Cynthia Beal
Lane County, Oregon, USA

 


This is my response to Tom Atlee's recent post, "Experts and Citizens". It's also my own mini-summation -- not a "goodbye", but definitely a "change of visible pace."

--- Cynthia Beal



January, 2000

Good essay, Tom. Some thoughts as I, too, prepare to move my attention onward.


RE: Grace:

I don't think Grace comes because everyone wants it. I think it can happen if only a few people want it. I find it useful to think that, because it leaves a lot of room for people to have differing points of view, some disagreeing totally about Grace, and yet Grace can still happen.

Grace also doesn't eliminate the work factor. It may have been 99% hard work and 1% Grace. Or less. Grace is the polite way of saying "I don't understand it, but I'm glad it came out the way it did, and maybe there was more to this good outcome than my own perspective on what was or wasn't needed."

For me, the gentle movement of our planet's human society into the Year 2000, with cooperation and mutual celebration far outshining the incidents of war, poverty and strife that seem part of our ongoing human condition, with people prepared for our darker sides to emerge while praying for the light, was awe-inspiring - even though I was stuck with a crashed cash register at 11:30 pm, bogged in year-end tapes, and my champagne was caffeine!

There was a feeling to the following New Year's Day that was both patiently constrained and cautiously amazed, and I'm only now getting enough emotional distance for a wider perspective to re-emerge.

I engaged in Community Preparedness out of a sense of social responsibility. I did so on the premise that I am an independent citizen, and that I have the obligation to respond in the manner of my choosing. I was interested to discover exactly what leeway and freedom I actually have as a Citizen, and I'm pleased to report that I have a lot of both.

Overall, it has been an incredibly empowering time, and I continue to ascribe the bulk of that capacity to the phenomenon I still call "Grace".

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I can't agree with others that this was an uneventful rollover. I am as uncertain now as I was prior about what is going to happen with this particular trigger - not 1/1/00, but the combination of issues arising from this particular programing practice, and the set of unknown interconnectivies it has made possible. I think it's much too early to proclaim it a non-event. After all, there were lots of predictions about what would fail, based on statistical models. Even if the models were "off", could they really have been off by *that* much? Perhaps, but we really do need more time to state that with certainty. People with greater skill than I will be doing that for a long time, I'm sure.

The numbers I recall seeing had a lot to do with the errors that could be expected in which systems, and approximately when. The assumption I see the statisticians (scientists in their own right) making here is that the errors exist transparently - i.e., obvious to an observer. There is no additional template applied that suggests what percentage of errors won't be visible after they've occurred.

On top of that, there's no applicable template that suggests that not only will there be invisible errors, but there will be willfully hidden errors. Additionally, the incentive to hide the errors is massive, with immediate financial and political punishment meted out to all who fail to hide the errors. And, to cap it all, contingency planning quite possibly included strong strategies for hiding the errors - work-arounds mean continuing business-as-usual; if business-as-usual depends upon covertly experiencing Y2k errors, that will be planned for.

So, the only Y2k errors we are likely to see are those visible errors that cannot be contained, no matter what the cost, unless they are extremely trivial, or assumed to be unimportant, until it becomes financially or politically advantageous for the Y2k relationship to be exposed.

With respect to continued tracking of Y2k events, I think that, rather than pronounce the Y2k event as "over", we should instead be looking at what is being reported. Currently, the issues are considered "trivial". Love Canal was certainly "trivial" to all but nearby residents, until it was investigated and prosecuted over.

But I digress, since the task of attributing Y2k as a cause is no longer of high interest to me, other than to note that the lack of readily apparent Y2k-related failures implies manipulation of the world information stream, and wherever the obfuscation is obvious, I learn something. So, I'll continue to watch, because wherever the factual can emerge, reality lies somewhere nearby. Right now, the factual is *not* emerging from the centralized press.

For example, the mainstream world would have me dismiss "anecdotal" evidence. Their self-serving purpose is to control the dissemination of facts by training, providing and controlling the "experts" that will provide the palatable real, as opposed to uncomfortably anecdotal, information.

