What is the significance of time in human life? Time can be defined as a non-spatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.
Human life, therefore, consists of a limited number of days and each day that passes effectively means less days on earth making the concept of ownership as it relates to human beings a complex and dynamic subject. Basically, every life is a given period of time or the dash.
If human life is perishable, then time is the most precious asset in human existence since no mechanism exists for storing and dispensing it.
The time that is not consumed belongs to the Creator.
Each time we impose our own problems on others, we must be aware that we are effectively eating into the time of the party from whom we ask for solutions often with no defined return inherent in the transaction.
Even the occupant of the highest office in the land has 24 hours in a day. Equally, the wealthy have not found a mechanism to cheat death by increasing time available to them.
When we reflect on the African journey, we are compelled to ask the question of whether the same time that is allocated to humanity has been profitably used by our people.
It is easy to expect the neighbour to do more than we are capable of doing with the same limited time that is available to living human beings.
To be human, as God has said, is to be in a great state of loss. It is common cause that with the passing of time, human life on earth is gradually consumed.
To the extent that time is an important variable in human existence, its management and allocation necessarily becomes contentious and critical in determining the condition of human beings in any society.
The poor are exposed to the same clock of time as the rich and yet what differentiates the two may not be what we generally assume, but how they invest in the time available.
Some human beings cannot fully account for their time on earth. Many of us expect that the next person has the responsibility of filling the void that time creates in life forgetting that each and every one of us has a responsibility to shape and define their stories.
Winning nations are blessed with citizens who know how to invest their time wisely. When time is squandered as it is in many African states, it is difficult to construct a story in which the perceived loss is a consequence of other people’s actions particularly during the post-colonial era.
Understanding the fact that the physical and earthly existence of mankind has its limitations makes it possible for human beings to better appreciate the true meaning of life.
In life, human beings can be selfish. If God were to delegate the responsibility of allocating time to human beings, I have no doubt the majority will have been condemned to darkness.
However, the break of dawn gives every human being the opportunity to wake up and fulfil the promise of life.
Ultimately, whether a person is alive for one day or 100 years, what is important is the effort made in making good on the promise of life.
Human beings trade time in the labour market. Time is, therefore, an important variable in the human capital market.
A person working on the shop floor is distinguished from the CEO only in terms of the worth of the time they make available to the employer.
Education is a powerful instrument for enhancing market power. An hour sold by an educated person is generally valued at a higher rate than one sold by an uneducated person.
However, in reality it may not be the case that the contribution of educated people in the market place is correctly measured and prized.
In building a better and prosperous Africa, we have to consider what ultimately is in the best interests of the people who choose to be African.
The freedom of choice is fundamental in energising human beings to climb the opportunity mountain that life offers.
A nation of lazy people can never escape the tyranny of poverty.
What then is the relationship between a lazy person and time? Most lazy people have difficulty in putting effort into the enterprise called life. Some have no idea how to put content into the time that is available.
What makes the enterprise of life difficult in many developing states is the hypocrisy of political actors who often promise that which is not possible.
With respect to poverty alleviation, many state actors take the view that state action can substitute for citizen action and effort forgetting that the state does not exist in as much as human existence in reality can be correctly described as a dream.
The state only exists to the extent that it can encourage citizens to work on their dashes and in doing so generate the income from which state income can be generated.
It is not unusual to expect state actors to be wiser and more importantly to have more time on their hands than the governed. However, in reality we all know that even the president of a country is human after all. He or she has to account for his or her own dash.
Every time we expect someone to sacrifice the limited time at their disposal to deal with the challenges of life then we must know that the model has its own limitations.
What we do know is that each generation has the responsibility of preparing the next generation for the challenges of life.
The effort required to prepare newly-born creatures has no defined reward, but is an integral part of human civilisation.
Selfish tendencies are unfortunately part of the human story.
The organisation of human life is informed by the belief system that says human beings are capable of ownership and to some extent that in life time can be owned.
In reality, a nation-state’s possibilities are defined by the effort of each and every citizen. The time available to a nation is the aggregate of the time available to each citizen.
If all the citizens focus on working on their dashes then the national numbers will be compelled to reflect the sum of the parts.
We are a part of the African story and as we seek to blame imperialists and many other known and unknown enemies, we must start by looking at our relationship with time to establish the real causes of Africa’s perceived political and economic injury.
Mutumwa Mawere is a businessman based in South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.