In the last few weeks people all over the world have been winding their clocks forwards or backwards in slavish obedience to DST – Daylight Savings Time. The southern hemisphere won an extra hour for itself while those daylight savers in the north lost an hour, and generally woke up feeling like their hangovers had jetlag. That the hour can be won back in six months time is pretty cold comfort really.
DST can be imposed for various reasons. Reducing energy consumption and increasing leisure time are given as frequent reasons. More (useful) daylight hours are a big benefit to some industries (i.e. the golfing industry), and is said to make society a safer place.
Let’s face facts though; DST is a western, developed nation thing. Most of the US adheres to it. Most of Canada and Australia adheres to it. Most of Europe adheres to it. Most of the rest of the world does not. Perhaps this is all a coincidence, or perhaps it is a western imperialist conspiracy. Think about it; all of the big clock-making companies in the world are European or USAmerican. Next time you’re in Brussels take a look at just how many EU politicos are wearing Rolex watches.
It takes balls to stand up to this sort of insidious cultural colonialism. Some countries do make a stand and say no to such cynical time-diddling. Others meekly succumb to the biannual humiliation of adjusting their watches and clocks before bed.
A state’s response to DST says a lot about it. Those states that do resist can truly be considered rogue states, lands where people are free and unoppressed by international time keeping. Unsurprisingly, both Russia and China count themselves among such nations (China’s position seems to be that Internet and media control is good but time control is bad. Russia’s position is that America sucks).
To commemorate the fact that losing an hour of sleep can ruin your whole week (why else would I be writing this), here are some other brave, rogue states that have shrugged off the heavy yoke of DST, and one that hasn’t.
From improbably grand holes in the ground to improbably racist immigration bills, Arizona has long imagined itself as the Wild West, a place of rogues and freedom-lovers. No surprise that everyone’s favourite maverick John McCain settled down here, and it is in McCain’s indomitable spirit that Arizona perseveres as the only one of the 48 contiguous states that continues to defy the heavy hand of DST. McCain and his constituents argue that there is nothing more American, and thus democratic, than carrying a gun and leaving time to run as God intended it.
Given its Viking heritage, it should be no surprise that Iceland is the only country in Europe (unless you count Russia) that continues to defy DST. Of course it helps that Iceland already has a euphorically sunny summer, but resistance to DST is just one element of Iceland’s tendency to go it alone and ignore the outside world. Iceland has also resisted the incursions of the Euro, and let’s not forget that while Europe was championing the Spice Girls, Iceland was dancing to Bjork.
It is a sad truth that few countries are as divided by DST as Australia. The southeast, with all its fancy city folk, has of course succumbed to DST. The north and west, though, remain proud and free. It is in these areas that you can still find what many consider the only remaining true Australians: crocodile-wrestling, sheep-shearing, roo-riding, XXXX-chugging blokes named Wayne and Davo. Wayne and Davo hate DST because it confuses the animals, and there’s nothing worse than a confused, sleep-deprived merino.
There are still a few pockets of DST-resistance in Canada, the largest of which is Saskatchewan. Apparently Saskatchewan dispensed with DST in an effort to gain more attention from the rest of Canada, i.e. to put the rogue state firmly on the map. It didn’t work. On most maps the space between Calgary and Winnipeg is still marked with ‘here be dragons, and little besides’.
Considering that most of Latin America is DST-free, it comes as a surprise that Cuba is one of the few adherents to the idea. Few are quicker than the brothers Castro to distance themselves from anything western or capitalist, but when it comes to DST, Cuba is at its most moderate and unrogueish. Che Guevara must be turning in his grave, after all nothing meant more to him than pissing foreign powers off. One of his most oft-quoted maxims is “we shall die on our feet rather than live on our knees, resetting our watches”.
Blue states are those under DST. Orange states used to be but have gone rogue. Red states have always been DST-free.