Concerto for blunt instrument

An irregular heartbeat from d.o. to you. Not like a daily kos, more like a sometime sloth. Fast relief from the symptoms of blogarrhea and predicated on the understanding that the world is not a stage for our actions, rather it is a living organism upon which we depend for our existence.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Devil's Still in the Details

I'd like to share my favorite Bertrand Russell quote with you. It goes: "It is only insofar as we renounce the world as its' lovers that we can conquer it as technicians." Russell wrote that in 1959 when a computer like the one which may be on your lap took up an entire room. He went on the say that falling under the spell of technology is like worshiping Satan - a losing proposition, if Satan even exists. Plutonium, the most toxic radioactive substance known, a product of nuclear fission named after, well....the Devil, certainly exists.

However, a good many folks may not need a philosopher or even a Unabomber to clue them in on a growing uneasiness among their neighbors toward over-dependence on things we plug-in or fuel-up. Anyone who has found their harried lives stretched all the more thinly by computer malfunctions or mechanical breakdowns may have the growing suspicion that the Devil's in the details.

This March 28 will be the 33rd anniversary of the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A moment when the population of the east coast of the United States seemed to stand still just long enough to ask: what exactly have we gone and done? The answer, after all the official damage control, was never quite clear to most of us. A whole lot of people scrambled for one form of cover or another. The young family I was with wound up in Florida where we met more than a few fellow refuges who had fled the Mid-Atlantic states. To get there we passed directly through the major undeclared evacuation zone late at the rain. The fear was palpable.

As anti-nuclear activists we assumed such a day would arrive, but for folks who had gone about their lives leaving things to the experts, Three Mile Island became a sort of silent monster in the closet. What else could turn on them? What other technologies might bite the hand that feeds?

Today we see other, even more frightening examples that generate such fears. The horrifying ongoing multiple meltdowns in Fukushima, Japan and the fact that a similar type of nuclear reactor and highly radioactive fuel storage pool sit on the shore of the Connecticut River just a few miles from us at the Entergy Corporation's Vermont Yankee nuke. So it is that much of our anxieties and fears may have more to do with the "things" we've created physically rather than those we've dreamed up in our minds.

What exactly is the price of advanced technology? How much of a "good" thing is too much? I believe I'll stand with the Hopi Elders who long ago warned us of the clever path of invention, the one that wanders off into oblivion. Traditional Native elders pretty much agree on the need to walk in balance with the natural world. I guess the individual decides for her or his self precisely where that balance lies, but finding that balance sure beats worshiping the Devil.


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