Friday, April 29, 2005

Medium : Message

The medium is the message. That's what Marshall McLuhan said in the 1960s. Of course he was already a smart dude, but it was in the '60s that more of us noticed.

That is, at least, more of us noticed that he had become famous. How many people who can say his name can then also give an intelligible account of two or three of the many smart things he said? Take that title statement for example: what does it mean?

I vote that ivan Illich was one person who got at least part of it. Around 1970 he applied the McLuhan principle to schooling: what is the fundamental lesson of schooling? (of modern schools, of state-coordinated, compulsory (ahem) education? Simple: that you have to be there!inserted: doesn't quite scan with what follows, but this is a first draft, complexifying into a second.
That is in perfect keeping with the fundamental message of a government: monopoly! this is your government, you have no other. Preferences are treason. Has there ever been a society that allowed a choice of governments?
Has there ever been a society that allowed a choice of cultures? (Long before the stork is summoned, could there be a way station in heaven where the incipient soul is asked if it prefers to be a headhunter or a cannibal? a Christian or a Jew? a Communist or a Capitalist?)
What's the basic message of society? Whoa! Society is complexity personified: surely it betrays a host of fundamental messages. Indeed I bet that the bulk of them are contradictory! Still I'll pick one: a few judge the behavior of many.

Thus, schools will tend to be a distillation of the society displaying the school: a committee gangs up on the larger public. In some cases, in graduate oral examination, for example, the committee gangs up on an individual. The medium is the message: beyond this committee, there is no appeal. The decision of the judges is final.

That's the fundamental message of the Supreme Court as well, isn't it? What else does "supreme" mean? There's no god here, folks. We (the secular) are supreme.

Now in theism, it's God who's supreme. The decision of God is final. This is the final analysis.

But in time, nothing is final: time keeps ticking!

Science trumps God by not being final!

Wait for more evidence. Wait forever.

That's just a start. Not that I haven't said each part before. Maybe I've even coordinated them. But not quite this way.