Doug Carmichael: If we can't get these right, how can we get y2k right? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

There was a fairly significant effect from the April 26 Chernobyl virus in Korea, China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. I mention those that made the press. The following links list the stories. Significant damage reported 250m in South Korea. But you probably didn't read about these. The New York Times had no article till a few days late, when it mentioned the Saudi damage. But no analysis, no follow up. No instinct for the implications of technical facts on social outcomes. Our measures of technical and social realities are not very well tied together, certainly not like the two ends of a bridge, or the wings of a plane with the fuselage. In these cases every anticipated or imagined possibility is wind tunnel and computer model tested. But things like y2k are not modeled, measured, projected, anticipated, managed, with anything like technical rigor.

There are a number of key aspects of the dependency of society on underlying "fundamentals" that are not done well. Y2k has some impressive company.

We continue to get reports about how well the economy is doing. I don't need to quote examples of reporters saying "All the indicators are positive." But thy fail to give weight to:

While 20% of the population are doing better, 80% are doing worse. While stock market is, on average, up, the average stock (different thing) is down for the year (or just about equal in some categories, given the shift in the last two weeks to old style industrials and smaller companies.) Balance of payments is way high, while Japan's total ownership continues to increase rapidly in Southeast Asia.

If we can't get these right, how can we get y2k right?

More profoundly, If we can't get social class right, how can we get y2k right? The general picture of the economy is of upper middle class success. Home buying, income, travel, clothes, computers. But if we read the NYT book review for example, we see a world where lives are torn apart: inner city, rural America, biographies, tragedies. Drugs, poverty, alienation, alcohol, money problems, and meaninglessness in the face of overwhelming market and money prospects take a severe toll. The picture that emerges - and travels on America's buses, U-hauls, schoolyards all provide the same picture - is of a society that is not working well. Yet we can't seem to tie together life at the top with life at the bottom, bring to the discussion the meanness and fragmentation in the leading twenty percent, with the wisdom and fears of the bottom half or so.

If we can't get these right, how can we get y2k right?

The Colorado shootings seem to me to hint - for those who can take hints - at a failure to provide young adults, with ambition, the ability to fall in love, radical idealism and political insight, with meaningful imagery or help in coming to terms with a difficult world. Kids (never used to describe human offspring till the 19th century) are supposed to be preparing for jobs, being consumers and playing character building sports. The realities of high school aged despair - of which Rimbaud is the most forceful, but from Catcher in the Rye and Romeo and Juliet, books read by most of us, we should all know. But the lessons are not drawn.

If we can't get these right, how can we get y2k right?

Another issue that has to worry us all is the full range of implications of global warming, including the near certainty that at some point global warming triggers very rapid global cooling. Here is one that lends itself to measurement and objectivity and modeling. The measures and models were there, but where are leadership and the press?

One feels like a reflective person in an earlier century saying "hey, we have a god for our kingdom, but they, across the frontier, have a different god, now logic tells us.." or "We claim to be Christian but then why are we angry?" The basic questions can't be asked, and hence go unanswered.

If we can't get these right, how can we get y2k right?

What is the difference between those who see, and those who don't? There are those who seem to follow the wave as it unfolds, and those who sense a pattern to the wave. Their conclusions about the whole and right action are very different. We are intelligent primates. How can we expect to do more than follow the obvious? If the deeper reality is conscious and manipulated by the priests (so to speak), then what can the majority do but work with what facts and images they are given.. "Surf's up, market's up, the biggest party of the universe is approaching for the millennium (see the full page ads in Sunday's NYT entertainment for shows like Barbara Streisand .. You wouldn't want to deprive a loved one of the experience of being with her ..)

If we can't get these right, how can we get y2k right?

If small to medium businesses are in trouble for y2k, aren't they suppliers to larger organizations? I think the circularity of dependencies will lead to widespread interconnected trouble. If the international economy gets hard hit, is not American failure to produce products dependent on overseas sources going to lead to American unemployment or at least furloughs quickly?

It amazes me how we can use harsh, accurate language in one place read by thousands, and then most people act as if such things were not true in other contexts, lived in by those same thousands. Roy Porter in his excellent new book, The Greatest Benefit to mankind: a medical history of humanity, says (re: western attitudes towards medicine), "They have been stimulated by economic materialism, the preoccupation with worldly goods generated by the devouring reckless energies of capitalism." (Pg. 7, Norton 1997)


Just part of Carmichael's weekly essay. If you would like to read more, visit his y2kweek archives .

-- regular (zzz@z.z), May 05, 1999


There always has been, and always will be, a lower, middle, and upper class, economically. It's reality. If everyone was a billionaire, there would be some with only billion, and some with 100,000 billion. It's reality.

There is a bell curve of wealth. Also brains, beauty, strength, personality traits, longevity, whatever. It's reality.

There's always been crazies and losers. They were the "village idiot," the drifter, the tramp, the outlaw.

These are not what needs to be "set right." All we need to do is to figure out how to keep those on the low end of the bell curve from becoming company managers and political rulers, as they are now.

-- A (, May 05, 1999.

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