Saturday, August 04, 2007

Cell phones and the limits of enough

“Our national myth is about the endless defiance of limits: opening the Western frontier, breaking the speed of sound, dropping people on the moon, discovering ‘cyberspace’ at the very moment when we have filled old-fashioned space with so much junk that we can barely move.”

Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."

Ed Abbey

Today there are over 3 billion cell phone subscriptions throughout the world (and incrementing rapidly), chalking up over 700 billion minutes per month of voice and text messaging. India and Africa have the highest rate of new cell phone subscriptions in the world, despite the lowest per-capita income.

Ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredth percent of all cell phone calls start with, "Where are you?"

Cell phones are an example of a solution in search of a problem. Human technocrats, teenage girls and lost motorists do not need cell phones, they desire communication. The lonely road safety, keep track of the kids, keep in touch with the employees excuses are all lies foisted off on a gullible public to advance the pecuniary aspirations of vast capitalistic, trans-national corporations and the power dreams of their security-obsessed government toadies.

The ubiquitous presence of cell phones has fostered a world-wide sub-culture of (mostly) young people who consider it normal and essential to be able to make contact with others at any moment of the day or night, from any place on earth. This has nothing to do with safety or business; this is about obsessive trivial conversation on a global basis.

Watching a young person with a cell phone in his or her hand brings to mind the nicotine addict: the obsessive flicking open and shut to test for the very latest message, the fidgety hand flicks and insouciant fiddling that is part and parcel of cigarette smoking, the constant presence of the addictive substance at all times of day or night. One of these days, I expect to see a cell phone rolled up in the tee-shirt sleeve of a DA'd hot-rodder.

Cell phones are the embodiment of human hypermobility, annihilating space and time, creating a communications nether world that exists outside of natural cycles and limitations in the non-cell phone world, that is, that part of the world on which human busyness is ultimately and inseparably dependent. Cell phones create and foster the impression that humans can have whatever humans want, whenever humans want it, regardless of natural limitations on species growth and resource exploitation.

Cell phones are the outer symbol and one of the inner working mechanisms of the cancer of unlimited human growth.

It is impossible to build a human society in harmony with all other life on this planet if we continue to unquestioningly develop and adopt new technologies with no thought to their cultural and environmental consequences. The cell phone industry was not built so that children and stranded motorists could lead a safe and trouble-free life. It was built to make trillions of dollars of profit for capitalists throughout the world, regardless of any environmental or social ills that it creates.

The question is not, "Do environmentalists use cell phones?" The question is, "Do those who are aware unquestionably use technologies that create social and environmental harm?"

And the ultimate question is, "When do we say, 'Enough!'"

1 comment:

  1. You gave this whole cell phone phenom a good twist, if it's a twist at all. I use my cell phone for my "landline" phone. Essentially I don't have a landline phone, I'm always accessible. I read you're rebuttles with Beau on the emails. I can easily see both sides, it is nice because it's less hassle than having a land line. However, that in itself might be the problem, the convenience that we all crave, or at least some of us. I notice the younger kids use cellphones ALL the time, whether they're just playing with it or texting because they're bored. Hell, I'm only 22 and I use it only for calls, but I agree it's not a necessity. Not a whole lot is anymore, it's all luxury, including this computer I'm typing this on. What I think it boils down to in the end, besides convenience, is the need for humans to be in constant contact with others, even though that contact isn't human to human, it's machine to machine...say hello to the grim future. Computer's really aren't any better, they need long trails of cable to work. It's all destructive. In the end it's going to be where do we put a limit on it. From the looks of things, limits aren't in the near future.