At the End of the Day

The Amondawa tribe members  have their heads screwed on correctly

I read on the BBCNews website that the Amazonian Amondawa Indians have no word in their language for ‘Time’ as an abstract concept. They can talk about things that happened ‘a long time ago’, but Time as a thing from physics to be grasped and then measured in days, weeks and years simply doesn’t exist for them. Given they’ve been interviewed by intense clipboard-gripping anthropology researchers non-stop since they were discovered in 1986, it’s good to see that a quarter-century of exposure to ‘modern’ Man hasn’t changed their outlook one jot. It seems to me that, at last, something good might come from us bothering hitherto hidden people. I’m equally sure this tribe would much rather have been left alone; but one mustn’t  stand in the way of progress: this may well be a case of not so much Forward Not Back as All Stop.

Being a fan of Eckart Tolle, I am a great believer that the mind only goes on tilt when it is bitter about the past, or worrying about the future. The Amondawa tribe clearly lives ‘in the Now’ all the time, and so one assumes they must be pretty content. But I find myself fascinated by how much nicer life would be if capital T Time didn’t exist for us either.

The following problems would disappear. (I would say overnight, but that puts us back in the Time dimension again).

1. Nutters predicting that the end of the world will take place in the immediate future. For the Amandawa, you might just as well say ‘something or other to do with the world will occur inside a cocktail cabinet’ for all the sense it would make to them.

2. Opposition politicians adopting the cliched slogan, ‘Time for a Change’. In fact, elections would be waste of time (small t) for these Indians, because as soon as anyone said, “In 2004 Cameron was for reinstating Grammar Schools, but now he isn’t”, your Amandawaman on the Amazonian omnibus would imagine that Cameron used to live in a place called 2007, but here in this, our village, he doesn’t want to. Tit-for-tat jibes about fickle men of straw would seem to them silly, because the Cameron had displayed a form of wisdom – by adapting to changed circumstances.

3. The broken promises of builders would cease to matter. As this South American tribe doesn’t do schedules, deadlines, and critical path analyses, the conversion due to start in April and end in October would simply be builders doing stuff. They’d still be builders sloping the garden terrace camber badly, trashing the only bathroom, and putting the kitchen plugs in daft places, but there’d be no chance of being disappointed by the amount of time things took. And the builder wouldn’t keep on asking for payment because his bank was grumbling about the overdraft limit. In fact,

4. Banks would be pointless. Sorry, let me clarify a little: banks are pointless anyway. But without Time, they’d have nothing to sell. There isn’t a loan, mortgage, savings plan, life assurance policy, credit card or derivative that makes sense without a term during which things grow, cripple the borrower, pay out, get paid off, or are written off.

5. The target culture would die instantly. I’d have thought this one was obvious; but essentially, without Time, Tony Blair would still be a half-competent barrister in a small Chambers where people like Derry Irvine made politically incorrect jokes about him being “the star nearest to Uranus”. Allegedly.

6. There’d be no greedy shareholders forcing corporate finance directors to fiddle the profit numbers close to the fiscal year-end, as fiscal and year would be alien words. “We want a year-on-year 25% growth statistic” might well be interpreted by the Amandawar as “We want a chocolate flake-and-ice cream on a stick”. I’m with the Amandawar on this one.

7. Soccer games could be played at an elegant pace, without any last-minute goalkeepers in the opposing penalty box trying to head the equaliser. And above all, no more stupid penalty shoot-outs after extra time. For there would be no Time, extra or otherwise. Just a declaration of a winner when the last man was left standing. Rip out the corporate boxes. Coats for goalposts. Etc etc.

Taking Time out of the Time changes this week’s news completely. Dominic Strauss-Kahn would not be facing the prospect of doing time. David Cameron would not need to give Nick Clegg the time of day.Tim Geithner would not be able to say it was time for a non-European to run the IMF. Nobody would be calling time on Ronald McDonald.  And Time magazine might need a major branding revamp. It could be renamed Eternity, perhaps.

Nothing, however, can alter the fact that – at long, long last – time is running out for Newscorp. With their predictable ability to miss a major turning point, the British media failed (on the whole) to grasp the importance of today’s High Court hearing in relation to Jude Law’s hacking complaint. Not only did Law’s QC Hugh Tomlinson finger a senior Newscorp executive as heavily involved in the hacking of his client; Justice Vos overruled Newscorp‘ QC Michael Silverleaf’s mindless plea for delay, and put the Jude Law complaint at the top of the litigation programme.

As Churchill famously told the House of Commons in 1942 after Montgmery’s desert victory over Rommel, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But is definitely is the end of the beginning”.