Millenial Bullshit: Y2K and the Creation of Social Consensus

                            As 1999 faded into historical oblivion and the year 2000 came
                            on stage in this arbitrary game of measured time, anyone
                            observing the media spectacle of the official millennium
                            celebrations was witness to a vulgar display of
                            self-congratulatory smugness. The technological
                            infrastructure and the social consensus of faith in this
                            infrastructure had held. Everyone was happy, looking with joy
                            and hope to the next millennium and the new “wonders” that
                            it would bring. Or so the plastic faces on the television, the
                            monotonously insincere voices on the radio and the empty
                            phrases in the press told us.
                            Of course, there were moments of tension. When it was
                            announced that three missiles had been launched in Russia,
                            Sam Donaldson’s face expressed something faintly
                            reminiscent of mild concern. Fortunately, a military expert
                            reassured us that these missile launchings were
                            “non-reportable”, because they had travelled less than 500
                            kilometers. And furthermore, these were scud missiles that
                            Russia had launched quite intentionally at Chechnya. So all is
                            well—except for those Chechens caught in the crosshairs of
                            these missiles.
                            It was shortly thereafter that blackouts hit several
                            neighborhoods in Los Angeles including downtown L.A.,
                            South Central, East L.A., Silver Lake and the neighborhood
                            where I was staying. A battery operated radio kept my
                            friends and I informed of the smoothness of the Y2K
                            transition. These blackouts, like those in Philadelphia were
                            apparently caused by foul weather, which also affected the
                            communication between the various radio personnel. So
                            though technology was breaking down on small levels here
                            and there, all was well. The Y2K bug had been averted.
                            These were just the normal crises of this cumbersome
                            When the electricity came back on the television presented
                            images of the first ATM user in New Zealand (one of the first
                            nations to “enter the new millennium”, starting its new year
                            many hours before Los Angeles) to show the triumph of
                            technological banality. And the announcers regularly
                            contacted the Y2K emergency center to inform us that there
                            were no major problems: the planes kept flying, the ATMs
                            continued spilling out cash, production and consumption
                            carried on apace. It was business as usual. Indeed.
                            Over and over, the media brought the same message home:
                            Technology and capital have once again overcome a crisis
                            (which, of course, they themselves created). The world is
                            getting better everyday. And everyone who is in their right
                            mind is happy with the present social order.
                            But in these same events, and even in the images used to
                            portray them, I see something different. Whatever arbitrary
                            change has occurred on the calendar, existence itself has not
                            changed—not in any fundamental sense. States still launch
                            bombs—and this is “non-reportable”, of no real concern,
                            certainly nothing that should upset our celebration. Capital
                            continues to implement technological systems of social and
                            biological control increasingly eroding the bases of individual
                            freedom and self-determination. And the technological
                            monster lumbers on never quite under anyone’s control, not
                            even that of its supposed state and capitalist masters. Thus,
                            we are kept perpetually in crises which have no element of
                            adventure, on the edge of disasters too banal and pathetic to
                            call forth any sort of heroism.
                            The Y2K story served the powers that be well. It kept
                            people’s minds focused on one particular possible disaster, on
                            one glitch in the system. But the most significant disaster of
                            this social order, the one we all live through every day, is not
                            a glitch, a mere malfunction in dating. It is the fact that we
                            have all been made dependent on an enormous, lumbering
                            juggernaut that none of us can control, and that every day it
                            destroys more life and erodes more freedom. In such a
                            situation, those who want to create lives based on their own
                            self-determined desires and passions can find no joy in any
                            future based on the continued development of the present
                            reality. Rather our joy is found in the struggle to destroy this
                            present reality and, in the process, to create new ways of
                            being in which individuals can make their own lives freely as
                            they desire.
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