Last Friday, I started watching one of the numerous documentaries about the 9/11 attacks on the National Geographic Channel–and a witness commented that those attacks were like Y2K deferred. He explained how we had worried so much about the Y2K disaster expected on January 1, 2000–and how relieved we were that it didn’t happen, after all. So the 21st Century (and the 3rd Millennium) got off to a great start–at least for Americans. Then, as he went on to say, the 9/11 attacks occurred on September 11, 2001–and it was like Y2K did happen, after all–that it was just deferred.
This reminded me of a letter-to-the-editor I had written to my hometown newspaper, not long after moving here. It was featured in the Mobile Register on Sunday, January 17, 1999. The editorial editor headed it There’s no need for Y2K panic. And I’m transcribing it here, in its entirety:
Unless you are a computer programmer, you probably ought not to worry much about Y2K. Y?
Fears of a new century, however common, are prematurely conceived. To 19th century people, the 20th century was scary. In fact, one of the most popular concerns was where we were going to put all the excess horse manure on city streets! Just as people of 1899 could not foresee the automobile’s rise, we cannot know what preventive measures for Y2K may already be in place before New Year’s Eve.
Economically, this may be one of the greatest decades for the West. But socially, we are in a lot of trouble. We are treating ourselves and our neighbors worse than we have ever treated a foreign enemy.
Have you ever noticed how each era heals the one before it? For example, the Great Depression stopped uncontrolled spending, and then World War II ended the Depression. What could be better, for bringing us together, than an ordeal that forces us to communicate one-to-one more often (with telephone networks disrupted); further strengthen our families and communities in defense against violence (with conventional law enforcement disabled); share food with our hungry neighbors because we ourselves might be hungry next; and appreciate what riches we do have, since no one around us is significantly rich?
Whatever we call it, there is a greater mind in control. One Leo Tolstoy work is entitled, “God Sees the Truth but Waits.” Is it not possible that a higher power has long been aware of our excessive dependence on human technology, yet has waited until the most effective moment to discipline us, to teach us? After all, a divine technology has existed long before the Information Age, and will continue after it.