Let's Talk 2000

"The heartbeat of 2000 A.D. from cyberspace"

February 15, 1997, Volume 3, Issue 3, a bi-weekly bulletin

Topics covered in this issue:

The Millennium Doctor Speaks
News from the Field: Talk from the Forum: New Millennial Sites: Contact Information

The Millennium Doctor Speaks:
"Taking the pulse of 2000 A.D."

Now that the "millennium moment" of New Year's '97 is over, I am getting calls from the press these days asking, "What about the millennium in the USA?" It's an intriguing question. Other countries are far in front of the USA.

England's Millennium Dome will celebrate "where *time* begins." Germany, 10 years after reunification, will showcase a World's Fair of *trade*. Australia has the power of *sports* in the Olympics. How will a nation like the USA find a millennial focus, when an O.J. Simpson civil trial practically preempts a Presidential State of the Union message?

Will the celebration of the year 2000 in America be lost in market clutter? In our first feature, "From Hype to Hope," I ask a top USA marketer to chart millennium from ahead from now till December 1999. What he says might surprise you.

Speaking of national planning for the millennium, our second feature opens a page from the UK Millennium play book. Read a list of ten "aspirational" values which the churches of England propose the Millennium Exhibition adopts.

Our Talk 2000 Forum section carries a "A View from the Arab World," by Rami Khouri, former editor of the Jordan Times. He speaks strongly to the West about hijaacking the millennium and invites the Middle East to celebrate the bimillennium "with the ideological honesty, nationalistic humility, and chronological comprehensiveness that it rightly deserves, in view of its vast sweep of peoples and places."

If you like "Let's Talk 2000," pass it along to a business friend or to some one you know who might appreciate it. Our subscription list has topped the 600 mark. I don't think it is unrealistic for us to reach four figures by mid-year. Tell friends to send their name and e-mail to: talk2000@rmii.com, and ask for this bulletin by name.

Also, we are always looking for a good year 2000 story to cover. If you have a fresh angle, project, or web site you are involved with for the millennium, write us a note at listproc@usc.edu and tell us why we should feature it.

Through your help over the past 15 months, Talk 2000 has become the leading news vehicle worldwide for millennial activists, media and scholars. Thank you.

News from the Field:
"Here is the latest news on year 2000 efforts."

Talk 2000 recently did interviews with two of America's leading millennium marketing experts. We asked them how they see the USA charting its course in millennium preparations from now till New Year's Eve 2000. This issue of "Let's Talk 2000" features consumer researcher, Mark Mitten, who chairs The Billennium(r) Organizing Committee (http://www.billennium.com). Our March 1st issue will feature corporate market specialist, Skip Kitchen, who is runs Millennium Celebrations(tm) (http://www.rust.net/~mc2000/).

TALK 2000: What is going on in America right now in terms of the millennium?

MITTEN: We are still not as millennium developed as England, Canada, Germany or Australia. As Talk 2000 readers know, England has its Millennium Commission, but that has had its own fits and starts. Up until now, the U.S. federal, state and city governments have been more worried about financing the millennium change over in computer systems. We have not begun as a government to address the most focused possibilities of celebrating the year 2000.

TALK 2000: Would it be good if the U.S. suddenly became millennium organized?

MITTEN: I am not sure that would be good if the government all of sudden did move in that direction, because something would likely just be slapped together. In America there will not be one big idea of how to celebrate, but a combination of efforts, with different interpretations. In typical America fashion, the planning for the millennium here is coming from the free enterprise system. Everybody loves options. I see alot of personal, non-profit and commercial initiatives emerging to celebrate the turn of the millennium.

TALK 2000: These past 6 months have witnessed a dramatic rise of millennium trademarks filed with the U.S. Federal Trademarks office. How does that affect corporate sponsorship of the millennium?

MITTEN: Everybody and their grandmother now sees the millennium as an economic opportunity. What will happen here is what has happened in England and Australia. In the UK alone, there are 300 plus trademarks with the word "millennium" in it. They are no longer taking any new 2000 trademarks. What that means is the economic opportunity people now see in the turn of the millennium will get lost in the clutter. There will be so many "millennium" this, and "millenniums" that.

TALK 2000: What does all this mean for the person on the street?

