A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.¬† Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday,¬†I present one of McLuhan‚Äôs observations and talk about its relevance today.¬† 300 ideas. 300 days.¬† 300 posts.
Marshall McLuhan (Summer 1968, age 57). You can lead a Mailer to water but you can‚Äôt make him drink
This morning I had a chat with Norman Mailer on the CBC‚Äôs TV program ‚ÄúThe Summer Way,‚ÄĚ hosted by Warren Davis and Ken Lefolii.¬† The program was called a meeting of minds, which is half right, minds were present, but not much meeting was going on.
Mailer was good on the give and take of conversation.¬† He gave a lot compliments and then proceeded to take them away.¬† For example, he described my ideas as ‚Äúfascinating ad repellent, no not repellent, stimulating.‚ÄĚ¬† Can‚Äôt use that on a dust jacket blurb, can I?¬† Mailer also said he agreed with almost everything I have said but only up to a particular point.¬† For example, he said he agreed with the idea that electronic media are changing the planet, but thinks I err by not declaring this change a bad thing or a good thing.¬† I suggested that declaring value judgments about things of this magnitude is both impossible and injurious to the critical faculties, but he didn‚Äôt see the value of the point.¬† I wonder why?
Me (December 2009, age 57). Marshall McLuhan on objectivity
In only one of his books does McLuhan embrace the making of value judgments – The Mechanical Bride (1951).¬† In that book, for example, He says about Professor Mortimer Adler and Dr Hutchins‚Äô advertisement of their great books experiment at the University of Chicago that they have ‚Äúcome to bury and not praise Plato and other great men.‚ÄĚ¬† That the purpose of public opinion polls is not to discover facts but change people‚Äôs minds about themselves, and for the most part this is only a good thing for companies who want to change minds in order to sell people more of what they produce.¬†¬†¬† Emily Post? For the ‚Äúsocially immature.‚ÄĚ¬† Reader‚Äôs Digest?¬† For the “mentally exempt.‚ÄĚ Mailer would have loved the this is good, that is bad Mechanical-Bride McLuhan.
McLuhan‚Äôs big idea is that calling things good and bad interferes with one‚Äôs ability to view the world objectively, to see the world as it is, rather than as you would like it to be or not to be.¬† This is an idea worth pursuing even if Mailer did not want to pursue it.¬† (More on the Mailer-McLuhan unmeeting of minds tomorrow.)
On what aspects of the world do you find yourself most quickly leaping to judgement?¬† Politics? Religion? Sex? Money?¬† If you‚Äôve already made up your mind why bother looking? ¬†¬†Isn‚Äôt it far more comfortable to praise or condemn rather than have to change your life if you discover the world is not how you thought it was?
Cordially, Marshall and Me