Urban Confrontation; 2; Margaret Mead
The urban confrontation. And analysis of the continuing crisis facing 20th century men in the American city. Playing juvenile delinquency on strictly American situation not recognizing you have been outlined would seem right around the world. You have drugs right around the world. You have increasing alcoholism in many other countries. Student riots of far greater severity than ours in many other countries. So that to find an explanation in America is ridiculous. But we have to find an explanation in this day of the world at the present moment not just one country. Today's recorded guest is Dr. Margaret Mead cultural anthropologist the noted social philosopher will discuss the cynics. Margaret Mead sounds off. Here's your host Joseph.
Campus riots assassinations the internal disintegration of our cities and the ever present threat of nuclear annihilation. Dr. Margaret Mead as we move into the last third of the 20th century I think you and I would both agree that this is where America is at. A malaise of alienation and depression is creeping across this country and becoming more and more of the vote going to style in some sectors of our society. And the first question is this Are the American people giving up the ship too quickly. And I think all the people who talk about giving up the ship are doing it as a pawn working on self-fulfilling prophecies. You were probably feeling that what life is still worthwhile that we can make it out of the 20th century as a society and course. Well what is it about our society that seems to generate for these prophets of gloom and doom so much material. Well I think there are several things that young people don't know any history so and if you look at events at any point in time and know nothing about the past you know we make very
exaggerated judgments older people who've managed to survive the rapid change of the last 50 years. On the whole don't know what happened to them. So they aren't able to communicate with the younger people what's going on. And furthermore people don't pay any comparative attention to the rest of the world. You know so we're willing to blame juvenile delinquency on strictly American situations. Not recognizing you have juvenile delinquency right around the world. You have drugs right around the world. You have increasing alcoholism in many other countries. You have student riots of far greater severity than ours in many other countries so that to find an explanation in America is ridiculous. But we have to find the explanation in the state of the world at the present moment. Not just one country. You mention that young people don't seem to know any history and that their elders seem unable to explain the lessons of past history to them. Props
to President Johnson was a good example of a person unable to explain the complexities of many issues particularly Vietnam to the society as a whole and particularly to the two young people now John F. Kennedy had that ability. John F. Kennedy had the ability to make young people think explain them. You know when there are two different things and that after he was dead they were able to preserve an image of someone whom they thought was their own age rather what is he nine years younger than President Johnson actually. But they had this image of a very young man which is one of the things that all the Kennedys have that look up to him and after he was dead they could leave anything they wanted good about him so they felt they had been magnificently explain to. Do you think that our thinkers and our intellectuals in the mass media are attempting to explain the events of the past in the present to our young people. I think there are moralizing about them and managing them and growing at
60 cross purposes but most of them don't know what the questions the young people are asking. And you can't explain things to people unless you know what the people themselves are thinking you know but not the world of the future will be a world of city study stretching across the globe with the problems in the cities today I want to how man can ever look to the city as a a comfortable place for him to live in the future. I don't subscribe to the notion that the whole of the earth has to be made up of megalopolis. Which is some people's theory I don't think this is necessary. I think we can build a great many more smaller cities and that we also can redesign these great metropolitan areas so they aren't any city anywhere but are clustered much smaller groups. But then govern in a way that has something to do with the terrain transportation system the airports instead of being made up of a bunch of silly little authorities and the central authority the wrong size. Some cities Brasilia Columbia Ruston cities and Scandinavia
have been built from the ground up within the past 20 years or is this of what you speak. Now I'm thinking much more of taking small cities that have a core of identity have some kind of existing stop existing population and using them as a base for expansion. There's a small city that has no good library no university and no theatre. It is a kind of a shell with out of the soul which you can put institutions into cities and build them into something probably better than we know how to build from the base up yet we don't. We aren't very good at building township Could you give us an example. Well I think probably if I'm not I haven't been there recently have only heard about it. But Flint Michigan 40 years ago had no institutions that you know it was a city of workers many many many of them immigrants and non resident owners and had nothing. Today it's building up with some kind of
intellectual institutions. Well if you take Fort Wayne Indiana is an example of a very lively small city with every institution that you can get in a large city and people stay in Fort Wayne take poor salaries for things simply because it's such a delightful place to live has for three or four colleges. It has an art museum an art school its rebuild its library three times in this century. And this is one kind of living that I think is going to make sense in the next quarter century. Rap Brown a militant black American said Dr. meet that violence is as American as cherry pie. Now in recent years the riots the mass slayings the assassinations would seem to reinforce his observation. Would you agree. Is America a traditionally violent nation. America is a pretty traditionally vile nation I object to these cherry pie and new apples and the way into the future every time anybody wants to be absolutely
dismal they introduced some kind of American food into the picture preferably fruit. We have had riots in cities in the past. Very bad riots and riots in which more people were killed. Rioting is not new in our cities and this is one thing to remember. Furthermore we're not quite as experienced at riots as some other parts of the world. You know then for Paris they're used to taking up the paving stones and then when it's over they put them down again. But there was tremendous destruction also of trees for instance in the Parisian riots but not as many people killed. It looks as if the riots in France for instance they had decided they still want one group and therefore no one was willing to kill anyone else. Now in this country our newest immigrants from outside are our newest migrants from the country whenever treated as if they belong and we treat them temporarily sometimes temporarily as quite awhile as enemies and in very truth there was then and was then of course there's probably shoot to kill
in many instances. There are again those profitable Mendon who say that the nation will be on able to survive the so-called revolution. Why. I mean there isn't and you see this is people as I say again who don't know any history and who aren't used to even what they're really talking our inability to survive is knowing what happened knowing what happens as it happens. This is a strange strain on the we are under present is one instant knowledge of what's going on in every part of the world. And to that we have shifted from a series of centers of power around the world with sort of satellite lower level states around them and a lot of unexplored jungles and deserts into a single planetary system. Now the shift from a lot of isolated centers to a planetary system of course is more complicated but we've survived since a old stone age getting more and more
complicated. You've written that the crime rate of a society is related to the complexity of a legal code. Well roughly I mean we don't know about any very complicated society which there isn't also a lot of crime. It's very hard to frame a criminal code for a very diverse and had Virginia's population so that there aren't some sectors of the population who profit by breaking the code because there are a lot of other sectors of the population that profit by it also. And we've never succeeded in doing this. Yet. It's been when ever society became complicated. Then one of the first things that you have to build when you get a right sized town is a present which people find very gloomy when they look back over history and see the prison appearing along with other institutions like the public library. Are you saying that our society grows more complex we can expect and
anticipate almost an inevitable crime rate rise. No because I think we can make a great many new inventions that at present we're also dealing with extreme outsell lessons almost every technique that we have. We're dealing with police that were trained for a quite different era. We're dealing with a refusal to use the facilities that we might the new electronic facilities to control crime we're dealing with a great deal of sympathy. On the part of the police in some instances or social workers or suburban dwellers their home country at present is filled with Cannot Evers who are complaining about crime at the same time they're benefiting from it in one form or another. They've only just got back to parking and the endless number of people who break the law all the time on parking. Do you think will ever have a universal legal code. I think we will have a universal legal code for things that affect everybody the way we have a universal postal system we'll have a universal set of regulations for
aircraft and for ships and for submarines and for space for all the things which are planetary and for weather control we'll have to have universal codes for those things where which we share on a planetary basis then we can have individual nationally individual codes for different nations. We were talking here in this apartment your sister's apartment here in Cambridge Massachusetts just before the program began about the mass media about Marshall McLuhan. I want to know what you think the effect of the mass media is on our society. It's brought us terribly close together. It's brought into crimes of every degree of education in every degree of wealth. The same information. You know in the past if you wanted to know well something about how bad trusts were in the days of trust busting and Teddy Roosevelt. How did you find out. The only thing you could do is to read a newspaper and great proportions of the population didn't read newspapers. If they read them they only read the
sports news. There were none of the big mass magazines no radio no television and most people didn't know what was going on most of the time. Now everybody the poorest cabin well are in the mountains of Appalachian has access to what's going on in the White House. In Chicago and or Miami. In London in Paris in Tokyo in Bangkok. And this is a tremendous change. This Marshall McLuhan that we were talking about before the program says that the important thing about the mass media is not what is but but how it is. Do you agree with him that the medium is the message I think that's exaggerated. Marshall McLuhan has a great capacity to dramatize things that people paid attention and get the message fairly often. And certainly having things presented visually and simultaneously is different from having them presented sequentially. And. Ever since print was invented which is one of the points
we learn emphasized we're living with experience sequentially and the same thing is true if you're dealing with spoken speech if the speaker is not there if the speaker is there. Then you get a great amount of information simultaneously from posture and gesture and facial expression and the way the people in back of this book are behaving in the Mr Humphries campaign. There were fantastic things happening when you'd have him say speaking enthusiastically to an audience in a bunch of deadpan standing back of the people who are unrelated to what was happening. No one was planning out how the whole spectacle should be arranged. So a lot of information is given to the audience simultaneously. You wouldn't say them that those who control the mass media have power out of proportion to their numbers and I doubt that now and that is certainly not anything like the proportion of a man like Thomas Paine writing pamphlets
the time of the revolution and the single pamphleteer I had a great deal more power because there's so many people now talking there's so many problems over this one now. How many people in the United States how many universities now have lively programs of their own and are busy working working on them and sending them everywhere else and things are going all over the country in every direction. I really feel as a result of my film last week as if I had been everywhere at once and met everybody I ever knew. And it's really quite an effort to keep yourself from feeling as if you disintegrated into some kind of medical images but I don't have a New York City you teach at Columbia. I wonder whether there isn't a tendency among writers radio TV journalists who live in New York or Los Angeles Washington Boston to believe that what people are thinking in their cities their home towns is the same as what people think all over the country. Where I certainly wouldn't attempt to either talk to the country right for the
country if I didn't do a lot of traveling and if I didn't spend a fair amount of time in all sorts of places all over the country with different kinds of people. And especially without going to California I think anybody who stays in New York and judges the country from New York without a heavy dose of California can get very ones that not just been written about the revival of youth against their elders in the conventions of society. Do you ever get the impression that young people in this age of youthful rebellion sometimes take themselves a bit too seriously. Oh I think it's customary for you to take itself too seriously I don't think very much about that. And I'm not sure I'd want to but I don't think this is just a period of revolt of youth against elders as if it were just an adolescent type of rebellion had off and on for centuries. Some societies are set up for us for rebellion and wild oats and some aren't. I think this is something rather different. And the reason why young people are taking themselves seriously is
because they are worried. They're very worried whether their elders have the capacity to run the society. And when they always do nothing but sit and wring their hands and tell them that we're going to get blown up any minute. Obviously they have every reason probably great every generation looks at its parents as being all of 40 days unable to run the society while the coming generation be any better able to run into something different this is not what every generation has done before. Certainly every generation even the most stable societies. Young people may be impatient with the controls that go in God and then they go ahead and when they come into power they behave just like them in many instances this is something different because we were never before to see have so much change that the adults had not experienced except as adults. And young people experience them as children and therefore knows something. I
know a lot of things that the adults don't know and can't now and will never know. And this is a real break. Do you think that rebellion is that prevailed among young people in America. But this isn't just rebellion. I mean it's questioning it's Warry it's anxiety. It's of course extreme frustration. I mean if you are a bright intelligent kid of 16. And look at the fact that nobody in this country can build an airport big enough for the existing number of airplanes What do you make of it. I mean they went to college. They went to MIT. They can't build anything that is adequate to the demands we know we have now. There's something about their inability to think and not a tremendous unwillingness to plan this or that youngsters look at this. You know when they say well why not. What is the matter with you cant you count. And nobody in charge of planning in this country can count and just do ordinary arithmetic and this is sort of it is not a question of rebellion. Its a
question of sort of amazement. They're not going to be in power for another 20 years. I wonder about a highly symbolic form of rebellion that has become popular from time to time on the draft card burning you. You have written that occasionally a few enterprising young rebels can become the battle too many young people who don't belong but get swept into it as a result of the mass media focusing in upon those handful of young Americans who do burn draft cards. Well we get these models the TV the mass we look keep giving prescriptions prescriptions for delinquency prescription for rebelion prescriptions for murder. They put the murder murder of a president on the cover of their magazine. Over and over again for the murder of a presidential candidate or someone like Martin Luther King that you exalt. As models. People who simply are notorious.
And they pick up any dramatic form of non-conformity and sweep that around the world. I mean do you really think that any young American whatever have invented the idea of turning himself into a human torch. If a Buddhist monk in Vietnam hadn't done this and it hadn't been photographed well people stood around and watched him burn taking photographs and centered around the world. The world has become a little village and what happens down and Saigon is just the same as what happens down the street around the corner. Yeah except you have to remember it isn't a little village but it has over 3 billion people in it and that number of people and the number of adults who don't know how to rear the children and the number of children who have no adults to rear them is enormous. We're drawing to the end of the program Margaret Mead and I want to ask you about one of the two most primary characteristics of the 20th century here in America the first big change me topic quite extensively about that the second being materialism the Big
12 fiddlesticks why aren't any more materialistic than we were 50 years ago or a hundred years ago and what this materialism is a just a higher some calling out what you happy and say Because when they think a bathtub is a materialistic luxury and we think it's an essential for sanitation and health I do not accept materialism as that Americans are more materialistic than other people and I'm much more inclined to say what my New Guinea natives said after seeing the American army that we learn from them that material things didn't matter. But the reason they didn't matter was because they had so many of them. And this we can shift from emphasizing production which we've got wrecked and wrecked by machines. Damn for sizing consumption and being sure that people are educated so that they can be sensitive and responsive to consumers and set up projects tradition of income so they all have an income to start with. We're not going to solve the problems of our society.
