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WINTER 2000: v5i1 INDEX






WINTER, 2000: Volume 5 Issue 1

What I Learned From The Y2K Bug by Val Liveoak

As I write this in the second week of January, 2000, the world is still pretty much as it was on New Year’s Eve. The Y2K disaster seems to have been averted. But how much of 1999 did you spend checking, downloading, testing and otherwise working to avoid the predicted catastrophe? How many hours did the media devote to the question? How many billions of dollars were spent to keep the damage to a minimum? Or was it all hype?

I don’t know the answer to the global questions, but I certainly invested a fair amount of personal resources and energy in the problem, and I expect most computer users did as well. At first I wondered if the prophets of doom were exaggerating, but as time went on, I realized how many aspects of my life could be affected by the bug. Certainly, governments and businesses invested vast resources in preventing the potential meltdown of civilization as we know it (in the developed world, at any rate).

I think that the parallels of the Y2K problem with peacemaking should be noted because they can guide our efforts in the future. Y2K problems developed, we’re told, because of the continued use of older, “legacy” programs that used the now-archaic two-digit method of writing the years in the 20th century. When the 19 changed to 20 the computers could be confused. The decision to use the two-digit notation wasn’t made purely out of thoughtless disregard for the future, however, but because it saved, according to one expert, trillions of dollars worth of formerly expensive memory.

Well, I suppose that the “War Bug”—violence, oppression, and injustice—has been the legacy of humanity for a long time, too. For the victors/owners, it has served to create a fantastic standard of living that perhaps one-fifth of the world’s population enjoys. Like the Y2K bug, the War Bug affects just about every aspect of our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not. Yet there are voices in the wilderness from people everywhere that call cutthroat competition, the law of the jungle, rugged individualism, and other expressions of short-sighed selfishness deadly—to the majority of humanity, to the earth itself, to the spirit. The Millennial celebrations didn’t applaud these characteristics that are a part of our human legacy, but instead celebrated our potential for peace, for cooperation, for understanding, and for connection.

I think peacemakers everywhere are devoting tremendous resources to fixing the War Bug, and I wish the media, governments and business would do a larger part of the work. What would happen if the same quantity of time and treasure as was devoted to solving Y2K were devoted to peace, justice and sustainable prosperity for all of the people of the world?

Whenever a war is prevented, does it look as if “nothing happened,” that the warnings issued were over-inflated hype, or that the resources expended were wasted? Quakers often say, “Live up to the Light that you have, and more will be granted to you.” My hope is that each of us will re-double our efforts to right wrongs, prevent violence, and work toward a future where war, injustice, environmental degradation, poverty, racism, and a myriad of other legacies are recognized as relics of past failures of foresight.