Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Subvert The Dominant Paradigm

You may have seen this bumper sticker in your travels. I found this one in the parking lot where I work, though I have no idea whose it is. If I find out, I'll probably ask them about it. The message is a call to rebellion against the current mode of thinking, whatever it happens to be. Maybe some people display the bumper sticker to be funny or to raise eyebrows, but I'm sure some consider it a serious expression of their own thinking.

My question to them is what will you do when the dominant paradigm becomes subverting the dominant paradigm?

Maybe it already is.

This reminds me of a quote by G.K. Chesterton in his book, "Orthodoxy." It's a keen observation about modern man, summed up brilliantly in the last sentence.

‘But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.'

--G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 1909


  1. Once again, a very necessary and well-written blog post.

  2. I agree. Wow, 1909. Nothing new under the Sun or above it.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. G.K. Chesterson, He's pretty cool...

    Nice blog.

  5. My question to them is what will you do when the dominant paradigm becomes subverting the dominant paradigm?
    That paradigm would quickly subvert itself out of existence. Then the bumper sticker guys can get back to business.

  6. Its less of a rebellion thing, and more of a "because we can thing". The devil's advocate way of life...

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference
    Robert Fros,. circa 1920

  7. I'm sure there is an element of "because we can" involved. However, that attitude is illogical and ultimately self-defeating.

  8. The "Dominant Paradigm" is Capitalism. Today it is Monopoly Capital - now in control of the U.S. Government - i.e. "dominant". Nothing in our society and culture escapes the capitalist paradigm (greed).

    If one is lucky (unlucky?) enough to stumble across a political theory Prof. who understands the "dominant paradigm" - what it is and the damage it does this statement makes perfect sense. I have a bumper strip I bought in 1996 just off the Boston Commons hanging on the wall of my den...I love it and believe in its meaning totally!

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