Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Look forward from 1979 to 2020 by Marshall McLuhan and Bruce Power

As the U.S. turns inward during this Presidential election, I though it was useful to share this long passage from Marshall McLuhan and Bruce Power's book: Global Village. The book was published in 1989 and was "put together" from 1976 to 1984. McLuhan died in 1980. Forty years into the future this is what they saw:

Nineteenth-century America concentrated on the uniform ethos of a smokestack economy: to be specialist, isolated, and self-directed in its world aims. Extractive industries and agriculture held dominion. A left-hemisphere sense of significant order held sway. The U.S. population was relatively small and determined to spread itself as far west as possible. Like James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking, Americans were always moving over the hill, through the forest, to the next clearing.

Twentieth-century America, from now until about 2020, will not be engaged single-mindedly in raising crops or throwing up steel mills as much as nurturing people, in an inner-directed way largely as a result of legal and illegal immigration. Military adventure in Japan, China, Southeast Asia and Central America have brought about and will continue to be the source of continuous migrations to the American mainland, which will splinter the white Anglo-Saxon cast of U.S. government, education and business structures and create a salad-like melange of ethnic minorities without any single one being predominant.

The recipients of this racial trek will be the supercities of the West Coast and Atlantic South, cities which have doubled or tripled in size as the United States passed through its century-old movement from country to city and air-conditioning has made year-round work possible.

Many extractive, agricultural, and low-level manufacturing industries — largely due to high labor cost — will be lost to Third World countries, transforming the United States and some part of of Canada into hard-scrabble competitors in the making of “high ticket” consumer goods, like consumer robotics and electric commuter cars. While a segment of the U.S. population will be educated and mentally attuned enough to become participants in high technology, most native-born Americans will be unprepared for the new consumer economy which will emerge, offering service-related jobs not always suited to their intelligence or training. Ethnic diversity will help to ignite a full-blown economy based on information exchange.

The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Arabs, Lebanese, Mexicans, Central Americans, and Indians who are washing up on U.S. shores by the tens of thousands, legally and illegally, will be well served by the new media technologies. Hundred channel systems will be divided up by culture and language. (Already a hundred and seven languages are being spoken in Southern California.) Videocassettes and videodiscs will spawn new markets for ethnic music, cinema, and stage productions. Regional banks will employ electronic means to create new lending and accounting methods geared to the minority traditions of handling money. Neighborhood schools, as in the last century, will be tailor-made linguistically. Whether rich or poor, the new ethnics, largely as a backspin against too rapid assimilation, will develop complex and self-intergraded barrios. 

Although most third- and fourth-generation Americans will be numbed by the coming changes, government and business leaders, with recent foreign backgrounds, will be quick to recognize one inescapable fact about U.S. cities: whereas in the past they were primary transfer and warehousing points for railroad, air and sea trade, by 1994 many principal cities will be gestaltic political conglomeratations of white, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics fighting with each other for what is left of the economic pie in a nation of declining birthrate of native-born Americans and aging white population. In many older cities, like Buffalo and Detroit, the tax base will have foundered due to loss of trade functions and heavy industry, prompting a furious competition for federal support.

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