Late to bed and later to rise
11 September 2007 1 Comment
The B-Society is an organisation based in Denmark that was founded to raise awareness for whom they call ‘B-people’, that is, people whose circadian rhythms favour evening activities over morning ones. ‘B-people’ are ordinarily known as ‘night owls’. Unfortunately, the traditional capitalist-industrial economy demands that people live and work within set time frames, or as the Dolly Parton song from the 1980 film goes:
Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
and try to come to life.
Jump in the shower
and the blood starts pumping
Out on the street
the traffic starts jumping
With folks like me on the job from nine to five.
Working nine to five
what a way to make living
Barely getting by
it’s all taking and no giving.
They just use your mind
and they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you crazy
if you let it.
You get the picture.
So the B-Society argues for more flexible working hours, in line with a more globalised, so-called ‘knowledge-based’ economy (I never thought I’d live to use this phrase in my blog! *scrub*), and for an end to ‘A time tyranny’. They argue that given more consideration, B people work as hard as, or harder than, A people, the ‘early risers’, except that social convention and economic practices have prevented the talents of B people from being properly acknowledged and valued. Instead, B people are sometimes deemed ‘lazy’, ‘unproductive’, and ‘lacking in ambition’. How short-sighted. How is it society does not have an equally unpalatable name for a person too sleepy to read a newspaper after 9pm?
It is funny how we accept things, and the way we think things must be. I’ve fallen into that trap of constantly feeling guilty for my late nights, though I’d preferred to call it ‘sleep reluctance‘ instead of insomnia. I actually don’t suffer from insomnia. I can sleep quite well from 4am to 12pm. If forced to rise early, my brain doesn’t function till after 11am anyway, so I see little point in hanging about the office for two hours until my brain kicks in. Once it kicks in though, it doesn’t stop till well into the night. I wonder how many people diagnosed with insomnia and sleep disorders are simply B people unable to function in ‘A time’? I’m not discounting the fact that there are people with genuine sleep disorders, but perhaps, like the ‘female hysteria’ of old, in the case of some B sleepers, the so-called disorder might have been created in order to name the patient.
I am lucky enough (so far) to be an academic where work schedules are fairly flexible as long as you don’t miss lectures. Still I get strange looks on days when I walk into the office after lunch-time, though no one says anything about my staying on until 9pm. And continuing at home till 2am, if necessary. If only I could claim for all the work I accomplished between 10pm and 2am … ha, I might not have to work at all. What irony.
But even academic environments are succumbing to the industrial-capitalist audit culture that is creeping into public institutions everywhere. We are increasingly asked by the administrative powers-that-be to account for our presence during office hours, including times when we go off to the library to do research. This is in spite of the fact that almost every academic I know concurs that office time is spent mainly on administrative tasks and teaching preparation, intellectual work is reserved for the home, the private office or a space where there will be no interruptions. At the same time, this intellectual work in the form of research output is increasingly becoming a factor for employment, retention and promotion. This is possibly the only profession in the world where the work we do to keep our jobs must be done during hours that are outside of our job’s specified working hours.
Most academics know and accept this, for the benefit of remaining in an institution that still (somewhat) allows you to use your brain. When the flexibility of working hours, and hence the demonstrative trust between employer and employee, is eroded so is morale, but that is a story for another day.
Thanks to the B Society, I am thinking myself less of a freak, less of a burden to society (amazing how we let the super-ego take over even without intending to). Will the B Society be the new activism for the 21st century? Women’s rights, ethnic minority rights, gay rights, B rights. Sounds almost good enough for a manga title.
Let’s all sing with Dolly now (I am showing my age, I know…):