It's Always the End of the World as We Know It
IT seems so distant, 1999. Bill Clinton had survived impeachment, his popularity hardly dented, Sept. 11 was just another date and music fans were enjoying a young singer named Britney Spears.
But there was a particular unease in the air. The so-called Y2K problem, the inability of computers to read dates beyond 1999 threatened to turn Jan. 1, 2000 into a nightmare. The issue had first been noticed by programmers in the 1950s, but had been ignored. As the turn of the century loomed, though, it seemed that humankind faced a litany of horrors.
No doubt part of the blame must go to those consultants who took businesses and governments for an expensive ride in the lead-up to New Year’s Day. But doom-laden exaggerations about Y2K fell on ears that were all-too receptive. The Y2K fiasco was about more than simple prudence.
Religions from Zoroastrianism to Judaism to Christianity to U.F.O. cults have been built around notions of sin and the world’s end. The Y2K threat resonated with those ideas. Human beings have constructed an enormous, wasteful, unnatural civilization, filled with sin — or, worse in some minds, pollution and environmental waste. Suppose it turned out that a couple of zeros inadvertently left off old computer codes brought crashing down the very civilization computers helped to create. Cosmic justice!
The theme of our fancy inventions ultimately destroying us has been a favorite in fiction at least since Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” We can place alongside this a continuous succession of spectacular films built on visions of the end of the world. Such end-time fantasies must have a profound, persistent appeal in order to keep drawing wide-eyed crowds into movie theaters, as historically they have drawn crowds into churches, year after year.
Apocalyptic scenarios are a diversion from real problems — poverty, terrorism, broken financial systems — needing intelligent attention. Even something as down-to-earth as the swine-flu scare has seemed at moments to be less about testing our health care system and its emergency readiness than about the fate of a diseased civilization drowning in its own fluids.
Bom, da minha parte o que eu fiz sob influência da tal ameaça do “Bug do Milênio” foi, just in case, sacar um dinheiro num caixa automático na R. Augusta na noite do dia 31 de dezembro de 1999 e depois ser entrevistada por uma repórter do JT sobre isso. Pouco depois, eu estava de branco na Av. Paulista pulando com minha irmã e um amigo dela durante o Reveillon da Paulista com um show da Ivete Sangalo. ;-)