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"An olive won't ripen any quicker,
however much you mess around with it"
(Tuscan proverb)

A Word on the Society for the Deceleration of Time

(Verein zur Verzögerung der Zeit)

Yes, this Society really does exist. It was founded about 8 years ago, and its ranks have now swelled to some 700 members, mostly in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Despite its name and the salutary amount of humor with which its members approach very serious matters, it is anything but a joke. The Society does quality research on the phenomenon of time, organizes symposia, publishes regularly. The interest taken by the media serves to propagate awareness of the problems we have identified and to disseminate our views and concerns. Occasionally we go "activist" ourselves in the hope of drawing attention to the unnecessary rush and bustle that shapes so much of our lives.

What made us establish this Society?

All kinds of theoretical and practical reasons. Despite shorter working hours, more and more people have less and less time for the things they really want to do. In more universal terms, we have the impression that the wheel of history is turning at ever greater speed, that it is becoming more and more difficult to stand still for a moment and take a more contemplative view. We charge headlong into the "course" of time; "taking time out" is self-indulgent, unproductive and, worst of all, costs money. We are living in an age where time is accelerating.

"Time is money" is the initially convincing maxim by which our modern world constrains us to live. It is indeed the outward expression of an economic system of production in which the "winners" are those that can produce more and more high-quality products in less and less time. It gives them the edge over their competitors.

This logic that shapes the industrial production process has extended itself to almost all walks of live, and not only to the way we do our work. Leisure time gets crammed full of activities. Politicians need to point to short-term successes achieved within their period of office. To this end they ratify slapdash legislation that has to be revised or amended almost as soon as it is in force. Even those whose job it is to minister to the spirit seem to spend most of their time dashing around from one spirit to the next.

Speed has become the yardstick by which we measure the value of our activities. "A time for everything and everything in its (own) time", "all in good time", etc. are sayings that seem to have almost died out. For a pig to be "profitable" it has to be "ripe" for the slaughterhouse at age six months. Agricultural engineering does its bit to subject nature and living creatures to timetables and schedules. Natural products have to obey the iron hand of the "economic clock".

Medical and psychological aid and counseling must not exceed a certain time limit. If they do, they cease to "pay off", and the chances of coverage from medical insurance are slim.

In politics, pausing for reflection is looked upon as a confession of weakness, although in all consciences there's plenty to reflect about.

In the travel area, getting there quickly has become the ultimate imperative. Local and long-distance transport is getting faster and more efficient all the time. You're there "before you know it".

In the work context, tensions and antagonisms tend to grow proportionally to the lack of time available to analyze and deal with them. Talking things over is regarded as useless "jawing".

In or democratic lives, politicians rush from one event to the next, frankly admitting that they have no time to read or think. Who's going to do their thinking for them?

Every year a specifically economic rationale dictates a "daylight saving time" at odds with the rising and setting of the sun. This is a good thing for tennis players, perhaps, but certainly not for farmers - animals don't live by the clock. And children find it hard to understand why they get packed off to bed when it's still light outside.

Celerity is all. If we say someone is "slow", it is tantamount to saying that he or she is handicapped in some way. Having to wait for someone or something is felt to be a personal insult.

The "disposable" products that our society sets such store by means that the goods we manufacture are more and more short-lived. Their recycling potential is the paramount factor. Things that take a long time to make are prohibitively expensive. All these facts are undeniable. Isn't it "time" to start talking about them? (But when?) We, at all events, refuse to accept this state of affairs as unalterable.

This is the declared aim of our Society:

Every member should, regardless of what kind of activity he or she engages in, prolong the time taken for that activity whenever it makes sense to do so. In this members are assured of the solidarity of the Society as a whole. They should stand up for the right to pause for reflection in situations where mindless activism and vested interests produce solutions which are expedient rather than genuine. They should also do their best to recruit as many new members as possible, thus providing themselves with the necessary support in their immediate environment.

Prof. Peter Heintel, speaker of the Society for the Deceleration of Time


Address: Verein zur Verzoegerung der Zeit, Sterneckstrasse 15, A-9020 Klagenfurt, Austria, Europe

Telephone: +43 463 / 2700-8730 ,  Fax: -6199



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