they do it at different times, which just makes it worse. They should stop it as well. Most of the world doesn’t do it, and in much of the world it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of sense, because the sky is just not dark for enough hours or with enough seasonal variation. So, universalizing clock-switching is not a solution.

Just as time was being standardized, Europe invented the world war, and with it seasonal clock switching, as a means to maximize work hours devoted to industrialized slaughter. As with military spending, base building, weapons production, taxation, and so many other delightful things, clock switching faded after the first world war and came back with a vengeance for the second one – -and then stuck around. In fact, during the second world war, what was called war time (Eastern War Time, Central War Time, etc.) was actually made into a year-round one-hour switch to what we now call Daylight Savings Time.

As the troops never came home from Germany or Japan, the military spending never went away, and the taxation of working people never ceased, we’ve also never quite shaken off “war time.” It’s now eternally war time in the contemporary sense of the U.S. military always being at war in various countries. But war time, in the sense of daylight savings time, is switched on and off every year on two delightful weekends of looming confusion, disrupted sleep, grumpy children, exacerbated illness, and annoying misunderstandings.

Like presidential candidates who came to dinner and didn’t leave for what seems like centuries, like disastrous ideas arisen from the panic of war that become hard to shake off (nuclear weapons, the humvee, Henry Kissinger), we’re burdened with this clock-switching routine, even though it’s perfectly optional.

There seems to be some general belief that keeping the clocks always one-hour forward will save electricity use. But that also seems in conflict with the idea that more daylight will allow corporations to squeeze yet more productivity out of people who’ve already become many times more productive than they were when clock-switching started. There are also concerns that it endangers kids to send them to bus stops in the dark in the winter. I think the ideal compromise is probably to keep the clocks always that one hour ahead, tell the rest of the world they can count on it, move the start of school and work two hours later in the day, and tell the corporate investors to go find their increased productivity in transitioning to peaceful industries.

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