Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Frog Hospital Reflection on Marshall McLuhan: "We are all artists now."

Rich Compendium of McLuhan Materials

We are all artists now

Unfortunately we all get paid like artists.

Marshall McLuhan said all this would happen. He said that in the 1960s. I knew him personally because I went to St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto, where McLuhan taught on the English faculty.

McLuhan described the future -- "we won't have jobs anymore, we will play roles, we will all be artists and actors, not wage earners" -- so he said.

Incredibly, that happened, There are no jobs anymore, jobs went out with objectivity. Now we play roles according to our body types and habits. The horror is that's how we get paid. When we had jobs we all got paid, some more than others, but we all got paid. But now we are all artists, so we are paid like artists -- one-tenth of one percent makes millions, and the 99 make close to nothing.

McLuhan saw this coming. He was detached. He said, "I see the future, that doesn't mean I welcome it personally. I would prefer to have lived in the time of the Middle Ages." -- Really, he said that.

I shoulda never went to his class. McLuhan had tenure, he kept HIS job all along. But role playing? McLuhan famously played himself in a cameo appearance in Annie Hall, predating Steven Colbert by 30 or 40 years. But who the hell is going to pay you for playing yourself?

The jobs are gone, my friend. They're not coming back. You're on your own, like a rolling stone (Help! I'm having flashbacks!)

No jobs, unless you move to Midland, Texas, where the shale oil economy is booming and Wal-Mart is hiring warm bodies at $17 per hour.

Back to McLuhan. He described the global village, he didn't say he wanted to live in it.

I was his student, I didn't say I understood him. Nobody understood McLuhan, not even McLuhan. I am also good friends with his biographer Philip Marchand.......  McLuhan, in his personal habits, was quite conventional and conservative -- as well as being a fairly traditional Catholic.

A friend of mine in his class submitted a paper in a multi-media format, partly taped recorded and partly illustrated -- thinking McLuhan would like that, but McLuhan rejected the submission  --- stick to the standard format he told my friend.

The lecture I remember the best was McLuhan on TS Eliot the Wasteland. This was given in the Elmsley Lounge as part of an overall celebration and bounteous sherry was served to students and faculty alike. I don't actually remember anything he said, but we drank a lot of sherry and had a wonderful time.

After that lecture they stopped serving unlimited free sherry to undergraduates.

Fred Owens

35 West Main ST

Suite B #391

Ventura, CA 93001

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