Published — Monday 18 February 2013
Last update 18 February 2013 5:35 am
It is an established but not uniformly accepted fact that progress has to bring with it changes in cultural practices, and that these often involve alterations in time-honored customs. It is distressing, perhaps, when these changes are not so much the result of a natural progression, but of outside influences. And yet, more and more, this is the trend that can be seen throughout the world. Globalization, the convergence of trade, industry and culture on a global scale, brings with it a homogenization of cultures that often seems one-sided — that is, the non-Western world feels itself pressured or tempted to accept Western practices. It may be tempting to view the current proposal to change our weekend from Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday in this light.
Indeed, one of the strongest reasons for making the change is to bring us into closer accord with global (in particular, Western) practices. Currently, it has been said that we are ‘cut off from the world’ for two days every week, as our business days fail to coincide with weekends worldwide. Shifting our weekend by just one day reduces this incongruence by half — and possibly more, as business in many parts of the world may come to a halt on Friday afternoons to allow for ‘long weekends’ during certain seasons.
Then, our returning to work on Sunday can be seen to give us a jump on the global workweek. Therefore, from the point of view of business and our participation in the global markets the proposed change undoubtedly offers maximum benefit for minimum inconvenience for us.
Of course, it is important that we carefully examine our own motivations in making such a change. Just as it is not productive to shun all changes in customs, it is not beneficial to us to rush into them. If the motivation is merely or primarily to conform to Western standards, we might find ourselves disappointed or in a pposition to fulfill the fears of those who worry that the one-day shift is just the first part of a slippery slope. In 10 years’ time, will we be contemplating a further movement of our weekend to Saturdays and Sundays? And what about national and religious holidays — will those have to ‘line up’ as well? Obviously, there is a point at which the price for conformity might be too high. On the other hand, I personally don’t believe that the proposed one-day shift has such dramatic connotations — rather, it is better viewed as a strong compromise.
Finally, the suggestion that by making Saturday one of our weekend days we are shifting over to Jewish practice is completely misplaced and speaks to a regressive form of paranoia. After all, with only seven days in the week, cultural observations are bound to overlap with one another with regard to the day of the week our days off are observed! We should not read too much significance into which days are chosen, but focus our attention on whether the change will be effective and beneficial, from a practical and pragmatic point of view that does not exclude sensitivity for existing practices.