Belmont Club

Paradigm Shift

I had the idea that narrative in crisis  goes through 3 phases: denial, overconfident half measures to restore normalcy and when that fails, panic.  What follows the panic is probably a paradigm shift.  It’s time for one. The current PC paradigm has been failing for some time. The rise in terrorism and Ebola have highlighted its shortcomings, although the old players are still trying to force the new situation into the same old tired talking points with ever more absurd results.

For example, Jesse Jackson has descended on Dallas “to address the virus scare and ‘seek the best humanitarian relief.'”   Even more tragi-comic is Spain’s response to accusations that a nurse was somehow infected through her protective garments. They’ve decided to shoot the patient’s dog.

Spanish authorities plan to kill the dog of the nurse who tested positive to Ebola in Madrid.

The woman’s husband, who has been put in quarantine, said in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo that he … received a phone call by Julio Zarco [director general of the Patient Care of the Community Madrid] who told [him] that the dog should be killed. He asked me if I can give the authorisation, but I didn’t give it.

“But he told me that if I don’t give my authorisation they will ask the judge for a permission to enter my property and kill the dog,” he continued.

Spain has gone from complete confidence in its systems to public accusations that the nurses attending its two repatriated Ebola patients were not provided with Level 4 protective clothing.

However, the hospital’s health workers said that the suits worn to attend the priest and the missionary did not meet the necessary safety requirements, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported. The nurse should have worn fully waterproofed-clothing with biosafety level 4 and with breathing autonomy. However, the suit used had only biosafety level 2.

Anna Altman of the New York Times is even urging her readers to stay calm. “The first diagnosed Ebola case in the United States could trigger mass hysteria. Does that help or hinder the disease?”  It’s a long way from the days of sublime confidence.

But the problems of the current paradigm are becoming increasingly hard to conceal.  Judge Jenkins ostentatious entrance into the patient’s apartment to demonstrate his solidarity with the victim has been trumped by grousing. “Five Dallas County sheriff’s deputies who were ordered Wednesday to go inside the Dallas apartment where an Ebola patient stayed are now worried about their health. And the sheriff’s association that represents them is not happy about the department’s lack of preparations and precautions before sending them.” The deputies may have read about the Spanish nurse’s predicament and figured that cowboy hats and string ties offer less protection than Level 4 hazmat suits against them viral varmints.

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Maybe it’s like the Bible says. “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” The challenges facing the world won’t fit into Jesse Jackson’s old civil rights narrative, especially when it’s ISIS and Ebola who are singing ‘we shall overcome’. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.”  Ebola’s tearing a big rip in Jesse’s pants.

The new wine-skins have not yet been identified but finally, people are looking for new ideas. NPR had an extensive piece on how the Firestone Rubber Company kept its plantation of 80,000 people free from Ebola smack dab in the middle of Liberia. Jason Beaubien writes: “Firestone Did What Governments Have Not: Stopped Ebola In Its Tracks”.

Or  news that a Kurdish mother of 2 carried out a suicide attack on ISIS rather than surrender.  Then there’s its almost-companion piece about Jordan Matson, an American who “worked as a delivery driver for a food service company for six months to save enough money” to join the Kurds to fight ISIS.  Matson says:

“I couldn’t just sit and watch Christians being slaughtered anymore,” he said in an interview with USA TODAY. “I got sick of giving online sympathy. Five minutes of lip service does nothing. These people are fighting for their homes, for everything they have.”

The Obama administration announced it will task customs agents to stop Ebola at airports. But not everyone is reassured. Connecticut “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed an order that gives the state’s public health commissioner the ability to quarantine anyone she believes may have been exposed to the Ebola virus”.  Everywhere there are signs people have lost faith that “they” can keep us safe any more.  They need help from “us”. The FBI has just announced it will try to crowdsource the identification of ISIS militants.

“The FBI needs your help identifying the individuals in this video as well as anyone traveling abroad to join terrorist groups,” said the FBI post, which also noted the FBI has set up a dedicated tipline at ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is the name the U.S. government prefers to use for the Iraqi terror group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that has taken over swaths of Iraq and Syria, whereas many news organizations, including ABC News, use ISIS for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Whether this turns out good or bad it is a long way from passive “shelter in place”. The current PC paradigm has by no means collapsed. But it’s in trouble; and the cracks in it are beginning to appear. What is still uncertain is what will replace it when it falls apart. In his 1962 article on the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Kuhn identified 5 steps in the lifecycle of an idea.  This is how Kuhn thought things went.

1. The pre-paradigm phase in which there is no dominant idea;
2. The normal period, ‘in which puzzles are solved within the context of the dominant paradigm’.
3. Crisis, in which there are problems which the dominant paradigm cannot even begin to think about.
4. Revolution, when the ‘underlying assumptions of the field are reexamined and a new paradigm is established.”
5. Post-revolution when the new theory becomes the dominant theory.

If Kuhn’s model is right, this generation of Western leaders may be close to the end of their line. John Podhoretz recently examined on the curious intellectual sterility of the Obama administration. “With almost six years of the Obama administration under our collective belts, the time has come to acknowledge a painful truth: This is an astoundingly idea-free presidency.”

But Obama’s not without ideas. He’s full of ideas, all of them out of date. All of them from the last century’s paradigms. He wanted to become like European social democracy at the very moment when it finally collapsed into the dust-bin of history. He hankered after the ideals of ‘progressivism’ when it had already become reactionary. He is like a man who has saved all his life to buy a pair of bell-bottomed pants only to reach the required sum just when they were 40 years out of style.  He’s at the store looking to buy them and can’t find them on the rack.

But time waits for no one. The future, whatever it may be, is already upon us. Maybe bell bottoms will come back in fashion, but maybe not.  All we have is what lies before us and we should take our cue, in this uncertain hour, from Alan Quatermain on the edge of the unknown.

Having thus disposed of our superfluous gear we arranged the kit we five—Sir Henry, Good, myself, Umbopa, and the Hottentot Ventvögel—were to take with us on our journey. It was small enough, but do what we would we could not get its weight down under about forty pounds a man.

The three express rifles and two hundred rounds of ammunition.
The two Winchester repeating rifles (for Umbopa and Ventvögel), with two hundred rounds of cartridge.
Five Cochrane’s water-bottles, each holding four pints.
Five blankets.
Twenty-five pounds’ weight of biltong—i.e. sun-dried game flesh.
Ten pounds’ weight of best mixed beads for gifts.
A selection of medicine, including an ounce of quinine, and one or two small surgical instruments.
Our knives, a few sundries, such as a compass, matches, a pocket filter, tobacco, a trowel, a bottle of brandy, and the clothes we stood in.

“Gentlemen,” said Sir Henry presently, in his deep voice, “we are going on about as strange a journey as men can make in this world. It is very doubtful if we can succeed in it. But we are three men who will stand together for good or for evil to the last. Now before we start let us for a moment pray to the Power who shapes the destinies of men, and who ages since has marked out our paths, that it may please Him to direct our steps in accordance with His will.”

Taking off his hat, for the space of a minute or so, he covered his face with his hands, and Good and I did likewise.

I do not say that I am a first-rate praying man, few hunters are, and as for Sir Henry, I never heard him speak like that before, and only once since, though deep down in his heart I believe that he is very religious. Good too is pious, though apt to swear. Anyhow I do not remember, excepting on one single occasion, ever putting up a better prayer in my life than I did during that minute, and somehow I felt the happier for it. Our future was so completely unknown, and I think that the unknown and the awful always bring a man nearer to his Maker.

“And now,” said Sir Henry, “trek!”


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