The new millennium is still a year away, but in London, as elsewhere, the moment appointed for its celebration is that marked by the first appearance of those three mystically consecutive zeros in the calendar. Turnstiles at the vast Millennium Dome are oiled and ready to spin on January 1: click, click, click. Rather more zeros, of course, figure in the price the nation has paid for an architectural extravagance that our political masters have ordered built as a monument to their ambition. The bill for the biggest covered space in the world has been billions—though it would be churhish to include in that sum the banknotes which wallpaper the part of the Dome which is explicitly dedicated to the celebration of wealth: They are on loan from the Bank of England and must later be returned for practical use. And, until recently, another zero, solitary and unqualified, would have summed up the Dome’s planned contents, for the bubble was almost fully blown before anyone had an idea of what to put in it.

Nevertheless, to the government’s relief, commercial participants eventually came forward to sponsor the various sections of the Dome. Tesco, a supermarket chain, has stumped up for what is called the “Learning Zone.” Here, with unconscious irony, visitors are reminded of whatever schooling they might once have had by an evocation of its most memorable elements: the recorded sound of bellowing teachers and the artificial smell of over-boiled cabbage. Another “educational” experience that visitors will enjoy for their £20 admission charge will be the chance to admire (but not read) “The 1,000 Greatest Books Ever” assembled behind a great glass-screened bookcase. Mindful that academics are busily engaged in meeting all those educational “targets” that the government has set them, Tesco has sportingly left them out of the selection process and appealed directly to their customers to vote for their favorite books. This survey produced a list of “books that people actually read, rather than those we pretend to read, or wish we had read,” said the company’s spokesman. (Why people should want to pay £20 to admire the spines of books with which they are already familiar is a question he was not asked.) And the 1,000 best books? A workshop manual for the Ford Sierra. How to Build a Perfect Golf Swing. The Owners’ Guide to Dog Health. Goldfish & Koi. The autobiography of Joan Collins. Guides to gardening, home improvement, and cookery. So much for learning in National Post-Socialist Britain.

On, then (but not up), to the “Spirit Level,” drat bubble within a bubble, with a tide surely more apt than its inventor can have imagined. There, matters spiritual are leveled indeed, in an all-inclusive ragbag of a multi-faith experience featuring the bells, smells, and mantras of as many faiths as could be found, each demeaned by the presence of the others. The official religion of the major millennial basilica itself is more elevating. Three times a day, visitors are called to lift their eyes heavenward to see its mysteries played out by 80 acrobats whose ritualized movements “tell the story of humanity” 150 feet above their heads in a “very symbolic” struggle between nature and technology, which is resolved when each embraces the other—as they do, we are to believe, in the creation of the Dome itself.

Such humanistic pseudo-liturgical twaddle is complemented by the statues offered for reverence in this extravagant temple of trash. Bestriding the “Bod}’ Zone” like a castrated, colostomised colossus is a vast, faceless, raceless, androgynous humanoid, a representation of a humanity so politically corrected that all can recognize themselves in it without taking offense. Whether the 14-foot-high boy cowering in the shadow of this idol is supposed to be in awe of it, or, as his expression and posture seem to suggest, has simpK been surprised at stool, need trouble only the most inquisitive student of contemporary sculpture.

This carbuncular, introspective, and vacuous monument to transience, this theme park without a theme, serves no purpose but to glorify our godless contemporary subculture and the politicians who preside over it. Englishmen in search of an uplifting experience on the scale promised by the dome-mongers would do better to spend their money on a cross-channel ferry ticket and admission to the Eiffel Tower. Those with access to traditional liturgy would be even better advised to stay at home and go to church.