And then I wonder if we have made much progress in becoming sensitive consumers in an age of the spectator sport where you sit back and watch a movie watch a football game watch a symphony much the same as they are the people and I was actually kind of you were nearly looked at the statistics out of participation in this country. People in every form of outdoor recreation of the growth of little theaters and how many people are painting and how many people are learning musical instruments we have an extraordinary explosion actually individual activity but there are miles who are always about 40 years out of date and keep on talking as if nobody in the country ever did anything except in gauging watching a spectator sport spectator sports I understand are somewhat going down then with their growing power proportions. You are very optimistic with regard to the ability to use leisure
time in a manner that shows sophistication and quality. Of the program you get optimistic about that is obvious. You talk about the increase in the number of little theatres around the country increasing the number of people playing musical instruments. Now I happen to agree with you and I think this is a very hopeful sign but I want to play the devil's advocate for a moment and express to you the fears of people in New York City where perhaps our cultural capital that to build a new theater in Flint Michigan as you mention or in Fort Wayne Indiana is not necessary not necessarily to be equated with an increase in the authority of our cultural life the quantity. Yes. But is it is it the quality the the indications are that the kinds of plays put on the stage and in the your front Michigan's reflects the traditional conservative mores and I don't there is never going to get that about conservative mores for goodness sake I don't think the theatre and artists should
already deal with a radical innovative edge. We're going to have a society that has meaning for art and meaning for leisure they should be related to the whole of that. It doesn't make any difference you know what the bulk of people are doing. They're conservative from the standpoint of the people that are living on the edge. And our intellectuals always forget that they turn around and moan about everybody's behind them. Now how are they going to be in front if there aren't some people behind them. That's a question they never asked. And it's a statement that you rarely hear from an American Thinker. That's right. Don't you want to know my classmates. Not my path mates but students that bonded where I went to college was that there was a poll taken and look at the very few people that cared about the best literature for the definition of the best literature is something that only a few people care about. You nobody thinks that over do you find that there is occasionally
an intellectual condescension among some of I think overall I think European attitude towards the arts is infernal rain we've got quite a lot. Is there any tendency as intellectuals become more and more respected in our society as the PH Ph D becomes more and more a union card for successful climbing through the bureaucratic hierarchies of the society that we might have the sort of condescension that's been rationalized into sort of a Brahmin class of the high IQ. And Fred and I dislike that term you know one card I think it's ridiculous that's used by people who don't understand anything about unions or what unions were about. It's used cynically by people who should be thinking about something something much more serious. I don't think elections are being more respected. I think we are at present in some respects for anything going into an educational bureaucracy that demands that people have to have a degree no matter what they do and possibly there's 200 votes who brought this down and will
simply say we are not going to live in the single career lines which are ridiculous. But I certainly don't think that just having poor students produces Brahman I think it produces a low grade bureaucrat. Don't you find this type of description making you a bit out of it with your intellectual colleagues I've never felt out of it. Margaret Mead You are certainly one of the most optimistic guests we've had on this program in some time and I think we need more people like yourself in the mainstream of those intellectuals speaking to the American public. Thank you very much for allowing us to come to your apartment here in Cambridge Massachusetts. North Eastern University has brought to an interview with Dr. Margaret Mead. A cultural anthropologist and social philosopher discussing the cynic's indited. Margaret Mead sounds off. The views and opinions expressed do not
necessarily represent those of the program. Joseph R. Baylor Northeastern University or this station. Questions asked merely represent the moderator's method of presenting the many sides of today's topic. Your host has been shown so far failing. The urban confrontation is produced for the office of educational resources at Northeastern University in Boston the nation's largest private university. Your comments on this program are well. Recorded copies of programs in this series address your request to the urban confrontation. Northeastern University Boston Massachusetts 0 2 1 1 5. This week's program was produced by Peter Lance directed by Todd Baker with technical supervision by James Brown. Executive producer for the urban confrontation. His Peter Les. Theme music by fire and.
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- Urban Confrontation is an analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century man in the American city, covering issues such as campus riots, assassinations, the internal disintegration of cities, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. Produced for the Office of Educational Resources at the Communications Center of the nations largest private university, Northeastern University.
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