The Cracks Widen


Leonard Cohen once penned a great line: There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.

I wonder whether social movements start with an almost unnoticeable crack.

When the crack is noticed, the first inclination is to put a bandaid on it.

There are no end of cracks appearing in the world today. The ‘News’ reports on them, so much so that many of us have given up reading or listening to ‘News’, doing what we can in our own little patch and hope it helps!

Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm theory posits that life evolves through epochs, or paradigms. Profound, discontinuous, or revolutionary change occurs and new modes of thinking and doing emerge to create each new paradigm.

I have been convinced about such a view ever since I read ‘The Bible and Post-Modern Imagination’ (Augsburg Fortress 1993) by the Biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann. He traces the dynamics behind the decline of ‘modernism’ and today’s emerging paradigm of ‘post-modernism’.

The large, experienced reality faced daily by those with whom we minister is the collapse of the white, male, Western world of colonialism. While that world will continue to make its claim for a very long time, its unchallenged authority and credibility are over and done with. This new reality… touches the economy and reaches right into our patterns of employment and retirement. It touches home and domestic authority in families. And as our systems of management and control break down, the collapse makes us at least anxious and perhaps greedy, and in the end it leads to a justification of many kinds of brutality. The experience of this collapse is profound, intense, and quite concrete. There is a lot of political mileage in rhetoric that pretends the old system works, but it is a deception. Thus the end of modernity, I propose, is not some remote, intellectual fantasy, but reaches down into the lives of folk like us. (p10,11)

I see the paradigm transition struggle continuing to emerge in the gap between the way younger people think, as against their parents’ generation. We know that over 70% of younger people are disengaged from their work, treated as cogs in Industrialist machines at the expense of what they would like to contribute to the betterment of the organisation (and the world!). But most comply with rigid structures for the wage packet at the end of the week to pay the spiralling rent.

By not complying to the Industrial paradigm, some younger people are taking the leap to achieve their dreams and ideas, to start up new businesses. These ‘Start-Ups’ are being particularly encouraged in the Tech sector, though all kinds of new NGO’s also seem to be proliferating in the Social sector – probably out of similar frustrations with the status quo.

It has been fascinating to watch the Liberal Government spruking tech start-ups as the next best thing , particularly through the Prime Minister! ‘Lean’ and ‘Agile’ are becoming part of the political lexicon. How convenient that when the labour market gets tough, one is encouraged as an individual to ‘have a go!’ Classic Neo-Liberalism, transferring collective responsibility to the individual!

Descartes proposed “I think, therefore I am’ to set the ball rolling, at a time of great pessimism and social upheaval in Europe. Erosion of social responsibility had to be an inevitable casualty of liberal individualism; the elite were quite content to extend inequality and class distinction.

But I sense that the emerging new paradigm is transcending the old. Frederick Laloux’s work on organisational paradigms is critical to understanding the broader context of the emerging present.(See my post: Organisation for Wellness –

While the Industrial organisational paradigm will continue to co-opt the Internet paradigm, the new emerging paradigm Laloux observes, is making big moves, replacing organisational hierarchy with self-managing teams, enacting shared decision-making across traditional divides. There is a concern for the ‘whole’ – for the whole person, and the complexity and context of situations. There is an awareness of a higher evolutionary purpose to all endeavour. Such an organisation is likely to be ‘listening’ and open-minded. The saying I hear increasingly, ‘I just want to make the world a better place’ typifies the emerging spirit. It sees everything as inter-connected, and collaboration a more satisfying way of ‘getting the job done’.

In this transitionary period toward new ways of thinking and doing, the traditional virtues of patience, humility, mutual respect, trust and keeping an open and ever expansive mind are vital. ‘Please, Thanks and Sorry’ makes a good three point sermon! Instead of trying to patch over dinosaur structures, faith traditions might play a significant and constructive role in nurturing the life inherent in this transition, by continuing to offer those time-tested values that sustain civilisations and to speak out against all that divides, corrupts or demeans our common humanity.

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