Who’s got the time?

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Timing is everything. Good timing is harmony. Bad timing is discord. Timing is multiple micro and macro waiting games in which we place ourselves as prime movers. We choose the moment to act. From the mundane quotidian tasks that move us remorselessly from one end of the day to the other, to those moments of great import upon which we may hang so much significance, the question of when is always there.

Which is fine.

And then we realise what we are entertaining is an illusion of control. Because control is something that is only found in science experiments, where variables can be ruled out or in. So, unless we live in a vacuum or a laboratory, our timing will always be subject to the lives of others. We will also always be subject to the world and the time in which we live. I say ‘we’, but I mean ‘you’. You, the representative individual, rather than we, the representative collective. Because it is about individual momentum. It’s you and your life. Your world. Your time.

But of course it is possible that the world and time in which you live does not best please you. It is possible that you are ill-matched. It is possible that you are out of synch, out of step, and off-key in the song of your time. And it is not necessarily your fault. The rhythm of the time, the feel, the zeitgeist, may simply be leaving you behind.

That could suit you. You might be very happy not to be part of whatever is going on. Or you could just be blissfully unaware that you are moving to the beat of your own drum. Or you might not be happy at all. You might want to rant and rail against what you see. You might want to scream at the madness of it all. You may have the sense that protest is urgent, necessary, and morally undeniable. That anything less would be unconscionable.

But what if it’s just you?

On your own, you’re an iconoclast. A contrarian. A provoker of eye-rolls and controlled out-breaths. Or worse – a figure of fun, of ridicule; the town fool, the crazy lady; damaged goods. A conspiracy theorist, perhaps. A crank. Simply wrongheaded. Someone to be approached with caution, in a ‘to be handled with kid gloves’ kind of way. That’s not good.

But what if you have a couple of allies? That’s a completely different kettle of fish. Now you have gained a certain legitimacy. Which makes you problematic. Because you are less easy to ignore or dismiss. And what if, when you stick your head out the door, you realise that what you are saying is the same as what a host of other people are saying? Well, then you are right on the pulse. You are the time. Your moment has arrived and you are part of something greater than yourself. Then it most definitely is the right time to act. To speak. To move. Because if not now, when? When will your moment come again?

That’s the real challenge of timing. Knowing when to act.

If the ‘when’ is wrong then you are far less likely to get the outcome you were hoping for. If a singer or musician gets their timing wrong it’s called jazz, the song is unstitched and our ears simply don’t receive it as it was intended. In karate your timing being out means not only do you miss – you also get hit. That would be true for all martial arts and like karate, I am sure in other martial arts that you are conditioned to accommodate the idea of being hit. You are conditioned to understand that that is an ever-present and real component of what you are doing. And you must learn to get comfortable with that idea and then dismiss it. Not in a blithe or blasé way, but more as part of accessing your resources of determination. More as a way of maintaining clarity of purpose. More as a way of saying “I shall not be moved.”

That makes karate sound like a form of peaceful protest. Well, sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s just blocking and absorbing and avoiding. Sometimes you are a cello soloist facing a death metal assault. Sometimes it’s hip hop versus an aria. You can’t always be on the attack – it’s unsustainable. Sometimes you let your opponent wear themselves out until you counter. If you can take what they’ve got and hold your centre, you are not going to be beaten.

Hold your centre.

In fighting terms, your centre is both physical and abstract. It is your core, your inner abdomen, your guts. It is also your source of energy, of movement and of will. It’s a way of carrying yourself, of aligning yourself. It’s something that requires attention because if it is engaged properly it is the single most difficult thing to be weakened in you.

Outside the dojo, I think of it as integrity.

Integrity is owning yourself. It is self-knowledge. It is rigorous honesty. It is admitting and facing fear. It is putting your hand up to say you were wrong. It is standing behind your words. It is choosing to act. It is not waiting for others to lead the way. It is knowing when it is, and when it is not, your time.

So, whose time is it at the moment?

I’ll give you a clue. It’s not men’s.

The #MeToo movement that has arisen in Hollywood and elsewhere in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandals is long overdue. I don’t know if this women’s solidarity campaign will be recognised as another wave of feminism, but it certainly resembles one. Let us be very clear. The desire not to be sexually assaulted or importuned or propositioned or degraded in the workplace is not a pursuit of ‘more’. It is the pursuit of ‘same’. Neither is the aspiration not to have your career ended because you haven’t ‘put out’ the pursuit of ‘more’. Being confident that sexual predation will not be a feature of your working day is not the pursuit of ‘more’.

There is no argument for the continuation of these behaviours and assumptions. The systematic and casual objectification, subjugation, intimidation and misrepresentation of women is morally reprehensible. It has never been otherwise but somehow, at this point in time, through an accumulation of events, sufficient momentum and conviction have finally delivered a platform where women can say ‘enough’. And contrary to the protestations of some that women wishing to be treated and compensated equally is political correctness gone mad or nothing more than a puritanical witch-hunt of clumsy, well-intentioned men, this movement screams of integrity. It screams of justice. It screams of being absolutely the right thing to do.

The obviousness of their position is blinding. They shouldn’t need to be vindicated. They have stood up and stated their case with clarity. They have been forthright and fearless. And they have been heard. They’ve recognised their moment and they have taken it.

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.

A time to speak. But now that you have the floor, what do you have to say? The women (and male victims) who have been subjected to sexual harassment and/or career derailment haven’t had to think about that for too long, given that it is easy to find the right words when you’ve nothing to hide. It’s striking, however, that there have been far fewer words of this kind coming out of the mouths of the men who are supposedly sympathetic to the cause.

These Hollywood good guys seem bewilderingly incapable of saying anything forthright or unambiguous about the culture and power dynamics from which they have benefitted enormously while their female counterparts have been relegated to the lower leagues in terms of pay and opportunities. I think it is arguable, to say the least, that many of these men were, by their passivity and disingenuousness, enabling the toxic, top-down shit-storm that has rained on the careers and lives of so many actresses.

Where are the men who will admit that not only did they know about what was going on, but that they too were afraid to speak out for fear of career repercussions? Where are the men who are calling it like it is? Where are the men who are nailing their colours to the mast and actually standing for something other than self-interest and self-preservation? Because personally, I am not interested in the equivocation and hedging whereby these ‘stars’ say absolutely nothing. It seems that just as women have found their voice, men have lost theirs.

Women have known for a long time that real equality was going to be the result of a long and bloody battle where nothing was going to be given easily. Perhaps men who have considered themselves to be pro-feminist have never fully understood that simply standing out of the way doesn’t make you a brother-in-arms – it makes you a spectator. And if you open your male mouth to express solidarity but your words betray your fence-sitting, then it amounts to the same thing; you are no more than a witness, a bystander. You just ‘happened to be there’.

Well, I don’t think it’s good enough. It’s time to cut the shit. Stop doing the dance. Start representing a better version of what a man can be and maybe the next time a new president is sworn in in Washington there is less chance it will be someone who is the epitome of ignorant, narcissistic misogyny.

Don’t just say you support women. Do it. Live it. Be it.

In other words, get with the times.

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4 thoughts on “Who’s got the time?

  1. True, Dara. And it’s so depressing when male stars use their voice to talk about the movement as ‘becoming a witch hunt’. Of all the things to say on the matter… (thinking of Liam Neeson on the Late Late Show last weekend)

    1. Thanks C. Yeah, disappointing to hear Neeson come out with that. I think a lot of people resisting the #MeToo movement are trying to claim it’s about something it’s not. They’re either very cynical and disingenuous or else they’re too close to see the woods from the trees.
      It’s not good enough.

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