Comment // Culture & Media

The Paradigm Wars—Part 3: A Wrench in the Fabric of Reality: a new paradigm?

In the previous two essays (Part 1 | Part 2), I have analysed the paradigm dispute between the GloboCaps and the mass-formationists, examining their similarities and differences. In this essay, I outline how this dispute is superseded by a paradigm break at a much deeper ontological and epistemological level; that is, at the level of being and knowing and our theories of personhood, truth, reality and meaning.

I argue that this paradigm break is of much greater significance than any internal paradigm disputes. To this end, the Covid crisis is a symptom, not a cause, of the problem and that any disputes internal to ‘the opposition’ (i.e., dissidents) are secondary to this deeper rift in the culture. 


It is flattering to think the resisters of the Covid crisis fit the earlier-mentioned third category of dissident (the 30 per cent who saw through the propaganda), and I think for the most part they do; however, there is something else at play here too which has not been discussed in the extant conflict. My contention is that this is a core paradigm break between, in simple terms, those on the side of ‘the Machine,’ broadly defined as global, capitalist, technocratic, hyper-liberal civilisation (Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Gender etc.) and those who are not—and who would prefer to live at a human scale within natural limits, which includes limits on the incursions into their natural rights. In this worldview, technology and ‘the system’ is there to serve the people, not the other way around. We are not Luddites, but neither are we willing to go, as C.J. Hopkins says (with a nod to Dylan Thomas), ‘quietly into the totalitarian night’. 

While this is the underlying fight between the ‘Covidians’ and ‘Covidiots’, it is also the fight between the ‘bright greens’ and the ‘deep greens’ (between George Monbiot and Paul Kingsnorth respectively); between allopathic medicine and holistic health; between civil liberties and the rolling ‘state of exception’; it is free speech versus ‘shadow banning’ and ‘boosting’ (for your own good, of course); it is the tussle between bureaucracy and technocracy, or systems of organised and accountable social support versus digitised ‘governance’ unilaterally imposed by an unelected expert class; between the trans-activist agenda and sex-based rights—i.e., those who ‘believe in’ biological reality versus those who say it is entirely at the discretion of the individual. I use inverted commas here to highlight the madness that biological sex is now defined as a belief that can be opted out of. You get the totalitarian drift. 

This line has fallen across every social issue in the West and is indeed the metaphysical fault line at the centre of the culture war today. While Peter Limberg and Conor Barnes insightfully identify in-fighting between ‘mimetic tribes’ as central to the ‘culture war 2.0’—that is, fighting within the Left and Right—they have failed to notice what has occurred at the level of metaphysics: this isn’t (just) the transmogrification of ‘digital tribes’ into ‘mimetic tribes’, it is also—and much more fundamentally—a paradigm break that cuts right through the heart of the culture.

The formerly united but internally conflictual paradigms and their respective constituents have undergone a divorce: there are now two epistemologies and metaphysics in the West and, as a consequence, literally two ‘realities’, with innumerable (conflictual) tributaries within each of these overarching worldviews. To be sure, one is vastly more powerful than the other: the technocratic side has the monopoly on force (the corporate-state military apparatus) and the corporate-funded media. It also has the institutions captured, in particular the research, health, and education systems. Dissent is outlawed where it cannot be effectively shadow-banned or memory-holed. It is no surprise therefore that both Prof. Mattias Desmet and C.J. Hopkins—and, to a lesser extent, the Bregginses—are fundamentally concerned with questions of ‘reality’. This parallels the culture war around sex and gender, where dissidents (myself included) are also fundamentally concerned with questions of ‘reality’ (see also here and here). 

These two realities are reinforced with their own media ecosystems, science, philosophy, politics, music, writing, poetry, podcasts and art (and here I list a selection on the dissident side, but one need only read any mainstream media or cultural output to encounter the prevailing hegemonic view). In the new dual reality, there is science to prove that vaccines stop transmission and that they don’t; that Sweden’s national ‘light touch’ strategy vis-à-vis lockdown was an unmitigated ‘disasterand, conversely, that it is the ‘Scandinavian success’; that masks protect against spreading the coronavirus and that they do not; that natural immunity is superior to vaccines and that it is not; that the vaccines are ‘safe and effectiveand that they cause serious injury; that excess deaths are correlated with the vaccine and that they are not.

