There are so many things to celebrate on the threshold of the third millennium: the birth of Christ, the invention of the zero, the fact that we can forget we ever heard of Y2K. After all, if you’re reading this in your office in January then the fact that you actually got to work was a minor achievement in itself, and probably a lead indicator that what lay in store for you when you got there was probably pretty much as you left it. We’ve done the brave new world thing, too, filling ourselves with sci-fi-fuelled hope for wonderful things as the spin of the earth sweeps Greenwich into daylight one more time. Truth be told, of course, the day that Microsoft Excel refers to as 36,529 will look unremarkably similar to day 36,164 (although with bigger hangovers and loads of “How’s the …” questions). As the 21st Century dawns, politicians will still be more vain than they are stupid – and more stupid than they are greedy. Businesses will still suffer pain because they’ve underestimated the impact of globalisation, competition, sterling, e-anything, getting paid on time, discouraging fraudulent behaviour and ensuring that staff want to come back to work tomorrow. The whole debate about Europe and the euro will continue to sound like a pantomime in a seaside town in the middle of January. It’s not a cheery thought, but as the global odometer flicks over from 1999 to 2000, the world will actually have changed very little. So do we just sit here and take it, like sixth-day turkey leftovers? As Benny Hill probably said, we are a nation known for our knockers. Yet it doesn’t have to be like that. As former minister for the millennium Peter Mandelson said in the recent television documentary about the Dome, we appear to be a nation that’s afraid of being great, of having a can-do attitude, of making things happen. There can be no better time than a new year, a new century, a new millennium to leave behind the “We can’t really do that” mentality that was notably absent when Stonehenge was built – in the third millennium BC.
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