THE NEW YORK TIMES: "The Spirit of Y2K" - Or, 'Kofi Annabn Makes Me Nervous All Over Again' : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

January 7, 2000

The Spirit of Y2K

Who would have thought that the biggest stories out of Y2K would be newborns, not nightmares? Let's see, there were the Wallman twins in Indianapolis, who were born two minutes and one millennium apart -- Jacob at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 1999, and Jordan at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2000. Their mother, Julie, told reporters: "We got the best of both years: the first baby of the millennium and a tax deduction." There were two babies born in Korea, just after midnight, whose births, according to The Financial Times, were carried live on the Internet. (Both babies were called "Truman," I assume.) And then there was the story that the first new millennium baby born in Silicon Valley's El Camino Hospital was to receive $500 in high-tech stocks. (How many babies do you suppose will be named "Nasdaq" this year, and will it be a boy's name or a girl's?)

I don't know about you, but we had a small millennium party and all I wanted to do was watch TV. There was something incredibly gripping, and hopeful, about this rolling wave of televised New Year's celebrations -- beginning in New Zealand, bounding through Sydney Harbor, moving over to the monks in Japan ringing a huge bell with a log, crossing over to the fireworks in China, snaking past the pyramids of Egypt, marching down the Champs Ilysies, and then skipping over to Times Square, before tiptoeing across the Americas and fading out in the Western Pacific.

What was supposed to have been the world's first global meltdown turned into the world's first global prom. To be sure, there were a lot of people who didn't have a date. One of the most poignant reports of the evening was by ABC's Jim Wooten, who went to a refugee camp in Djibouti, on the horn of Africa. As the clock struck 12, he reported that it was very dark there and this was the sound of New Year's Eve: He then stuck out his microphone and there was just dead silence. The German foreign policy writer Josef Joffe, watching the domino celebrations on CNN from his home in Munich, said the whole scene "looked like a global audience doing the wave -- as if they were at a football game -- but nobody ever linked hands. And the morning after, we all went back to our own parochial national concerns."

These are valid caveats, yet there were still some intriguing signs emerging from this remarkable evening. To begin with, despite the rising dominance of American culture around the world, you couldn't help but delight in all these other cultures celebrating Y2K in their own unique costumes, with their own music and their own traditions. It seems that despite globalization, we haven't been turned into global mush just yet.

"What struck me was the way we all celebrated each other's diversity, without anyone saying mine is better than yours," said the U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, when I asked him how it all looked from his perch. It was individual cultures being globalized rather than being homogenized -- a sort of global style show where everyone's roots were displayed. "We didn't have enough television monitors in the control room to connect us to all the places around the world that we wanted to show, and who wanted to be shown," said ABC's Peter Jennings.

Moreover, despite warnings of terrorism wherever large crowds congregated, people refused to be intimidated. The mood was: Forget the terrorists, let's party. "When I first saw this huge crowd that had gathered at the Lincoln Memorial," said George Stevens Jr., producer of the millennium event there, "it just seemed to me like the old story of hope conquering fear. And isn't that how we got this far in the first place?"

Best of all, the Y2K computer bug didn't lead to a global meltdown -- not because it was a false alarm, but because countries and companies got informed early and mobilized to defeat it, each in its own way. "We leveraged the resources of the whole planet to smash an incredibly powerful problem," said one I.B.M. exec. Who knows, maybe it will inspire us do the same for the environment, for poverty, for AIDS. Why not?

"The other thing that struck me watching TV that night," said Mr. Annan, "was how each city seemed to be rooting for the cities in the next time zone to get through Y2K without any problems. It was like, 'O.K., Tokyo is through, now how about Beijing?' And then, 'Moscow is through, how about New York?' For one brief shining moment there was a pulling together all over the planet. Somehow, we have to find a way to build on this."


-- John Whitley (, January 07, 2000


This OUGHT to scare the living daylights out of everyone...Anan is not elected by Anybody!

-- Z (Z@Z.Z), January 07, 2000.

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