MITTEN: Practically speaking, people are not going to become really millennium aware until 1998. The 1,000 Days to 2,000 on April 6th this year will just be a blip on the radar screen. Based on our consumer research, people are still uncertaint about the year 2000. They haven't personally defined it yet. To some, it brings excitement, a sense of renewal, with the potential of personal change. To others the end of the century really is "the end," and they are anxious. The thing we are looking for is when this millennium awareness reaches a peak or saturation point. At some point the awareness will move to hype. Then people will become "millennium-ed out." The millennium hype then becomes a negative. At that point, consumers will gravitate toward products and services that best suit their needs, and their own idea of celebrating the year 2000, which gives them hope.

TALK 2000: How does the millennium movement avoid this fragmentation?

MITTEN: Those who have proprietary events or products should define now in the public's eye what they really stand for. In marketing, this is called establishing a strong brand name. Without this brand equity established long before 2000, something like a 4th quarter 1999 release of the next Star Wars series could take away the focus from many a millennium festival. I am not saying that will happen, but each year brings its own mix of media events, such as rock band tours, broadway shows, or movie releases. And 1999 will only be more so. The presidential campaign of 2000 will even be launched by the fall of 1999, so a building strong, differentiated brand equity will be essential.

TALK 2000: It sounds like the focus for celebration will pivot strongly off New Year's 2000, rather than events throughout 2000 such as Earth Day, Memorial Day, or July 4th?

MITTEN: Absolutely, December 1999 will be the launch. I just got faxed research on New Year's Eve. It is a popular time already, with 1 in 4 people, eighteen years or older, saying it is their most popular holiday. Among all U.S. holidays, New Year's ranks 5th, after Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and the 4th of July. The arrival of the year 2000 will make New Year's Eve even more popular--in a more grandiose fashion.

TALK 2000: How do corporate sponsors understand 2000 right now?

MITTEN: Right now, marketers are having difficulty understanding this market. It is hard for them to determine what the value of the millennium is. If this was a Batman movie next summer, it would be a known franchise and with a known equity. But in this case, it has never happened before. The flip side of this unknown brings a surety. Because the millennium will only happen once, there could be even more interest and more excitement to attract sponsorship. But corporate advertisers seek out the best value relative to them, whatever makes best sense to their brand, be that a World Series, a World Cup, or movie tie. The Olympics are not right for every marketer, the same with celebrating the millennium.

TALK 2000: Will there be leading commercial interests that tap into the power of millennium, without aligning under a specific brand?

MITTEN: No one can own the year 2000. It will clearly be a phenomena. Yes, there will be "borrowed interest" for the year 2000, whether in marketing technology as the vehicle to take us into the next century, or whatever. But those who take the lead will be the special brands--those with a brand name distinguished from others, and those who have gained a strong brand name equity. If everybody starts talking about the millennium, it becomes more blurred with less meaning.

TALK 2000: With the coming millennium mess, and inevitable millennium "market clutter," what is the Mitten Group's approach?

MITTEN: Given the fragmentation, people will eventually look for a focal point that provides options at the personal level, domestic level, and international level. To help us move from hype to hope, we are working with corporate and country sponsors to create the global brand for the year 2000. There will be only one "Billennium(r)" and only one "official celebration(tm)" in terms of its name and events. Ultimately, the best event for the millennium iss the one that people chose. In that area, we hope to offer different opportunities, in terms of what people tell us they want to do in 2000, whether that is a book, t-shirt, or celebration.

TALK 2000: What are your highest hopes for 2000?

MITTEN: I hope in 2000 we all look back and see where we've come after 2,000 years, and then consider what kind of future we can have, personally and collectively. And I hope we will all have *fun* doing it.
[Part Two of "From Hype to Hope: Marketers Chart the USA Course," will feature Skip Kitchen of Millennium Celebrations. Look for it in the March 1st issue of "Let's Talk 2000".]

