Wednesday, December 05, 2012

White words, Black words

At another reactionary blog, a contributor uses the theories of Marshall McLuhan, once a very big deal in popular culture, to illuminate the mutual incomprehension of Black and Whites in conflict, since they are often, as the saying goes, separated by a common language.

McLuhan spoke of two primarily different forms of cultural organization, written and verbal. The written word is, fixed, definite, non personal, and above all beyond the manipulations of mere memory. Western society is based on the written word. Everything we take as most real, most solid is based on this foundational element. Writing. Our religion, our legal codes, business contracts, literature, written poetry, indeed our scientific achievement rests on the primary fact that they are all expressed in a fixed, universally available, interchangeable and non-subjective means of communication. Words fixed to a page. You are looking at them now, even though the words are made of pixels rather than ink. This shapes our thoughts, our sense of reality, our concept of meaning. 
However in our midst is a culture that shares none of this. African culture is primarily verbal. It depends on personal memory and verbal flamboyance. Communication is less a matter of precise meaning and more a matter of verbal self dramatization. Everything becomes supercharged with personal significance, emotional display, and magic thinking. Failing to spot this weakness, whites will be cowed and perplexed by blacks and assume that any differences are a matter of our failure to appreciate the other party’s “perspective.” No such rationally conceived “perspectives” exist. What the baffled white is looking at is not ideas based in precise meaning and facts, but verbal display based in the acquisition of power and self importance.
This matches my sense what I call Obama's faux Black preacher style of BS. Sound and fury, signifying little more than how cool I am and how cool my audience is. Offers an insight into one of the elements that make Whites and Blacks create such different cultures.

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