The Kalamata Municipal Council’s decision to block the installation of a 5G wireless network in the southern Peloponnese city on public health grounds, with a majority of 16 against 13, sent shock waves through social media and the local community so strong they were felt across the country.
There are, of course, always those who applaud reactions driven by fear and conspiracy theories, who opt for a more “alternative lifestyle” with less dependence on technology and its unsubstantiated health hazards. A sneeze may be met with terror or skepticism by the champions of such theories.
Beyond such bleak outlooks on the human condition, though, there are certain issues that need to be addressed, issues that are preeminently political. Such as the fact that the system of simple proportional representation introduced by the former SYRIZA government has resulted in the effective demolition of local government. “I have nine municipal councilors and can count on as many as 16 on specific issues out of a total of 41,” Thanasis Vassilopoulos, the mayor of the Messinian capital, lamented.
The second issue that arises from this affair was highlighted in an op-ed in the local Kalamata newspaper Eleftheria: “Will the local political, business and intellectual elite air its views on 5G technology? Or will it continue in silence, once more leaving the task of pulling the chestnuts out of the fire to two or three commentators? Will this question be answered in the next few days by Messinia’s MPs, political parties, the Messinian Chamber of Commerce and the University of the Peloponnese by the position they take?” The writer went on to name the governing New Democracy and SYRIZA MPs who were elected in the southern Peloponnesian region.
How can we interpret the silence over this issue on the political front? Is it a sign of technophobia or an automatic reflex for weighing its cost in votes? What counts more: political survival or challenging prejudice in any form?
At the end of the day, the municipal council’s decision to block the 5G grid on health grounds is no more anachronistic (to say the least) than the attitude of politicians playing dumb on an issue that has an impact on society. Like any other sign of progress, the 5G era is desperately in need of bold decisions and brave role models. That is, unless we give up and agree that politicking should be expected of politicians, and come to terms with the fact that they will never deliver like 5G. And that really would be a public hazard.