Americans spend more time working than the Japanese. Europeans work nine less weeks a year than U.S. workers. Even medieval peasants worked less hours than we do! It is time to fight overwork and time poverty in America. Our time is all we have and none of us know how much time we have remaining in our lives.
In the past two weeks we celebrated our 40 wedding anniversary and Tom’s 67th birthday. We took time to enjoy extended conversations about how we are spending our time on a week-end anniversary trip in the Blue Mountains of North Carolina. At the Simplicity Congress in Seattle last week-end along with other friends in the increasingly relevant and energized Simplicity Movement we again committed ourselves to becoming more thoughtful and intentional about what we do with our time.
The Simplicity Movement is all about a more sustainable and enjoyable way of living. We confirmed a consciousness of more simple, peaceful, and just solutions to the oppression, conflict and killing that permeates the policies of our American Empire and our “can’t have enough stuff” consumerist culture. Who we are is so much more important than what we have!
Take Back Your Time Day has become the first major initiative of the Simplicity Forum and is also the project of the Center for Religious, Ethics and Social Policy at Cornell University. October 24, 2003 is the first annual Take Back Your Time Day and the date is symbolic of the nine weeks remaining in the year that we work more than Europeans. The idea of Take Back Your Time Day was conceived by John de Graaf, a leader in the Simplicity Movement and award winning documentary film maker best known for his PBS classic “Affluenza” . De Graaf is National Coordinator for Take Back Your Time Day and he said that “Americans are reaching a breaking point as far as overwork is concerned.” in a Labor Day Press Release.
John de Graaff is also editor of a book of essays entitled “Take Back Your Time”, published by Berrett-Koehler. The book describes the essence of our time depravity by authors who are leaders in the Simplicity Movement as well as presenting essays on time poverty by experts on workplace, family, health, and public policy issues.
On this Labor Day we should contemplate the symbolism of Take Back Your Time Day and begin thinking how we can catch up with the Europeans. They have public policy mandating minimum paid vacations, a shorter work week and better pay for low-income workers who work two jobs to make ends meet. If we really want a strong America for all Americans we can do no less.
Most Americans do not have enough time for their families and other basic responsibilities. Since 1970 the number of families eating dinner together has diminished by one third and only about one half of the American people took a full week’s vacation this summer. We have an epidemic of over-scheduled kids and under-connected families. Time is a family value and our families are obvious victims of overwork in America. Couples spend an average of twelve minutes a day talking with each other. We average only forty minutes a week playing with our children. Since World War II, Americans have taken our gains in productivity in more stuff and money and none in more time for ourselves and our families Encouragingly, Senators Orrin Hatch(R-Utah) and Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) have authored Senate Resolution 210 that proclaims October as “National Work and Family Month”and makes “reducing the conflict between work and family a national priority”. It will come up for a vote in early September and we hope that folks will encourage our Senators to support this meaningful resolution.
A new poll, commissioned by the Center for a New American Dream finds that 60% of Americans “feel pressure to work too much” and 83% wish they had more time to spend with their families. 75% said they “think that Americans are too focused on work and spending”.
Take Back Your Time Day has been endorsed by labor unions, churches, and family organizations and our campaign is promoting local teach-ins on college campuses and educational events and potluck suppers at churches for October 24th.
Last Saturday evening the Simplicity Congress in Seattle presented a fun talent show and we did a wife and husband duo of “The Simplicity Poem”, A Parody of “I’m Late, I’m Late” with apologies to Lewis Carroll, Sammy Fain and Walt Disney. Here are some sample verses:
“I’m late, I’m late, For a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late ,I’m late, I’m late.”
“Consumption reigns, Our lives are out of whack, Our time is not our own—to play, to rest, to dream, We must get back on track.”
“No time to cook a meal at home, No time to play with kids, It’s sad to say,
It’s the American way, And here’s the reason why you (you see)”
“The ads tell me to buy, buy, buy, And you, and you, and you. I’m mall-ward bound , consumption to be found, I hurry off to shop, shop, shop, I just can ‘t seem to stop, stop, stop. Shop till we drop, shop till we drop”
“Just slow it down, take back your time and then-get others to, ‘sides me and you, and you and me, and me and you.”
“The future’s clear to see. simplicity is here to stay, and here’s the reason why (you see), It’s overdue, there is no turning back, It’s up to us to ‘save the world’
“AND THAT’S A FACT”
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer, radio talk show host, and a member of the National Steering Committee of Take Back Your Time Day. Judy Turnipseed is the business manager of Turnipseed and Associates and is a member of the Simplicity Forum’s Alliance of Leaders.