The Death Of Us All
By Mark Morford
19 October, 2007
It goes like this: We are
all made of energy, electromagnetic waves and harmonic vibrations and
a zillion throbbing electro-particles pulsing and spinning in quietly
charged fields, all manner of happy ions floating in micro oceans of
water and blood and vodka and we are humming and singing in what is
ostensibly some sort of perfect divine balance of harmony and love and
And then, life happens. Progress.
Technology. Cars and light bulbs and microwaves and cell phones and
iPods and giant orange variable-speed KitchenAid blenders, all causing
a billion invisible radioactive bolts to zing through the air like ghosts
of sad destiny, like imperceptible projectiles of doom, all invariably
disrupting our precious bodily vibes and penetrating our cell structures
and molesting our brain waves and sending us cartwheeling toward early
cancer and death and decay and really lousy Internet connectivity at
the goddamn airport.
This, you might say, is the
downside of existing. Everything we create wants to kill us. Everything
we invent or lick or insert into our orifices actually erodes our very
beings and slowly eats away at our life force and wants us dead dead
dead because, well, this is just the way it works: You’re born,
gravity grabs hold and it’s pretty much all downhill from there.
And God went, shrug.
The best part of all: The
list of dangers gets longer by the minute.
Latest example: wi-fi. It
is, apparently, the bitchin’ new death-threat du jour, coming
hot on the heels of cell phones and microwaves and power lines - all
of which, as we all know, cause certain brain cancer, at least in some
laboratory mice, which of course might simply mean that laboratory mice
should never, ever microwave their wi-fi cell phones near a power line.
But never mind that now.
It’s an issue. It’s
a hip new fear. Radiation and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) pumped out
by all the scary new wi-fi hubs are washing over us like buckets of
hot Velveeta almost nonstop, and it’s only getting crazier and
more concentrated by the minute as technology advances and cell phones
proliferate and wi-fi reaches its slippery invisible fingers into every
nook and cranny and Starbucks in the universe.
So, how do you slow the bombardment?
How do you deflect? Do you buy yourself, say, a nice purple plate and
some EMF protection body spray and never, ever rub your face against
the microwave oven? Or does our love of wireless technology and surfing
for cheap porn and buying crap on eBay over your iPhone spell imminent
doom for us all?
Europe is, apparently, all
over it. The European Environmental Agency has already issued some sort
of vague warning to the populace that current radiation limits are “thousands
of times too lenient” and that wi-fi and cell phones are (maybe,
probably) really, really bad, so bad that they can’t even fathom
just how bad because the technology is multiplying so quickly it’s
creating radiation levels “unprecedented in human history.”
Which sounds pretty bad indeed.
(Side note: I just love this
one weird little cognitive study sent to me by a friend recently; it
claims that spending a mere 20 seconds on a cell phone will disrupt
a child’s ability to learn for up to two hours. I mean, wow.
I do not exactly know what
this means. I do not know if, after saying hi to grandma on the Nokia,
the kid starts drooling and stuttering and suddenly wants to vote for
Mitt Romney, or if she suddenly can’t walk, or learn advanced
calculus, or solve world hunger.
What the study fails to mention,
of course, is that watching five minutes of “American Idol”
will set your kid’s brain back six years, or that bible camp will
likely stunt genital development for 20 years, or that joining the Republican
Party will turn the dial of your kid’s planetary awareness to
that of a bedwetting homoerotically repressed 11-year-old boy, and lock
it there for life. Maybe that’s an upcoming study).
So then, where is the threshold?
How alarmed should you be? Is the EMF threat just exaggerated silliness,
just fear of the new and the misunderstood, much like the terrified
“experts” who saw the first metal bicycles back in the 1800s
and believed that, at the crazy rates of speed those gadgets could attain,
the wind pressure would be so intense it would actually peel the skin
from your face? Should our government step in and set new limits and
ban wi-fi from schools and kindergartens and Gymboree?
I do not mean to make too
much light. I actually do believe, at least a little, that unchecked
levels of EMFs can’t really be all that healthy, that danger does
indeed lurk in our obsession with more/better/shinier/faster technologies
and that the ominous hazards and the ongoing wash of radiation may be
invisible and silent but that doesn’t mean they’re not as
lethal and corrosive as, say, that feeling you get watching Dick Cheney
This is where it gets tricky.
Convoluted. Because I’m very much of the mind that certain megacorporations
and demonic industries of the world could not give a flying crap about
humanity in relation to profits, would stop at almost nothing to beef
up their bottom lines at the expense of human life. (Hi, Monsanto/Dow/ConAgra!)
So then, is there a giant
cover-up? A massive conspiracy? Is Verizon in bed with AT&T and
Nokia and Motorola and Google and Earthlink, and are they all much like,
say, the toxic slaughterhouses of the early 1900s or the oil/pesticide/tobacco
industries of 1998, lying and lobbying and creeping their way into your
wallet by way of poisoning your bloodstream?
Or is it more like, say,
the big silly Y2K scare, all hype and panic and total imminent meltdown
of the entire known universe, except that it wasn’t?
Answer: No one has the slightest
clue. Or rather, that’s about all we really have: haphazard clues,
vague extrapolations, tiny hints of possibility, all wrapped in those
sweet, timeless, chthonic whispers pointing to our imminent demise.
You know, same as it ever was.
Maybe it’s better,
as it so often is, to take the larger view, the one that says yes, sure,
absolutely be aware of the dangers and minimize where you can and watch
for abuse and keep close tabs on the cellular/wi-fi bigwigs, because
there is certainly no historical precedent that says such corporations
won’t sell the very marrow from your bones for an uptick in their
But at the same time, I think
it’s always delightfully good to keep in mind that happy note
of divine fatalism, the notion that life is pretty much always, every
minute, working very, very hard to kill you. But in a really nice way.
Quietly, slowly, bit by bit
and blink by blink and often with a smile and an organic chai tea and
a big green salad and a whole steaming pile of free wi-fi at the coffee
shop so you can post semi-naked pix to your Flickr stream and download
the new Radiohead and flirt mightily with the hot barista and silently
sing the praises of a divinely weird, messy, radioactive universe.
All told, not a bad way to
© The San Francisco Chronicle
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