The New Millennium: How New Is It? [Archives:2000/02/Focus]
By: Hassan Al-Haifi
Over the ages, man has developed standards of measurement to quantify most of the elements that form the components that add up to form our different interactions with the universe, individually as well as collectively. Even time Ð that element of life that neither the five senses can effect or even sense Ð has been given its scale of measurement, to which almost all aspects of modern life have been glued to in one way or another. Time is, in fact one of the bounties of Allah, the Al-Mighty, as He says in the Quran that the different movements of the celestial bodies are one of the bounties of Allah, by which we are able to count the years. Accordingly, time becomes a cause d’tre for the creation of the universe as we see it.
While most standards of measure have their definite beginnings and their ends, time’s beginning and end remain an object of infinite mystery, to which only God Al-Mighty holds the answer to. Even though man has invented the stop watch, it goes without saying that he is powerless to use that stop watch for halting the advance of time, and the tool merely becomes an instrument for recording the duration of a particular event, nothing more, nothing less. On the other hand time does not take on the characteristics of any of the other element or forces that shape life and the universe we are in. Time is not subjected to any transformations or any form of change, whether as a reaction to being combined with the other elements or forces that exist in the universe, or as a result of any occurrence. Time is just time that is reflected, not just by the ticking of the fancy time pieces of a Rolex watch or a Sony wall clock, It can be seen in the gathering of arching curves below our chins and the cross-sections of large trees that have passed through generations of men, who have come and gone, some leaving their marks in history Ð for good or bad Ð and most just passing through, without even having their descendants having any record of their achievements in life Ð good or bad Ð that they can look back upon.
Much can be said about time and surely, the space allotted here would not even suffice to come to a full proper definition of time, let alone go into its attributes and properties. For sure, time is a relative phenomenon to which each person can find what significance there is to gain or loose with the passage of life. Some mark time with the achievements they have made, in terms of wealth, in terms of social contributions and in terms of giving hell to the rest of humankind, just for the hell of it. In the modern world, with a relatively free market economy time is money and man must strive to equate the two, if life is to have any meaning. For those who are spiritually inclined, time must be used to gather as many points as possible, so that in the hereafter, when the records of all are laid out in front of everyone to see, God looks with favor upon this poor creature who has striven so hard to do all that can be seen by Allah as being good and honorable and worthy of a lasting reward that can never be equated by any accomplishment in the world of the mundane.
But to stay closer to home, man has adopted a fairly reliable scale for the measurement of time, keeping within God’s masterly arrangement of the celestial bodies that house us and surround us, and using their movements, whether around themselves, or around each other to produce congruent time pieces that break time into fractions of a second. From this we come to the calendars that define the days, months and years. Many different forms of calendars have evolved, with the prevailing calendars being the lunar and the solar calendars, beginning at various landmark events in the development of civilizations accordingly. The Gregorian calendar, a western concoction, prevails now as the leading calendar in use, even by those societies that have their own calendar adaptations. This comes in the wake of the awesome economic power of the West, relatively speaking, and the need to run parallel with the major powers of the times, if one is to be able to deal with the western countries and keep their economic order in tune with the frequency and the velocity of growth of the western economies, though not necessarily to keep up with it. In this calendar, we have now reached the second millennium and are on the entry point of the twenty-first century.
One is astounded by the fact that there are still people who insist that it is wrong to say the “twenty-first century” since we are just beginning the year 2000 (see Al-Sahwa some two weeks back, in which one of its regular columnists insist that the 21st Century should begin really at the end of the Year 2000!). Whatever the case the second millennium is at hand, and the world is not about to witness much of a change, since there are no proscribed outcomes that come from a change in the digits of a digital clock or calendar.
Yet, why should such a change in digits unleash such a high sense of exuberance and festivity? Is this change of millenniums a logical reason for such a strong urge to celebrate so extravagantly? For one thing, such an occurrence is not the common observation of all that get to tread on this planet. A number of generations must pass to have a chance to live through a change of centuries. But a millennium change, there must be literally tens of generations in between (around thirty, if my family tree is of any accurate measure) before there can be a four digit change in the calendar. Though not necessarily a sign of any landmark achievement, men still find it appropriate and self-gratifying to appropriate considerable resources for festivities to commemorate this event.
The last millennium saw the rise of the West to become the dominant political and economic bloc, in a world that has now become to small for housing and feeding the people that tread on it. The beginning of the millennium saw the West come out of the darkness of the Middle Ages and its first military expeditions outside of Europe (the Crusades). From then on, the West sought to adapt and build upon much of the progress and culture that was thriving in the East, as well as to kill any further efforts by the East to continue its cultural superiority to the West. While this cannot be wholly blamed on the West, it would not be oversight to state that the West’s intentions, whether as individual nations or collectively, were not free from the streak of evil that may have helped to bring about the economic, social and cultural underdevelopment of the East and South. Of course, it is of no use to cry over spilt milk and it is time that the East and the South start to find ways to constructively catch up, before it becomes even difficult to find where the gap lies between the two cultures. For the present time, one can be assured that the start to making encroaches to development rest in concrete political changes, by which people of the East and the South can have the proper atmosphere to find the channels for their own development and well-being. It is clear, in the Year 2000, that the number one hurdle to development is autocracy, lack of transparency and oppression Ð in all their manifestations.
For Yemen, the New Millennium Resolution should be that it will overcome all the man made obstacles to development, and really pave the way for a free and democratic Yemen, where power and wealth are not just made accessible to a few, who have found that possessing the right evil streak and narrow minds are the only avenues to wealth and power. Moreover, it is hoped that those who have accumulated so much power and wealth, a lot of it illegitimately and suspiciously, will come to realize that it is time to give the rest of the people of the country a chance, not necessarily to reach the wealth and power that they have reached, although there is nothing to justify their monopoly of them, but at least to be able to meet the needs of sustenance for themselves and those who depended upon them. For sure, the Millennium will turn over and those people who believe themselves to be high and mighty, will go on the record as being no more than evil bandits, who have misused their people’s trust and confidence in them, without so much as saying thank you for your gullibility! Happy New Millennium!