Postmodern morning

Marshall McLuhan in the early 1970s
Image via Wikipedia

I'll hopefully expand on this in the near future, but for now, I'll just jot this down. I'm sort of quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) obsessed with both narcissism and our current state of shifting from a postmodern to post-postmodern world. Anyway, I'm not so sure that we've totally escaped our postmodernist past (present?) and from time to time it's kind of fun to think about where we are. Fun and, sometimes, depressing. Nevertheless...

In his 1991 (!) essay The Eternal Now, an introduction to McLuhan’s Understanding Media, Lewis H. Lapham describes the world that McLuhan envisioned.

It was, Lapham writes:

A world in which human beings become commodities (sold on T-shirts or transposed into a series of digital numbers), a world in which, as Simone Weil once noticed, ‘it is the thing that thinks, and the man who is reduced to the state of the thing,’ a world in which children find it hard to conceive of a time future beyond the immediate and evangelical present, a world of people living in their own movies and listening to their own soundtracks, a never-never land where the historical memory counts for as little as last year’s debutante, where the crippled boy wins the lottery, the chorus girl studies ancient Greek, and the lessons of experience never contradict the miracles of paradise regained.

Now, we may be far into a world of Simulation or Spectacle or whatever. But Lapham's 20-year old interpretation of McLuhan still feels relevant.

But clearly the world has changed. Lapham was channeling McLuhan from a world that had only just seen the Berlin Wall come down, and for whom a smartphone was still almost two decades away. So no doubt we're somewhere else or into something else now, but where and what?

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