rn – Y2K: an opportunity


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list

Paul Swann (introduced to this list on July 16) sends us a strong
recommendation to visit a site on the Y2K problem. Actually, Paul is not the
only one who recommends this site; it is one of the sites which is linked to
Russell McOrmond's web site on the Y2K problem. And now I have visited the
site and can add my strong recommendation.

The article is too long to repost to this list, but I have chosen one
excerpt which I will clip in after Paul's message.

all the best, Jan

Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1998 19:18:19 +0000
From: Paul Swann <•••@••.•••>
Subject: y2k


Back from the cyberpeace of a week-long computer crash, I found an article

"The Year 2000: Social Chaos or Social Transformation?" by John L.
Petersen, Margaret Wheatley, Myron Kellner-Rogers.

The article is a draft that will be revised and published in 'The Futurist'
(journal of the World Futures Society) in October. I've no doubt you'll
find it of great interest. About the authors:

>John L. Petersen is president of The Arlington Institute, a Washington
>DC area research institute. He is a futurist who specializes in thinking
>about the long range security implications of global change. He is
>author of the award winning book, The Road to 2015: Profiles of the
>Future and his latest book is Out of the Blue - Wild Cards and Other Big
>Future Surprises, which deals with potential events such as Y2K.
>Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers are authors and consultants
>to business. A Simpler Way, their book on organizational design was
>published in 1997. Dr. Wheatley's previous book, Leadership & the New
>Science, was recently named one of the 10 best management books ever,
>and it also was voted best management book in 1992 in Industry Week, and
>again in 1995 by a syndicated management columnist.

Like most netizens, I've been aware of y2k for a couple of years, read
several articles on the subject from various viewpoints, watched a recent
BBC drama-documentary about it, discussed it with others, and read your
contributions to rn on hand pumps with mild interest, but without ever
feeling more than a ripple of concern.

This article's changed all that. Not that it says anything that I didn't
know already. But it carries a quality of authority that's clearly based on
serious research and careful analysis, and it demands to be taken
seriously. It also offers an insightful perspective on the urgent need for
coalition building and creating new organizational and leadership
structures which are highly relevant to rn.

What's hooked me is not so much the increasing likliehood of a 'collapse
scenario' or the growing possibility of what the article refers to as a
'techo-fascist' goverment response, but the potential for creative social
transformation that the crisis presents. Here we have a global problem that
we know is going to happen on a certain date about 500 days from now (with
symptoms occuring prior to that date), the extent of which no one can
predict with any certainty.

We seem to be in a situation where we have no alternative but to prepare
for the worst and hope for the best - although in the long run, "the best"
for the mass of humanity and the global ecosystem may of course be the
total collapse of this rotten system.

Be that as it may, the article makes it clear that we must respond to this
crisis with all the creativity we can muster. It's not going to just go
away if we put our heads in the sand!

So given the urgency of this situation, it seems to me that for the
forseeable future we have to transcend all our favourite causes and hobby
horses, set aside all our petty disagreements, and sort out exactly what
we're going to do about the potential consequences of the millennial bomb -
both globally (while we have a communications network that we can rely on)
and especially locally, where there is a need to organize and network on
every level to cope with the social chaos that may ensue.

We may have only 500 days left to prepare for the revolution!!!

I've had several initial thoughts about my own response, which I've shared
with one of the authors of the article, John L. Patterson. To avoid
duplicating queries to him, I'll copy the relevant sections from my letter
below and keep you informed on developments.

Each of us will of course respond in different ways, according to our
skills and abilities. One thing's for sure... we can no longer afford the
luxury of squabbling with each other at this already late stage of the
game. We need to honour and respect each other's views, rise above our
personality issues, and make co-operation and collaboration our first
principle. Coalition building is no longer just a good idea...it's become
an urgent and absolute essential!



Extracts from my letter to John L. Patterson (and his subsequent response
to my first question):

>A number of possibilities have come to mind. Firstly, it seems of
>paramount importance to circulate your article as quickly and as widely as
>possible. Would you please clarify the copyright situation for me...I
>would like permission to distribute it "for noncommercial, educational
>purposes only". Conceivably this might include publication in commercial
>magazines and newspapers, so the policy and requirements of 'The Futurist'
>would also need to be clarified.

>Certainly - you have my permission - we do ask that the article not be
>changed or edited in any way without our express permission. You can find
>the full article at http://www.angelfire.com/ca/rhomer/social.html in
>format to be distributed electronically or printed out.

>The second of my initial thoughts is that we should put together a one-day
>conference as soon as possible, using the title of your article as the
>If we decide to do that, would you be available to fly over for the event?
>It's possible that I might be able to persuade organizers in one or two
>other UK cities to get similar events together around the same time so
>that we make maximum use of your availability (and share expenses). If
>you're interested in this idea, perhaps you'd suggest a couple of dates in
>mid-late November/early December.
>Another thought is to ask whether you have any UK contacts who I should
>get in touch with? If we go for organizing a conference, is there anyone
>you'd like to share the platform with?
>A final thought (for now) is that I envisage the main focus of my
>particular contribution to this effort being directed towards helping
>prepare a civil society response rather than government/business-level
>lobbying. It seems pretty clear that we have a problem that temporarily
>transcends all the single issue concerns of NGO and civil society
>organizations. The immediate challenge is to convey this fact to these
>groups and to encourage effective co-operation and collaboration between
>them so that their existing organizational structures can be geared up to
>providing the leadership and crisis management that is needed. At this
>stage I would see that as the main objective of the proposed conference.


Note from Jan: In the excerpt I chose below, the authors underline the
importance of building trusting relationships between organizations and
groups which can be implicated in handling crises, (in other words more
groups than you might think would be implicated :-)

Those of us who would prefer not to have a "techno-fascist" response to
crisis need to overcome any antipathy we might have towards groups such as
the police and the military, which would be responsible for imposing the
"techno-fascist" response, and build links and trusting relationships. HOw
exactly to do this, I'm not sure just now. 
And now, onto the excerpt:

excerpt from the http://www.angelfire.com/ca/rhomer/social.html article:

     There's an interesting lesson here about involvement that comes from
the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Just a few weeks prior the bombing,
agencies from all over the city conducted an emergency preparedness drill as
part of normal civil defense practice. They did not prepare themselves for a
bomb blast, but they did work together on other disaster scenarios. The most
significant accomplishment of the drill was to create an invisible
infrastructure of trusting relationships. When the bomb went off, that
infrastructure displayed itself as an essential resource--people could work
together easily, even in the face of horror. Many lives were saved and
systems were restored at an unprecedented rate because people from all over
the community worked together
so well. 

     But there's more to this story. One significant player had been
excluded from the  preparedness drill, and that was the FBI. No one thought
they'd ever be involved in a Federal matter. To this day, people in Oklahoma
City speak resentfully of the manner in which the FBI came in, pushed them
aside, and offered no explanations for their behavior. In the absence of
trusting relationships, some form of techno-fascism is the only recourse.
Elizabeth Dole, as president of the American Red Cross commented:
     "The midst of a disaster is the poorest possible time to establish new
relationships and to introduce ourselves to new organizations . . . . When
you have taken the time to build rapport, then you can make a call at 2
a.m., when the river's rising and expect to launch a well-planned, smoothly
conducted response."

     The scenario of communities and organizations working together in new
ways demands a very different and immediate response not only from leaders
but from each of us.
     We'd like to describe a number of actions that need to begin immediately.