Last week in the quiet of a summer evening when the wind had died and the birds began to sing their night song I came to terms with the chilling reality of where our world has gone.
It was in a book called The Skin of Culture which is a series of essays by Derrick de Kerckhove, who is a Canadian ‘futurist’ and a Marshall McLuhan disciple.
Words Hit Me Hard
I never actually read McLuhan by the way. I had a poster of McLuhan but it was the same way I had a poster of Joan Baez or El Cordobes, the bull fighter. I wasn’t smart enough to understand McLuhan and I had to make do with knowing a few of the buzz words (linear phonetic alphabet); (the medium is the message). Talking the talk was about all I could manage.
Now approaching dotage I pay attention and try to read and understand people like Derrick de Kerkhove, whose words last week hit me hard. Derrick gave voice and structure to a deep haunting fear that I have that had remained unexpressed. There are ideas of which I am very much afraid. Among them as expressed in The Skin of Culture; “Democracy is outmoded and must be redesigned to reflect how technology affects power structures.”
Think about that for a moment in the odd world of midnight tweets from the President of the United States, public opinion polls about guns and immigration and global warming and, my favourite, “alternate facts.”
The quote about democracy is a prediction come true. It is exactly where we are now where politics has become a TV reality show and it legitimacy has somehow wormed its way into the way things are and become reality. Here are two other quotes; “Our planet is poised on the verge of either fragmentation or globalization.”
These are Dark Days
Two years ago I would have put a pay cheque on globalization. Now in this world of the Brexit vote, the challenges to NAFTA and on to things like the future of NATO and I am not sure, but fragmentation isn’t going to carry the day. These are dark days.
What I find especially interesting is that Derrick de Kerckhove’s words in The Skin of Culture come not from last month but from 1995! That’s nearly a quarter of a century ago!
One more nugget from The Skin of Culture as you fiddle with your iPhone or give instructions to whatever brand of computer tablet you use. “We will soon be wearing our machines.”
That comes hard on the heels of a golf game I played last week where one of my golf partners was asking a device on his golf hat how far it was to the centre of the green. The device knew the answer!
Final dark words go not to de Kerckhove, not to Marshall McLuhan, but rather to a line from Leonard Cohen.
“I’ve seen the future. Brother: it is murder. Things are going to slide, slide in all directions Won’t be nothing Nothing you can measure anymore.”
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]