This plurality of opposing findings is no doubt evidence of Prof. John Ioannidis’ point regarding the replication crisis in science, but it is also evidence of divergent realities, with an underlying epistemic break, since these studies are reported in largely separate media ecosystems and used to marshal opposing points of view.


End of unified reality

I am not a relativist. Many of these findings can be hierarchically organised in terms of truth claims: lockdowns were profoundly damaging (see also here and here); the jabs are associated with adverse events and correlated with increased death rates (something even the mainstream media are now willing to countenance—see here and here); the virus was no worse than the flu, which means there was no justification for the draconian mandates; similarly, extensive meta-analyses reveal masks do not work. The point is there are now two worldviews increasingly defined by different underlying assumptions, psychological dispositions, political stances, science, culture, ethics, and spirituality (or lack thereof). Deeper than this, and at the root, they are defined by different ontological assumptions. In short, the two worldviews are defined by two fundamentally different paradigms. While there is a dominant ‘new normal’ reality that has a monopoly on force and can thus impose its worldview, there is nonetheless a robust, noisy, minority (10–30 per cent) who, in Hopkins’ inimitable words,

[…] are not “vaccine hesitant” or “anti-vax” or “Covid-denying conspiracy theorists.” We are millions of regular […] people, people with principles, who value freedom, who are not prepared to go gently into the globalized, pathologized-totalitarian night. We no longer give the slightest shit whether our former friends and family members who have gone New Normal understand what this is. We do. We understand exactly what this is. 

The opposition is vibrant and strong, even if it lacks state power or a unique territory (save perhaps Substack and podcasting!). We are a decentralised, differentiated many who have hit the brakes on ‘the machine’. In the first instance, this movement is saying ‘No more! Not one step further on this technocratic, de-naturalised, de-sacralised, anti-democratic, totalitarian road’. In this sense, it is an anti-movement literally and symbolically. It is against the ‘progress’ that is always-already framed as inevitable and desirable. 

What we have, then, is the end of a unified reality, not only politically but also culturally, philosophically and spiritually. Reality itself is at the centre of the paradigm war that is, at this deeper level, only cursorily about Covid–19 (or any other New Normal issue). The West has cracked open and split in two and, as in the Anishinaabe seven fires prophecy, there are those who remain in the materialistic paradigm that is moving inexorably towards techno-humanism—alias ‘Homo deus’ or the human-machine hybrid in which men become (their own) gods, seeking conquest and control of nature, including their own natures—and those that are engaged in what Terence McKenna called an ‘archaic revival’. 

There is a high value placed in the latter movement on both the sacred and the wild, freedom and constraint, liberal values and tradition, and—most of all—what is distinctively human and sacred. Some, such as Dr Naomi Wolf, state that we are in a spiritual battle between good and evil that is beyond state politics. Other prominent dissidents such as James Delingpole and Paul Kingsnorth make similar claims. Desmet, too, hints at the metaphysics left behind in the mechanistic worldview, which inevitably draws us into the meaning and purpose of life in relation to Creation. 

This is the fork in the road cleaving the dissidents off from the mainstream. The dissidents are on a new, but actually very old, path reconnecting the two spheres of human existence that were separated during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods in the West. The great Cartesian splits between science and religion, facts and values, objectivity and subjectivity, reason and emotion wrenched our hitherto integrated worldview apart. With its unique synthesis of classical Greek and Judeo-Christian cultures, Western culture developed modern science, the separation of powers, the creation of modern liberal-democracy, the sovereign individual, and the concomitant invention of profoundly transformative technologies, kickstarting industrialisation and unprecedented wealth. 

To our collective benefit, we have enjoyed the many and varied fruits of modernity: from individual liberty to unmitigated travel, from leaders accountable to citizens to exotic fruits, from science to ‘sexual liberation’. But now we’re living in the long hangover. Our collective head hurts and so does our heart. It is time to parse the gifts of modernity and think critically about their shadows. What is to be retained? What is to be sloughed off and composted? What is to be forsaken for a better, more ethical and grounded life?

This culture bequeathed a dissident romantic opposition to progress at its very inception, which understood that reason divorced from the sacred and hitched to the cart of human ego and greed was a road to hell. In Hades we have arrived: the earth is in flames, our discourse is inflamed and ‘inflammation’ is the order of the day in the bodies of those on the ‘standard American diet’, with the apt acronym SAD. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the German sociologist Max Weber forewarned of this future ‘iron cage’ creating ