|So we've changed the
calendars - now what?
by Daniel Gwyn
Well it is now
January 2000, and civilization as we know it does
not appear to have collapsed. Nothing much
happened, although a few die-hard panic spreaders
are worried about whether computers will properly
deal with February 29, 2000, or October 10, 2000.
So much for the Y2K bug. So much hype and hoopla
has faded like a firework set off at midnight.
At least one
type of Y2K bug: the one with computers. There
remains, of course, the terminology one. Quiz: 1.
What century is it? 2. What millennium is it?
Those of you, who answered "Twentieth"
and "Second", respectively, can stop
reading this article. The rest of you should read
Folks, there is
still nearly a year left to both the century and
the millennium! 2001 is the first year of the
Twenty First Century and of the Third Millennium.
Despite all the nonsense about the "New
Millennium" and magazines devoting entire
issues to retrospectives of the Twentieth century
and the like, the fact remains that according to
the standard definition of centuries and
millennia the last years of each are those ending
in "00" and "000",
respectively. This definition for time is used by
reputable sources dealing with chronology, such
as the Greenwich Observatory or the U.S. Naval
definition is not used then there is a "missing"
year from the greater scheme of things, as there
was never a year "0". Unfortunately,
the world in which we inhabit is such that
precise terminology is frequently distorted by
ill-informed journalists, aided and abetted by
various politicians and other world leaders.
Some claim that
the leaders of two major Christian sects think
that this year is in the new Millennium based on
the Queen's Christmas message and the fact that
this a jubilee year for Catholics as celebrated
by the Pope. However, a closer examination of
both these spiritual and temporal leaders'
overall messages reveals that they were simply
calling on their faithful and/or subjects to
"prepare" to enter the New Millennium,
not to actually enter it.
It has been
claimed that two academic groups, mathematicians
and sociologists claim that the Millennium
started January 1, 2000. However, the basis of
their claims is both rather suspect. The
mathematicians claim that starting the Millennium
in the year 2001 is illogical and there should
have been a year "0". This argument is
pure baloney, as logic has relatively little to
do with what has been decided. It would also
create a problem for historians, who after all,
have to deal with past time. The fact remains
that it was conventionally decided that the
Millennium begins in 2001 a long time ago and no
logic can alter it. Admittedly, the decision was
taken before the Christian world learned about
the concept of "0" from the Arabs, but
in the words of a certain professor: "It is
better to be consistent than right."
On the other
hand, the sociologists' claim that the year 2000
marks the start of the Third Millennium derives
not from any profound logic but from the fact
that people believe that it is. This argument has
as much overall substance as the Kremlin's
reports on its war in Chechnya. The overall
intelligence of the general public is
depressingly low, as testified by the continued
popularity of Michael Jackson, the success of
both George Bush Senior and Junior. Furthermore,
the public's opinion is very changeable as George
Senior found out. Barely two years after winning
an extremely popular war, he was emptying out the
desk in the Oval Office. As librarians it is
necessary, therefore,to ignore transient fads in
favour of following properly established rules.
It is imporant for conscientious librarians to
impose reality upon the general public's over
therefore, conclude that the events of December
31, 1999 and January 1, 2000 were "merely"
a celebration of a profound change in the
calendar that has never been truly seen before. (The
current dating system (e.g. 1971 AD or Common Era)
was not widely used until the late medieval
period at the earliest. Prior to that, the common
system was to go by the number of years the
current king (or queen) had reigned. This system
remains in limited usage regarding government
legislation and statutes.) The year 2000 is part
of the Twentieth Century and the Second
Millennium. Those eager for a new century and
millennium will just have to wait! This view is
consistently with chronology, history and
librarian-ship. It also gives us an excuse to
"party like it's 1999" again next New