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.
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.