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Tom Atlee's most recent Y2K thoughts


February 4, 2000



January 28, 2000

Dear friends

I must admit I am STILL radically uncertain about the dynamics and significance of the rollover. Things don't quite add up for me. I still have my feelers out. If I get any blinding revelations, I will definitely let you know. But I suspect I won't get any such revelations. I suspect my uncertainty will never resolve. Nevertheless, I am unwilling to adopt any of the explanations and attitudes currently circulating about the rollover, simply to release the psychic tension generated by my uncertainty. I will live with the uncertainty until it is deeply satisfied, or just let it continue on...

My latest sense regarding appropriate action now is that

a) preparedness efforts are still valid (both those done and those yet to do) because Y2K may yet produce certain disruptive impacts AND because other things than Y2K could generate disruptive impacts. However,

b) I am beginning to realize that the role of Y2K as a carrier wave for transformational/social change consciousness is probably over. Y2K has had a certain transformational impact -- people became aware of our interconnectedness and certain infrastructure weaknesses; the idea of community resilience spread rapidly; many people took up more sustainable personal or community practices (solar power, gardening, neighborliness); and so on. Although many of those changes will persist or even spread, Y2K as a carrier wave has now broken on the beach and dissipated: Further Y2K effects are likely to be diffuse and non-simultaneous and therefore lack enough coherence to constitute a "wake up call."

The siren song of "business as usual" is calling all of us with its comforts, its predictability, its familiar rhythms, its social and personal narratives through which our lives have made sense for years.... One by one, we return to our old patterns, or to some new project that makes sense within the old patterns. There is precious little to support our stepping into a totally different story, a radically new (and therefore probably challenging) way of seeing our world or living our lives or running our society. It is this that makes me sad about the quiet rollover. I never wanted lots of people to die or suffer; that's why I did work on preparedness, especially community preparedness. But the hypnotic magnetism of business-as-usual is SO powerful that I fear only a true disaster will be enough to make us awaken from the trance. I didn't want a car wreck, just a noticeable whack on the head to wake us up.

While many have said that the smooth rollover delegitimizes so-called "doomsday scenarios", I see too much about our current business-as-usual social dynamics (e.g., the erosion of democracy) and individual behaviors (e.g., unsustainable energy use) that is dysfunctional or downright dangerous. So I DO still expect us to generate disasters for ourselves, collectively. The fact that we are collectively becoming more powerful all the time, and that we show so little sign of being able to collectively deal with that power wisely, does not encourage me. But time will tell.

In the meantime, I will look for other avenues than Y2K to let people know that there are more wise, intelligent, sustainable, meaningful and enjoyable ways to design our cultures. I am humble enough to know that I haven't the foggiest idea what will come of those efforts, or what will happen next. But it always seems worth it to me, to at least try to make a positive difference. And then to offer a few prayers.

....all the time realizing that everything that's going on may have a totally different significance than we think. As community activist Bayard Stockton says, we might think to ourselves, "Is that bucket I'm carrying leaking...or is it watering the ground as I walk?"