Anecdotal information is the following: a customer comes into my store yesterday, a friend who's watched this issue with me. "A stewardess came into my store yesterday," he says, "and she said we think Y2k is a non-event, but she described four problems just in the last few days: one plane was loaded twice, on one plane they didn't get the meals put on, on one plane the baggage went somewhere else, and on one plane *they "forgot" to refuel*!"

Expert information says "this is not y2k related" or "this didn't happen" or "you're crazy for listening to this".

Y2k causality is a tricky thing. We are now once again into the time when, as a number of people have said for years, "these [dangerous] things happen all the time." In the last couple of years, they said this in order to say Y2k wasn't a problem. Thankfully, they were ignored by the majority of folks working on the issue - the causality was relevant, and led to the correction of a number of problems that would have caused the "dangerous things" event level to spike much higher during the century rollover.

Now the identified causality is probably more related to who pays, and when, and how much. As we discussed months ago, plenty of non-mission-critical systems weren't fixed. Were those systems related to people who will object strongly when they discover they're gone? How strongly will they be able to object?

Y2k as a cause for the demise of government or institutional or commercial programs might only be demonstrably relevant in proportion to the need the injured party can prove for it, and that will probably be a matter of purchasing power - retrieving archived material, programmer/executive depositions, legal fees, etc. Barring repeat Bhopals or Chernobyls, the types of failures will probably be so diverse that class action momentum will be difficult to generate in the short term, if ever.

I'm certain there are still a lot of folks working in the FOF (fix on failure) mode. FOF was primarily in question because of the potential for infrastructure breakdowns that would have complicated the FOF strategies dependent upon supply chain, finance, communications and energy. Since we didn't have a severe break in continuity, FOF strategies are much more viable today.

The risk-level that FOF strategists exposed themselves, or those they're accountable, to may be inexcusable in many peoples' eyes. The gamble is still not over for those folks. If their company is in FOF mode now, and doesn't make it, they'll lose their job, if not their company. If they make it with strong FOF strategies, they'll be heroes - for many organizations, it seems that FOF was the only option. The risk level I pose to my world community for my FOF choices is vastly different than the one the Federal Government poses to citizens, the environment, and the groups it is chartered to monitor or regulate.

Meeting the Y2k event horizon was rather like playing Chicken on a country road. Are you with your drunken pals on an isolated highway? Are your kids in the car? Are you on the Interstate? Is the Pope headed toward you, oblivious to your game? If you don't know, you shouldn't play Chicken. Yet lots of people, governments and corporations did, and still do. And over a lot more than "just" Y2k.

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"Y2k Preparedness" is over. We had work to do up til the last minutes of the year, if only to stand in the roles we had chosen - the "as if" places that our level of responsibility taking called us to. If you were an emergency services provider, you *had* to be on-call. Likewise for technical folk, medical people, and governance. The risk was appropriate to acknowledge, and the civility of most folks worldwide gives me hope.

As a citizen, I could only contribute my analytical and communication skills, and my ability to be one more person looking ahead and thinking through "what ifs". The hindsight analysis will be done by others, but I'll take some of the perspectives I've honed and try to apply them well in my future endeavors.

The collaborative web that's emerging on the heels of this international project is fascinating to me. I hope to become even more involved in the work of your group, the Co-Intelligence Institute, over the next few years. The essays and links you've posted there over the last two years are incredible, and in reviewing them I'm convinced that the primary paths to greater community resilience can be found there.

A number of folks I've "met" in the Y2k Preparedness Movement are now looking at ways to continue the portions of their work that have seemed most beneficial to them. Sustainability, Social Responsiblity, Technical Awareness, Freedom Issues, Participatory Governance, Diversification of Infrastrucutre Service Providers, Self-Reliance, and Ethical Action seem to be high on the list future endeavors. If this is what we visibly achieve as a result of this work we've done "together", then I'd say it was all time, money, and credibility well-spent.

In Community,

Cynthia Beal
Lane County, Oregon
cabeal@efn.org


 

 

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