Controlling things is one of the reasons some people aspire to leadership. It’s a weak position to take since most of those who report to anyone in authority resist being controlled. Every human being values freedom and liberty over a tyrannical government or a domineering boss.
Yet here we are, on the weekend just prior to Spring, trying to control something that can’t be tamed. If you live in North America, like me, last night you completed the ritual of turning your clocks ahead by one hour to preserve some daylight.
In November you will reverse the ritual and turn your clocks back by one hour, again to supposedly preserve daylight. We all know this ritual is just sleight of hand. No daylight has been spared; it’s just been shifted to accommodate our society’s need for more leisure time in the summer months.
According to an article on the Farmer’s Almanac website, Benjamin Franklin is credited with suggesting the concept of “saving daylight.” His article An Economical Project, written in 1784, was somewhat satirical in tone. It advocated laws compelling citizens to get up before dawn, thus encouraging an early bedtime to save the expense of candles.
If Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a ploy to get the lazy among us out of bed, I’m not sure it has served us very well.
The same article names the first true proponent of DST as an Englishman named William Willet. He was a London builder and conceived the idea in 1907 when he noticed, early one morning, that the shutters of houses were tightly closed even though the Sun had risen. His The Waste of Daylight manifesto was an unsuccessful personal light-saving campaign.
World War I changed people’s attitudes about the concept. Both governments and citizens recognized the need to conserve coal that many people used for heating homes. Germans were the first to officially adopt DST in 1915.
The United States followed suit in 1918, when Congress passed the Standard Time Act, which also established time zones. It was introduced in spite of strong public opposition. Many Americans viewed the practice as an absurd attempt to make late sleepers get up early. It seems ironic that controlling the citizen’s support for a war effort was the compelling argument, not trying to control time.
Debating the benefits and drawbacks of DST is not the intention of my post. DST is alleged to save energy, improve the economy, and impact public safety and health. Naturally the studies find evidence on both sides of these issues; a good thing for those receiving grants to study DST.
I’m inclined to believe that politics has more influence over the continued practice of DST than any of the other benefits mentioned. When government can exercise controlling interest over some aspect of our lives there is little incentive to change the system.
Writing about Daylight Saving Time is not my attempt to start a revolution. I’m trying to challenge leaders who feel the need to control, hoping they might reconsider their approach.
We all love the routines of work and play; the rhythms of order and schedule. That’s probably why DST will always be with us. It is our chance twice each year to act like we are controlling time, even though no daylight was actually saved.
Photo Credit: istockphoto.com