It holds within it the entire human spectrum of hopes and fears writ large. On one end is the ultimate redemptive Party, and on the other is Final Apocalypse. And while Ketamine-snorting ravers and burnt New Agers huddle together in blissed-out ignorance awaiting the first, most of us are piqued enough by the possibility of the latter to be a little apprehensive, if not downright somber.
Whether rooted in scripture or computer science, fear and trembling is in fact a normal reaction to the possibilities around the corner. All those zeroes. All that space. Big empty horizon. All those rusty nuclear reactors. All those Sins.
Sins? As for scripture-based jitters-or, for the chosen, hope-I think it unwarranted. At the risk of offending expectant and god-fearing THINK readers, the Son hasn't put in an appearance or miracle in almost two thousand years, and has therefore forfeited His right to be taken seriously as a factor on January 1st.
Even if Jesus does show up, His attempt to pass Final Judgement won't pass much mustard in the upper courts. A more rational fear is that of the much-publicized Year Two Thousand Bug, known worldwide as Y2K. Basically computers are stupid, and apparently so were the cost-cutting firms who programmed the things way back when 2000 was just a Kubrick flick to trip out to.
The State Department and other such agencies interested in controlling the panic factor have been actively downplaying the threat of Y2K since its emergence as a hot story two years ago. They claim that corporations and government agencies are prepared and that they expect little in the way of major disturbances.
And if you trust these reassurances you are either an ostrich or a regular purchaser of miracle cures from traveling salesmen. News flash: nobody knows what is going to go down on January 1st. Embassies and National Guards have been issued contingency plans that span the whole gamut, from cats in trees to total radiated wasteland populated by scavenger mutants. Perhaps most revealing about the seriousness of the glitch is the fact that the US and Russia have actually set up a joint monitoring station in rural Colorado to deal with the threat of radar misreads, false launches, and total defense-grid meltdowns. While it is encouraging that such a project exists, the need for it is less so.
Also be aware of a report by the British arms journal Jane's Defense Weekly, which claims - and this is for real - that the Russians have a sort of Doomsday machine that automatically launches its arsenal if a constant signal relayed from Moscow stops transmitting for more than five minutes. If this signal were to go on the fritz due to a Y2K shutdown...