Shortly after Joe Davidson moved into his Cincinnati apartment, he noticed his joints were achy and he wasn’t sleeping well. Then he needed two root canals.
Davidson is among a small but outspoken group of people who say the radio frequencies coming from so-called smart meters installed in their homes are making them sick. The wireless devices — designed to measure gas and electricity consumption and help consumers save money — have other critics, such as privacy advocates who argue they could violate customers’ privacy and consumer advocates who complain they could lead to higher utility bills.
Driven by these concerns, legislators in several states have moved to give consumers options when it comes to installing smart meters in their homes.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 15 states allow customers to opt out of smart meter installation, although many permit utility companies to impose a fee on customers who don’t want the meters…
Here is an article showing smart meter removal accommodation for customers of two different utilities in California. This accommodation for people suffering from Electromagnetic Hyper-sensitivity (EHS) ought to be available nationwide. (It is not available in Wisconsin!)
Here is an excerpt from that article:
Hess-Mills recently requested to Inland Power to exchange the smart meter with one that didn’t have a two-way communication function, which they have agreed to swap out for a fee of $25 per month.
“Inland Power created an opt-out program in response to these concerns,” said Francisco. “We will install a new meter without RF [radio frequency] communications to members.”
Although Hess-Mills isn’t happy about the extra fee, she is glad Inland Power has allowed her to opt-out.
“They should accommodate whatever meter you want,” she said. “You’re the customer. You’re buying the electricity.”
In a recent court case, a judge in California ruled that opt-out fees violated state discrimination laws in a case where a utility company cut off electricity for 14 months for a customer suffering from EHS.
Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) terminated Josh Hart’s electricity after he refused to pay an opt-out fee for use of an analog meter instead of a smart meter. Hart and his wife lived without electricity for more than a year, until Plumas County Superior Judge Janet Hilde ordered PSREC to cancel the opt-out fee and monthly charge for reading the analog meter. She also ordered the utility to allow Hart to self-read the device…
On January 14, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)stated it (ultimately) wants a smart meter on every home and business in the country. The blog I link to above to explains some of the issues with this.
As stated before, a Wisconsin utility customer has a case at the Department of Energy complaining about smart meter health impacts and requesting an opt out, which state utilities and utility regulators refused to provide. The question is will exceptions be made for individuals who have Radiofrequency Sickness or other problems with smart meters. The complaint was sent to the Department of Justice in August 2014. It was routed to the Department of Energy in fall 2015. The outcome of this complaint/case should be interesting in light of blanket statements made about the smart meter program. But like any disability, accommodations should have to be made. For example, a person who cannot hear would get an appropriate machine that allowed them to access services of whatever kind.
Human nature rears its ugly head in the refusal to allow smart meter accommodation/removal, as well as other affronts to people that impact their health and lives against their will. A new term to try to examine and understand this “evil” is “empathy erosion.” The lack of empathy explains how corporations, governments or individuals are able to do things that cause others harm with no remorse.
The following book review on The Science of Evil in the NY Times introduces the psychology of how some people can be made into mere objects to be disregarded and even harmed – by others.
(It is also interesting to know that the use of a cell phone can contribute to deadening of morality and empathy due to biological impact on the brain, though this review is not about that.)
NY Times Book Review:
The Science of Evil
SIMON BARON-COHENJUNE 6, 2011
Explaining “Evil” and Human Cruelty
When I was seven years old, my father told me the Nazis had turned Jews into lampshades. Just one of those comments that you hear once, and the thought never goes away. To a child’s mind (even to an adult’s) these two types of things just don’t belong together. He also told me the Nazis turned Jews into bars of soap. It sounds so unbelievable, yet it is actually true. I knew our family was Jewish, so this image of turning people into objects felt a bit close to home.
My father also told me about one of his former girlfriends, Ruth Goldblatt,i whose mother had survived a concentration camp. He had been introduced to the mother and was shocked to discover that her hands were reversed. Nazi scientists had severed Mrs. Goldblatt’s hands, switched them around, and sewn them on again so that if she put her hands out palms down, her thumbs were on the outside and her little fingers were on the inside. Just one of the many “experiments” they had conducted. I realized there was a paradox at the heart of human nature—people could objectify others—that my young mind was not yet ready to figure out.
Years later I was teaching at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. I sat in on a lecture on physiology. The professor was teaching about human adaptation to temperature. He told the students that the best data available on human adaptation to extreme cold had been collected by Nazi scientists performing “immersion experiments” on Jews and other inmates of Dachau concentration camp, whom they put into vats of freezing water (see Figure 1). They collected systematic data on how heart rate correlated with duration of time in the water at zero degrees centigrade.3 Hearing about this unethical research retriggered that same question in my mind: How can humans treat other people as objects?ii How do humans come to switch off their natural feelings of sympathy for another human being who is suffering?
