Last Updated on by Anil Premlall

How the Impossible Becomes Accepted

Our world needs a major paradigm shift. A paradigm is a shared way of seeing things. Based on this, entire civilizations make assumptions about the limits of change.

Slavery was accepted as part of God’s plan. Many considered it a fine way to get rich. Slavers could become high status, wealthy, powerful people.

Child labor, unequal rights for women, unlimited environmental destruction were other paradigms that have changed, though there’s still plenty room for improvement in many places.

Small movements brought great changes

In all these cases, a small group of dedicated people started showing there’s a better way. Many of the existing powers resisted, supported by many people who wanted to keep the old, time-honored, traditional way to do things.

“How can we possibly accept such radical changes?” many asked.

The struggle for change was difficult at times. Often there was no easy way to reach the masses. A dedicated few kept working, over time joined by many. Eventually we had great changes. Now many very conservative people are also grateful for these reforms.

Of course, not all radical changes are good, so it’s good to question big changes. But it’s also good to be open-minded.

New ways of seeing

The pattern of new ideas, resistance and reform was repeated many times in history.

Important paradigms in biology changed with the invention of powerful microscopes, but not right away.

Medieval people believed human sperm had miniature people inside, complete with arms, legs, eyes, ears, etc. Others thought they had a much better theory: it’s unfertilized egg that has a complete person inside. With either theory, combining sperm and eggs merely gave this mini-man a chance to grow.

In the mid-17th century, a Dutchman, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, developed the first powerful microscope. He achieved at least 270 times magnification. Despite this magnification, van Leeuwenhoek still saw the mini-man, some historians report. Others say this is a mistranslation of van Leeuwenhoek’s writings. In any case, despite the evidence from microscopes, many others still supported the mini-man theory.

Medieval people also thought disease was spread by vapors. Malaria means bad air.

Van Leeuwenhoek found single cell life. He met with strong opposition, just as Galileo did for suggesting that Earth was not the center of the universe.

Eventually, microscopic science was widely accepted. Now even people who are resistant to other new ideas take these insights for granted. A better understanding of germs led to much better disease prevention and treatment and everyone can benefit.

Great change is possible

Nowadays, not everyone is ready for other badly needed changes.

Successful, proven programs have already helped millions of people escape hunger and poverty. With a smaller percentage of national income than the Marshall Plan, we can end poverty worldwide. We too would benefit from a safer, most just and sustainable world. I know many people will not automatically accept this.

But when it comes to paradigm change, we have a big advantage over Galileo and van Leeuwenhoek: We can spread ideas globally for less than $20 a month. (Hearts & Minds’ current cost for website hosting.)

The old paradigm says we cannot end poverty. We’re working to help change this. And when the paradigm shifts, great change is possible…

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