MUSICA E SPETTACOLO
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McLuhan al Bilderberg
17 ago 2005, 05.27
Lettera scritta dallo studioso canadese allo sponsor dell'edizione del 1969 del Bilderberg, principe Bernhard di Olanda.
To Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands (1)
May 14, 1969
Your Royal Highness:
It was good to be there. It is good to be back. As you know, I was a rather bad
boy at Bilderberg.(2) Frankly, I was staggered at the very low level of awareness
of the contemporary world exhibited by all the guests present. As my friend
Wyndham Lewis, the painter, put it: "The artist is engaged in writing a detailed
history of the future because he is the only person who lives in the present".
Ordinary people live thirty years back in a state of motivated somnambulism.
Such was the state of the delegates at Bilderberg, Association with poets and
painters of many lands have accustomed me to dealing with people of trained
perceptions and contemporary awareness. Without a knowledge of all the poets
and painters and artists from Baudelaire to Joyce, it is futile to attempt any appraisal
causes initiated by the evolutionary extensions of our
bodies which we call technology.
The paper readers as well as the bankers and statesmen and educators present
at Bilderberg had undergone no perceptual training. They were men of a few
simple old-fashioned concepts. As a colonial, I had nourished the illusion that
Europeans, at least, were aware of the contemporary arts as necessary guides to
change. My disillusion was total! The delegates at Bilderberg were embalmers
(embombers) of a dead past. They live in a rear-view mirror, blowing both horns of
The great advantage in participating in Bilderberg is that it gives one a means
of estimating the level to which the incompetence of the participants has enabled
them to attain. Every man has a right to protect his own ignorance. However,
these men are responsible for coping with a changing world which has sent them
scurrying for cover in the opposite direction of the changes that we have released. I
asked them to instance a single example in human history of any community that
had been able to foresee the consequences of any innovation. The group was
unable to comply. When I explained that in terms of services available to the
ordinary man in 1830, England at least had achieved Communism, they were
unable to demur. That observation concerned the old-fashioned industrial hard-
ware only. When travel and information and education services are available to
the ordinary person, the services that the greatest private wealth could not possi-
bly provide for itself, that is Communism. It happened long before Karl Marx.
Such service environments are invisible to accountants and actuaries and bank-
ers who deal in entries of double entries and political arithmetic which conceal
technological and environmental realities completely. Today, with the multi-billion
dollar service environments available to everybody, almost for free, (these include
the massive educational and information world of advertising) it means that we
have plunged very deep into tribal Communism on a scale unknown in human
history. I asked the group: "What are we fighting Communism for? We are the
most Communist people in world history." There was not a single demur.
One fringe benefit of the conference for me was the sudden realization of what
is meant by "class war". It means people deprived of identity. It is only accidentally
the result of poverty. Today the entire TV generation has been deprived of its
identity by the new image (cf. Hertz law), "The consequence of the images will
be the image of the consequences." It is the affluent young today who are the
deprived proletariat of our world. It is
who are fighting the new class war.
Marxism is quite unable to cope with any 20th-century problem. The so-called
"Communist" countries are merely trying to have a 19th century of consumer
goods. Witness the cargo cults of the backward lands.
I hope you will correct the unfortunate space arrangements which the partici-
pants at the conference had to endure, with a consequent loss of dialogue. If I
appear to be rude, it is because I am not addressing myself to persons, but to
issues of great urgency. Naturally I appreciate the splendid urbanity with which
you conducted the proceedings. I am honoured to have been a participant, Your
Royal Highness. Most cordial thanks for your hospitality at Bilderberg.
(1) Prince Bernhard sponsored the Bilderberg Conference on international themes held at Elsinore,
Denmark, on May 9-11, 1969. McLuhan attended with Dr Claude Bissell.
(2) See page 531, note 1 (above).
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