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Further Y2K Shiftings as the Hill Becomes Steeper


by Tom Atlee


As the Y2K hill becomes steeper -- uphill in obstacles, downhill in speed -- many Y2K people are shifting into new modes.  Some are moving further into their own preparedness.  Some are moving into more grounded, less idealistic community prep work.  Some are focusing on changing the culture that brought us Y2K.  Some are moving into arts, celebration, and appreciation of the life that they have right now.  Some are going into deeper self-development to be better able to do these things, or simply to become a better human being during this time of great change and challenge.  Many are turning (or returning) to friends, families, neighbors.

My own shift is increasingly towards helping develop a new politics and governance that would generate wisdom for our collective problem-solving, well-being, and evolution. It is more obvious than ever that our current politics and governance aren't working; that they are, in fact, actively making things worse.  We need to change this soon, because our collective capacity to create disasters is growing by leaps and bounds.  We need a stronger democracy AND we need something that goes beyond democracy:  We need the capacity to be collectively wise together, as communities and as cultures.  Luckily, this involves nothing more esoteric or complex than gathering diverse people together and helping them discover a deep consensus.  It has been done successfully thousands of times in widely diverse circumstances.  The breakthrough required is to apply this proven approach in the realm of politics and governance -- and, specifically, to create political and governmental institutions that embody it.  This idea, although deceptively simple, it is so novel to most people, so beyond anything they've experienced, that powerful communication skills will be needed to enable them to "get it."  (If you'd like to help on this, contact me.)  Once enough people get it, I believe things could change quite quickly.  (For more on perspective, see, for example, the discussion of "proxy dialogues" in "Building a Culture of Dialogue (among other things)" at .  I will be posting more about this on over the coming months.)

Of course, we can't change the dysfunctional systems we live in, in the few months left before 2000.  But in that time thousands or millions of people could be introduced to these creative possibilities for change and have those possibilities in mind as the Year 2000 unfolds.  If I and others do our work well, the patterns needed for a sensible, sustainable, high quality-of-life culture will be known to enough people to make a difference when the time is ripe.  And I do believe that time is coming.  I suspect we are living through the beginning of it right now.

Since January 2000 COULD generate enough disruption to impede our ability to communicate, I hope that ALL of us with transformational possibilities will do our best to communicate them well and soon, to a broader audience than we have ever reached before.  I realize that my own efforts to do this will increasingly take me away from Y2K preparedness work and toward new activities, new locations and new colleagues. I also know that the community preparedness efforts of thousands of people will continue and I hope that what I have done so far (much of it available on my website) will continue to be of use to them.

As a lifelong worker for social change, I now feel myself moving deeper into mystery. To the extent we activists have thought in terms of causing particular effects, this new territory may feel awkward.  I fear (perhaps I should rejoice) that the time for linear social change efforts may be coming to an end.  Soon, perhaps, we won't be able to build anything particular or large, only to sow seeds of possibility.  I want to start sowing those seeds now, while the winds of our infrastructure (telecommunications, copy machines, publications, media, transportation, etc.) are strong enough to carry them far and wide.  What happens to them then is anyone's guess.

When Ed Yourdon said goodbye to Y2K work, I didn't know whether I would or not.  I'm still not sure; I don't have a clear sense of what is and isn't Y2K work, so I'm not sure what constitutes a good-bye.  I suspect I will continue to play the role I've played, on and off, for as long as I can.  But I suspect I will disappear from this radar screen for days or weeks at a time, more and more, as my other role grows and the road gets steeper.  We shall see how it all unfolds.

In closing, I would like to share with you the thoughts of some other people who reflected on their Y2K lives in response to Ed Yourdon's Sayonara letter.  There's lots of thoughtfulness happening right now.



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Sharif Abdullah wrote:

It's fine to assess one's position and change directions based on where
one finds oneself.  Sailors do it all the time; so do land sailors
navigating lanes of traffic on the freeway.  That's not only a good
idea, but is prudent, strategic thinking.  (I have been assessing and
re-directing my own Y2K activities in light of where we find ourselves
now, at six months and counting.)....

Perhaps the "goodbyes" are because "Y2K community preparedness" is not a
powerful enough goal to which one can commit and stay committed.  Those
of you who know me or have read the Y2K materials on the Commonway
website know that "community preparedness" has never been my primary
focus.  For 35 years, social transformation has been my focus, a goal to
which it is easy to dedicate the remainder of my life.

