Personally, I’m going to need a deep breath before diving into this one.
I invite everyone else to do the same.
Let’s be calm, collected and centered before getting to the grist of life-and-death decisions regarding the future of this community.
Let’s begin with a quasi-sectarian version of the so-called “Serenity Prayer” popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
Then let’s apply that to a random issue as played out through politics in the City of Santa Fe…wireless internet service, just for example.
I can accept that there are Santa Feans who, despite physical, scientific evidence and the unstoppable crush of reality, believe that Wi-Fi is tearing their brains in half and popping tumors out of their loins and making them generally unstable and insane.
I can have the courage to say, publicly, that our city government is too cowardly, yellow-bellied, tender-footed and, apparently, stupid to put this issue to bed and move on.
I can easily believe that no wisdom is technically required to know the difference between these two things.
On Feb. 9, the Santa Fe City Council voted to table a telecommunications ordinance because a very small number of people profess sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation.
Santa Fe is full of uranium, toxic plastics, exhaust fumes, radio waves, satellite beams, high-elevation sunshine, chemicals, dry cleaners, microwaves, radars—you name it—but hey, why not draw the line at internet connections?
That’s just one step too far.
Sadly, in next month’s municipal election, voters can only threaten two city councilors about their cowardice in the face of the massive assault against Santa Fe’s spreading Wi-Fi technology. And by massive, I mean 25 people in staunch opposition.
Also, if we did elect a couple of new councilors, how do we know they wouldn’t be just as—what’s the term?—pussyfooted about telling Wi-Fi worriers that they can go to hell or, more diplomatically, somewhere beyond the city limits if they are so convinced that the intense urban bombardment of Santa Fe is killing them softly.
Look, I believe that people like Arthur Firstenberg, who has now famously sued his neighbor for using her iPhone, are in genuine pain and deserve sympathy and help. But the help he and his ilk need is more along the lines of physical and psychological therapies—not public policy concessions.
A few key thoughts to consider:
People who claim they are being made insane by the presence of electromagnetic radiation should, possibly, be taken at their word. This does not make them the best people to opine soundly on public policy.
People who cite GQ magazine as a source of scientific record—as those opposed to Wi-Fi did at the last City Council meeting—are clearly not competent to judge what constitutes a reliable source of objective science or to parse responsible journalism from sensationalism.
City councilors who pander to the emotional outbursts of a few citizens while opening the city up to considerable liability from lawsuits (as this most recent delay has done) and offhandedly handicapping innovation, economic development and youth retention are simply not fit to govern.
If we had at-large city councilors, this kind of alarmist fanaticism would have been shut down a couple of years ago.
Councilors loyal to a district or neighborhood (or worse, a neighbor) are evidently not capable of remembering there’s a whole city at stake.
Who in our government believes the primary voices of opposition, Bill “I’m Spitting So Hard as I Yell that the Police Had to Drag Me Out” Bruno and Arthur “I Put this Podunk Town on the Map as the Place Where Neighbors Sue Over Mobile Phone Usage” Firstenberg, are presenting rational arguments? Isn’t their aggressive and erratic behavior, to paraphrase Gary Larson, nature’s way of saying “don’t touch”?
Let’s workshop the scenario facing our city councilors.
Pretend you’re a government representative considering whether or not to allow a distributed antenna system and a potential boost in the strength of wireless signals.
A few constituents caution that this may present a health risk, and they have some questionable anecdotal evidence.
Others point out that approximately 25,000 largely peer-reviewed articles published over the past 30 years argue otherwise.
But you’re still concerned.
Fortunately, you live smack in the center of one of the highest concentrations of scientists in the entire country.
Do you a. seek the advice of professionals in order to make the most informed decision or, b. waste all of your time meddling in the affairs of city staff, and then panic and fall apart when you’re asked to vote?
Finally, let’s assume the argument that Wi-Fi and electromagnetic radiation and mobile phones and ATM cards are killing us is 100 percent correct.
What happens then? Western, industrialized civilization with its banking scandals, factory farming, military industrial complexes, colonialism, energy consumption, spectacle-based society and technology fetishism will die a horrible, self-inflicted, tumor-riddled death.
For that, it is almost worth being a martyr.