These are the questions which distract me on Saturday mornings, so that I cut myself shaving, burn the toast, or forget to watch out for Josie D'arby on BBC Children's TV (and I get the right hump if my weekend starts without a dose o'Josie).
The millennium is coming. Nobody knows what this means, but it must mean something, if only an investment scam, because the Government is putting money into it. As one of the five distributors of National Lottery profits, the Millennium Quango - sorry, Commission - is currently weighing up schemes to mark out entry into the 21st century. The best so far was a plan to extract DNA from dodo remains, clone them and establish a sanctuary on Mauritius. But this was a bit too adventurous and politically sensitive for the commission. ("Give 'em a dodo, and they'll take a rainforest. Next, it'll be the ozone. Sorry, no can do.")
Yes, the millennium is coming and the end of the world is nigh. It must be, it says so in the Bible. Or at least it does if you happen to be a right-wing Christian fundamentalist, in which case your eyes are probably so close together you can't help but read between the lines. Others may have trouble locating the relevant passage. But seek, and ye shall find justification for just about any lunatic notion you care to name, including nuclear Armageddon. (Incidentally, the scripture which speaks to me personally is Proverbs 23, 33. Amen.)
The cultural meltdown has begun, the clock is ticking away. The cults are locked and loaded, ready to inherit the earth. Angels of Death walk among us, eager for the final purification: the Branch Davidians at Waco, the Aum Shynri Kyo in Tokyo, the survivalist libertarians who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma. Faced with this threat, only styling can save us. Since nothing erodes a belief system faster than fashion's approval, I declare revolutionary eschatology this summer's hot look. Watch out for anorexics in flowing white robes and combat fatigues: you'll know the danger has passed.
And the media will revel in every gory, glorious second. Once it starts, they won't let us forget it for an instant. The official countdown will begin this New Year's Eve. "Only four years to go," they'll be saying. "Better get ready for the millennium." And so on, ad bloody nauseum, like a born-again talking clock alarm set for the Second Coming. Millennial documentaries will infest the airwaves and haunt our dreams. But there's still hope. Maybe some Apocalyptic over-achiever will assassinate the cultural analysts first, so we can all get a bit of shut-eye before the balloon goes up.
Imagine the marketing. You don't dare? Don't worry, it's being done for you. Special Edition Millennial cars, guitars, baseball caps, CDs, aftershave, royalty mugs, key rings, dildos, meditation cushions, Franklin Mint figurines...all collector's items, of course. Why, imagine how much they'll be worth a thousand years from now!
The Millennium is upon us and it's going to be the mother of all New Year's parties, that much is certain. Listen carefully, you can hear it already: a low rumbling noise, projecting back through time from the dying minutes of Friday, 31 December, 1999. As that date approached, it will grow louder, until the millennium implodes in a roaring, cataclysmic finale, and is instantly reborn. (Although, as pedants will point out over and again, the Third Millennium AD starts exactly one year later, on 1 January, 2001.)
Humanity will wet itself with excitement, sentiment will spurt all over us like divine jissom. The world will be a blizzard of bonhomie, an ocean of goodwill, one enormous ticker-tape parade of witless slogans: "Here's to you, Homo sapiens...you've come a long way, baby!" Tears will stream down faces from Tooting to Tierra del Fuego, as people everywhere melt in the crucible of history, in a desperate yearning for togetherness, mutual affirmation and that unity we instinctively sense, yet so rarely acknowledge.
But will it signify any real change? This is the great imponderable. Oh yes, my dear millennial brothers and sisters, at the Party of Our Lifetime on the Last Night of History, we'll give our hearts completely, but - as the Shirelles once asked so poignantly - will you still love me tomorrow? Or will it be business as usual, turning a blind eye to injustice and poverty, so long as we get tax cuts and new cars and cheap goods from Third World sweatshops?
I guess we'll see when we get there. Meanwhile, the big question is, "Where will you be at midnight?" Trafalgar, Times or Tiananmen Square, perhaps? Personally, I have this starry notion about witnessing the birth of a child. This, I think, would be my perfect new dawn for humanity: another baby Sharkey.
Oh, and Josie - if you're reading this, and haven't made any plans yet, maybe we could do lunch. Or even breakfast. I burn some great toastReuse content