technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis/McLuhan/Grant
P.J. Kemp was a journalist living in Brigham, Quebec.
Technology and the Canadian Mind examines the techno-philosophies of three Canadian intellectuals — Harold Innis, George Grant, and Marshall McLuhan.
Author Kroker portrays Grant as the pessimist, McLuhan as the optimist, and Innis as the happy medium between these two generally unrealistic viewpoints. Grant, for instance, sees the likelihood of technological pressures crushing humanity; McLuhan apparently felt there was much in the technological revolution that would push humanity out of its nihilistic tendency toward a bright, peaceful, and productive global community. And Innis presumably examined things-as-they-are, rather than as they seemed or should be.
Kroker makes some very nice and interesting points, especially when he is writing as himself, rather than as reviewer. For instance, in the Epilogue, Kroker states with a basic simplicity and clarity lacking in most of the rest of the book that “It’s as if everything is out of synch: a society with twenty-first century engineering, but nineteenth-century perception.” Otherwise, the writing style is rather tortuous and unnecessarily prolix — perhaps a victim of the technology of the written word.
That brings up the problem of definitions. It is never clearly explained just what is meant by “technology” as used in Technology and the Canadian Mind. It eventually dawns on the reader that everything outside the immediate body and mind of an individual human being may be considered “technological” — from a garden hoe to a computer to the alphabet.
What comprises the “Canadian mind” is even less clear. Kroker appears to base his discussion on a certain viewpoint, one that is formed by being an audience of all things CBC and a reader of Saturday Night. This may be representative of a Canadian mind, but certainly not the Canadian mind. Or, there is a Canada out there that exists beyond the boundaries of universities, and it’s possible that many of us don’t subscribe to any of the ideas or opinions as set forth in Technology and the Canadian Mind. While the views of the three eminent thinkers may be representative of some Canadians, such a title is a bit presumptuous, misleading, and not without a certain amount of snobbish chauvinism.
Also questionable is the tired old assumption that our present level of technology is somewhat more significant and revolutionary than all previous levels of development. With his emphasis on taking into account the historical perspective, Kroker should have realized that every age of mankind has had to face similar decisions and arrays of choice, that “centres” are always “undergoing a fantastic reversal into decay and annihilation.” There is nothing new here except our individual selves, even that being merely relative to the overall scheme of things.
Despite all these objections, Technology and the Canadian Mind is an interesting little book, and anyone willing to wade through the turgid university-ese may find some stimulating philosophical prods.