by Jakob Hanschu
This essay was published in the Feb. 2019 edition of Live Ideas. View it HERE.
Each of us observes and defines the world differently. Our way of doing so is the paradigm that dictates many (if not all) of the elements of our lives. It provides a lens through which we interpret, evaluate, and subjectify the “objective” world around us, bridging our individual selves with social and other structures. Paradigms allow us to quite literally make (as in construct) sense of our world. Projected onto a larger scale, one may begin to see how an ideology can shape an entire community, society, or even the world.
However, not all paradigms can or should stand the test of time. Paradigms are and are constitutive of power. When left unchecked, they place a cap on what we are willing to consider—forming a type of “paradigmatic ceiling”—hiding consequences in plain sight and barring subscribers from recognizing any potential alternatives, even ones that may be more just or sustainable. It is in this way that our paradigms discipline us more efficiently than any military or police force ever could, holding us in our societal places.
The world is a fluid and constantly evolving place; our planet continuously changes with time. Today is drastically different than the world of 5,000, 500, 50, or even 5 years ago. We must adapt to these transformations, metamorphize even as the world becomes. If not, we get lost in the dust, swallowed by the tides, whacked by the protester’s bat, or infected by the radiation of an ignorant faith in the stability of our paradigm. Society must tell itself lies to facilitate its existence, but these unrecognized lies must move with time, else become recognized false-truths sowing seeds of societal self-destruction rather than social integration. An unravelling. Given this, it becomes increasingly important to challenge the age-old paradigms that are currently embedded within our lives and systems. We should.
In a world where change is inevitable, our worldviews and ideologies should be malleable as well. We cannot unconsciously assume that we are at a final state of human potential, because nothing is further from the truth. Without conscious and careful examination, our assumptions about who we are, where we are going, and how the world works could—will—lead us astray. We must poke the paradigms, thoroughly evaluate and criticize them, reflect and ruminate on them, otherwise they will control every bit of our future. Doing so can help us shed our individual and collective “chains” and free ourselves from our “iron cage,” ending our ideological enslavement to tyrannous forces, whatever they may be. ~
“Temple of Philosophy at Ermenonville” by Hubert Robert is in the public domain (CC0 1.0
Universal). Cropped and modified from original using Adobe Photoshop.