Italians unfazed by forecasts of Y2K bug : LUSENET : HumptyDumptyY2K : One Thread

Hi folks. Got back to work today after Xmas, and depressed to find TB2000 gone, but glad to find you all here.

YNOTT: if you get here, this 'Irish Times' article (Dec 29) confirms some things you've been saying -

ITALIAN LETTER: Walking along the lakefront in our home village of Trevignano on a mild and brilliantly sunny Christmas Eve morning last Friday, a familiar sensation came across the shimmering water. It is an old chestnut but one that never fails - namely, Northern European man's delight at finding himself in a (relatively) warm clime at a time when his instinct tells him he should be freezing his cybernetic and other assets off in the frost and ice of an Irish Christmas.

This is, of course, "end of millennium" time, a period inevitably dominated both by a sense of retrospection and by much speculation about the potentially drastic effects of the infamous computer "millennium bug". According to a recent article in the Washington Post, only "divine providence" stands between Italy and chaos. Rather than moving forward to the year 2000, Italy is likely to be plunged back to the darkness of the year 1000. Nor is the Washington Post alone in its concern about Italy's readiness to deal with Y2K millennium bug problems. The US State Department, the International Civil Aviation Authority and the independent British millennium watchdog, Taskforce 2000, have all expressed concern about Italian contingency plans. After 14 years of life in Italy, one tends to take such dire predictions with a large pinch of salt. Ruminating along the lakefront, such a computer-driven Armageddon seemed an unlikely bet.

Doubtless, there will be problems. Doubtless, too, a series of New Year's Eve precautions have not been taken for nothing - precautions such as the reduction of air traffic to 80 per cent of normal, the halting of 48 long distance trains just before midnight and the establishment in Rome of a "Millennium Bug Control Room" peopled by officials from government departments, the Bank of Italy as well as technicians from state transport authorities as well as state electricity, water, telephone and gas suppliers.

Intriguingly, however, Italians do not share the Washington Post's concern. According to a sample survey carried out by the SWG research unit on December 16th, 80.8 per cent of Italians believe that the millennium Bug will cause few or no problems in Italy. The cynic might put this lack of concern down to the fact that Italy is, in terms of computerised technology, relatively backward with a lower rate of computerised public services than other industrialised countries. For example, only 7.9 per cent of Italians currently use Internet as opposed to 12.9 per cent of French, 14.4 per cent of British or 39.3 per cent of US citizens.

This lack of concern, however, has roots that go much deeper. It comes from the Italian citizen's sense of dija vu. Put simply, Italian man long ago learned to live with crisis, on a daily basis. Red Brigade terrorism in the 1970s; the Tangentopoli scandals of the early 1990s; Mafia assassinations such as those of state investigators Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone in 1992; the Irpinia earthquake of 1980; the Umbrian earthquake two years ago that left hundreds homeless and damaged the Baslica of San Francesco in Assisi; student and trade union unrest in the 1970s; Chernobyl fallout in the 1980s; regular "boat people" invasions from East Europe, Africa and Asia throughout the 1990s; war in former Yugoslavia, right on Italy's doorstep, for much of the 1990s. These and many other recurrent crisis situations mean that Italians tend to be philosophical about the unknown perils represented by Y2K. If there is one thing that the expatriate learns about Italy, it is that patience is more than just a virtue. Just when outside observers are worrying that Italy will never be ready to stage the 1990 World Cup, the event turns out all right on the night. After years of being told by sage economists that Italy will never make it into the start-up of the euro, one finds that Italy has defied that gloomy prediction to take its place in the front row of euroland.

After stating his heretical proposition that the earth is not stationary, as it might seem, but rather moves around the sun, 16th century mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei is alleged to have commented: "Eppur si muove" (But it does move). The same observation might apply to post-war Italy, cradle of ancient civilisation and of modern chaos. Our bet is that Italy will continue to move, even in the new millennium, bugs notwithstanding.

-- Risteard Mac Thomais (, December 29, 1999


Wonder if the mafia is compliant

-- Sir Richard (, December 29, 1999.

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