A Brief History of the Year 2000

Joel 'Cop' Furches

Editor's Note: Since this article was originally posted, Pariah has switched to the hebrew year as 5766 has a more science fiction feel to it than the year 2000. The year 2000 is already in the past. Using the hebrew year allows us to use a real year, so the issues have real time references to their date of publication.
Welcome to the year 2000. Due to the shameless advantage merchandisers and media have taken of the rolling over of the clock, not to mention the paranoia that has developed of your computer's doing of the same, you are most likely sick of hearing about it already. However, what have you heard thus far that was truly profound as we hit the big triple o'? I, myself, have heard very little. I intend to rectify that by setting a few things in perspective.

A long, long time ago, time itself began. Just exactly how and when is hotly debated. If you are like most, you believe that time began at something-or-other-billion BC. And although I tend to lean towards a much younger date, it matters little, as such vast tracts of time are incomprehensible to conventional thought. Over those years, many calendar systems rose and died. Then, one day, a man of the church decided that the noblest thing was to center all of time around the birth of Christ the savior. And so this fellow, being ever so much nearer to the event than we, and having the advantage of the firmly established Roman calendar, calculated when Christ was born, and made that year one. All years before that were numbered in descending order and all years hence in ascending. BC and AD, both Latin phrases (rather than, as is popularly held "Before Christ" and "After Death") came into being. Our Holy friend was, however, off by about four years. He hadn't taken leap year into account when doing his calculations, and so the year we are now entering is probably more like "The Year of our Lord 2004" rather than 2000.

I would like to take this moment to lay to rest another popular misconception about the year 2000. It is not the beginning of the new millenium. Allow me to explain in simple arithmetical terms: if the year 1 was the beginning of the first millenium AD, then the year 1000 would have been the thousandth year, and therefore the last year of that millenium. The new millenium would have begun at 1001 and ended at 2000, or the two thousandth year. The next millenium begins promptly at 12:00 am January first, 2001. Be there.

As we entered this century that we are now about to exit, a poet mourned for humanity. On that new years eve he wrote a poem of sadness as he watched a bird wing its way across a dreary December sky. His bitter mood was due to the fact that he believed that our world was cyclic in nature. His theory held that we experience cycles of 2000 years of prosperity and peace followed by 2000 years of chaos and back again. He believed that we were experiencing in this last century the decay into the chaos that the next two millennia would bring, and so he wrote what I paraphrase now: "And so, what fowl creature slumps towards Bethlehem to be born." Looking at the last 2000 years, I'm not sure I can agree with him that it was a time of peace and prosperity, but as a middle class American, I have little to complain about.

The year 2000 may very well be a milestone for humanity, or it may just be another arbitrary date, marking nothing, meaning nothing. Whatever else it is, it does mark a milestone for Science Fiction. For the last fifty years, 2000 AD has stood as the date by which all writings of future times were judged. It was a long way away, and so everything that was to happen before 2000 was in the near future, and everything after that date was in the distant future. Partially this was because no one could seriously comprehend being in the new set of numbers. Nevertheless, it came, and looking back on these writings, they seem pretty ridiculous now. Still, who of us didn't allow thoughts of flying cars and bases on the moon and Mars slip through our mind when we thought of the year 2000? Be honest.

According to the second most popular Science Fiction series ever, Star Trek, we should be suffering the horrors of the holocaust brought about by world war three now. Some Science Fiction writers, such as George Lucas, wisely avoided the problems that come with dating futuristic works. While most writers write for their day, not believing in their predictions, but not seriously expecting their work to endure fifty years or so, others were just pretentious enough to do so.

This lack of foresight has lead to other problems as well. I have watched within the last three years as the wave of Y2K paranoia has sprouted, flourished and grown. I sometimes wish I could have gone back fifty years and written a sci-fi story about the Y2K bug, because the situation is any science fiction writer's dream. A nation of people integrate their industry with computer systems just before the clock rolls over, and an unforeseen glitch sends them crashing into chaos. Of course this is not going to happen. The problem was caught early enough to deflect any serious mishaps.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what havoc the paranoia itself reeks. Millions of people scared out of their wits, hoarding supplies and cowering in their homes waiting for the apocalypse to come. From a purely fictitious standpoint, it's a delightful scenario. In reality it is somewhat macabre, and not just a little silly. How revealing of human nature.

This said, I believe that the most profound things about the turning of the times will be the unsaid. What the year 2000 reveals, what the lips of God speak, could be the greatest, and most sublime surprise yet.

Otherwise, it could be just another boring year.

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