Need a definition: Denial : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

So many people have told me I'm "in denial" about Y2K because I don't believe in the TEOTWAWKI scenario that I have come to question the meaning of the phrase. Most people who have lobbed it at me (and at others) on this forum seem to have used it to mean "you don't agree verbatim with me and my views, therefore you are either stupid or emotionally incapable of seeing the truth." Actually, in reviewing the hundreds of messages I have received from posters here, there is a strong tendancy to include only the "you are stupid" part of the meaning. I'm sure I'm missing some subtle nuance of meaning here, but I just can't put my finger on it.

Perhaps we could settle on a definition for the phrase and use it consistently. Since I am, by so many accounts, a sufferer of this problem I may not be the best person to submit a definition. Any body up for the challenge?

-- Paul Neuhardt (, July 08, 1998


I think TEOTWAWKI is the first response of people who haven't thought this through or looked at all the facts. Fact is, I work in the IS department of a Fortune 500 company who has made great strides in the area of Year 2000 remediation. I'm willing to bet that all our competitors are doing the same thing. There is only one word for companies that aren't - LOSER. I do have concerns in certain areas, especially government. They do not operate by the profit motive. The only way they could lose is by losing taxpayer dollars. They've got nothing to lose by failing to issue checks. What are all the welfare recipients going to do if they don't get paid - go on strike? Hunger strike maybe. If you receive a check from a government agency, be concerned. Otherwise, I wouldn't worry too much.

-- Amy Leone (, July 08, 1998.

TEOTWAWKI is a phrase that doomsdayers use because they truly think it will be. I believe if the problem isn't corrected, that we are going to see widespread chaos. A lot of people will suffer, and a lot of people won't be prepared to face an emergency situation. To them it may be TEOTWAWKI. I hope for the best but I am prepared for the worst!

-- Barb-Douglas (, July 08, 1998.

One of the most difficult aspects of the problem facing us is that it's forcing us all to make what may potentially be life-and-death decisions on the basis of sparse and scattered information. Each of us responds differently, both because of our individual orientation toward threatening news, and because we're making assessments on the basis of facts that can be gathered only through a dedicated and time-consuming effort.

To conclude that the very fabric of global civilization is at risk is, indeed, to take an undeniably extreme position. Historically, predictions of doom have rarely proven true, and the derision of those who, in the past, have spread alarms of world-ending disasters does seem, with hindsight, well deserved.

Nevertheless, enough data is now assembled on various sites across this marvelous Web we share to lend more than a bit of credibility to the claims of those who conclude our civilization is in grave danger of collapse.

Amy believes that alarmists haven't looked at all the facts. She projects the success her department is making onto the IS departments of other Fortune 500 companies. Yet a study released in mid June indicated that two out of three Fortune 500 companies still don't even have a detailed Year 2000 plan, and of those with plans, only one in five are executing them.

Amy didn't say that what she would bet on progress among her company's competitors is her life. But that's what we may be betting when we make assumptions based solely on anecdotal evidence, or on projections based on our own necessarily limited experience.

The idea that failure of all the government systems that are in grave danger means nothing more than that welfare recipients go unpaid exhibits a woeful lack of understanding of the structure of our society. And to express no concern for the potential failure of many of our power systems, water plants, food distribution systems, financial industry, rail systems, and telecommunications is either evidence of ignorance of documented facts or sheer delusion. (I do not intend this statement as a personal attack on Amy, and I sincerely apologize if it seems such. Her statements are typical of many we read in these forums, and I'm using them simply as an example.)

When uninformed optimists encourage people to join them in their lack of concern, it's heart-wrenching to those who have educated themselves about the potential disaster y2k may bring and who are, nevertheless, optimistic in hoping their cries of alarm may help others prepare for the challenges ahead.

Given the amount of factual data available on the Internet, it's difficult to refrain from assuming that people who downplay the crisis are either lacking in simple research skills or are, in fact, incapable of emotionally processing the potential extent of the threat.

If someone tells you that you're "in denial," it may not be unwise to ask yourself, honestly, whether that might not truly be the case. It's not easy to contemplate that the stability we have enjoyed for so long, and which we expected to continue forever, may really be in jeopardy of ending. Many who have arrived at that conclusion have done so reluctantly and with great personal anguish only after an objective review of available information.

We all need to try to be as considerate as we can in expressing our differences of opinion, and to support those opinions with fact as best we can. Personal attacks have no place here. For better or worse, we are all in this together. Let's try to rise to the occasion with the best that's in us. Our best is, after all, awesomely good. It just might be good enough to let us look back on these times and take pride in how we met them.

