Inner Space 6: Colonialism and Time

"To choose your calendar is to choose your politics ... "

"To teach someone a different clock and calendar is one of the most subtle but most profound aspects of imperialist power— colonialism of the mind. When ancient China had colonized some new region, the phrase they used to describe this act was at once sinister and telling— the people of the new territory had “received the calendar.” For Chinese emperors, the Mandate of Heaven involved a “stewardship” of time; the ruler, identified as a paramount sign of the times, was responsible for time. When a new dynasty came to power it altered the calendar of the previous dynasty and the start of a new reign was dated as the first day of the following new year, thus the new emperor ritually regenerated time itself. In our age, “President” George W. Bush’s regime launched the “Project for the New American Century” and revealed a similarly stealthy and nasty will to power. Insisting that a new time (be it date, year or century) belongs to you is an act of invisible colonialism: the Bush coterie deliberately linked its empire-building foreign policy with the power of time. In Turkemenistan, meanwhile, President Saparmurat Niyazov, who names himself Turkmenbashi, is nothing if not an arrogant despot, and as other power-wielders do, he has welded time to his rule. January is now called “Turkmenbashi,” after himself, and April is called Gurbansoltan, after his mother."

–"A Sideways Look at Time" by Jay Griffiths.