These examples are particularly shocking because they involve educated doctors and scientists (professions we are brought up to trust) performing unethical experiments or operations. Let’s assume (generously) that these doctors were not being cruel for the sake of it—that the scientists doing the immersion experiments wanted to contribute to medical knowledge, to know, for example, how to help victims rescued after being shipwrecked in icy seas. Even the Nazi doctors who had sewn poor Mrs. Goldblatt’s hands back to front may not (I assume) have been motivated to do cruel things for cruelty’s sake: They, too, were presumably following their scientific impulse, wanting to understand how to test the limits of microsurgical procedures.
What these scientists lost sight of, in their quest for knowledge, was the humanity of their “subjects.” It is an irony that the human sciences describe their object of study as “subjects” because this implies sensitivity to the feelings of the person being studied. In practice, the feelings of the subjects in these experiments were of no concern. Nazi laws defined Jews as genetically subhuman and ordered their extermination as part of the eugenics program of the time. Within this political framework, “using” the inmates of concentration camps as “subjects” in medical research might even have seemed to these doctors to be ethical if it contributed knowledge for the greater good.
Cruelty for its own sake was a part of ordinary Nazi guards’ behavior. Sadly, there is no shortage of horrific examples, but I have selected just one from the biography of Thomas Buergenthal.4 At just nine year old, Thomas was rounded up with thousands of Jews and taken to Auschwitz. There he had to watch while an inmate was forced to hang his friend who had tried to escape. An SS guard ordered the inmate to put a noose around his friend’s neck. The man couldn’t fulfill the order because his hands were shaking so much with fear and distress. His friend turned to him, took the noose, and, in a remarkable act, kissed his friend’s hand and then put the noose around his own neck. Angrily, the SS guard kicked the chair away from under the man to be hanged.
Nine-year-old Thomas and the other inmates, watching the man kissing his friend’s hand, rejoiced at that simple act that said (without words) “I will not let my friend be forced to kill me.” Thomas survived Auschwitz (perhaps because his father taught him to stand close to the shed when Dr. Mengele was making his selection of who would die)iii and described this story in his book A Lucky Child.4 The empathy within the friendship comes through so powerfully in this awful situation, as does the extreme lack of empathy of the guard. If the aim was to punish or to set an example, the guard could have just shot the escapee himself. Presumably, the guard chose this particular form of punishment because he wanted the two friends to suffer.
Today, almost half a century after my father’s revelations to me about the extremes of human behavior, my mind is still exercised by the same, single question: How can we understand human cruelty? What greater reason for writing a book than the persistence of a single question that can gnaw away at one’s mind all of one’s conscious life? What other question could take root in such an unshakeable way? I presume the reason I find myself returning to this question again and again is because the question of how human beings ignore humanity of others begs an answer—yet answers are not forthcoming. Or at least, those answers that are available are in some way unsatisfying. If the answers were sufficient, the question would feel as if it had been answered and the matter settled. There would be no need to restlessly and repeatedly return to it. Clearly, better answers are still needed.
The standard explanation is that the Holocaust (sadly, as we shall see, echoed in many cultures historically across the globe) is an example of the “evil” that humans are capable of inflicting on one another. Evil is treated as incomprehensible, a topic that cannot be dealt with because the scale of the horror is so great that nothing can convey its enormity. The standard view turns out to be widely held, and indeed the concept of evil is routinely used as an explanation for such awful behaviors:
Why did the murderer kill an innocent child? Because he was evil.
Why did this terrorist become a suicide bomber? Because she was evil.
But when we hold up the concept of evil to examine it, it is no explanation at all. For a scientist this is, of course, wholly inadequate. What the Nazis (and others like them) did was unimaginably terrible. But that doesn’t mean we should simply shut down the inquiry into how people are capable of behaving in such ways or use a nonexplanation, such as saying people are simply evil.
As a scientist I want to understand what causes people to treat others as if they were mere objects. In this book I explore how people can treat each other cruelly not with reference to the concept of evil, but with reference to the concept of empathy. Unlike the concept of evil, empathy has explanatory power. In the coming chapters I put empathy under the microscope.
Turning People into Objects
The challenge is to explain, without resorting to the all-too-easy concept of evil, how people are capable of causing extreme hurt to one another. So let’s substitute the term “evil” with the term “empathy erosion.” Empathy erosion can arise because of corrosive emotions, such as bitter resentment, or desire for revenge, or blind hatred, or a desire to protect. In theory these are transient emotions, the empathy erosion reversible. But empathy erosion can be the result of more permanent psychological characteristics.
