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Jim Crawford: Change is coming

Thomas Kuhn, historian of science, popularized the phrase “paradigm shift” in his 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, about how science changes over time.

While at one point in human history science argued that the world was flat, that “truth” has, of course, changed. Science is what we know now and notably recognizes that we do not know what we do not know.

That is, our ignorance remains blind to us until newer truths are revealed. America is beginning a paradigm shift today, a moment in time where our perceptions of human society are changing in fundamental ways.

We are closer than ever to understanding that wars no longer work. From Korea to Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, the evidence is overwhelming that killings on a massive scale do not bring about the desired results. This paradigm must shift sooner, rather than later.

Our military budgets will undergo a shift to cyber and space focus, if not more radical changes in the years ahead. Our foreign relationships will shift more towards crop and water technologies, and away from providing the rest of the world our weapons of war (the U.S. is the largest purveyor of arms to all sides on the planet).

As a nation we will soon be forced to accept that climate change cannot be addressed without an urgent and full commitment and a partnering with countries, including adversaries, across the globe. This will bring about a newer world collaboration. as food and water shortages replace all less crucial existential crises.

The world will struggle to survive additional pandemics and science will help all understand that, without worldwide cooperation, these invisible killers might end humans.

But, most fundamentally, the paradigm shift here will be about confronting the false binary of Individualism versus the social contract. We can no longer accept that these two approaches to social organization stand in conflict with each other.

Yes, American history is replete with examples of individuals populating the raw country and surviving alone in the wilderness. And we will always value the strength of independence Americans draw upon to face challenges.

Likewise, we must accept that our social contract has to change, expand, as we are no longer a rural society, but are an urban and suburban nation where our connections to each other must address issues like economic inequality, unequal access to health care, poverty that is elevated over other democracies, laws that imprison too many non-violent citizens, the residue of racism that continues to stain our commitment to each other, and the help our families need in childcare, education costs and social support overall. We will discover again the role government serves.

We must learn to balance individual freedoms with social responsibility, as one person’s right to freedom ends where it takes freedom from another. In the current COVID-19 crisis claiming the freedom to not be vaccinated may get us all killed should the virus transform while still spreading. We must accept that selfishness has its limits and collaboration among communities is essential.

We are not a society of loners, where individual choices always trump social responsibility. We live together, we prosper together, and we face challenges together that we cannot solve alone.

As individuals, we cannot solve the coming water shortages, or the restorations from wildfires, or the devastation of hurricanes and tornadoes.

There is a paradigm shift coming to America, a recognition that the planet is smaller than we thought, that our connections to other humans are closer than we imagined, and that our prosperity and success is forever linked to all of us working together again.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.