Your new hiking boots, light, sturdy and warm, are labeled “hi-tec.” Your invitations, glamorously printed in one hour by “Hi-Tec Solutions!” are all you hoped for. You were attracted by the tag “high-tech,” highly technical. All it really meant was goods and services that are improvements over the versions you remember from childhood. No harm done.
But sometimes the term “high-tech” is used to swindle. For example, when the term is used to needlessly jack up the price of something you need, and deployed by a clever purveyor who expects you’ll buy the latest thing. Or when the term is wielded as a weapon in order to mystify and silence, so that you become the willing victim of a ruthless and unscrupulous scam artist who, for one reason or another, has you over a barrel.
The latter example pretty much depicts the state of affairs for us in Windham, the little town in southern Vermont that is flatly exhausted from the siege laid on us nearly four years ago by the wind-turbine giant Iberdrola. The days grow short for Iberdrola, whose reps have promised to abide by a referendum on their turbine proposal, to be held on Election Day, Nov. 8, and to include all of Windham’s registered voters. If we say no, they go. Or so we’re told. Right at this moment, things are looking a bit iffy for them, and they are turning up the heat.
The heat, to Iberdrola’s corporate mind, is an invitation for all of us property-owners to “technical workshops.” The invitation describes these festivities briefly but manages to use the word “technical” four times, once even modified by the adverb “highly.” The less trendy word “scientific” makes a poor showing, with only one mention. Still, the atmosphere is thick with meaning: You will listen, you won’t talk back, you will be dazzled, you will accede to our plan, because (listen up!) we know more than you do. The workshops are to be conducted, it appears, in “numerous informational booths” so that we may find ourselves seduced, intellectually, in tete-a-tetes with actual “scientists.” Only imagine how uplifting that will be.
Now we may be a little bit tired, but we continue to insist we’re no fools. So we humbly petitioned Iberdrola for a panel discussion in which our consultants engage their consultants in lively debate, with multiple points of view presented. No dice, they say. “The goal of the public meetings on April 5 and 6 is to share information gleaned from site-specific evaluations … by the experts performing the actual scientific studies, based on guidance provided by various state agencies.”
Actual scientific studies. Site-specific. Experts. State agencies. Gosh, those are hard to beat. It’s just that, having lived our lives in a democracy, we’re more comfortable with an open discussion of difficult topics (think, for example, U.S. foreign policy) with multiple points of view debated openly.
Many of us are left with unpalatable alternatives. We can attend Iberdrola’s workshops, where most of us will display our usual taciturnity and general unwillingness to contradict or otherwise inconvenience others. We can boycott. We can rev ourselves up to ask questions, to be confrontational, to dispute.
But hold on. Iberdrola’s meetings have so far been characterized by the presence of sheriffs, perhaps even state police, with extremely sturdy men strategically placed at every door; also a moderator who makes it clear that challenges to Iberdrola’s wisdom will be regarded as breaking the rules, with the suggestion that offenders will be punished.
It might be best to assume that “high-tech” means “don’t think.” Because isn’t this the point of Iberdrola’s exercise?
Nancy Tips is a resident of Windham.
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