Right off the top, let me say that this is not the most important thing about Putin’s war on Ukraine. I totally understand that.
The war is horrifying.
I write this post to highlight one small aspect that shows, I think, the nature of what “time” is, and how that understanding of what time is helps explain in a very small way what underlies the current attack by Putin on Ukraine.
So first... What is time?
If you really want to get into it, I recommend Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick.
The short answer is that time is an agreement. It is exactly what we as people agree it is.
The way that the earth rotates, or hurtles around the sun is not a function of time. The planet just doesn’t care about how long an hour is.
But we humans do, and that is why we invented time.
We are social creatures, and we want to interact with each other, and to do that we need time. Imagine how hard it would be to meet a friend for coffee if we didn’t have it.
“Let’s meet when the sun is two hands over the horizon.”
No expand that to airline schedules, networked computers, school and work schedules. Time is woven into just about every aspect of everything we do every day.
Time and Ukraine
What does this have to do with Putin’s war on Ukraine?
Russia stopped using DST in 2011. It is now on permanent Standard Time.
When Russia illegally took over the Crimea region in 2014, one of the first things it did was change the time in Crimea by TWO hours, taking it off the time that Ukraine was using, and putting it on Moscow time.
And what time was Ukraine using then, and continues to use to this day? Central European Time. And from March to October they call it what the Europeans call it: Summer Time.
The clocks are a small but very telling example of the heart of the whole conflict. Ukrainians think of themselves as free people, associated with the other free people of Europe. They decided to use Central European Time, even though it meant switching the clocks twice a year, because they wanted to be closely integrated to Europe, and not to Moscow.
If the unthinkable happens, and Putin is successful in his war on the free people of Ukraine, and takes over the government, one of the first things he will do is change the time zone for all of Ukraine and put them on Moscow time. That is what tyrants do.
Look, I am not bragging to say that I am the world’s leading unelected advocate for ending Daylight Saving Time clock changing. (Nobody else was doing it, so I kind of got that way by default. And now I am running to be a U.S. Representative, so if the campaign continues to go as well as it has so far, maybe soon I will be the world’s leading elected advocate.)
But even I would say that it would be much better for Ukraine to remain free, and keep using DST, then to suffer as subjects of Putin.
The practice of switching the clocks twice per year started in WWI. It was even called “War Time.”
Today my hope and prayer is that Putin’s war on Ukraine is over quickly. That is the most important thing.
If that happens, then my next hope, and what I’ll be working on, is to also put an end to War Time/Summer Time/Daylight Saving Time and we can just have... time.