Should We Really Fix 'Millenium Bug'?


The coming "millennium bug," which will cause computers to mistake the year 2000 for 1900, has been described as a catastrophe in the making.

Law and insurance firms are predicting an astonishing one trillion dollars worth of litigation in the U.S. from this bug. Government computers alone will cost taxpayers another $25 billion to fix. With international costs, the final expense will probably be hundreds of trillions. Nevertheless, government and industry have declared war on the millennium bug.

Sigh. Once again, humans are missing the point.

The bug is, in fact, a sign. Probably sent by Jesus, or Buddha, or Elvis, or the Hale-Bopp people. Listen to the bug and you'll hear it saying, "Come, heedless, vain humans, back with me to the only time in history that made any sense: 1900."

Bear with me here. What if, instead of fixing the bug, we diverted those trillions of dollars to the task of demolishing modern civilization and reconstructing it in the image of the year 1900? Then the computers wouldn't need to be reprogrammed.

What's more, there would be major benefits for all. Think of the jobs that would be created doing things like tearing up parking lots and turning them back into paradises. Many would relish a job bulldozing the Wal-Marts and rebuilding the friendly mom and pop stores of yesteryear.

People now stuck in office jobs would enjoy being part of a vigorous TV-smashing crew. Legions of idle folks would find meaningful work demolishing the highways and turning them back into pleasant dirt roads or Indian trails. Others could tackle the task of transforming the nationís airports into desperately needed wetlands for wildlife.

Faceless multinational conglomerates would be broken up into small, friendly companies. "Lean and mean" would give way to fat and lovable. Railroads would be dramatically expanded to bring that preferred mode of travel back to its high standards of 1900.

Reducing the government to its 1900 size would be tough manual labor, but many would gladly pitch in and wield a sledge hammer. And thousands of new law enforcement jobs would be created for the task of imprisoning our leaders, who, through their venality and stupidity, have brought us to the state where we require the millennium bugís guidance.

We could restore our farmlands to their 1900 condition, before humans depleted them of natural nutrients and saturated them with chemicals. We could build huge bonfires to destroy the genetically engineered seeds industry and government are trying to foist on us--and replace them with heirloom seeds that grow the kind of juicy vegetables your grandpappy told you about.

We could clean up our water and air, shut down those nuclear-reactors-from-hell and transport the waste to the front lawns of the nuclear industry barons' mansions. At their expense, of course.

Manuals describing how to make ATMs, all-terrain-vehicles and other horrors would be composted and turned into useful fertilizer. Satellite, digital, and cellular communications would give way to those perfectly serviceable old crank telephones so we could have wonderfully eccentric busybody switchboard operators listening in on our calls instead of the FBI. This would also eliminate those satanic voice menu systems!

Life would be sweet and simple and relaxed. Neighbors would know and care about one another. The world would once again be covered with dark, mysterious forests and fields filled with flowers and honeybees. You could experience the deliciousness of getting lost in the wilderness and not stumble upon a Mafia-made superhighway in your meanderings.

We'd make a few improvements to the old 1900, of course. Women would not only vote, they would rule the world. Black and indigenous people would be encouraged to use their superior wisdom to keep the European "conquer and expand" imbecility suppressed forever. Horse-drawn carriages would be outlawed as the slave labor they are and everyone would ride a bike. The KKK would have to be dealt with, as would certain unnamed robber barons who will want to return us to the appalling conditions of today.

But, those minor details aside, it would still be 1900. People would go for promenades in their Sunday Best and barbershop quartets would sing "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair" or "Strawberry Blonde" or some other tuneful song about hair fetishes. Schools would teach reasoning and literacy instead of memorization and obedience. Children could demonstrate their new sophistication by performing amateur Gilbert and Sullivan shows to everyone's delight.

And, after thanking the millennium bug for showing us the way, we would as a final act destroy it, and all the computers that house it, and replace them with those marvelous quaint old manual typewriters.

The Millennium Bug is trying to tell us something. Are we wise enough to listen?

Martin Kaufman is a New England writer. Contact him at

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