Alternative Culture MagazineCougar WebWorks Celebrating Nature, Culture, and Spirit
Alternative Culture Magazine

Book Review:

Jerry Mander, In The Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations (Sierra Club, 1991)

The subtitle says a lot. Mander says he originally planned two books, but found that the subjects were inextricably linked. Still, he sets up one discussion effectively with the other--leading off with the familiar world of telephones, computers, television, mega-malls and theme parks . . . and on into current scientific "advances" into genetic engineering, virtual realities, the colonization of space . . . Then we come around to what certain somebodies have been telling us for generations--that it ain't gonna work.

Sure, all this high-tech glitz dazzles for a while, but take off the headgear for a moment and inspect the real state of the planet and its peoples, some of whom have been living quite happily without the need or desire for civilization in its commonly understood, technologized forms, as far back as the generations recall. The ones who have survived our (modern, western, white) devastations insist that their way of life could continue for countless more generations--if ours wasn't in the way, systematically and insidiously making the old lifestyles increasingly impossible, while ignoring the inherent unsustainability of our own growth paradigms. All old news, right? "Indians schmindians," said Mander's editor when the topic was first broached.

But then, looking again at the theme of technology, we have to realize, it's not just old news, it's happening right now, and rolling us straight on into the uncertain or rather distressingly likely future; and we're doing it not only to them (well documented with Mander's worldwide updates), but to ourselves. Cutting ourselves off from natural, sustainable lifestyles, in a material sense; and in subtler ways--largely unexamined ways--cutting off our connections to each other, to the earth, to sacred reality. This book isn't an unqualified condemnation of technology-after all, Mander himself wrote the book with a word processor-but a plea for a deeper examination of the implications of our choices.

The native peoples of the perishing Earth, Mander points out, can use our support; but their spokespeople are quick to remind us of the even larger issue at stake: we need their help and guidance now. It is we of the western juggernauts of "progress" who need their experience and wisdom for the cause of human(e) survival.

--reprinted from Fourth World Review, Summer 1994.

For more discussion of this book especially regarding actions and attitudes, see Physics, Politics & Prophecy.

Favorite Books


About ordering books from this website:

Cougar WebWorks offers full-service secure and instant book ordering, in association with Amazon, "the world's biggest bookstore." You will have a chance to view prices and other information from an order page at's website. Links are to paperback editions wherever possible.

If you want to buy the book online, Amazon's order department will take care of everything. Orders are processed quickly and securely by, "the world's biggest bookstore." Most books are discount priced and will ship to you in 24 hours.

Or use this handy Search box to search for and order any title you like: Books, Videos or CD's.


Enter keywords...

Video Review and Order Page

Click to read about Cougar WebWorks' association with

About the Editor | Site Map | Homepage | Email | ©2006 Cougar WebWorks