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Star Of The Day, June 21st, The Electronic Medium, Marshall McLuhan

marshall-mcluhanThe medium is the medium.

The weather is getting weird, weird, weird today and it doesn’t feel like it’s being HAARP played. No, this could be the real deal. It’s fitful and biting, the waves are frothing and frequent as they crash around the point today. The Sun and The Moon are colluding to create a tempest out here. The cosmic drama is rising.

I’ve been holding this date for a while as it marks the birthday of Marshall McLuhan, who might just qualify as one of the great prophets of the 20th century. Not only was McLuhan dialed into the impact of the media on the popular and individual psyche, he also used language in such a unique way in order to contextualize his vision that his descriptions seem like they could fit right into a Gibson or Stephenson novel. His verbiage and adjetives can seem obscure and even a bit over-the-top Just check out this nugget from an interview in “Playboy” circa 1970 where he speaks about Freud and narcissim.

“I call this peculiar form of self-hypnosis Narcissus narcosis, a syndrome whereby man remains as unaware of the psychic and social effects of his new technology as a fish of the water it swims in. As a result, precisely at the point where a new media-induced environment becomes all pervasive and transmogrifies our sensory balance, it also becomes invisible.”

The interview goes onto explore the untennable dynamic between tribal society and the overarching, one nation state. McLuhan gets into “The Balkanization Of The USA” and it’s inevitaility. I see this as being the same, astrological dialectic being played out in the opposition between Pluto in Capricorn and the US chart with it’s Cancerian stellium.

Here is the bulk of that exchange:

PLAYBOY:
On what do you base your prediction that the United States will disintegrate?

McLUHAN:
Actually, in this case as in most of my work, I’m “predicting” what has already happened and merely extrapolating a current process to its logical conclusion. The Balkanization of the United States as a continental political structure has been going on for some years now, and racial chaos is merely one of several catalysts for change. This isn’t a peculiarly American phenomenon; as I pointed out earlier, the electric media always produce psychically integrating and socially decentralizing effects, and this affects not only political institutions within the existing state but the national entities themselves.

All over the world, we can see how the electric media are stimulating the rise of ministates: In Great Britain, Welsh and Scottish nationalism are recrudescing powerfully; in Spain, the Basques are demanding autonomy; in Belgium, the Flemings insist on separation from the Walloons; in my own country, the Quebecois are in the first stages of a war of independence; and in Africa, we’ve witnessed the germination of several ministates and the collapse of several ambitiously unrealistic schemes for regional confederation. These ministates are just the opposite of the traditional centralizing nationalisms of the past that forged mass states that homogenized disparate ethnic and linguistic groups within one national boundary. The new ministates are decentralized tribal agglomerates of those same ethnic and linguistic groups. Though their creation may be accompanied by violence, they will not remain hostile or competitive armed camps but will eventually discover that their tribal bonds transcend their differences and will thereafter live in harmony and cultural cross-fertilization with one another.

This pattern of decentralized ministates will be repeated in the United States, although I realize that most Americans still find the thought of the Union’s dissolution inconceivable. The U.S., which was the first nation in history to begin its national existence as a centralized and literate political entity, will now play the historical film backward, reeling into a multiplicity of decentralized Negro states, Indian states, regional states, linguistic and ethnic states, etc. Decentralism is today the burning issue in the 50 states, from the school crisis in New York City to the demands of the retribalized young that the oppressive multiversities be reduced to a human scale and the mass state be debureaucratized. The tribes and the bureaucracy are antithetical means of social organization and can never coexist peacefully; one must destroy and supplant the other, or neither will survive.

PLAYBOY:
Accepting, for the moment, your contention that the United States will be “Balkanized” into an assortment of ethnic and linguistic ministates, isn’t it likely that the results would be social chaos and internecine warfare?

McLUHAN: Not necessarily. Violence can be avoided if we comprehend the process of decentralism and retribalization, and accept its outcome while moving to control and modify the dynamics of change. In any case, the day of the stupor state is over; as men not only in the U.S. but throughout the world are united into a single tribe, they will forge a diversity of viable decentralized political and social institutions.

PLAYBOY:
Along what lines?

McLUHAN:
It will be a totally retribalized world of depth involvements. Through radio, TV and the computer, we are already entering a global theater in which the entire world is a Happening. Our whole cultural habitat, which we once viewed as a mere container of people, is being transformed by these media and by space satellites into a living organism, itself contained within a new macrocosm or connubium of a supraterrestrial nature. The day of the individualist, of privacy, of fragmented or “applied” knowledge, of “points of view” and specialist goals is being replaced by the over-all awareness of a mosaic world in which space and time are overcome by television, jets and computers — a simultaneous, “all-at-once” world in which everything resonates with everything else as in a total electrical field, a world in which energy is generated and perceived not by the traditional connections that create linear, causative thought processes, but by the intervals, or gaps, which Linus Pauling grasps as the languages of cells, and which create synaesthetic discontinuous integral consciousness.

The open society, the visual offspring of phonetic literacy, is irrelevant to today’s retribalized youth; and the closed society, the product of speech, drum and ear technologies, is thus being reborn. After centuries of dissociated sensibilities, modern awareness is once more cretebecoming integral and inclusive, as the entire human family is sealed to a single universal membrane. The compressional, implosive nature of the new electric technology is retrogressing Western man back from the open plateaus of literate values and into the heart of tribal darkness, into what Joseph Conrad termed “the Africa within.”

One of the most noteworthy aspects of McLuahn’s chart was a a conjunction of The Moon and Uranus in Taurus. This aspect seems to have given him an alomost supernatural insight into the role of the media (Uranus) and make abstract connections, concepts far ahead of their time, concrete. A stellium in Taurus gave McLuhan a particular groundedness that his work needed while tethering his lofty thoughts to a more mundane plane of existence.

To read this exceptional interview in full, go here to Next Magazine.

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