Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite...

We knew it had to be Hitler's pet who was responsible;
Spain is in western Europe, the same as Portugal, the United Kingdom and France, one hour behind central Europe. But in 1942, at the height of World War II, Germany set occupied France's clocks back an hour to Berlin time, while Britain, Portugal and Spain followed suit, albeit for different reasons: the first to take advantage of the long summer evenings to increase productivity, particularly on farms, as well as to avoid confusion with its allies in Europe; while Spain's decision was seemingly a show of loyalty to Hitler and recognition that Germany was now the new master of the continent.
Anyone got the time for Godwin? The Canaries sing out;
The exception to Spain's time zone rule is the Canary Islands, which operates on GMT. The regional government of the Atlantic archipelago is unhappy at the idea of losing its special status of being an hour behind the rest of the country. News reports have to add "one hour less in the Canary Islands" every time the time is announced. "If the time difference were to disappear, we would lose our constant presence in the Spanish media, with the concomitant impact on our branding. What is the value, in advertising terms, of being mentioned in each time check?" the head of the Canaries regional government demanded to know last week in the run-up to the parliamentary commission's report. But maybe there is a simple solution at hand: Chinchilla says that if Spain were to move back an hour, the Canaries could simply follow suit. "They would remain an hour behind us, because in reality, the Canaries are in a different time zone to GMT."
Maybe it isn't the settings on the clock, but how they organize their lives?
María Ángeles Durán, a sociologist and researcher at the CSIC National Research Council, agrees that changing laws does not in itself guarantee any real change. "Putting the clocks back or forward is not a problem: we already do it twice a year anyway. The real challenge is content, which is to say the use and distribution of time - how we will manage our days - which is very different to that of the rest of Europe. Any change imposed by the government to try to create better equality and work-life balance would have to be accompanied by awareness campaigns and the creation of services to replace those being reduced," she says.
Durán warns that changing working hours on its own will not be enough either. "You have to remember that social time, the time we spend with friends and family, is very important in Spanish culture, and that this country's well being indicators are always higher than in the rest of Europe, despite so many other disadvantages," she observes.
Which raises the question as to whether Spain's famed quality of life is in part due to its being in the wrong time zone. "In reality, we don't know which is better in terms of quality of life. On the one hand, we have working hours, which frame our daily activities and leave relatively little time for our personal life. But it is also true that the way we organize time is not just defined by work rhythms, but also other cultural practices. For example, it is still possible in many cases to eat lunch at home with the family, particularly if you live in a small town, while in neighboring countries this is virtually unheard of nowadays. And eating at home is an important well being indicator," says Juan José Lorenzo Castiñeiras, a sociologist and researcher at the University of Santiago de Compostela. 
Llámenos mañana.

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