Will the English celebration of the year 2000 be just another commercial fair? Or will it help people embrace the best that the Commonwealth can offer? To spur on discussion last week, Virginia Bottomly, UK Minister of History and Preservation, made reference to a paper written by the Moderators of the Churches Together in England coalition. This list of 10 values below is excerpted from this larger paper on how faith relates to the English millennium celebrations and how religious values have "shaped our past, determined our calendar, and we believe, offer meaning for the next millennium."

let there be people and exhibits that look to the next thousand years and offer to make sense of it, rather than assuming we must give in to blind fate and circumstance.
let there be an affirmation and celebration of the strengths of living together in good times and bad, and recognition of how families provide the "best practice" for bringing up children - the adults of the next millennium.
let space be given to those who work for others less fortunate than themselves, or who engender a sense of solidarity within Britain and across the globe, and let diversity and difference (in Britain as well as outside it) be celebrated.
let people be encouraged to take the risk of meeting and conversing with others during their Greenwich experience, rather than spending their time isolated andcut off in their own private experience.
let there be artists and craft workers (of all kinds), for people to watch, talk to, try their hand...
let there be places for your own group (whether religious or otherwise) to tell their story, and to hear other people's views on life, the Universe, and everything.
let there be room for people to do their own audit on our nation's past, and their own past, to equip them to recognise failure take the chance to start again and be renewed for the future.
let there be opportunity for people to see that the world needs to be changed, and that it can be changed, and to hear from those who work for justice and fair shares for all - everything from the nuts and bolts of alternative technology to the economics of world debt.
let there be lived-out examples of communal efforts that make a difference, and opportunities for people to commit themselves to joining up, having a go, or just finding out more when they get home.
let there be space for people's capacity to feel wonder and delight, to survive immense struggles, pain or tragedy, yet remain hopeful and trusting.

Talk from the Forum:
"Here is a recap of recent conversations"

The most significant contribution to the daily Talk 2000 Forum these past two weeks came as a forwarded message. "A View from the Arab World" is written by Rami G. Khouri (RamiKhouri@nets.com.jo), former editor of the Jordan Times and leading analyst of Middle Eastern and Arab affairs. Mr. Khouri is a also a radio talk show host out of Amman, Jordan.

In his syndicated column on January 28, 1997, he asks about "The Millennium Dance: will it celebrate or expropriate history?" Here is his insightful column, uncut and unedited, which came to us through MSANEWS

The commemoration of the millennium -- the end of 1999 and the start of the year 2000 -- has started in many parts of North America and Western Europe (where it assumes a strong ideological/cultural dimension) and to a lesser extent in Israel (where the religious/cultural/touristic angle predominates).

The advent of the millennium, I fear, is already in danger of being taken hostage by a gang of ideological hijackers who wish to claim it as their own, and to use it as a triumphalist celebration of their own heritage and ideology. As we approach what will be the most dramatic moment of modern world history (matched only by the landing of the first human being on the moon), it is both shocking and sad that Arab/Islamic peoples and cultures are so absent from the whole millennial enterprise.

Many in the West, and perhaps in Israel as well, will try to transform the full historical and moral breadth of the last 2000 years into a cheering exercise for the post-Enlightenment legacy of Western-style democracy, seen primarily through a lens of Judaeo-Christian traditions. An early and influential indication of this approach to the millennium is a small book entitled On the Eve of the Millennium, published recently by the distinguished Irish statesman and writer Conor Cruise O'Brien, in which he offers an intriguing mix of sparkling wisdom and frightening ignorance.

On the wisdom front, he makes some important points; the most interesting, in my view, was that western democracy may be threatened by an "inherent weakness: the tendency to produce... leaders who are specialists in winning popularity contests.... Democracy is turning into a series of plebiscites, over which the spin doctor is king... There is a tragic paradox here in that the forms which freedom of expression is taking in the late twentieth century are beginning to threaten democracy itself: the only tradition that permits freedom of expression."

In the ignorance department, he argues that the making of common cause between official Catholicism and fundamentalist Islam -- what he calls the Alliance for the Repeal of the Enlightenment -- threatens the future of the Enlightenment, which he "understands as comprehending also, within itself, the future of democracy, freedom of expression, and the rule of law."

The rule of law, he reminds us, "is anterior to the Enlightenment... Magna Carta dates from the thirteenth century, not the eighteenth." He adds that "the rule of Islamic law -- the Shari'a -- operates, wherever and however it is enforced, to the exclusion of practices based on Enlightenment values," and, he also adds, "Islamic fundamentalists...are also addicted to what the decadent West describes as terrorism."

My criticism of millennial perspectives such as Mr Obrien's is that they are fundamentally colonial in a retrospective way. They reflect the belief that the Enlightenment in Europe was the defining moment of modern history, and the intellectual and ideological pivot around which we should assess the past, celebrate the present, and chart our passage into the future.

I am a great fan of the Enlightenment, but I am not so blinded by its glamour that I lose sight of the approximately 4,500 years of history in the wider Mediterranean basin (especially in the Middle East) that fed into, gave birth to, and culminated in the European Enlightenment and other associated splendors.