The insight that empathy erosion arises from people turning other people into objects goes back at least to Martin Buber, an Austrian philosopher who resigned his professorship at the University of Frankfurt in 1933 when Adolf Hitler came to power. The title of Buber’s famous book is Ich und Du (I and Thou).5 He contrasted the Ich-Du (I-you) mode of being (where you are connecting with another person as an end in itself) with the Ich-Es (I-it) mode of being (where you are connecting with a person or object, so as to use them for some purpose). He argued that the latter mode of treating a person was devaluing.
When our empathy is switched off, we are solely in the “I” mode. In such a state we relate only to things or to people as if they were just things. Most of us are capable of doing this occasionally. We might be quite capable of focusing on our work without sparing a thought for the homeless person on the street outside our office. But whether we are in this state transiently or permanently, there is no “thou” visible—at least, not a thou with different thoughts and feelings. Treating other people as if they were just objects is one of the worst things you can do to another human being, to ignore their subjectivity, their thoughts and feelings.
When people are solely focused on the pursuit of their own interests, they have all the potential to be unempathic. At best in this state, they are in a world of their own and their behavior will have little negative impact on others. They might end up in this state of mind because of years of resentment and hurt (often the result of conflict) or, as we see, for more enduring, neurological reasons. (Interestingly, in this state of single-minded pursuit of one’s own goals, one’s project might even have a positive focus: helping people, for example. But even if the person’s project is positive, worthy, and valuable, if it is single-minded, it is by definition unempathic).iv
So now we’ve made a specific move: aiming to explain how people can be cruel to each other not out of evil but because of empathy erosion. While that feels marginally more satisfying as an answer (it is at least the beginning of an explanation), it is still far from complete. Empathy erosion as an explanation begs the further questions of what empathy is and how it can be eroded. But at least these are tractable questions, and ones we shall attempt to answer as we proceed through this book.
By the end of our journey, there should be less of a nagging need for answers to the big question of understanding human cruelty. The mind should be quieted if the answers are beginning to feel satisfying. But before we delve into the nature of empathy, let’s look at a handful of factual examples from around the world to prove that the awful things the Nazis did were not unique to the Nazis. We have to go through this if only to eliminate one (in my opinion) absurd view, which is that the Nazis were in some way uniquely cruel. As you’ll see, they weren’t.
Empathy Erosion Around the Globe
Erosion of empathy is a state of mind that can be found in any culture. In 2006 I was in Kenya with my family on holiday. We landed in Nairobi, a massive international city swirling with people. Sadly, Nairobi is home to one of the largest slums in Africa. People sleeping on the streets, mothers dying of AIDS, malnourished children begging or doing anything they can to survive. I met Esther, a young Kenyan woman, one of the fortunate ones who had a job. She warned me to be careful of the rising crime in Nairobi.
“I was in the supermarket,” she said. “Suddenly, a woman near me who was queuing to pay for her groceries let out a scream. A man behind her had cut off her finger. In the commotion, the man slid the wedding ring off the severed finger and ran off into the crowds. It all happened so quickly.”
This is a shocking example of what one person can do to another. Formulating the plan to go out into the crowded supermarket to steal is easy enough to comprehend, especially if a person is starving. Formulating the plan to take a knife along is a bit harder to identify with, since it indicates clear premeditation to cut something.
But for me the key is to imagine the mind of the person in the seconds just before the act of cutting. At that very moment presumably all that is visible to the thief is the target (the ring), a small object that could feed him for weeks. All that is lying between him and his next meal is the woman’s finger that has to be severed. The fact that the finger is attached to a hand is mere inconvenience, and cold logic points to the solution: Detach it. The fact that the hand is attached to a person, with her own life and her own feelings, is at that moment irrelevant. Out of mind. It is an example of turning another person into (no more than) an object. My argument is that when you treat someone as an object, your empathy has been turned off.
Josef Fritzl built a cellar in his home in Amstetten, in northern Austria.6 You probably heard about this case, since it made worldwide headline news. On August 24,1984, he imprisoned his daughter Elisabeth down in the cellar and kept her there for twenty-four years, telling his wife she had gone missing. He raped Elisabeth—day after day—from age eleven until well into her young adulthood. She ended up having seven children in the basement prison; one died at three days old, and her father (the child’s father and grandfather) burned the body to dispose of the evidence.
