Influences of the millennium


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Category: Reflections Date: 31 Dec 99

This is a republication of the column by Ira Mathur which appeared on page nine of the Guardian  yesterday but was not the version which should have appeared.


We go back and back; forever we go back, all of us, to the very beginning; in our blood and bone and brain we carry the memory of thousands of beings.

VS Naipaul,

A Way in the World.


TWO THOUSAND years represent an insignificant ..00000.57 per cent of the history of the earth which is 3,500,000,000 (three and a half billion) years old. Trees have lived longer, cast their shade for 4000 years while empires rose and fell.


The age of dinosaurs lasted 165 million years. We humans have only been around for about 100,000. Still, its a benchmark. Time for stocktaking. Remarkable people and events demonstrate that all of humanity springs from the same font; cross boundaries and nationalities and enter a pool which all of humanity can claim.


Our collective memory has to some extent formed and influenced us. What is this? With the help of people, ranging in ages from five to 68, I have compiled a list (admittedly flawed, it being random, subjective, by no means comprehensive and influenced by the spotlight of the TV camera, which tends to roam America and Europe more often than Africa or Asia) of the people and icons which have and continue to shape those of us born under and around this Y2K star.


Jesus Christ,  Darwin, Fred Flintstone, The Roman Empire, Aga Khan, Aurengzeb, Nostradamus, Plutarch, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Ashoka, Napoleon, Constantinople, Dr Livingstone, Shankara Charya, Frederick the Great, Machiavelli, Benjamin Franklin, Michelangelo, The Prince, Samuel Johnson. Spinoza, Francis Drake, Fidel Castro, Columbus,. The Renaissance, Henry VIII, Hara-kiri. The Prophet Mohammed. Sai Baba. Jim Jones. Jesse Jackson. Humphrey Bogart. Little House on the Prairie. Beethoven. Charles Dickens. Jane Austen. Rabindranath Tagore. Khalil Gibran. Barbara Cartland. The Brontes. The Titanic. The First Amendment. Proust. Paradise Lost. Paradise Found. Perestroika. Glasnost. The Berlin Wall. Audrey Hepburn. Marilyn Monroe. Karl Marx. Darwin. Freud. Elvis Presley. Ravi Shankar. Muhammad Ali. Malcolm X. Slavery. Abolition. Cocaine. The Beatles. Madame Bovary. Leo Tolstoy, Ricky Martin. Tina Turner. Hemingway. Alcoholics Anonymous. Armani. Versace. Coco Chanel. Michael Jackson. Condoms. Taj Mahal. Gothic. M&Ms. Nikes. CDs. Radio. TV. Trains. The Channel Tunnel. Bach. Star Wars. OJ Simpson. The gun. Sistine Chapel. The Louvre. The Koh-i-Noor. Big Bird. Aerobics. Macys. False teeth. Toothpaste. Bosnia. Biafra. Ethiopia. The Holy Quran. Mecca. Dental floss. Cigarettes. Lung cancer. Club soda. Deodorant. Aluminium foil. The White House. Nintendo 64. Leonardo di Caprio. Leonardo da Vinci. Brian Lara. Statue of Liberty. Bill Gates. Photography. Chemical warfare. The zip. Erica Jong. Jung. James Dean. Vaccines: diphtheria, polio, smallpox. The Black Plague. HIV/AIDS. The Green Revolution. Einstein. Galileo. Madonna. Enid Blyton. Derek Walcott. The Holy Grail. Richard the Lionheart. Liberte, fraternite, egalite. The Red Army. The Great Wall of China. The Orient Express. Vietnam. Atomic bomb. Concorde. Tiananmen Square. Chairman Mao. Zero. Coca-Cola. Viagra. Prozac. Valium. Aspirin. Penicillin. Industrial Revolution. The Internet. The British Empire. Spanish Armada. Roots. Who shot JR? The New Testament. The cell phone. Liposuction. Silicone implants. Cloning Dolly. Organ transplants. Virginia Woolf. Elizabeth Taylor. Humphrey Bogart. Jekyll and Hyde. Oscar Wilde. Paper currency. Credit cards. Vikings. The Spice Girls. Lego. Robots. Shoulder pads. Polyester. Universal suffrage. Adam Smith. Disney. Saddam Hussein. JFK. Monopoly. Automobiles. Roller-skates. The bicycle. Electricity. Disposable diapers. Pan. Botha. Spectacles. 007. McDonalds. Naomi Campbell. Chanel Nos. 1-9. The Waltons. Hare Krishnas. Idi Amin. Shaka Zulu. Gen. Pinochet. De Gaulle. Churchill. World Wars I and II. The Holocaust. Adolf Hitler. Anne Frank. Abraham Lincoln. The Ku Klux Klan. Mahatma Gandhi. The UN. James Dean. Tiger Woods. Voltaire. Jesse Owen. Rock Hudson. Charlie Parker. The piano. Salsa. Stilettoes. Thatcher. The Wonderbra. Germaine Greer. Deodorant. Donald Trump. Salman Rushdie. Bin Laden. Chemical warfare. The cinema. Global warming. Ketchup. Cricket. Prince Charles. The tampon. CIA. KGB. Doughnuts. Hair transplants. Chewing gum. Barbie. Van Gogh. Monet. The contact lens. The Eiffel Tower. Lata Mangeshkar. The Mafia. The Mormons. Luther. Calvin Klein. The Spanish Inquisition. Oprah. The Sound of Music. Saturday Night Fever. Pavarotti. The Crusaders. Air conditioning. Steel. Colonic irrigation. The English language. Fertiliser. The remote control. The waltz. Hip-hop. Gorbachev. Steroids. Bob Dylan. Dylan Thomas.  Billy Jean. Jean Paul Sartre. Meryl Streep: Laurel & Hardy. Charlie Chaplin. Cher. Frank Sinatra. Rubens. Evita. Lawrence of Arabia. Marlon Brando. Valentino. The Great Depression. Denzel Washington. The Rubik cube. Joan of Arc. Marie Antoinette. Amelia Earhart. Edward and Mrs Simpson. Picasso. Rembrandt. Kama Sutra. Neil Armstrong. Nelson Mandela. Apartheid. Edmund Hillary. Pele. Bjorn Borg. Catherine the Great. The iron. Chernobyl. Hiroshima. Vietnam. Bhopal. Shell. Oil spills. Acid rain.  Bosnia. Airjacking. Dalai Lama. Bob Marley. Nehru. Princess Diana. PMS. Mother Teresa. Monica Lewinsky. The Pill. The Lion King. Bill Clinton. Bobbitt. Mad cow disease. Planet of the Apes.


All of humanity is here: Our humour, invention, brilliance, nobility, beauty, introspection, creativity. But also our sickness, thirst for power, cruelty, fundamentalism, greedy narrow selves.


A milestone like this puts us in perspective. Our insignificant lifespan in the nature of things should make us shut up a bit and take stock. We each can chart the next 10, 20, 50, 70 years. Make a dent somewhere, in anyway we wish or not; before we, too, disappear.


Now help me light these sticks of incense. The smoke will take our wishes to heaven. Of course, its only superstition, just for fun. But see how fast the smoke rises, oh, even faster when we laugh, lifting our hopes, higher and higher.

Amy Tan: The Kitchen Gods Wife


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur