portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

community building | political theory

Holding on to a dead paradigm and letting it go

We are in period of incredible chaos and also incredible potential, an old paradigm is dying and a new one is being born. How much will we as a society hold onto the old and when will we fully step into the new? What will this period of transition look like, how long will it last and how painful will it be? Its up to us.
The year 2008 marked the beginning of the current financial crisis. However I would say that what it truly marks is the beginning of the end of the capitalist, consumer based economy in the US and probably the world. Just like the fall of communism (what remains of communism today is like a more totalitarian version of capitalism especially in China) in the late 80s and early 90s, free market capitalism is a corrupt and purely dysfunctional approach to managing the resources of a society. It's practices and ideology could be maintained for a long time and propped up by governments and central banks but the dysfunction inherent in the system is finally catching up and bringing us back to reality. Our system in its current state cannot be maintained indefinitely.

The consequences of this greed based system are enormous not only on people's financial lives but on the environment, public health, energy, education and infrastructure. Every aspect of our society is based on greed and profit and so does not really serve its true purpose, instead it serves to make someone rich at the expense of others and the greater good. Health care, when its available, often doesn't heal people but instead gets them addicted to man made chemicals at incredible profit. The quality of food has been degraded to the point where mainstream food doesn't nourish the human body because of chemicals and genetic modification. Education doesn't promote free thinking and creativity but instead indoctrinates the young into this limit based matrix we call a society. The environment has been used, polluted and stripped of its life giving components to the point where its a real question how much longer the planet can sustain our form of life. There is a similar story in almost every area you look in and it may seem depressing and dismal but ultimately it does not have to be.

Our situation is not a lost cause for two reasons. One is that we ourselves helped to create this mess, at least in some ways, we all colluded to allow this reality to come into being and be maintained. As much as I want change I must admit there is a part of me that wants things to stay the same because it is what I'm used to, its familiar. However, because we helped to create it we can also help change it, we have power. The other reason is that the severity of the situation we find ourselves in now also contains the enormous energy needed for true change. Nothing short of a total paradigm shift is needed, an evolution in consciousness and that doesn't often happen without crisis, without a painful transition for a time as we hold onto what is known and familiar regardless of how corrupt and unhealthy it has become until we reach a threshold and are propelled into a new level.

While it seemed president Obama might represent this wave of change or shift, it doesn't at this point seem like that's the case to me. While he very much embodies the theme of change both in his personality and history making aspects, he also seems to be well entrenched in the old paradigm. It is almost as if he represents where we are at in the process of change, one foot trying to step into a new paradigm or way of being and one foot fearfully clinging to the old ways. The people the president has chosen for his cabinet do not in my view represent the kind of change and new ideas we need and more than that many of them have played direct roles in creating the crisis we find ourselves in today. The so called stimulus package we see being pushed through appears to me to be a desperate attempt to bring a dying system back to life when what we truly need is to help it die peacefully while we begin to put a new framework in place. It may be that the politicians in Washington are too much a part of that old system to be the catalysts of real change and that is not such a bad thing.

My focus lately has become more to ignore Washington and let them play this whole thing out as far as is needed while I work directly where I be the most effective, my local community. This is where a new society is being born as we start to move back to a more local and regional way of doing things, a counter-balance to globalization. Whether its growing and buying our food locally, supporting local business, electing local officials who represent a new paradigm, embracing a green and sustainable way of life or creating our own affordable health care we can make a real difference right here where it counts. It may be that the national government of this country becomes more and more irrelevant as people work locally to take back their power, their lives and their society. The impact of this can ultimately transform things nationally by building a new foundation and dismantling the current system from the ground up. We don't need our elected officials to cooperate with this, it would certainly make it easier but in the end the people have the power to put change into motion. The power of our officials and government is an illusion enabled by our buying into it. A society of empowered, engaged informed people is already a new society and that is what we are being propelled into by the current situation, people will have to change as the old structures crumble around them.

There is no doubt that there are serious challenges and painful things to go through, as there always are during periods of growth and transition. We must find the courage and strength to see it through and not give into fear and disillusionment. The best way to do that is to focus on working with what we can and with things that are right in front of us. When the ways we are used to doing things no longer work we must let go of trying to make them work and instead change our focus to something new to take their place. This is a powerful time to be alive and we have a real opportunity to create a new society if we accept that responsibility and seize it.