Reflections on A Meeting about 5G

About a week ago, I wrote a piece about the fifth generation of cellular technology (5G). Then, as promised there, just this morning Westport’s Ys Men’s Global Issues group met to discuss the topic and the advisability of adopting 5G according to the “fast track” schedule advocated by the Trump administration and by telecom giants like Verizon and Sprint. An unprecedented number of men attended indicating the perceived importance of the issue. The resulting conversation was lively, passionate, and thought-provoking.

To begin with, there was general recognition that:

  • None of us (not even those identified as “experts”) knows from our own research a lot about 5G capability or threats.
  • We are therefore dependent on the word of scientists
  • But shouldn’t rely on biased “researchers” employed by the tech companies.
  • We don’t actually need an internet or phone service 100 times faster than the ones we now have. (More quickly downloaded movies and enhanced gambling options simply aren’t worth it.)
  • Since corporations and alliances between them and government have lied to us in the past (e.g. about asbestos, auto safety, tobacco and cigarettes, and climate change) we would do well to be skeptical about 5G’s mammoth advertising campaigns.


  • Discussants recognized a certain “technological imperative,” i.e. endorsement of the idea that if human beings can do something, they not only will, but somehow must do it.
  • Think of where we’d be, some said, if we listened to the Luddites, to those who feared introduction of electricity, or warned us about air travel causing our blood vessels to burst.
  • We may “need” 5G to protect us militarily from the Chinese or Russians who, if they develop it first, might use it against us to destroy our cities, collect our trade and military secrets, or control us in other ways.
  • Introduction of 5G promises untold numbers of jobs and profit stimulation for corporations and entrepreneurs.

In all, there seemed little concern about:

  • Health risks, which seemed to be dismissed by some as paranoid.
  • The horrendous implications of decimating or eliminating huge populations of bees.
  • Nineteen-eighty-four type surveillance and crowd control used against good citizens like us who might one day feel obliged to take to the streets to oppose minority control of our lives by our own government and by corporations – just as citizens are currently doing in so many places across the planet.
  • Along those lines, one member knowledgeable about the technical aspects of 5G, admitted that similar technology can indeed be used to disperse crowds, nearly boil the blood of protestors, and has been known to kill bee populations necessary for human food supply.

Questions to Ponder: Did Monday’s conversation reveal a deeply 20th century mode of thinking that for the sake of survival we must outgrow? That is, did it:

  • Demonstrate a 20th century conviction that imagines all international relations in terms of “us vs. them” – for example us against the Russians and Chinese – as though cooperation between nations is inherently impossible?
  • Abandon any idea that the world could be fundamentally different from what we now experience — that another world is possible?
  • Reflect a de facto willingness to commit suicide in the name of “progress” – as though we have no choice, capability, or responsibility of choosing differently?
  • Implicitly admit that perhaps such outmoded thinking condemns our children and grandchildren to a hopeless future, because old people like us (who, let’s face it, are now in control) cannot or will not think differently?
  • Trust excessively our own government, military and corporations?
  • Ignore the possibility that capitalism as we know has run its course?
  • Prove unwilling to imagine the superior efficiency of a centrally planned, but democratically controlled socio-political system organized cooperatively rather than competitively?

At the end of today’s meeting, one member acknowledged the interesting and productive nature of the conversation I’ve just capsulized. He suggested that our next meeting continue the thread. Although his proposal did not carry, all of us can be assured that we haven’t heard the last of this debate. For better or worse, we will eventually have to answer the “questions to ponder” indicated above.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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