Joel Barker, the futurist is oft quoted as saying “when a paradigm shifts, all goes back to zero”, meaning that when a major change occurs the old paradigm (whatever it may be) is no longer valid and we (society, the world) needs to rethink and start again. What worked prior, no longer contains the elements needed to be valid. If, Barker further elaborates, one is unable or not prepared for change then paradigm paralysis occurs. The inability to move out of one’s perceived comfort zone. The language we use tells us that paralysis has set in when we hear for example, people saying: “This is how we have always done it”, “If it was good enough for my parents then it is good enough for me”. “That’s how we have always done things”.
The pandemic which has swept the world since early in 2020 has shifted the paradigms of what we used to call, “normal”. We now refer to a “new normal” but we have no idea what it is. The “new normal” is… and we smilingly, knowingly assume a position of authority in the matter of how we do things now. In reality though, the old paradigm is still in place, we continue to react in the same way we did before the shift, we have not moved on but are suffering from paradigm paralysis.
Barker’s classic example of paralysis, is of the young man, who is enjoying a drive on a country road and as he approaches a blind corner, a car appears driving on the wrong side and swerving and the lady behind the wheel is screaming and trying to tell him something . What the young man does not know is that the driver of the other car has just swerved across the road to avoid a large pig that has stationed itself in the road. The young man reacts according to a pre-existing paradigm: “You drive like a crazy fool and I will react by yelling at you”. He winds down the window, shouts at the driver of the other car, turns the corner at speed and drives straight into the pig.
Elements of such paralysis become visible when we are unable to see beyond the now, when vision is not vision per se but a myopic view coloured by rules, rules that may well be accentuated by an irrational fear. Covid19 brought with it a new understanding of “it’s a small world”, for overnight the world became pockets of virus inflamed no go zones. Not only was the human race (bear in mind the animal kingdom continued on with its daily life) confined to its immediate habitation, but policed and made submissive with curfews, travel restrictions, the wearing of a uniform apparel (masks), being subjected to testing, temperature assessments and refusal of entry to certain areas. We learnt that dying was a solitary thing and we accepted it overnight.
Whilst we certainly were and still are exhorted to “stay at home” by those who are “in charge” the world we live in is not (yet?) able to operate “robotically”. Working from home may well reduce harmful emissions as we use our vehicles less and less, we may even have fewer accidents on our roads, home invasions would decrease as homes are no longer left vacant, and we can add to the list of positives. But the human psyche is not ready for the full negative impact of seclusion. Draconian measures to enforce seclusion of family members (for purposes of compliance and or, safety) often made by the paternalistic remnants of our society may well result in mental challenges, depression and relationship fragmentation.
We meet across the miles via numerous platforms. Platforms which allow us to communicate according to rules; (mute yourself or pass the speaking baton we say), reliant on an invisible internet link which we do not understand but which dictates our lives. Not only do we use this more and more but we try to make it fit our norm paradigm, one where we spoke to each other, where we saw each other in 3D, where we could pick up on the nuances within facial expressions, voice intonations- now we strive to make the digital world fit our old paradigm- and we are not yet ready for the new, or to let go of the old.
Has the chronological age of the reader anything to do with how you felt when you read this article?