A Sampler of McLuhan Quotes On “Canada,” From Bill Kuhns’ Forthcoming McLuhan Marshalling Machine: A Dictionary of Quotations


In anticipation of Bill Kuhns’ to-be-published huge compendium of McLuhan quotes in his McLuhan Marshalling Machine: A Dictionary of Quotations, where they will be categorized by the artifact or phenomenon they refer to, I have Bill’s permission to publish samples of original McLuhan quotes from his writings, lectures, and interviews, some of which will have never before been seen in a secondary publication context.
For your information, the publisher is not yet known but the manuscript is near completion and publication is expected to be sometime next year.

Marshall McLuhan on Canada

Assumption [College, Windsor, Ontario] a little bay of silence – a little backwater in a stagnant stream. Oh the mental vacuum that is Canada.
– — Letter to Wyndham Lewis, December 13, (1944), in Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), p. 165.
…in Canada – you can never be a nation as long as we have two cultures, OK? What we need are more cultures, not fewer. It is obvious that you can not have too many cultures in an electric age. Do you think? 

– Jean Pare interview, Forces Magazine, (1973), typescript, p. 26.
“Canada Needs Three Million Jews”
Title of an unpublished essay, 1948.

“No, there is a huge inertia in Canada. I like this, because it enables me to sort of move ahead of the rest of them.”
– M
ademoiselle Interview, September, (1967), p. 128.
“Actually, the very absence of cluttering example and traditions in the arts is the main Canadian opportunity. The only possible strategy for the Canadian writer, poet, artist (as it was for Joyce, Pound, and Eliot when they found themselves in cultural backwaters) is to conquer the old traditions through the most revolutionary artistic techniques suggested by the current modes of science and technology. This is the really great advantage enjoyed by any provincial in a time of rapid change.”
“Defrosting Canadian Culture,” American Mercury, Vol. 74, No. 339, (1952), p. 11.
“But as a counter environment, Canada has the opportunity to achieve a kind of artistic awareness of the United States and typically Canadians have shown considerable aptitude in making ironic and comic and humorous observations about the United States.”
– CBC TV show, Fletcher Markle, “Telescope 67,” (1967).
“Like Shaw, the Canadian ‘nobody’ can have the best of two worlds—on the one hand, the human scale of the small country, and on the other hand, the immediate advantages of proximity to massive power.”
The Global Village, Marshall McLuhan &  Bruce Powers, (1989), p. 151.

“…the cringing, flunkey spirit of Canadian culture, its servant-quarter snobbishness resentments ignorance penury.”
– [Quoting McLuhan] Edmund Carpenter in “That Not-So-Silent Sea,” (1992), in The Virtual Marshall McLuhan by Donald Theall, Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2001, p. 250.
“But what complete isolation governs the maturing of any thought in this country! You have had a big taste of it.”
Letter to Wyndham Lewis, January 17, 1944, in Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), p. 147.
“In print-oriented Toronto, poetry-reading in the public parks is a public offense. Religion and politics are permitted, but not poetry, as many young poets recently discovered”.
Understanding Media (1964), MIT Press Edition, p. 53.
“The [Canadian] Royal Commission is squarely in line with our bureaucrats and Victorian patriarchs in supposing that culture is basically an unpleasant moral duty. According to this view, everything that people do spontaneously and with gusto, everything connected with industry, commerce, sport, and popular entertainment is merely vulgar. Americans are sufficiently familiar with this attitude through the genteel tradition of New England which dominates their academic life….Who knows? Perhaps the next Royal Commission on Canadian culture may include a brief notice on Walt Disney and ice-hockey as Canada’s outstanding contributions to world culture in the twentieth century.“

– “Defrosting Canadian Culture,” American Mercury, Vol. 74, No. 339, (1952), pp. 96-97.
“A serious writer updates a culture – I don’t think there’s any serious writing going on in Canada today – by anybody”.
Interview by Linda Sandler, Miss Chatelaine, September (1974), p. 59.

“Nature and history seem to have agreed to designate us in Canada for a corporate, artistic role. As the U.S.A. becomes a world environment through its resources, technology, and enterprises, Canada takes on the function of making that world environment perceptible to those who occupy it.”
– The Marfleet Lectures (1967), in Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews (2003), p. 104.
“In the land of of rye and caution fourteen million people are stretched out thinly along a 5000-mile frontier. There is no possibility of defense in depth against the aggression of American pin-up girls. Canadians are the only people on earth who read more alien than national cultural matter”.

– “Defrosting Canadian Culture,” American Mercury, Vol. 74, No. 339, (1952), p. 91.
– “The fact that we are a counter environment, rather than an environment, is well reflected in the fact that they don’t spend any time writing about us”.
CBC TV show, Fletcher Markle, “Telescope 67,” (1967).

“Canada has no identity because it has too many borderlines. Diversity does not create identity. It creates a very low-profile thing, whatever it is. If you want a real identity then you have to close off most of the borderlines and most of the cultural situations have to be thrown away to concentrate on a few strong positions and then you get a national identity. That’s why you need a war and a great big bloodbath to create a national identity.” 
– “It Will Probably End the Motorcar” (1976), p. 27.
“So the Canadian, located between two great communities, the English and the American, is provincial to both. He would, therefore, be in a superb position to develop habits of critical insight if the developments of such habits were not paralyzed by colonial timidity or Scottish caution.” 

– “Defrosting Canadian Culture,” American Mercury, Vol. 74, No. 339, (1952), p. 95.
“As a visiting Frenchman once pointed out, the Canadian is like a poor man sharing an apartment with a rich man. He lives continually beyond his means in a state of perpetual anxiety and expediency. Just as naturally he develops a power of acute observation and the ability to comment shrewdly on the ebullient comings and goings of his rich friend to the south of him.”

– “Defrosting Canadian Culture,” American Mercury, Vol. 74, No. 339, (1952), pp. 92-93.

A Provincial Toronto in the 1950s, the tallest building Royal York Hotel, once heralded as the “tallest building in the Canada, and the British Empire.”

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