The start of a new millennium

While technically the grand event won't happen until January 1st of 2001, by the time you read this issue of Dimensions it will be a brand-new millennium for most of us. Something that happens only every thousand years. A good part of the population never even gets to experience the turn of a century, and being there when the millennium turns is certain to have an impact on our lives. Personally, I think it'll take a few years to really sink in that we're in a new millennium. All of a sudden we're no longer at the end of a thousand years of history and wars, but at the very start of the future, the millennium where Star Trek takes place, and just about every piece of science fiction I've ever read. It's sort of scary, as if after a long, long time of living in a comfortable, familiar valley we've come to a mountain pass and beyond it we see a vast expanse of uncharted land. It's interesting how the future always turns out different from what we imagine. The future as depicted in George Orwell's "1984" never came to pass, we're still far away from Kubrick's "2001—A Space Odyssey," and Buck Rogers style rocket packs won't replace cars anytime soon. Then again, not even the most imaginative fiction writers foresaw the advent and impact of the computer, and certainly not the way computers and communications are changing the very fabric of our society. No one could have predicted the worldwide web and how it literally changed everything within a few short years. Who could have expected or predicted that putting many millions of circuits onto a silicon waver smaller than a postage stamp would bring first word-processing and spreadsheets and databases, then Macs and Windows and email, and finally the web, amazon.com, eBay, and ICQ? Reality is often stranger than fiction, and our electronic advances is something no one could have dreamed up. It's about as close to magic as it gets.

And just like the impact of a brand new millennium won't be truly felt for several years, it will be years until we'll figure out how to best use all that new technology emanating from white-hot techno foundries from Silicon Valley to Osaka, Japan.

Personally, I can barely imagine life without computers and communication. My entire work is on the three computers on my desk which are networked to all other computers in our office and permanently connected to the Internet via high speed data lines. I rarely use the phone for anything but connecting a modem, and I all but stopped watching TV because browsing the web is much more interesting and interactive. And ff1 do want to watch something I simply pop up the TV tuner window. When on the road, I use my wireless RIM pager to send and receive email and even send messages to phones or fax machines. I can talk to my car thanks to a Microsoft AutoPC and my mom can see pictures of my four year old son almost as soon as I uploaded them from my digital camera.

What does all of it have to do with Dimensions and the size acceptance movement? Everything. It has been only 30 years since a compassionate visionary by the name of William J. Fabrey started NAAFA, which initially stood for "National Association to Aid Fat Americans." In those early days, the only way to spread the word was by handing out pamphlets, placing brief classified ads in the Village Voice, or to get covered by the media—always a mixed blessing. Finding any information on size-related issues was an exercise in patience and frustration.

In 1969 we could put a man on the moon, but in terms of communication we were still closer to the pony express than to America Online. As a result, fat people remained isolated for many more years. Dances put up by early Chapter of NAAFA in the New York area were pretty much the sum total of places where fat people and their admirers could meet. Requests for information on size acceptance likely took weeks to be filled by a NAAFA office that was nothing more than a few folders in a volunteer's home.

Fast forward to today. Getting information is a cinch. In fact, there is so much of it that sifting through it is more of a problem than finding it. For example, when I entered the term "size acceptance" into the AltaVista search engine, it returned 2,855 sources. Our own Dimensions Online website lists what we consider the top 500 links to size acceptance resources, and we're constantly adding more because there is so much valuable (and entertaining) stuff out there. The Dimensions web boards have become thriving "communities" where people talk about whatever is on their collective minds. They also engage in heated discussions, form alliances, and do all the sorts of things people used to do in "real" communities. Distance and geographic location don't matter. Some of the most prolific posters are from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

There are still plenty of glitches in this whole new system. There is information overload, a growing "spam" (electronic junk mail) problem, and some people abuse the relative anonymity of the web to treat others online like they would never treat people in person.

The fact still is that at the start of this new millennium we can quickly find any information we want and we can easily communicate with just about anyone in the world. People who once were isolated can now work from their homes and be as socially active as they want to be. Groups that once had trouble organizing and making themselves heard now have entirely new ways and means to get things done. News is disseminated instantly and can be reacted to instantly.

I once said in an editorial that if fat people and their admirers voted in a block, size discrimination would be eradicated within six months. I still believe that, and with size acceptance communities building on the net and the web, with fat people becoming ever more educated, we have a real chance of making it happen.

Conrad H. Blickenstorfer