“Heart on Fire” is a new series of articles showcasing Sacred Fire Community perspectives on today’s issues in our news and in our world.
“You Can’t Stand in the Way of Progress”
The presentation of new technologies in this CNN article is as shallow as it is common in today’s media. Surely the time has come for us to have discussions that go beyond merely paying homage to the seductive promises, the “miracle cures,” of technology. If we really are to “Save the World,” or perhaps more poignantly “Save Ourselves,” we need to explore the reasons behind our reliance on technology and we need to understand the consequences new technologies have on our lives and the world.
It is beyond the scope of this article to explore every facet of technology in detail. But it is worthwhile raising at least a few questions about our current relationship to technology.
Technology has become so pervasive in the modern western world that it seems almost impossible to imagine life without it. Throughout my life, I have often heard the expression “You can’t stand in the way of progress.” Implied in this statement are two messages. Firstly, progress and technology are so obviously beneficial that any critical questioning of technology is unneeded and unwarranted. And secondly, even if you were crazy enough to want to stand in its way, you are powerless to do so.
As you can see from the CNN article, all the technologies are presented in an entirely favorable light. At no point is a single possible downside risk to any of the technologies put forth. Not only are there no downsides discussed, but it seems as though the benefits are entirely optimistic best-case scenarios. For goodness sake, even nuclear waste is all up-side!
But is technology really always beneficial? Is it true that there are never any downside risks? Does technology actually fulfill all its promises?
This CNN article is a case in point. It introduces technologies that promise to solve certain environmental problems. They will provide greater efficiencies, we are told, allowing us, in the process, to increase our consumption of nuclear energy, of hydrogen-based cars, of military chemicals and so on in our lives. It is the production of these very technologies that requires us to deplete our ‘resources’ and leads to the destroying of our environment at an ever-increasing rate. So, on closer observation, it becomes clear that technology is actually helping to create the very problem, environmental degradation in this case, that it is promising to solve.
It seems a vicious cycle has become the norm: the more problems we try and solve with technology, the more reliant we then become on technology, which in turn creates more problems, and so on.
There are many examples we could look at. Jerry Mander, in his excellent book on the topic of technology, In the Absence of the Sacred, puts forward a critical argument of modern medicine this way: “By separating people from traditional holistic self-care practices, and by dubious medical interventions with drugs and surgery, modern medicine may cause as much disease as it cures.”
There are undoubtedly many benefits of modern medicine, but the question that is rarely discussed is at what cost are those benefits derived? And another rarely asked question, who do we marginalize in the process? Is it possible that there could there be a downside to a technology thought so highly of as modern medicine?
Within the Sacred Fire Community, we are recognizing the importance of discussions such as these. We recognize the importance of finding a way of life that balances and supports not just those that are living in the world today, but those that come after us. A way of life that supports not just people, but also the non-human world.
Taking a Stand is a small, yet still significant way of beginning to explore whether we can stand in the way of progress that no longer serves us. There is an old technology that brings us together, warms us, brings us light and supports us in our lives. Come to a Fire and voice your stories, your hopes, your vision. Then experience how the living world responds.