Time Shifters

While we sleep, armies prepare our communities for the coming day.

They share our place but not our time


Millions of us in the Middle Classes enjoy a privileged existence.  Our lives are designed, curated and crafted. 


We are told that we can have pretty much anything we want; we just need to plan the goals and work the plans.  Those goals are often framed in terms of freedom of lifestyle, mode of employment, experiences, possessions and home (as in the place in which we live).


We are more self-actualised than ever.  This is the highest level of Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  He postulated that the need for self-actualisation can only be fulfilled if the lower order needs (physiological, safety, belongingness, love and self-esteem) are fulfilled first.  For example, the need for self-esteem is not considered by a person who fears for their life.


That the aspirations of most Middle Class people today, especially young people are framed in terms of the freedom to choose suggests that many jump directly from the age of self-awareness to self-actualisation.  Maslow would say that this is only possible because all of our lower order needs are satisifed.


Any examination of Middle Class communities supports that premise.   We have plenty to eat and drink.  Our houses are warm and secure.  Our roads, footpaths and parks are clean and safe. Freed from these consuming worries, our families love and nurture us.  We are reminded to always consider and promote the self-esteem of others.


None of these factors are absolute, of course, but our communities are generally improving along all of these dimensions to the extent that few in the Middle Classes of the world obsess about fulfilling these needs.


It is reasonable therefore that we can think about self-actualisation at a younger age than ever before.  And we can make decisions every day about what we will do, based on how that action or activity fits with our vision of our fully actualised self.


So, we live in communities that are clean, safe, healthy and beautiful.  We have restaurants, cinemas, specialist food stores, clothing designers, manufacturers and retailers.  We have amusements and vacations.  We go to yoga and art classes.


This is life as theatre.


More than ever, we write our own story.  Encouraged by statements that "you can be anything you want to be", we craft our role to fulfil our desires, interests and passions.  We don't think about "needs" any more.


Social Media has been blamed for creating a self-indulgent, self-obsessed generation.  But Maslow's work in the 1960's indicates otherwise.  Freed from obsessing about low-order needs like food and safety, Millenials think more about who they will be.  This is the predictable outcome of their parents satisfying those low-order needs for them.  Every generation has striven to leave behind a better world for their children than they enjoyed themselves.


Social Media is used to document the journey to self-actualisation.  It doesn't drive it.


This self-produced story has many actors who play roles that we can't or (often) won't.  From bit players and walk-on roles to supporting actors, we depend upon many to realise our vision.


The subjects of this essay are the thousands of people we don't see on the stage of our life's story.  They are stage hands if you will.  They prepare, build and clean the set.  They work out of the limelight.  


This is not behind the scenes or back stage.  These are people who work in our environment, community, homes and hotels.  We don't see them because we're often asleep while they work.





Wanaka, 6:28AM.  My father always said that this was the best time of the day.  I am only just starting to agree with him.



Wanaka, 6:29AM.  A council works empties one of the hundreds of bins he will lift manually into his truck during his shift.



Wanaka, 6:34AM.  Council workers pick up every piece of litter on the streets before the tourist town wakes each morning.



Wanaka, 5:30AM.  Inside the well-known coffee van in Wanaka's light industrial area, a worker prepares for the rush of local workers getting their fix before they start work.


Glen Waverley, 1:36 PM.  The suburb is favoured by affluent Chinese and Indian immigrants for the public schools and other amenities.  Consequently the suburb has the nation's second highest turnover of property by sales value.



Glen Waverley, 5:04AM.  Aubury inspects his amusements truck one last time before going for coffee.  The first children will start arriving for the Chinese New year celebrations in three hours.



Glen Waverley, 4:40AM.  300 days of every year, this fifth generation "Showman" (he abhors the American term "Carney") arrives before dawn to set up his truck-mounted attraction.  Today it's for the Chinese New Year celebrations.



Glen Waverley, 6:13AM.  In three hours you wont be able to get a park in this street.



Glen Waverley, 4:59AM.  George sets up his new Georgie Porgie store in Glen Waverley.  He is the only food store operator at work in the precinct at this hour.


Wheelers Hill, 5:57AM. Retail butcher, Mario inspects a delivery of meat on the truck before the driver takes it into his shop.  Butchers of Italian heritage are very particular about product quality.  Mario rejected this consignment because the eye muscles of the loins were underdeveloped.


Cape Town, 1:42PM. Widely known as Cape Town’s hidden gem, Tintswalo Atlantic is a 5 star,
award-winning boutique lodge nestled at the base of the ocean-facing Table Mountain National Park.


Cape Town, 7:26AM.  All of the exterior windows and fittings are washed and polished every morning before the guests come down for breakfast.

Cape Town, 7:52AM. Every morning this table is cleared and the objects are dusted.  The table is then washed and the objects replaced before the guests wake.  Every detail in the hotel is treated with the same care.


Chongwe River Camp, 11:42AM.   On the banks of the Chongwe River near the confluence with the Zambesi.


Chongwe River Camp, 06:28AM.  The guests enjoy breakfast on the riverfront every morning.


Chongwe River Camp, 06:14AM.  To preserve the illusion of authenticity, the Chef and staff prepare the guests' breakfast over a camp fire.


Chongwe River Camp, 08:14AM.  While the guests enjoy their breakfast, the staff service their rooms.  There seems to be no gender bias in the allocation of any indoors jobs.


Chongwe River Camp, 08:10AM.  Every morning, Charles rakes every meter of the dozens of paths in camp.  This not just for appearances.  Footprints tell the staff which wild animals have visited camp.


Chongwe River Camp, 11:55am.  This is not the first time I've heard this in Africa.  Charles asked me to take his photo and publish it in Australia.  Like many, he believes that fame in a western country would be a ticket to escape financial struggles.

Okavango Delta, 07:00AM.  The Okuti Camp overlooks a permanent lagoon in the Delta.


Okavango Delta, 07:27AM.  After the guests leave for their morning game drives, the staff rush to service their rooms.


Nakatindi, 02:40PM.  He has a job and he supports his extended family.  The perfectly laundered clothes he wears on his day off illustrate the pride he has in himself, his family and his village.

Nakatindi, 02:40PM.  Despite a minimum wage of $4/day for those lucky enough to have a job, many like to dress to impress and choose bright colours that contrast with the mud-dawbed houses and dirt roads.

Hartbeespoort, 06:16AM.  One of several championship golf courses around the lake north west of Johannesburg.


Hartbeespoort, 06:16AM.  A greenkeeper prepares the 12th green for today's Inter-Provincial tournament.

Cardrona, 11:04PM.  Nathan will work alone all night on dozens of slopes until all are ready for enthusiasts in the morning.


Cardrona, 10:33PM.  Nathan spends the night grooming the slopes into a flat surface with a corduroy finish so that  thousands of skiers can enjoy their skiing.  During the day they progressively push the snow downhill and into the beginnings of mounds called moguls.  Tomorrow night Nathan will push it all uphill again and repeat the grooming.


Cardrona, 10:33PM.  Nathan at the controls of his $500,000 winch cat.