Drawing together two seemingly disparate strands, Jerry Mander produces a potent critique of North American culture. His scrutiny of industrial technology is compelling, drawing out the downside of even the technologies we might believe are personally liberating: television, the computer and the corporation are all exposed as a combined force to homogenise our personalities, our lives and the environment. The relevance of the title “In the absence of the sacred” becomes clear when he turns to the plight of the American Indian. The blindness to the values and needs of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the homogenised American Dream that characterises the dominant white US establishment, who are driven by the overwhelmingly corporate, materialist, acquisitive, industrial, technological culture he has already exposed, serves only to sanctions continuation of the historical exploitation of American indigenous peoples.
This domination and abuse of smaller nations who do not subscribe to the western orthodoxy which has essentially been driven by the US across the industrialised West, Mander makes clear, has become a worldwide malaise.
Though written 25 years ago this is a fresh and passionate book which is truly as relevant today as when it was written and which seems more telling in its critique of the political context because we know of the history that has followed over those years. Not much progress towards the world that I sense Jerry Mander would like to see. This is definitely a unique book that adds an important perspective to the genre of ecological and environmental writing even though that is not the obvious focus of the book. The tradition of disregarding native Americans and their culture and religion when we need to exploit their land for what are also highly dubious technological reasons has already become essential part of the Trump ethos and the broader critique of 21st century political and cultural orthodoxy in this book cuts deeper in its questioning of our values.