Theobald: Y2K Attitudes and Patterns : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

by 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 dont 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 realised 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 ones whole time worrying about all of the diseases one can possibly catch. One needs to have a general awareness of ones body and to be aware of specific dangers which come from ones specific circumstances but the most important goal is to build ones 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 If you are based in North America please consider getting involved in the April 8 satelllite 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.)



-- Critt Jarvis (, March 23, 1999


Hi Critt!

Who is Robert Theobald? Much of this makes good sense to me.

I am particularly struck by the point "the most important goal is to build one's health and immune system".

In the past year I have become more interested in the concept of self-reliant living. I noted a few days ago that Art Welling commented at length on his move to such a lifestyle.

For the past thirty years, the self-reliant lifestyle has been sold on the basis of the evils of pollution. Without disagreeing with that idea, I don't think that it is the best sales pitch.

I see a more effective sales pitch to be one of "personal sovreignty". And I see this y2k threat to be a good opportunity to give that message effectively.

For example, the environmentalists have over the decades objected to the pollution created by the power companies. What we face now is the fact that not only have these companies polluted, but in addtion to that they cannot be relied upon to provide the service they offer.

That is to say, if we were assured that we would receive power in any event, we might choose to consider the pollution to be a reasonable trade-off. (I'm not saying that we would, but we might.)

But if these people have been polluting all of these years, and now we can't rely on them anyway, why should the pollution be tolerated?

The self-reliant lifestyle (using solar photovoltaic cells, windmills and water current turbines) in addition to being non-polluting is not dependent upon the competence of corporate execs. It is the equivalent of using a personal Sprint when AT&T shuts down.

I believe that to assume the ability to provide for own's own power is one aspect of building one's health and immune system.

-- GA Russell (, March 23, 1999.

This site carries many links to Theobald's writings ---

Robert Theobald Home Page

I haven't been through it yet. But this piece seems to characterize his approach (at

Alternative scenarios for Y2K ------------------------------------------------------------------------ By Robert Theobald

Even the most radical scenarios for Y2K seem to assume that there will no fundamental discontinuities. This is perhaps most noticeable, and most startling, in the case of survivalist visions. The basic assumption on which they are based is that it will be necessary to get out of the cities because law and order will break down. And yet it also seems to be assumed that those who stock food and other necessities will be left in peace to enjoy them. In actual fact, of course, those people who are prepared to be the most violent will simply seize the resources which others have prepared for them.

The hardest reality to convey at the current time is that the stability, and increasing wealth, that people in the rich world have enjoyed during this century will not be sustained. It may be climatic instability that breaks this trend. It may be the growing shortage of fossil fuels. It may be the failure of our social systems that have been undermined by current economic beliefs. It may be Y2K and the technological hubris of our time.

Successful continuation of the human journey requires the greatest transformation in thought and action that has ever occurred. We have seen shifts from hunting and gathering to agriculture and from agriculture to industry. These both created significant shifts in behavior but they were all along a single continuum: a belief that human being could and should dominate each other and nature.

It is this belief which is now being challenged. Our new understandings of physical science, expressed in chaos and complexity theories, require us to relate to each other and ecological systems in radically different ways. The new scientific understandings are highly convergent with the core of all the worlds religions which propose that we should live on the basis of honesty, responsibility, humility, love and a respect for mystery.

We are faced with humanitys next "exam." There are three possible outcomes of the exam. One is that we shall try to avoid taking it at all. We shall continue to assume that the currently dominant ideas will continue to work into the future. We shall act as though maximum economic growth strategies and a commitment to international competitiveness should remain our core strategies. We shall continue to believe that technology holds the key to the solution of all problems.

We may be able to put off the day of reckoning through this approach - although even this is not certain. I currently believe that the only way in which it is possible to avoid the worst consequences of the Y2K issue is to develop a global cooperative process. This would be designed to ensure that the most serious problems were dealt with wherever they were located throughout the globe. This approach is simply unthinkable in our current competitive universe. The chances of this happening are further decreased by the current legal culture which ensures that institutions cannot be open and honest for fear of incurring liabilities.

