The year 2000 problem represents a potentially difficult time for all of us. However, let's not lose sight of the fact that it's a temporary bump (or pothole) in the road--not the end of the world. No one knows what will happen, nor how serious it will be. However, we can and will get through this or any other difficulties, if we all work together.
Many people ask what they can do to protect themselves. Should they go off to the woods, move to another state? Others want to know if they should withdraw their money from the bank. I say No! Why?
There are over 260 million people in this country alone. You think you'll be the only one in the woods? They will all be focused on their own survival, perhaps at the risk of yours. Then there's the larger issue--if everyone leaves, who will be left to keep the communities and cities going? What will be left to come back to?
If 5 percent or less of depositors take their money out of the banks, the banks will close. How does intentionally crippling the financial infrastructure help you, your family or community? How will we be able to rebuild? It's not about 'me' anymore, it's about 'we'; and our individual actions can and will impact everyone, for good or ill.
Individual preparedness is for those who can; community preparedness is for those who can't. What kind of world will be left if the elderly, the poor, the ill and the disabled are abandoned, perhaps to suffer or die? Is that the world we want our children to inherit? The life lesson and legacy we wish to pass on?
Life isn't just survival, it's about living, building and growing; and passing it on to the next generation. The only way to get through this is to pull together and work through it as a community. Problems can't be escaped, they can only be dealt with. If you are concerned about your safety, the best means of securing it is to help your neighbor prepare; and work with your community to develop needed and appropriate plans.
As for me and mine, we'll be staying right here. Our neighbors, the seniors down the road and my family will sink or swim together. My only hope and wish is that there will be enough of us to keep each others' heads above water when we tire. Eventually, the storm will pass and we will wade ashore--together. I hope we'll see you there.
What One Town Can Do
Medford, Oregon, was recently the site of a remarkable community event. More than 700 people gathered together over a two-day period to learn how to protect their families and communities from the effects of the year 2000 computer crisis. It was the first such event held in the United States.
We were invited to conduct the meetings and seminars offered to the public. These are our observations.First, the startling attendance indicated an intense level of community concern about the year 2000 problem (also called Y2K). This impression was confirmed during several lengthy question-and-answer sessions in which the audience revealed the nature and extent of their concerns. Simply put, they were worried about the basic stuff of life. They wanted to know if the year 2000 crisis might disrupt the availability of everyday necessities such as electricity, food, water, and medical treatment. They were anxious that government might be unable to provide critical services such as Social Security, air traffic control, and even military protection.
The high attendance caught the local press by surprise. The seminar did receive excellent coverage before the fact by the local newspaper and broadcast media. There was no press coverage, however, at the three large seminar sessions.
Some local political leaders were also caught unawares. The small city hall meeting in Medford saw representation from Medford, Ashland, Grants Pass, Butte Falls and Jackson County. Senator Smith (R-OR) sent a representative as well. As with the press, however, few, if any of these leaders were present at the larger seminar sessions. Nonetheless, those who did support the event are to be commended because Medford, and the surrounding area, will soon be acclaimed as the first community in the nation with the vision to host a Y2K preparedness event at its city hall.
The most surprising aspect of the Medford meetings was the broad diversity of the attendees. All political and religious persuasions seemed to be there. Young, Generation X working couples and Social Security recipients sat side-by-side in the audience. Environmental activists rubbed elbows with blue-collar workers. Christians and libertarians joined in serious conversation. New Age mystics and Joe Six Pack set aside their differences. For a day and a half, it was a magical manifestation of community togetherness. Political leaders across the country should take note of what took place in Medford. A powerful coalition for good is standing ready to take on the 'millennium bug.'
What impressed us the most, however, was the remarkable impact one concerned individual could have in a community. The Medford event was organized by Will Reishman, a local investment counselor who simply cares about his neighbors. Under the sponsorship of Icare, Inc., a charitable public service organization, he single-handedly willed the entire event into being. All expenses were defrayed through donation and all were invited to attend without charge.
The Medford Y2K Community Preparedness Seminar reminds us of these two simple messages: The people do still care, and one person can still make a difference.
The year 2000 computing crisis poses a frightening threat to almost every aspect of our way of life. Some believe it should be confronted with a remote cabin, a pile of dried food, a big dog, and a shotgun. This strategy, although perhaps rational on an individual basis, is unworkable for society as a whole.
Medford shows us why it is unnecessary.
Paloma O'Riley is the cofounder of the Cassandra Project.
Jim Lord is the author ofA Survival Guide for the Year 2000 Problem, a practical 270-page consumer's guide to preparation for the year 2000 computer crisis. He is also the editor of the Year 2000 Survival Newsletter, which provides continuing updates on the progress of the year 2000 crisis. He is the most widely read Y2K columnist in the world at www.y2ktimebomb.com, and has appeared on 150 radio talk shows and on ABC Nightline.