Absence of....

"This one will be done the way I want to do it: just me and Mother Nature,"    Nik Wallenda

Photos from ABC13/AP

"Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, said his biggest concern is a cultural one. The Hopi Tribe has identified the Little Colorado River Gorge as a significant clan migration route.
“The Gorge and the Canyon are not about taking lives,” he said. “They’re about life, especially the spiritual lives of our ancestral people.”
Kuwanwisiwma said when a base jumper died in the area last year due to a parachute failure, it presented a cultural burden to the Hopi people—and, he suspects, to the Navajos living nearby."

How Nik Wallenda’s Tightrope Walk Benefits Navajo Nation, Angers Hopi

Let’s set the record straight: Nik Wallenda may have completed a death-defying tightrope walk Sunday night, but it wasn’t at the Grand Canyon, as the buzz may have led you to believe. Wallenda was actually on tribal land -- the Navajo Nation, to be exact -- and the Native American group has a lot invested in his big Discovery Channel-sponsored stunt.

National Park Service officials made it abundantly clear over the past week that such a spectacle would never have been approved at the actual Grand Canyon. Representatives claimed events “must not unreasonably impair the park’s atmosphere of peace and tranquility,” noting that stunts “don’t meet that [criteria].”

Weiwei on Surveillance

Ai  Weiwei  "Surveillance Camera" (2010)

The artist Ai Weiwei knows a thing or two about government surveillance and privacy intrusions, and has recently written an article for The Guardian, "NSA Surveillance: The US is behaving like China".

"I lived in the United States for 12 years. This abuse of state power goes totally against my understanding of what it means to be a civilised society, and it will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue. The US has a great tradition of individualism and privacy and has long been a centre for free thinking and creativity as a result.
In our experience in China, basically there is no privacy at all – that is why China is far behind the world in important respects: even though it has become so rich, it trails behind in terms of passion, imagination and creativity.
The internet and social media give us new possibilities of exploring ourselves.
But we have never exposed ourselves in this way before, and it makes us vulnerable if anyone chooses to use it against us. Any information or communication could put young people under the surveillance of the state. Very often, when oppressive states arrest people, they have that information in their hands. It can be used as a way of controlling you, to tell you: we know exactly what you're thinking or doing. It can drive people to madness".

Read the whole article here

Nothing Is Sacred

I have considered Jerry Mander somewhat of a personal guru for many years. Absence of The Sacred is one of those books that is rarely put back on the shelf. I leave it within arms reach most of the time. My copy is falling apart, highlighted and underlined throughout, and I have excerpted it many times here on PHOTO/arts Magazine. Mander is a bit obscure and most people just shrug their shoulders when I mention his name. When you write primarily about the argument for eliminating television, the negative aspects of technology, and Native American causes, obscurity becomes a job hazard.

Within the light of NSA mega data gathering and the PRISM Project, it is books exactly such as this one that should be read by anyone who cares about maintaining technological balance in an out of control world. Mander is not a Luddite or any sort of conspiracy theorist. He is merely an intelligent skeptic. He was among the first contemporary critics to question what some might call a massive bribe. If you can't get hold of a copy of this book, just read the following list of what Mander calls recommended attitudes about technology. Remember that Mander wrote his books well before the internet as we know it, before cell phones and smart phones, and before cable television. Read this list in the context of your life today regarding issues of privacy, copyright protection, internet banking, healthcare, etc etc. This is in no way a call to abandon techno-toys; just a firm reminder to be mindful that there is always a price to be paid and we should certainly not be shocked by the recent news stories. Not one bit. 

Ten Recommended Attitudes About Technology

By Jerry Mander 
from In The Absence Of The Sacred (1991)

1.Since most of what we are told about new technology comes from its proponents, be deeply skeptical of all claims.

2. Assume all technology "guilty until proven innocent".

3. Eschew the idea that technology is neutral or "value free". Every technology has inherent and identifiable social, political, and environmental consequences.

4. The fact that technology has a natural flash and appeal is meaningless. Negative attributes are slow to emerge.

5. Never judge a technology by the way it benefits you personally. Seek a holistic view of its impacts. The operative question is not whether it benefits you but who benefits most? And to what end?

6. Keep in mind that an individual technology is only a piece of a larger web of technologies, "megatechnology". The operative question here is how the individual technology fits the larger one.

7. Make distinctions between technologies that primarily serve the individual or the small community (for example, solar energy) and those that operate on a scale of community control (for example, nuclear energy).

8. When it is argued that the benefits of the technological lifeway are worthwhile despite harmful outcomes, recall that Lewis Mumford referred to these alleged benefits as "bribery". Cite the figures about crime, suicide, alienation, drug abuse, as well as environmental and cultural degradation.

9. Do not accept the homily that "once the genie is out of the bottle, you cannot put it back", or that rejecting technology is impossible. Such attitudes induce passivity and confirm victimization.

10. In thinking about technology within the present climate of technological worship, emphasize the negative. This brings balance. Negativity is a positive.