Oscar Wilde once remarked that ‘punctuality is the thief of time’.
In his day the growing prevalence of commercial accounting, factory labour, bureaucratic routine and detailed transport schedules signified the absolute authority of clock time. As punctuality became a way of life the now-ness of aesthetic appreciation and human spontaneity were stolen away.
`Great performance but I have to go`,`What time is it again?` Must check my diary`.
Amidst Covid- 19 lockdowns and computer screen-worlds Oscar`s complaint can be rephrased – `Pandemics reshape time and punctuality alike.`
Last Saturday, wandering through level 4 Mt Eden, bird noises and spring petals filled the senses. Less automobiles created more silence and time for daydreaming. Nearing the supermarket everything changed – carpark fumes, rattling trolleys, shopping queues and a security guard. Policed consumption for public health reasons and the commercial requiremenst of supermarket duopoly.
In this environment human spontaneity can be negative.
An agitated queue member at the front complains – ‘There’s hardly anybody in there’.
Inside, purchasing products while avoiding other people is the new routine.
I didn`t see an angry shopper but the species does exist. A neighbour recounted to me the story of an aggrieved consumer unable to find his favourite biscuit brand.
Misspent energy, I thought, consumer capitalism will not notice.
Arriving back home I fired up the screen – student emails, Microsoft meeting alerts, essays to be marked, administrative deadlines to meet.
Forget about clock time this was the tyranny of real time.
Working online from home imprisons us within a cyberworld of simultaneous punctualities which steals away the singular experiences of felt time.
The compensatory human need for electronic connection and ever-more convenient consumption drives the greed of todays pandemic profiteers – Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.