[ by Charles Cameron — because throwing holy water at a computer is foolish and beautiful, a combo I rather like ]
Arthur Koestler‘s book title, The Ghost in the Machine, came to mind a day or so ago when I saw this tweet:
This is a Russian priest sprinkling holy water on the central bank's servers in an attempt to stop the fall of ruble. pic.twitter.com/LbJxlWBUcR
— Bankable Insight (@BankableInsight) December 5, 2014
A memory stirred: I had seen something similar before.
Back in 1999 — when programmers were putting in overtime to remediate or work around the so-called Y2K bug, CEOs were concerned as to the potential ripple-through effects of Y2K computer failures on just-in-time acquisition and distribution channels, and I was monitoring the possible social impact if, for instance, fear of bank failures led to bank failures, or terrorists saw a massive vulnerability and ran with it — a curious document came across my desk.
You might say, Mammon gave a sermon.
The sermon was actually written for and distributed by the American Bankers Association to its members, for them to pass along to their pastors, rabbis and imams as what we might call sermon-fodder — a seldom mentioned sub-category of the public relations genre that gives us that handy shortcut to avoid actual thought, the press release.
The Washington Post highlighted this quote:
“Prepare as best you can,” advises the sermon, written by an ABA speechwriter and made available to local bankers earlier this month. “Then trust God for the rest”
Also known as “trust in God, but first tie your camel”.
Here’s a link to the suggested sermon, plus a paragraph or two of text, in case at this late date you are still worried about bank failure, or indeed are worried now for the first time — the fall of the rouble, too, I suppose, has potential ripple-through impact on the global economy, though I know less than nothing about such things myself.
Sermon Title: Thinking about Y2K: Moses, Orson Welles and Bill Gates
You’ve heard the dire warnings, the off-the-wall forecasts and the downright silly predictions. Life insurance companies, they say, could bill us for coverage for the past 100 years. Airplanes won’t get off the ground. And that could be the good news. Our bank accounts will show zero. Our mortgages will require another 100 years of payments. Hospital monitoring equipment will stop monitoring. The lights will go out. The phones will fail. We’ll be plunged into a deep, cold winter without heat, electricity, money or — worst of all, pizza delivery.
And yes, some of us will report actually seeing a fire on the horizon.
Grovers Mill all over again. Orson Welles would be pleased.
Quite a few jokes have been made about Y2K as well. Perhaps you’ve heard that Bill Gates has just announced the official release date for the new Windows 2000 software.
It’s to be the second quarter of 1901.
[ .. ]
Most important, we should understand what Y2K really means. It’s a computer headache that experts are working to fix right now, not an alien invasion of New Jersey. And not the end of the world. As members of God’s community, we can and should play a leadership role in helping our own families, friends and community prepare for Y2K. By understanding it. And by not being afraid. We want to go into the next Century as God intended, with hope, knowledge and the promise of a bright future.
I imagine it must have been quite fun writing that — and in the event, banks didn’t fail, and we went into the next century, and indeed millennium, pretty much as divinely intended.
But forget Y2K, forget the rouble’s present troubles: what’s the proper relationship between God and Mammon, spirituality and survival, the Ghost and the Machine?
I’m not convinced we’ve figured that one out as yet.