Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999
From: Robert Theobald
I have had the opportunity to attend a large number of Y2K events in Australia. The overall reaction clearly is that this is the time to look at the broader issues and desired futures. It is the time to push trends which are already emerging in the culture. This pattern has led to the following musings which I hope may be useful.
I want to share some emerging thoughts with you about Y2K and the confusion I think we are feeling. I don't think that there is anything very new here but I do think that some of the language and its brevity may be helpful.
The initial Y2K issue was how much we could fix the bug: the hope was that it would be possible to limit the damage so that there would be at worst a bump in the road.
As community people realized that it was almost inevitable that there would indeed be a bump in the road, then it became obvious that there was a need for preparedness. The model that developed proposed that people should stock food and water for a given number of days. There are also suggestions for preparing for interruptions in energy and money supply, etc.
This fell easily into parallels with disaster preparation. The work that is going is obviously useful for people have indeed become far too casual about what might go wrong and what they need to have available to them if there are disasters e.g. in ice-storms, high winds, electricity and gas failures etc. This model assumes that there will be a short period of major disruption and that realities will then go back to their previous shape.
It seems to me, however, that the debate has moved on. The people who I respect are arguing that while there may be short-run dangers, the real issues are far more complex. They believe that the overall industrial system is dangerously stressed. They think that if things do go wrong, breakdowns will take place over time and will damage the infrastructure on which we have come to rely in unexpected and unpredictable ways.
If this is the case, we need a second level of preparation which is quite different in nature. The best way I have so far found to get at this is to provide a parallel with attitudes to the human body. One could not live well if one spent one's whole time worrying about all of the diseases one can possibly catch. One needs to have a general awareness of one's body and to be aware of specific dangers which come from one's specific circumstances but the most important goal is to build one's health and immune system.
At the present time, it seems to me that we are greatly in danger of asking people to try to understand all the possible breakdowns which could emerge from Y2K. This is leading to "Y2K fatigue" as people find that they are getting whiplashed by contradictory experiences. I am convinced that we need to help them to see that there is an overall set of responses which are relevant and which we have aimed to evoke by the term resilience.
People will only see the need for resilience if they tackle the Y2K crisis at a deep level where they understand that it is challenging the core of the beliefs that we have used to shape our realities in the twentieth century. They will then move on to see that we are indeed being forced to develop a new set of understandings and beliefs.
Y2K is indeed a catalyst and an opportunity. But it cannot operate in this way unless we enable people to approach it from a values and spiritual base.
What does this mean in specific terms. It means that we must affirm the need for preparedness as there will necessarily be times when families and neighborhoods will need to support themselves. But preparedness is not particularly a Y2K issue. Rather it is part of an overall failure to grasp the reality that the challenge in any culture is to deal with failures as they occur rather than to believe that all failures can be avoided. It is part of the needed shift to recognizing that mistakes are part of life and are learning potentials but only if they are admitted rather than denied.
The real Y2K challenge is to see it as the forerunner of massive changes in the 21st century. Our future goals must be quite different than those of the past. We need to state clearly that human survival requires a profound shift from a quantity of goods to a quality of life orientation. It demands that we commit to social cohesion, ecological integrity and effective decision-making. It demands that we live on the basis of positive values. It requires that we move from mechanical to organic metaphors.
(To gain further perspective please check out www.resilientcommunities.org. If you are based in North America please consider getting involved in the April 8 satellite conversation. If you are based in Australia, we are exploring whether a resilient community or capacity building approach is one which is likely to coalesce the growing energy.)
Blessings and Peace,
East 202 Rockwood Blvd., #1, Spokane, WA 99202, USA 509-835-3569 e-mail:email@example.com http://www.transform.org/transform/tlc/rtpage.html
1999 will be a tumultuous year. How do we cooperate to create strange attractors which change dynamics in positive directions? For our process answer see http://www.resilientcommunities.org