I'll be in Fiji, hiding from the 21st century

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I am very glad to welcome back the well-known modern historian Professor Norman Hunter-Gatherer, who has agreed to answer all your questions about the modern condition. All yours, Prof!

I am very interested in the approaching furore about the millennium, Professor. It is being treated as if it were somehow a great turning-point, yet all that is going to happen is that the number of the year is going to change, which happens every year anyway. The fact that all the digits are going to change instead of the usual one or two is not really relevant, any more than it is significant when our car's mileometer goes from 99,999 to 100,000. And yet we are spending millions of pounds on this notional change! People are already booking hotels on the tip of New Zealand so they can be the first to greet the new century! Isn't this all rather ridiculous, especially as in many non-Christian parts of the world, where they measure the passing of the years differently, it may not be the millennium at all! I don't know how the Jews or Muslims measure the passage of time, but it might well be the year 2397 or something to them. The world of Islam won't be very interested in the year 2000 if it isn't the year 2000, will they?

Professor Hunter-Gatherer writes: You have a good point there.

On the other hand, the world of Islam, especially its more militant wing, may well take advantage of our millennium. I tell you, if I were a militant Muslim, I would say to myself that the day of the Millennium would be a very good day to invade Christendom! The one day in a thousand years when everyone is off-duty - when everyone in the Christian world is either celebrating or recovering from a hangover, or sitting at home watching the party on TV! The world of Islam could just walk in and take over! Don't you think so?

Professor Hunter-Gatherer writes: It's certainly a thought.

Though I suppose you have to remember that the millennium, whenever it starts and ends, will start and end at midnight, which is not the best possible time for an invasion by anyone. Can you imagine a military operation timed to start at midnight? It sounds doomed to me.

In any case, surely this millennium changeover is only another version of New Year's Eve on a bigger scale, New Year's Eve writ large? As such, the prospect is horrendous. We all know what New Year's Eve is like: crowds of riotous young people being sick and splashing about in the water in Trafalgar Square. Would anyone in his right mind invade right then? And have to clear up the mess?

Professor Hunter-Gatherer writes: No, possibly not.

In any case, the way things are going, a lot of us are not going to be looking forward to the next century. We don't see much cause for celebration, and are not inclined to believe very much in progress. We won't be waving flags, just keeping our fingers crossed. We won't be booking hotel bedrooms in New Zealand so that we can be the first in the next century - more likely we will be booking bedrooms in Fiji or somewhere just the other side of the International Date Line so that we can be the last people on earth still to be in the old 20th century! Makes sense, doesn't it?

Professor Hunter-Gatherer writes: I can see your point.

Talking about nostalgia, as we come up to Remembrance Day, poppies are yet again being sold for us to wear on this day - except to those of us who had the foresight to keep our poppies safe from last year! - and it strikes me not for the first time what a mixed message this sends out. In a military context, poppies convey gratitude and heroism. But when it comes to the drug problem, the same flower represents ruin and degradation. It must be unusual to find the same thing representing totally opposite qualities! The only other example I can think of is of the way a bald shaven head has sinister, even criminal, overtones in the West, but signifies a monk in the East, and therefore quite the opposite.

Professor Gather-Hunterer writes: Yes, an interesting observation. I'd never thought of that.

Hold on - this question and answer column strikes me as a total con! All the information is coming from the readers! The old Professor is not contributing anything! He seems happy just to nod automatically when anyone says anything! Is he drunk? Is he on drugs? Is this what they call a Post-Modernist advice column, or what?

Professor Hunter-Gatherer writes: You may be nearer the truth than you think.

Professor Hunter-Gatherer will be back soon with more enlightenment on the way we live now. Keep those questions rolling!

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