In 1999, I was in Zambia at a meeting and people were asking me what I thought about Y2K. I jokingly replied, “You won’t have to worry about it, if you’re Amish, or live in a village.”

People in the computer industry believed that the computer internal system clock was going to misread the date 1/1/2000 as 1/1/1900, causing catastrophic malfunctions and miscalculations. The so called experts had warned that this one single event could be catastrophic for businesses around the world and would take years for companies to muddle through the mess and build their technologies back up again. With much of the world dependent on the computer technology, it was nerve racking to imagine the aftermath of an event deemed apocalyptic. Anything that ran on a microchip could be affected and fear was mounting. Our society was believed to be so fragile that this on single Y2K computer glitch would bring us to our knees. People had stocked up on water and groceries; preparing for the technological nightmare. Books were written to warn people of what not to do as we move into the new millennium. CNN, MSNBC, and FOX had their experts lined up to speculate on how this might go down, and how we could survive if indeed something happened to the computer systems. Thousands of Y2K computer experts emerged and were bringing in big profits from companies that hired them.

A lot of developing nations were not as worried about the supposedly impending disaster because they lacked advanced computer technologies, but the rest of the world was in a mad dash to stop Armageddon.

And then, there were those who made fun of the whole idea of Y2K and did nothing to upgrade their systems. They were the crazy bunch; the unprepared fools. I was among the crazy ones who did nothing to upgrade my operating system to Windows ME (Millennium Edition) which was supposedly a Y2K compatible version.

The countdown started after Christmas of 1999. Even though I knew somehow that the whole Y2K thing was a fluke, I still had little voices in the back of mind that said, “what if the Y2K is in fact true? How would we survive if the computer systems would crash? What if after spending billions of dollars to fix the Y2K issue, the catastrophic event still happened?” The clocks kept on ticking, the fear kept growing.

And then, nothing happened.

No power outages. No major system failure around the globe for both compliant and non compliant systems. No food shortages. No flight delays. Nothing. One good thing that came out of Y2K debacle is the business boom in the tech and food industry. Out of fear, a lot of people had spent thousands of dollars buying products to prepare for an event that never happened. Sure, a few companies like GE Medical Systems had reported about 14 issues out of their 400 Y2K compliant and non-compliant systems. Ontario Hydro Power Company discovered a few bugs in their systems and had them fixed within a few hours and had no power interruptions for their customers.

Y2K, one of the biggest flukes of recent times caused by experts, carried on by us. What did this all come down to? Fear.

Fear drives the stock market and politics. Fear drives hatred. People are fearful when they do not know or understand each other, thus resulting in hatred against those who are different from them. People have committed heinous crimes against humanity, all because of fear.

In recent years, fear has become a major money making machine. Politicians use fear to raise money for their campaigns and to win votes. I was watching some TV attack ads before the last elections and was just appalled by how nasty political campaigns have become. Each side was out to convince us that the other guy would ruin our way of life. We see corporations do the same in their ads as well. Some prominent TV and radio hosts have used fear to drive their agenda. They have used it to sell books and market other products even if what they say for the most part is based on speculation and not facts.

Not all fear is bad. As a matter of fact, positive fear is a good thing to have. Positive fear is founded on fact and not speculation. For instance, I know not to drive my car 160 miles per hour on the highway even though my car can go that fast. The fear of losing control and crashing at high speeds helps me to be cautious when I am driving.  This kind of fear will not paralyze me; it will in fact make me aware of how my reckless driving will not only affect me, but others as well. Positive fear allows us to make wise decisions and is needed for us to function properly on a day to day basis.

The fear that comes because of speculation and negativity is the deadly kind. Some radio and TV hosts have become experts in spreading speculation to boost their ratings. They are more concerned about their bottom line rather than having healthy conversations that make a difference in people’s lives. They have figured out that fear is a great money making business and are bringing in millions from diligent listeners and corporations. Unfortunately, their fear mongering has resulted in hatred and harm for certain groups of people. This fear derives from propaganda; it is unfounded, based on misinformation or just plain lies. It usually comes out of mistrust and self-absorption.

And we perpetuate it. We buy into this fear and we share it on Facebook, Twitter, at the local salon, barbershop, hardware store, bar, religious gatherings, etc. When we allow this type of fear to rule our thoughts and our actions, we distant ourselves from each other and discord grows. We can get so caught up in our speculation and fear mongering, that we forget to live. We forget about the important things in life. We forget to love.

And the cycle of fear continues, growing worse until something bad happens, or until we stop it. So let’s think twice about the messages we are spreading. Research it. Is it fact? Or opinion? Or pure speculation? Is it necessary? Let’s not forget that there are humans on the other side of the screen, reading what we are saying on social media. That human could be your employer, mom, dad, ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, ex-spouse, your spouse, your kids, kid’s teachers, (or you are the kid’s teacher venting about the difficult students) extended family, your coworkers, your neighbor (who you’ve been trying to reach for Christ) or a future employer (who might scan your Facebook timeline). Are we building bridges or burning them? We want others to understand us, to accept us, and to not push their beliefs on to us. So, why shouldn’t we do the same?

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