Recently I was asked by WMHT in Schenectady New York to participate on the forty-five year anniversary of Patrick Moynihan’s “The Negro Family: A Case For National Action”. Much ink has been spilled on the policy impact that Moynihan’s ‘Report’ has had given its forty-five year shelf life. But it was Marshall McLuhan’s studies on media that really garnished insight to explaining the demise of the black family.
Written immediately before Moynihan, McLuhan’s “Understanding Media” is a most difficult text for those tied to didactic methods of research or learning. For he wishes to reveal to the reader the social and cognitive impact of mechanization in a centralized command economy. His insights would only be validated later when Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Gulag’ would be published in the late 1970’s forever destroying Parisian Marxism.
Any mechanical, centralized political economy demands forced assimilation. This is simply not possible to understand for those living in an inclusive, digital, consumerist political economy. The age of mechanization demanded that workers leave their ‘selves’ at home. It was the epitome of compartmentalized life. Any culture that did not fit into such a paradigm could not participate in the goods of privatized manufactured life.
For McLuhan, the demise of the black family is a sad tribute to the display written about by Solzhenitsyn in ‘Gulag’. The Soviet Union enacted a ruthless political and social regime of forced assimilation, the only persons who displayed individuality were women and Chechens! Everyone else subsumed his/her individuality for fear of immediate reprisal. McLuhan see’s similar protests by deracinated urban Americans.
For McLuhan, African Americans resisted the psychic and social homogenization demanded in manufacturing economies. The West’s emphasis on a dominate linear visual stress never complimented integral kinesthetic cultures. The ‘Great Society Programs’ of Lyndon Johnson could never assist in reversing this ‘refusal’, for it was informed from a cultural premise that maintained the eradication of one’s individuality. Mechanized life and its attendant institutions could not meaningfully speak to or inspire deracinated kinesthetic youth.
The history lesson here is often overlooked. Our political economy is currently consumer based, the demise of the black family continues today, but for completely different reasons. Read on to find out. Find ‘Demise of the Black Family’ in my categories.