Y2K provides us with a unique opportunity.  To demonstrate, I'd like to
use an analogy for which I would love to take credit, but can't.

We are all traveling at 70 miles per hour on a northbound train.  North
is the direction of destruction.  On this train is a group of people who
are walking south on the northbound train, feeling smug that they are
not walking in the direction of destruction.

Y2K is going to stop this train.  It's going to be a brief stop at a
signal, a train wreck, or anything in between, but it's going to stop.
This stop will give us a chance to jump from the train, hop on another
one, wake up people in other compartments, pull up the tracks...  this
stop will allow us to get creative, to have our creativity actually mean
something in the world, to have our motion, our movement, mean

Several months ago, a close friend who has a few
hundred acres of nature preserve and self-sufficient homestead on a
coastal Canadian island invited me to spend New Years Eve 1999 with him
and his family.  This was obviously a major invitation, since both of us
knew that could mean spending the rest of our lives together.

After his invitation he said the following: "While you are invited to
stay with us, I'm pretty sure you won't accept.  You have been in
training for this event all of your life.  On New Years Eve, I expect
that you will be at The Front."

I fully agree with him, even though I have no idea right now where "The
Front" is!  I know that I will be doing what I've been doing for 35
years: encouraging people to use the tools laying all about them to
change their consciousness, change their hearts and change their

For those who are committed to the creation of a world that works for
all:  See you at The Front!

Sharif Abdullah <>

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Tom Atlee wrote in response:

There are levels of disaster to which the words "The Front" don't seem to apply; it is a field phenomenon, it comes from everywhere, inside and out, all 11 directions.  And for me "The Front" is a military metaphor.  I feel more like I'm planting seeds or doing my damnedest to get a tree to grow, with roots big enough to tear up the concrete no matter what They do.  And if "The Front" is where the action is, I think we're there, no matter what we do.  Perhaps "The Front" describes which way we're facing more than where we are...

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Tom Greco wrote:

I have also said "goodbye" to Y2K, in a way. What that means for me is
shifting the focus of my energies. I've drawn back from the the leadership
role and organizing efforts in the Tucson Year 2000 Center which consumed
most of my time and energy for over a year. Now, I'm feeling urgent about
redirecting my efforts to the areas where I think I can make the greatest
contribution to "the world after Y2K."

I think I have a unique understanding of money, banking, and finance, and
want to share as widely as possible my insights on how these ought to be
restructured to promote, as you put it, "a world that works for all."

My goal is to produce some new books and/or educational materials, to
collaborate more effectively with others working in this area, and to
"spread the gospel" of new money and new economics far and wide.

Saying goodbye to Y2K also means finding/creating a "safe haven" from which
I can put my work into the world. Some of us feel we've done as much as we
can to warn others and help them to prepare. Now, that can be left to

Thomas Greco <>

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Robert Theobald wrote:

Any effective challenge to current thinking cannot only be in terms
of Y2K. The real issue with which we must all grapple is the end of the world
as we have known it. Those who want to see Y2K as a speed bump are failing to
recognize that we live in a world that is dramatically different from the one
for which our institutions were designed. We are in the middle of an incredible
shift in overall realities.

Y2K is one symptom of these shifts....

The world is evolving at an extraordinarily rapid pace. It is evolving in
directions which are literally unknowable. If we are to prevent local and
global breakdown we can only do so by accepting that the models we have
inherited from both our long run, and immediate, past have to be abandoned. Y2K
is a wake-up call for us. But it is also a symptom of a deeper danger.

It can be seen as a road-sign warning us of a sharp turn in the route ahead. We
need to move with the changes that are already taking place around us rather
than ignoring them. And we have very little time to do so. More and more of the
people who think seriously about the future agree that our current brittle
systems will break in the next five to ten years. Preventing breakdown depends
on making far larger changes, in a far shorter time, than our current
decision-making systems makes possible.

Robert Theobald <>

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Bill Ulrich writes: 

Going into my 7th year of Y2K work at the professional and community level
gives me some insights that many may never attain - although I am admittedly
too close to the topic many times to see the trees. I have seen more people
come and go than I can count. I have seen conferences and companies start and
fail. I have seen experts emerge and disappear. My message to all of you at
whatever level that are trying to make a difference is to pace yourselves and
try to step back and remove yourself from the emotions that get attached to
this topic. If you take action in haste or fear or anger, you will not
succeed. Good luck to your continued efforts.

William Ulrich <>
"Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering" Yoda

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