A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan continues. If he had lived Marshall would have been 100 on July 21, 2011. Join me in the countdown to his centennial, and an exploration of more of his observations on the way media work in the electric age in which we live.
It is time¬†to say good bye to Dr. Herbert Marshall McLuhan –¬†media explorer, theorist, prophet, and celebrity. This blog began in September, 2009, on the anniversary of the stroke that took away his power to speak and ends, today on the 100th anniversary of his birth.¬† Each post, this is number 452, has looked at one of McLuhan’s observations, ideas, thoughts, opinions, or experiences.¬† I am saying good bye to Marshall now¬†not because there is nothing left to say, but because¬†it seems to me a good time to move on. I have had the wondrous experience¬†of viewing the world for a time through Marshall’s eyes and I thank¬†you for joining me in this attempt to understand him better.¬† It has been at various times thrilling, disciplining, and surprising, an adventure, a job¬†and an obsession, but I have never found it dull.¬†And that’s the way I want to keep it.
Before I go here is one last idea of Marshall’s to ponder:¬†“The media,” he wrote to Walter Ong in November 1961, “as extensions of the sense organs alter sensibility and¬†mental process at once.”¬† But, he¬†adds,¬†we are unaware of what they are doing because of their¬†“hypnotic aspect… . Each is invested with a cloak of invisibility.” Faced with such powerful forces is it any wonder McLuhan was never completely successful in his quest to understand media. But then that is the fate of every great philosopher.¬† He sometimes got it wrong.¬† But when he was right, boy was he right!
Cordially, Marshall and Me
P.S. I have been fortunate to recieve the help, support, and encouragement¬†of many people.¬†¬†I would like to thank, especially,¬†Deborah Hinton, David Hinton, Ramon Campos Salazar,¬†Jeff Swann,¬†Michelle Sullivan,¬†Julien Smith, Mitch Joel, and Michael Edmunds.
Reading and listening:
Lament for Marshall McLuhan, composed and played by Sebastien Joseph [then 15 years old]
Letters of Marshall McLuhan, selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan and William Toye, 1987, pp. 280-281.
Me (December 4, 2010, age 58).¬† Are¬† you there, Marshall?
Two weeks ago I was in Toronto and stopped in to have a drink in the bar of the Sutton Place, on Bay Street, a few minute‚Äôs walk from Marshall McLuhan‚Äôs old offices – the Coach House – at St. Michael‚Äôs College at the University of Toronto.
I did so because I knew McLuhan liked to have a drink at the Sutton Place, it was cold and I thought I might still pick up a memory of him, and my wife knowing this might be on my mind suggested it.¬† The roof-top bar McLuhan liked at the Hotel is now closed, but one of the waiters, Frank, who has worked in the hotel for over 30 years said he remembered serving McLuhan.
What did he drink?¬† After some time he recalled. St Jovain, a white Bourdeaux.
Not Scotch?¬† No, white wine, St. Jovain.
And that was that. He could remember nothing else.
This I think is as good a place as any to leave McLuhan on this the 300th post in this blog, not with a breakthrough in media studies, but drinking white wine, looking out over the city he knew so well, for so long.¬† Wondering, perhaps, whether this was as good as it got, and if so whether that wouldn‚Äôt be all that bad ‚Ä¶
P.S.¬† ¬†¬†Thanks to all of you who read From Marshall and Me. ¬†And my thanks especially to the following people who in many different ways, small and large, helped to make series 1 a success: ¬†Debbie, Ramon, David, Julien, Michelle, Michael, Mitch, Tara, Jose, and Alex.
P.P.S. ¬†See next week for the start of the next series of posts of this blog that will look for McLuhan and take us intoMcLuhan‚Äôs centennial.
Marshall McLuhan (September, 1964, age 53).¬† These guys don‚Äôt get it
I spoke at the Progressive Conservative party‚Äôs Conference on goals for Canada.¬† Former Prime Minister Diefenbaker was there when I made my address, but I don‚Äôt think he heard what I was saying.¬† He hasn‚Äôt been listening a lot lately.¬†¬† Not in the flag debate.¬† Don‚Äôt like that new flag much myself but it doesn‚Äôt do any good to resist change you must lead it. ¬†Among other things I told them that ‚Äúpolitical parties must now begin to think seriously about their responsibility to teenagers.‚ÄĚ¬†¬†¬† I hope they heard that one if they don‚Äôt they‚Äôre dead.
Michael Hinton (October, 2009, age 57).¬† They still don‚Äôt get it
According to journalist Martin Sullivan after Marshall McLuhan spoke, Eugene Forsey, one of the senior figures in the party, turned and said, ‚ÄúIs McLuhan suggesting Diefenbaker should where a Beatle wig?‚ÄĚ¬†
To understand the importance of McLuhan‚Äôs idea you need to understand some Canadian political history.¬† In 1963, after winning with a minority in 1962 and the largest majority to date in Canadian political history in 1957, John Diefenbaker‚Äôs Conservatives were defeated by Mike Pearson‚Äôs Liberals.¬† The conference McLuhan spoke at in 1964 had been organized by Dalton Camp.¬† Camp was a major strategist and power broker in the Federal Conservative party, who would orchestrate the removal of John Diefenbaker from the leadership of the party, in ‚Äėthe night of the long knives‚Äô in the hopes of shifting the Liberals from power in the next election.¬† Camp believed ‚Äúthere are business and professional men, and the rising generations of young people, who do not find political organization in its traditional form either appealing or challenging.‚ÄĚ¬† The conference, as Forsey‚Äôs remarks suggest, did not succeed in Camp‚Äôs aim which was as he put it, to stimulate, ‚Äúfrom fresh springs of awareness new channels of thought, inquiry and purpose.¬† What we cannot do again is merely ingest the realities of a new society into an inert doctrinaire conservatism.‚ÄĚ¬† That, however, is precisely what the Conservatives did and the Liberals held onto power for the next 16 years. ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†
Given that today most Canadians under 30 seem to have little interest in the traditional political process and political parties is their anything Canadians learn from this?¬† What about in other countries, such as the United States and Britain, where those under 30 also appear to be disengaged from politics?¬† Why don‚Äôt political parties think seriously about their responsibility to teenagers?¬† If they did what would they do differently?
Cordially, Marshall and Me
Reading for this post
Sprague, D.N.¬† Post-Confederation Canada:¬† The structure of Canadian History since 1867. Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice-Hall, 1990, pp. 255-321, and appendix I.
Sullivan, Martin.¬† Mandate ‚Äė68. Toronto: Doubleday, 1968, pp. 89-91.