Hello. Can you hear me?
I am sitting here talking into a microphone. Actually, into a computer. And that computer is typing whatever I am saying. I know. I’m lazy.
My punishment for sloth will probably be that I will be sitting here emailing a love letter New Year’s Eve at 11:59:59, and the dreaded white to pay a bug. (I meant Y2K bug, and that’s how the computer interpreted my voice. It’s already starting! I will try again.) The wife to a dog.
As I was saying, I will be sitting here New Year’s Eve at the strike of midnight doing my business, and the computer will get bitten.
Many computers will freak out come 2000. Like a lot of people are doing. Now why is that? I mean the computers.
Maybe not here, but what about in some tiny country you and I will never see. The people are, let’s say – I will open the World Directory of Minorities and point with my finger, not my lips – the people are called Saho and live near the Horn of Africa by the Red Sea in Eritrea. (I will have to train the computer for that name, Saho.)
“Sandwiched between Afar and Tegre are Saho nomads and seminomads. Mostly Muslim, they have imported many social and cultural values from the plateau. Several speak local languages and have also used Arabic in commercial dealings and have long been exposed to foreign influence in the form of trade with expanding empires. Much of the land taken for re-settlement of the 500,000 refugees in Sudan is likely to be that used by these nomads.”
So they are a bit like us then. Colonized, terrorized, modernized and computerized.
What will happen to the poor Saho? They must have computers. They are modern traders. Poor what’s-his-name. We’ll call him Aman. He will be working late this New Year’s Eve. His family asleep and not expecting anything. Suddenly, as he’s finishing dutifully entering last year’s figures for the boss’ disco, his trusty old Commodore 64 conks out, losing everything, including his favourite game, Pong. The next day, New Year’s Day, his boss comes in and poor Aman has to explain what happened. But he doesn’t quite understand himself. His boss fires him and his family. What will happen to them now?
Thirteen-year-old Eric Wapachee is looking over someone’s shoulder reading what the computer is typing. Eric likes computers and wants him to get off the computer so he can play native empires. “Age of Empires,” Eric corrects the computer.
Eric puts on the microphone and tries to introduce himself. He says, “My name is Eric Wapachee,” into the mike. It comes out as: “Na mean mule in the Mac love in Baghdad Nintendo Inc. and a cat Nintendo and he gave me are.”
It kind of makes sense, doesn’t it. The worst that will probably happen to poor Eric when the year ends is his beloved computer will not love him any more and will forget his name.
But even this might not happen to the young author of a handwritten letter sent to The Nation, obviously by someone who doesn’t a computer-dependency problem:
“Hi! I am a member of the Cree community of Waswanipi. I often read The Nation as soon as I get my hands on it. I go through it first looking for information on the Y2K bug. What will happen in the year 2000? Will the power go off? For how long?
Why isn’t our band telling us anything about this. How are we supposed to prepare for this? We see that the band is preparing every household with a wood stove. Making sure that everyone gets a stove. What about our food? Are we supposed to store some?
There are families with young children, you know. I know that the people in the bush will be coming back for Christmas. Maybe it’s time to tell us about the Y2K. Get information on this topic and get the community together for a meeting.
Don’t forget about the teachers. Invite the whole community. Thank you. From a member of Waswanipi, Quebec.”
Those are very good questions. And good ideas. Why not prepare for it. You probably already have these in your home, but get more firewood, candles, fuel, food, batteries and the usual end-of-the-millennium paraphernalia.
Even if chances are we won’t be affected. We have food, water and wildlife in our own backyards. And we don’t need a glowing screen to get them, should, God forbid, the worst happen.