Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Images of peace and the post-human presidency

I'm starting to get my head into my fall seminar titled "War and Peace in the Global Village: Rhetorical Acts Post 9/11." The first assignment asks students to remake McLuhan's WPGV for 2008 (40 years later). The topic / issue / theme (whatever you want to call it) obviously has not gone away. The text itself is a bear, but I found a few gems the last time through it, and now I am trying to imagine how I might write with the text, and not about it.

I've been reading a lot about the images of 9/11 and our post 9/11 world, but those are always images of war. What are the images of peace? Does peace have an image problem?

McLuhan lambasts the political leaders of his day for not understanding the weapons and technologies they were deploying, not understanding that the mechanical world of hardware was being replaced by a world of software, and that because these leaders did not understand the changing world, they kept lashing out in new conflicts, new wars. Violence, according to McLuhan is a quest for identity.

To the extent that I am following the campaign circus, I am disappointed by the up-swing in Obama's tough-guy talk. I much preferred the "give peace a chance" Obama, the Darfur Dharma. Got me thinking about the post-human presidency. I don't think people, real human beings, want war. The war refugees I know sure as hell didn't want war. To accept the presidency is undoubtedly to accept a post-human subjectivity, despite the equally powerful importance / demand of being a "real guy" (and it is still "guy"--but that's another story).

Anyway, this is getting longer than I wanted it to, but it seems to me that the post-human / cyborg identity needs to be run through the McLuhan laws of media, because we'd get something like Haraway arguing for some valuable enhancements and some equally valuable obsolescences; we'd also see this post-human presidency as a reversal, perhaps: post-humanism as "inhuman, as in-humane".

If we can imagine a positive, life-affirming, audaciously hopeful cyborg president, what would s/he look like?

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