(IN)FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS…
What’s a “paradigm shift” and why does it matter?
The term paradigm shift is often used colloquially, and denotes a change (often radical) of worldview. When enough significant anomalies have accrued against a current paradigm, it can be thrown into a state of crisis during which “new ideas, perhaps ones previously discarded, are tried. Eventually a new paradigm is formed, which gains its own new followers, and an intellectual ‘battle’ takes place between the followers of the new paradigm and the hold-outs of the old paradigm” (Wikipedia, circa 2010). The term originated in the sciences but has found uses in other contexts, representing the notion of a major change in a certain thought-pattern — personal beliefs, complex systems, or organizations — replacing the former way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of looking at (and acting in) the world. Major examples include quantum physics (replacing classical mechanics) and the “whole earth” photos from outer space that are thought to have helped usher in modern environmentalism.
Do we really need another blog at this point?
No, and yes. There’s no doubt that we’re well-saturated with digitized information to the point of near overload. And yet, the potency of this force to alter the fabric of society (and thus our lives) is undeniable. Rather than attempt to ignore or dismiss the enterprise altogether, which is likely an effort of futility, another vision suggests that we might take the tools provided and get to the more interesting work of building a better world. Naturally, this in itself raises many practical and philosophical issues (e.g., can we use the master’s tools…?) but that’s not the point of this exercise. We need to correct course as a species if we are to survive, simply put. Do we need a blog to do this? No. But one that tries to help in this process can’t be all bad, after all.
Is this metaphysics, science, futurism, primitivism, or what?
It is possible to be “new age” and “old school” all at once, but that’s not our aim. The basic point is simple: the world is tenuously struggling with the effects of human intervention, and a lot of folks are trying to make sense of this in a proactive manner. Their voices aren’t heard anywhere near the extent that those of doom, despair, decay, distraction, degradation, denial, and destruction are. Still, buried here and there among the hinterlands of the blogosphere are people offering their views on how things got to be this way and what we can do about it. It’s not one specific vision, but more so a way of looking at things. You might call it a “glass half full” approach, in that we already have the knowledge and tools to make the requisite changes — all we need now is the will.
Isn’t being all “positive” really just another way of “going soft”?
It’s interesting how being critical and even pessimistic is seen as credible, realistic, and even somehow part of an authentically revolutionary posture. Undoubtedly, there’s a LOT to be concerned about in this world, and the deconstruction of oppression, repression, and other forms of pollution is a key task. Still, in the same way that nonviolence is sometimes seen as a weak or non-confrontational perspective, an approach to the “news” that aims to be solution-oriented is often viewed as uncritical and even complicit with the forces of hegemony. As Emma Goldman once apocryphally said, “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution.” We can be radical and critical, and still keep one eye on the prize at the same time. After all, what is action without vision?
C’mon, nice try, but it’s already too late and humankind is destined to go the way of the dinosaur, isn’t it?
Part of our task is to resist “inevitability” and the disempowerment that it brings. Modern civilization itself is built upon a set of founding metaphors that promise our ultimate demise, raising profound questions about the viability of a culture whose creation mythology is also a doomsday prediction. If we really believed this, why bother even waking up in the morning? No, we maintain that predictions of humankind’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Are we pushing the envelope? Absolutely. Is there great urgency to right the ship? Unquestionably. But as long as we’re still here, having these conversations and implementing course corrections, there’s still hope — not false hope, but the hope that comes with engaged practice. The window of opportunity may be closing, yet it remains open and it is incumbent upon us to foster a keen vision toward those new clear vistas.
Okay, I’m sold. How can I help?
Whew, great! Here’s a starting point: (1) work with others in your community to address the essential issues there of food, water, economics, education, politics, and social justice that are uppermost in your mind; (2) focus more on the positive than the negative news both locally and globally, unplugging from oppressive technologies and places as much as possible in favor of healthy experiences with other people and nature; (3) send us your writings if you feel that you have something to share that might serve to inspire others in a meaningful and tangible way; and (4) point your friends and contacts here to share the good news. We welcome your inquisitive minds, strong spirits, and willing hands in forging a new world from the old…