If there is a single, overarching theme to the entire sweep of the last 2,000 years, it is neither Enlightenment values nor even Magna Carta legacies; rather, it is the wider, older and more enduring tradition of trans-Mediterranean cultural interaction that has bound Europe and the Middle East together in a symbiotic relationship that has enriched both.

The ancient Middle East, the Greco-Roman world, and modern Europe are bound together by principles of participatory or representative governance, personal rights, and the rule of law that are most impressive precisely because they are so old, and have traveled such a long journey amongst the cultures of this ancient Mediterranean basin.

Many books have been written about the contributions of ancient Oriental (Levantine, Mesopotamian, Egyptian) values to the Classical world, and subsequently of the medieval Arab/Islamic world's role in preserving and expanding the Classical heritage and transmitting it to Europe to spark the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

The central emphasis that Islam has always placed on the concept of justice, for example, in both personal morality and the quality of public governance, should be a strong link in the chain of values across the millennial sweep. It is reflected also in the following famous Sasanian saying from pre-Islamic times, known as the 'circle of power', which was repeatedly mentioned by medieval Arab and Muslim thinkers: "There is no kingdom without an army, no army without wealth, no wealth without material prosperity, and no material prosperity without justice."

The 'circle of power' can be seen as historical preface to what Conor Cruise O'Brien writes today: "In Western societies, where the laws themselves have been shaped and tempered by centuries of Enlightenment values, the rule of law, associated as it is in these societies with democracy, freedom of expression, and market freedom, is inseparable from the general heritage of the Enlightenment."

Markets, material progress, and the rule of law, it seems, have been associated with one another for a very long time. The central and repeated emphasis on justice in Middle Eastern Arab/Islamic, Christian and Jewish traditions should prompt us and our colleagues in the West to see the millennium for what it really is: a milestone on a long and old road, characterized by profound moral and cultural relationships among the civilizations to the north, east and south of the Mediterranean Sea.

As Patricia Springborg and other scholars have suggested, modern Western democracies and their Classical predecessors owe important conceptual debts to ancient, Oriental traditions that must have influenced concepts of kingship, governance and personal rights in the West.

A few noteworthy examples are: law and medical schools at Ebla, in modern day Syria, to which women were admitted, in the third millennium BC (nearly 3000 years before we even started this millennial moment); the stress on personal, contractual and legal rights of individuals in the assorted Mesopotamian laws of the second and third millennia BC, including the Hammurabi Code of the early second millennium and the Ur-Nammu Code of 2050 BC; evidence for representative councils in ancient Sumer and Egypt, and a bicameral legislature in Sippar after 1894 BC; and, the first documented use of the word "freedom" at Lagash (in southern Iraq today), in a reform document dated around 2350 BC.

This suggests to me that the millennium of the past 2000 years should be celebrated with the ideological honesty, nationalistic humility, and chronological comprehensiveness that it rightly deserves, in view of its vast sweep of peoples and places.

The millennium should not be an intellectual freak show for stressed out Westerners who have over-dosed on secularism, nationalism, individualism, and materialism, and who exhibit a confused Euro-centric combination of intellectual triumphalism, cultural arrogance, historical selectivity, and theological nonsense; rather, it should be a celebration of the universality and cross-cultural interdependence of the human family and its many common values.

The people of the Arab/Islamic world and other parts of the developing South should wake up and engage in this millennial dance and celebration, or once again risk having their history expropriated or obliterated by the West. @1997 Rami G. Khouri. Used by permission.

New Millennial Sites:
"Here are new sites in cyberspace"

CINCINATTI 2000:The Tristate's countdown to the millennium
Here is an newspaper article on how the local Cincinnati Recreation Commission has begun brainstorming about such things as their local tri-state's celebration's size, possible venues, sponsorships and entertainment for 2000.

CLUB 2000:Innovation and ideas for the millennium
Here is a commercial web site, geared to the X Generation, that offers millennial trivia, health tips, kids corners, plus sections covering year 2000 events, groups, business, phone cards and contests.

A full day proposed television telecast delivered live to all parts of the world on New Year's Day 2000 to "usher in a culture of peace" by delivering a "sublime spiritual" New Age message.

Contact Information:
"Your link to the third millennium"

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Publication keywords: media, millennium, society
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