Part 6.1: January 9, 2018
Unless otherwise mentioned, page numbers are from Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987) 
Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis and McLuhan’s Ominous Statements
McLuhan began writing to the American poet Ezra Pound (first letter May 31, 1948). He and his student Hugh Kenner visited Pound on June 4, 1948 at St Elizabeths Hospital for the Criminally Insane near Washington, D.C. Indicted for treason for his fascist World War II broadcasts from Rome, Pound was considered unfit to stand trial. The editors cite a November, 1981 Psychology Today article by E. Fuller Torrey which claims that 40 psychologists disagreed. Even so, Pound was confined at the hospital from 1945 to 1958 (editor’s comments, p. 192).
Later, writing to Wyndham Lewis (December 1955, p. 248), McLuhan complains:
. . . Hegelian History is sure working overtime in putting a poet like Pound in a mental home. . . .
Writing to Pound (June 16, 1948, pp. 193-194), McLuhan asks him about his work The Pisan Cantos (1948), whether they are a reconstruction of a “continuing” “crime against man and civilization” (p. 194).
This is one of those occasions–I referred to at least one already–in which McLuhan makes references to or allegations of destructive activity on a large scale.
McLuhan complains to Pound (July 30, 1948, p. 198) about deficiencies in education for the young, about how colleges, businesses and governments are, metaphorically speaking, not “run by human persons anymore.” Nobody knows what he is doing or why he is doing it:
Universal Abdication of the human motive . . . . Zombies. Sleep-walkers
Ideograms and Landscape
McLuhan discusses ideograms with Pound (December 21, 1948, p. 207):
The American mind is not even close to being amenable to the ideogram . . . . The 18th century had chucked out the principle of metaphor and analogy–the basic fact that as A is to B so is C to D. AB:CD. It can see AB relations. But relations in four terms are still verboten. This amounts to deep occultation of nearly all human thought for the U.S.A. . . .
. . . a mentality which is incorrigibly dialectical. The vital tensions and nutritive action of ideogram remain inaccessible . . . 
Writing to Pound (January 5, 1951, pp. 217-218), McLuhan describes his ideas for understanding the media and using ideograms and poetic “landscape mode” to help do this, and also to get scientists and technologists, etc., to understand and contribute to the arts. In this context, he makes another ominous statement:
As for tone, to assume good will and right appetite. There is more of these now than a decade ago, because even the bastards are aware of nearness of ultimate breakdown (p. 218).
Usury, Applied Science, War
In another letter (January 1951, p. 219), McLuhan discusses usury in the context of Pound’s anti-usury position and advocacy of monetary reform. The editor’s footnote (p. 219) refers to Pound being influenced by the economic theories of Social Credit founder C. H. Douglas and also to Silvio Gesell. Earlier, I touched on McLuhan’s interest in Distributism.
McLuhan describes usury as the “impulse of the fearful citizen.” Referring to applied science as the “master usurer,” he ridicules modern attitudes to science and technology:
Current illusion is that science has abolished all natural laws. Nature now pays 5 million %. . . . To hell with our top soil. We can grow potatoes on the moon tomorrow . . .
Related to that, McLuhan condemns prevalent attitudes about war as “imbecility”:
2nd war [World War II] produced great discovery of war as new way of life. Financial pages simply chortling . . . over a prosperity rooted in 3rd war [I think he means “World War III”]. Ordinary guy eats this up. Total war = total security he figures. . . . (p. 219)
(More comments on war later)
Additional Information and References
Note: unless otherwise mentioned, web references in this post are cited as accessed on or before January 9, 2018.
To be continued: 6.2
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