The longer we persist in our current directions, the worse the eventual collapse will be. If we were to decide to change our course now, and to recognize that our real crisis is a spiritual one, it is still possible to limit the pain and suffering in the world. The longer we persist in ignoring the evidence around us, the less we shall be able to shape the direction of the new society we so urgently need. The pattern of events in the old Soviet Union should be a harsh warning to us. Communism collapsed and there was nothing ready as a substitute. Conditions are so bad that life expectation has declined dramatically.

We have misinterpreted the meaning of the collapse of the Soviet Union. We have seen it as the triumph of capitalism over communism. We would do well to heed the meaning of Willis Harmans question: "If capitalism were collapsing, would we see the warning signs?" I believe that the evidence is all around us: we are confronted by signs of economic, social, moral and ecological crises.

Fortunately, an enormous amount of work has already been done to describe the systems which could replace those based on economic and technological emphases. Even more importantly, there is abundant evidence that people are ready to support change that moves toward a higher quality of life rather than an emphasis on more goods.

Our challenge is to recognize that a new culture is already being born around us. I am amazed, and excited, by how many people are ready for new directions. We need to provide people with opportunities to engage in conversations about these issues so they can think through, and then act on, their emerging understandings.

This material can be freely forwarded and printed with the following credit line:

"Robert Theobald has been working on fundamental change issues for 40 years. His latest book is Reworking Success. (New Society Publishers) He was recently listed as the 7th most influential futurist by The Encyclopedia of the Future."

I wish I were as optimistic.

-- Tom Carey (, March 23, 1999.

Thanks Critt,

It comes down to choices, doesnt it. Renewal, re-creation and strengthing the personal and community immune system, seems wiser a choice.

Optimism, is something you work at, Tom. It takes practice, and experience, to do it well.

Some days, are just harder than others.


BTW, info on the video conference referred to was sent out by e from Halim Dunsky, Executive Editor, Y2K Community Project, (, a speaker at the Seattle 2000 Expo, with a web-site at ...

... Here's news of an important event coming up April 8, featuring Cynthia Beal and Robert Theobald. If you don't already have a downlink site in your community, now is a good time to begin making arrangements.

Building Communities for Y2K and a Sustainable Future

-----Original Message-----

Northwest Regional Facilitators
and Washington State University present

Common-Sense, Common-Ground:
Preparing for Y2K

A Live Satellite Videoconference Series
continuing on Thursday, April 8, 1999
9:00am-Noon Pacific Time

The second Resilient Communities program in this three part series brings together activists who are making waves in their local communities and internationally by promoting preparedness and sustainability practices in the face of Y2K. Cynthia Beal, a local grocer in Eugene, OR and international advocate for community preparedness will be joining us. In this program, we will provide you with common-sense advice that competent people are giving about food and water storage, electricity concerns, availability of money, medicine, etc. It will address the need for spiritual resiliency during this turbulent time. It will also look at how higher levels of sustainability can emerge from the immediate requirements posed by Y2K challenges.

Our first program aired on January 22, 1999 and provided an opportunity for interactive dialogue on community resiliency with futurist and socioeconomist, Robert Theobald, and management consultant, author and noted Y2K commentator, Margaret Wheatley. They looked at shifting global dynamics and discussed new forms of leadership needed for the new millennium. It received excellent reviews and is now available on video at the Resilient Communities website.

We have scheduled the third and final program to air on May 27. It will give participants a sense of the ways in which people and communities are approaching the full range of issues related to resilience at personal, family, community and ecological levels. The program will link those who have been working in communities across North America and enable them to share their experiences. We will explore the tools and approaches that have been most successful in inviting people to a leaderful society. People can gain more detailed knowledge about Resilient Communities through their website, which is directly linked to these programs.

Who Should Participate

This is an educational program intended for concerned citizens. This includes educators, clergy, elected and appointed officials, business owners, economic development practitioners, tribal leaders, non-profit directors, community organization officers, community volunteers and anyone else you can think of to invite.

For additional information about becoming a site coordinator contact Amanda Butcher at (509) 448-6733 or by e-mail at For more information about registration contact Nancy Sanders at (509) 335-2929 or by e-mail at For more information on community resilience visit the Resilient Communities web site at


-- Diane J. Squire (, March 24, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