-- Faith Weaver (, July 08, 1998.

What amounts to being a great question unfortunately cannot garner a definition. Quite simply, there can be no definition for denial when the facts in terms of the y2k conundrum are skewered by opinions, agendas and what-if scenarios. Travel to any website that has dedicated itself to the problem and one quickly takes notice of the words 'could' and 'might'. With this in mind, how can one validate--or indeed, deny---any possibilities.

In my relatively short time on the internet, I have become fascinated as to the perceptions which are culled by the 'reading' public. All too often, things posted here are taken as being gospel and IMHO, this is a fatal flaw for all of us.

Just what is the magnitude of the y2k problem? Just what will be the outcome? And quite pointedly, can you state without reservation---and with facts which substantiate you--what awaits all of mankind? Unless the answer to that last question is yes and the facts follow, count me among the skeptics, as well. I have seen too much doom and gloom prognosticators come and go to believe otherwise.

I'll make preparations, but I am not about to move into the hills.

-- Professor K (, July 08, 1998.

Faith, Well said, I wish I had the eloquence to express myself so well.

-- Victor Kandle (, July 09, 1998.

"Denial" came from psychiatry: a state of mind in which a person is unable to start on a cure because he won't accept he has a problem that needs curing.

It's the normal state of mind of an alcoholic right up to the point where he finally calls AA.

-- Nigel Arnot (, July 09, 1998.

Responses to the responses:

Faith, I must agree that your response was both well written and well thought out. I must let you know that I have given this situation a lot of thought and research over several months, and have come to the conclusion that while Y2K is likely to cause disruptions in our lives, that serious, long term effects will be minimal. I do not believe that there is enough evidence to support the "doom and gloom" position that has so often been taken, and whose proponents I really aimed my posting at.

To be fair, I am most definitely *not* a "don't worry, be happy" person either. I find ample evidence of problems, both potential and alredy proven, that will be caused by Y2K. I simply believe that the problems can and will be addressed at some time, in some way in order to allow ordered society to proceed along it's path.

As for Nigel's post, I was aware of both the psychological and AA uses of the term "denial" and I was actually hoping someone would bring them up. In this definition there is an assumption: a provable problem exists that the person in question refuses to accept. There, in my opinion, is the rub. There is no provable "end of the world" scenario, at least not so far as I can see. Moreover, there is no effect that Y2K might have on the fabric of society that couldn't be produced in some other way, and generally has.

For instance, let's look at economic problems. Recession? Heck, I'm betting we would be getting one in the next two years anyway. In fact, I believe we are seeing the signs of a major and sudden recession today. As even the doom and gloomer-er have noted, Y2K has had no effect ye. Therefore, if we accept that the economy is in fact beginning to show signs of recession (or even depression) we know that Y2K will at worst be a contributing factor to an economic downturn and not it's root cause.

As for economic consequences of industrial Y2K problems, take a look at the current GM strike. Animosity between an employer and a union, and the resulting power struggle, have had wide ranging effects that offer a good example of the "ripple" effect described by the Yourdons in their book. But I ask you: what is the real, long term difference between GM being out of the manufacturing business for three weeks because of a strike and because of Y2K problems? To me, the answer is this: None. When all the crying is over, it doesn't matter why those cars didn't get made for all that time so long as they do in fact start production again. Will Y2K cause permanent loss of manufacturing capability? I know I have seen nothing that would even begin to indicate that.

So, let's ask this question: Can I be "in denial" for having a difference of opinion regarding the scope of a problem? Well, maybe, but only if you can prove that the problem is what you say it is and not what I believe it to be, and the only way to do that is wait for the rollover problems to occur and see what happens.

In the meantime, let's try to follow the lead of several posters here: read, keep informed, form our own opinions, continue to test and challenge those opinions and make whatever preparations we feel neccessary without adding hostility or rudeness into the equation.

-- Paul Neuhardt (, July 09, 1998.

Let's try this for a definition: "Denial" is a disconnect between the subconscious mind, that recognizes the problem, and the conscious mind, that doesn't want to.

Does that make sense?

-- Larry Kollar (, July 09, 1998.

Faith - I agree with you that I sit in my own little cubicle in my own little corner of the world and I can only see so much from here. That is very interesting what you have to say about other Fortune 500 companies, apparently I made an invalid extrapolation. I didn't feel you were insulting at all and the reason I post my point of view is to see if people actually can counter with facts. The more facts we can gather the better position we are in. What I don't like to see on this bulletin board are people who jump to either extreme without a careful analysis of facts. We have a unique opportunity to actually be prepared for an emergency, let's take it.

-- Amy Leone (, July 09, 1998.

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