Repeatedly during those twenty-four years Josef and his wife, Rosemarie, appeared on Austrian television, apparently distressed by Elisabeth’s disappearance, appealing to the public to help them trace her. Josef claimed that three of Elisabeth’s children mysteriously turned up on his doorstep, abandoned by their mother, and he and his wife (their grandmother) were raising them. The other three children grew up in the basement prison, ending up with major psychological disturbance. How could a father treat his daughter as an object and deprive her and three of his children/grandchildren of their right to freedom in this way? Where was his empathy?
The next example of empathy erosion that stopped me in my tracks was a report on BBC’s Newsnight program. On July 24, 2002, rebel soldiers entered the Ugandan village of Pajong. Esther Rechan, a young mother, recalls what happened next:7
My 2 year old was sitting on the veranda. The rebels started kicking him. They kicked him to death. . . . I had my 5 year old with me, when the female rebel commander ordered all of us with children to pick them up and smash them against the veranda poles. We had to hit them until they were dead. All of us with children, we had to kill them. If you did it slowly they would beat you and force you to hit your children harder, against the poles. In all, 7 children were killed by their mothers like that. My own child was only 5.v
What was going through the minds of these rebel soldiers that they could force a mother to batter her own child to death?
Now consider an example from a lesser-known holocaust, one not committed by the Nazis. I heard about this when I went to Turkey last summer. The Turks are renowned for their warm, welcoming, friendly culture, but when they were under Ottoman rule, they regarded Armenians (a Christian sect) as second-class citizens. Indeed, as far back as the 1830s, Armenians were not even eligible to give testimony against Muslims in court—their evidence was considered inadmissible. By the 1870s Armenians were pressing for reforms, and during the 1890s at least 100,000 Armenians were killed. On April 24, 1915, 250 Armenian intellectuals were rounded up, imprisoned, and killed.8 On September 13 the Ottoman parliament passed a law decreeing the “expropriation and confiscation” of Armenian property, and Armenians were marched from Turkey to the Syrian town of Deir ez Zoor. En route and in twenty-five concentration camps (near Turkey’s modern borders with Iraq and Syria), 1.5 million Armenians died. Some were killed in mass burning, others by injection of morphine, and yet others by toxic gas. It is a history that is not often told, and the genocide of the Armenians is clear proof (if any were needed) the Holocaust was not unique to the Nazis.
Here’s my last example of extreme human cruelty, this time from the Congo. Mirindi Euprazi was at home in her village of Ninja in the Walungu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1994 when the rebels attacked. She told her story: “They forced my son to have sex with me, and when he’d finished they killed him. Then they raped me in front of my husband and then they killed him too. Then they took away my three daughters” (italics added).9
She hasn’t heard of the three girls since. She describes being left naked while her house burned. I imagine—like me—you are astonished beyond words by this event. How do rebel soldiers lose sight of the fact that this person was a woman, no different from their own mothers? How can they treat her as an object in this way? How do they ignore that this boy—forced to have sex with his mother—is just a teenager, with normal feelings?
But that’s more than enough examples of human cruelty from different cultures to remind us of what humans are capable. If I’m right that such acts are the result of no empathy, then what we need urgently are answers to two basic questions: But that’s more than enough examples of human cruelty from different cultures to remind us of what humans are capable. If I’m right that such acts are the result of no empathy, then what we need urgently are answers to two basic questions: What is empathy? And why do some people have less than others?
Am posting this update because it is interesting. This Wisconsin blogger’s Americans with Disabilities smart meter accommodation case sent to the Dept. of Justice in August 2014 was forwarded to the Dept. of Energy in November 2014. It was in the process of being investigated starting in Spring 2015. As of today, it is still at the Dept. of Energy in a kind of limbo. It is very nearly one year since attempting to get accommodation for one person on one home in Wisconsin. People in other states have managed to get accommodation opt outs, but in Wisconsin, no such luck.
The 2 utilities in question apparently get money from DOE, and thus, must follow federal civil rights rules. It is being fought and no one knows where it will go. Many people nationwide are waiting to see. But don’t hold your breath!
Here’s a bit of inspiration for a wild ride in life, no matter what it may be: If you can say “I’m okay” when you come out of the spin, that’s pretty fine.
Especially today, in the midst of difficult times, I would like to sing praises to God. His mercy endures forever.
The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will extol Him… Exodus 15:2
As soon as He (Jesus) was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest… Luke 19:37038
And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns … Rev 19:5-6
“The High Road to a True Smart Grid”
Dr. Karl Maret is an engineer, physician, former researcher in the Canadian Armed Forces and expert in electromagnetic fields. He is President of Dove Health Alliance in Aptos, CA and Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy in Washington, D.C.. Dr. Maret combines deep expertise in the behavior of electromagnetic fields, electric grid technologies and the potential biological and health effects from the radiation emitted by wireless devices and smart meters.