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[whitespace] Illustration The Utopians

To a happy breed of wide-eyed, hyper-idealistic utopians, Y2K will be the brave new world we've all been dreaming of

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'CHICKENS," intones author Shepherd Bliss, an admittedly "hopeful" Y2K Utopian. "Chickens," he repeats. "They will be a vital part of the solution after the Y2K collapse." Bliss has been carting some of his chickens around the state this year, as a visual aid to his fascinating, highly motivating Y2K preparation lectures.

"Think about it," he says calmly, convincingly. "Chickens are good for eggs, they're good for meat--and they're excellent for entertainment!

"Have you ever watched a chicken? They're hilarious! We'll need new forms of entertainment in the future--because there will be no more power source for our televisions and other entertainment devices."

Along with chickens, adds Bliss, we'll also need to stockpile plenty of books and stories, and all of our musical instruments.

"Music and books will be important for entertainment, of course," he says, laughing. "But if things get bad, you can't eat them."

Bliss--his original name--is a noted author, New Age philosopher, Sonoma County landowner and innovative organic farmer. While certain others await the year 2000 with varying degrees of dread or ambivalence, Bliss counts himself among the Utopian-idealists who--while fairly convinced that Y2K will spell the end of civilization as we've known it recently--have chosen to approach the new millennium not with fear but with joy and anticipation.

Utopians--ranging from guarded optimists like Bliss to the gleeful Luddites and anti-technology anarchists--tend to be Utne Reader subscribers and back-to-the-landers, fans of Ernest Callenbach's 1975 classic Ecotopia, in which Washington, Oregon and Northern California secede from the U.S. and form a perfect agrarian society without cars or advanced technology.

Since the culture at large seems wildly uneager to adopt such a lifestyle willingly, the Y2K Utopians are counting on the millennium bug to force the issue, yanking us, kicking and screaming if need be, back to a simpler and purer way of life.

"Y2K is a blessing," says Bliss. "I think it's a gift. It's what people have been praying for. We've been on a collision course with this planet for decades. Y2K will, potentially, reduce the level of human violation of the Earth--because we will no longer have the destructive technological tools that we've been using."

Of course, not everyone is going to be ready for such a back-to-nature shift. That's why the Utopians have been engaged, over the last several months, in a massive, well-organized, Internet-fueled educational effort, holding community meetings in libraries and churches, going door to door in some cases, spreading the word that times may be a-changin', and it's time to make plans. Such Y2K evangelists have been circulating handy how-to lists, gardening tips, practical suggestions about alternative energy sources for cooking and light, and the like. In addition to storing up supplies, developing agrarian skills and planning for emergencies, Bliss says he's reverted to an even more primitive way of life.

"I've been getting to know my neighbors," he laughs. "You don't want to wait till the middle of a crisis to make friends. You need to make friends before the crisis."

That community-building notion is perhaps the most energizing element of the Y2K Utopians, who--unlike their more singular survivalist cousins--are stressing that it will take an entire neighborhood or community, working as one, to combat the deadly dangers of Y2K.

"What we are witnessing is the beginning of a movement," Bliss enthuses. "Possibly the most significant social movement since the civil rights and women's movements.

"Frankly," he says, "I've never been more excited in my life."

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From the November 18-24, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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