Stopping on a Paradigm

Posted on by

Yesterday in a Sebastopol parking lot I ran into an old acquaintance who, like me, drives an aging car. I joked with him about the fact that we were still keeping our jalopies going, when he came over to me with a conspiratorial smile.

“I don’t know what you believe, but there’s this website…” Oh no, I thought. Please don’t start talking about 9-11 conspiracies. Please, please, please. “…where a lot of people are finally coming out with their UFO experiences.” Okay, UFOs. Are we going into crop circle territory? Or chemtrails? Please no, please no.

My friend continued, “Anyway, they say that any day now there could be a huge electromagnetic blast from the sun, and if that happens all of these,” he gestured with his arm at the late-model cars surrounding us, “will get their electronics fried. And the only cars that will still work will be ours!” Trump card in hand and still wearing a satisfied smile, he strode off on his errands.

It strikes me as highly unlikely that our old cars, increasingly held together by rust and duct tape, will save us in some post-apocalyptic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang scenario. Sure, they get better mileage than most cars on the road, but will there be gas to put in them if a rogue solar flare eats up the world’s electronics? Even in a perfect, pre-doomsday world, just how much longer can we keep them running?

One is hard-pressed to know where to start in refuting some of the claims overheard in Northern California towns these days. I am rather proud of the fact that I manage to stay friends with good people who hold what I consider to be lunatic fringe ideas. Yet I am frankly alarmed at what passes for reason among intelligent, well-educated people who ought to know better.

I saw another eco-activist friend in town recently, while the bailout bill was being debated in Congress. Her greeting to me was an enthusiastic, “The Empire is falling!” This is a woman who lives so close to the margins of solvency that all I could see was the great gray bricks of the Tower falling right on her head. And she was elated, obviously unconcerned with just how she was going to survive if her sidewalk stand ran out of paying customers.

Tracking world events while having almost daily exchanges of this nature has caused me no small amount of cognitive dissonance. I am struck by how easy it is to lapse into belief when thinking is just too complicated. Marx may have considered religion the opiate of the masses, but had he been alive today he would have quickly revised his notion: around here, “paradigm shifts” are definitely the opiate du jour. And things have only gotten worse with the spread in recent years of the leftist version of Christian Endtime predictions: the 2012 prophecies.

I recently met an accomplished businesswoman some years my senior who told me in all seriousness that “these times” demanded a new way of thinking. She was convinced that the “old way,” defined by competition-based, hierarchical, either/or thinking, was on its way out. In order to survive in the years ahead we all had to embrace the new paradigm, which emphasized supportive social networks, enlightened cooperation, and “both/and” thinking. Again, she had that conspiratorial tone to her voice, but it was overlaid with the lustre of knowing that she was somehow sent here to help shepherd people from one bank to the other, across the ruinous tide of “these times.”

I have heard versions of this scenario so many times now that I really must ask the question: if the new paradigm is about both/and thinking, why does it hinge on throwing the old paradigm out? Shouldn’t a both/and paradigm have room for the old paradigm, too? In fact, by its own definition it must have. Therefore the internal logic of the idea doesn’t even make sense, and only proves that anyone who embraces it either never learned to reason, or is desperate for a way to believe in doomsday while not being a Christian. And because this is now a both/and world, I assume that both my conclusions are correct.

There is no doubt that huge, unprecedented change is taking place on our planet. Climate change and the spectre of global economic collapse are ample reason for us all to be running for whatever safe haven we can find. Yet having lived through the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Harmonic Convergence, the Oral Roberts Death Watch, Y2K and Bush v. Gore without having any major appliances explode or noticing any Rapture-like behavior, I simply cannot believe this is anything more than a very difficult period that we will live through somehow.

If people need a new laudanum to get by, then fine. The marketing of 2012 fantasies is, after all, the Mother’s Little Helper of the aughts. Yet it should never be mistaken for more than that. In fact, my personal preference for doomsday scenarios is the Rapture, for one reason only: at least in the fundamentalist Christian world view, they are all raised up to heaven while the rest of us get to keep the planet. In the New Age version nobody gets teleported, and we are stuck listening to crap about new paradigms until we die. This is not intelligent design!

8 thoughts on “Stopping on a Paradigm

  1. Pandora

    Here’s my take on things:

    All is well, as usual, and all is falling apart, as usual, and really, everything is chugging along just fine. Also. There are no really large conspiracies afoot, cause if people could REALLY work that well together, nobody would need conspiracies cause everything would be all perfect, and in reality, every large conspiracy ever in the history of the world ate itself up before it got anything done. Everything that LOOKS like a large conspiracy is just a bunch of stuff that happened.

    And if you need a little rest in Western Pennsylvania, you just drop on by, cause there are various odd things around here, but they’re different from the odd things in Northern California, so you can have a little rest.

    Your frend.

    love, panda

  2. Anne Post author

    Thank you, Pandora. That’s just right. I have tried to convince some of my really paranoid friends that they should never chalk up to conspiracy what is adequately explained by dysfunction or incompetence. Unfortunately, a side-effect of paranoia seems to be a lack of humor, irony, and perspective.

    I would love a little rest in Western PA. Perhaps after the hordes of campaign workers depart. It would be such a refreshing change to steep for a while in the nuttiness of another part of this great country.

  3. moonroot

    Oh Anne, I love this piece, it had me nodding my head and laughing at the same time! I may be in West Wales instead of California, but I also find myself hearing such weird theories from people. Much as I’d like to believe that my car – also ‘held together with rust and duct-tape’ – has some heretofore unexpected advantages, I have to agree with your reality check, and I think Pandora has hit the nail on the head when she says, ‘All is well, as usual, and all is falling apart, as usual, and really, everything is chugging along just fine’.

  4. Helen/Hawk

    I love your perspective on the Rapture.

    Talk about a win/win situation!

  5. Katrina

    I remember signing up for the rapture animal care service some time ago.

    I mean someone has to look after all those pets left after those christians teleport to heaven. I’m just trying to help … ;-)

    In DC, although we may get less of the crazy stuff, our version is way more cynical and toxic. I kind of wish we had more of the hopeful stuff even if it is crazy as hell.

    And you are welcome in DC too.

  6. Anne Post author

    Katrina, I can’t even imagine how toxic it must be back in the Beltway right now. But hey, I will happily regale you some evening with stories from the Left Coast fringe—I promise it will be entertaining!

  7. Jeff

    I found your site via Wild Hunt and like your ability to remain good friends with those on the lunatic fringe. My neighbor is a witch and she and I get into some pretty horrific arguments about such things. She isn’t talking to me right now because she thinks the Federal Reserve should be abolished and I don’t. She really likes the movie Zeitgeist and I think it is representative of pretty shoddy thinking. I like what I’ve read of your blog so far!

Comments are closed.