Everything’s Broken. That’s Okay.
It is clear that we are at the end of a paradigm. We’re hearing people say, “We can’t go back to normal.” Those that suggest we should return to “normal” admit that the future will hold some form of “new normal.” Joel Barker defines a paradigm like this: “A paradigm is a set of rules and regulations (written and unwritten) that does two things: (1) it establishes or defines boundaries; and (2) it tells you how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful.”
We use many, many paradigms in our daily lives. As an example, a particular man could use the following paradigms: male, husband, father, attorney, football fan, philatelist, church goer, hunter, cook, automobile driver, handyman, voter, Boy Scout troop leader and tennis player (to name a few).
Many systems were broken before COVID-19, but the virus has accentuated the weaknesses in those systems. One big realization is that it’s unwise to tie healthcare to employment. Layoffs have left people without a job and health insurance at a time health insurance is desperately needed. The pandemic also underscores everyone’s need for healthcare. Another obvious conclusion is that people in essential jobs are underpaid while risking their lives for those of us that are economically secure. Another learning is that racism makes people sick. People of color are dying disproportionately from the virus due to pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease exacerbated by poverty and the use of public transportation. In Michigan, African Americans make up 14% of the population, but they account for 33% of the coronavirus cases and 41% of deaths (4/7/2020, BBC).
Barker’s definition doesn’t mention problems and problem-solving, but it’s implied in the word “successful.” I recently had a problem. I needed a new light fixture installed in my kitchen. The solution was quite technical, so I called an electrician. The electrician came and followed the rules of his trade (electrician paradigm) and solved my problem.
Paradigms don’t last forever. Their rules become antiquated. There were problems that the rules never solved. When many unsolvable problems begin to collect, it becomes a prime time for a paradigm shift—the creation of a new set of rules. The title of this post, Everything’s Broken. That’s Okay, is meant to say that we are at the end of a paradigm BUT we know what to do—change the rules (legislation, procedures, mindsets, etc.) so we can solve the heretofore unsolvable problems. Healthcare for all, regardless of work status, would take new legislation and that legislation could reduce (solve) the 530,000 yearly medical bankruptcies in the U.S.
Paradigm shifts aren’t always a piece of cake. In shifting away from racism, some people will fight to keep their privilege, their power and their ideology. In raising the minimum wage to $15 and hour or more, those winning economically could think that they will lose under a wage hike.
Another challenge is that a paradigm shift puts everyone back to zero. Experts of the old paradigm will acutely feel the risk and stress of change. They will no longer be experts. The higher one’s position, the greater the risk. With large corporations funding the campaigns of legislators, how many will embrace a small donor landscape?
There is, of course, a paradigm for successfully dealing with a pandemic. How successful are we as:
Individuals? City? County? State? Nation?