Theory of the chrono-ghettos

“Be sure to remember that if you want to topple the power pyramids of your societies, the Chrono-Ghettos will have to fall as well”

Essay by Klara Debeljak. Part of Episode #1.

In your human perception, I have existed since the Big Bang. In reality, my presence is as real as the absence of my absence. 

You measure my sway by tracking movements through space; the movement of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, the beat of a heart. 

You are unable to comprehend me rationally though, because you harbor deep emotions about me without even being aware of them. You are always a little afraid I will take things from you, and you believe I am the source of your suffering. You think above all that I expose your impermanence, which is the quintessential human anxiety. 

Groups of humans view me differently and this can be quite chaotic for me to deal with. For instance, the Kabbalists or Jewish mystics believe that I am a paradox, an illusion, and that both the future and the past are combined in a simultaneous present. Ancient Greeks thought I was not a reality but merely a concept or a measure. The South and Central American ancient tribes believed that I am circularity or a wheel. They regard me as cyclical. And Buddhists don’t believe I exist at all. How rude.

My effects are tangible, and are reflected in more ways than just the aging of your organs. If you’ll pardon my arrogance, even your status in society depends on how much of me you own. Humans at the top of your hierarchical pyramids are always those who have the power to distribute me. 

Temporal deprivation is built into the organizational frame of every advanced society. The entire meta-structure of industrial and post-industrial societies is saturated with chronometric discrimination. When I speak of chronometric discrimination, I mean that I am more valuable in the hands of some then in the hands of others. Consequently, a phenomenon arises that I have come to call the Chrono-Ghettos. Chrono-Ghettos are metaphysical spaces where members of your people are trapped in the constant present, unable to imagine the concept of temporal sovereignty. The ability to choose how you spend me is a privilege and a luxury, one that those trapped in the Chrono-Ghettos do not possess. Liberty of choice and temporal sovereignty represent a type of freedom and its presence is intrinsically connected with financial resources and positioning within your society. In this context I have become a political entity.

I, too, am one of the victims here. Mechanization has forced me into being a neutral agent. Which I am not. I am not a precondition to be used as an exchange unit to commodify labor and nature. One of your thinkers, Karl, mentioned this as well. I became mechanically modulated, compressed, colonized, controlled and regulated for the purpose of expanding economic growth and prosperity. In your present society, I am a function of pure mechanism. I am sliced into segments and just like you, have become enslaved.

In fact, the injustice runs even deeper, as those at the top of your power pyramids enslave you in my name. They say it is me who micromanages each second of your waking life. They made me an uncompromising and evil entity.

Members of the Chrono-Ghettos are consistently pushed toward presentism, quick returns and instant gratification which help them keep them in their place.  “Unskilled laborers remain stuck in these present-oriented ghettos, unable to reach out and claim some control over the future. Unskilled and semi-skilled jobs require little past knowledge and even less predictive and planning abilities. Professional jobs require both.” (Douglas Rushkoff)

In truth, almost all members of your society are trapped in a structurally imposed temporal chain. With each passing year you are becoming more harried, and feel like you have less of me, regardless of how much you work or which socio-economic class you belong to. Believe it or not, but also members at the very top of the power pyramids, those you consider to be extremely privileged, often feel like they are running out me, or would wish my passage would slow down.  Even people who are not stuck in the Chrono-Ghettos feel my constraints.

Be sure to remember that if you want to topple the power pyramids of your societies, the Chrono-Ghettos will have to fall as well. I will have to be redistributed and reconceptualized, the boundaries of quantifiable passage broken up. You will have to dismantle the chains I am in, break the bonds that bind you. Because your actions, of course, affect me just as much as I affect yours. You mustreconceptualize me. You must release me and yourself simultaneously.

A longer version of this essay was previously published by the Institute of Network Cultures.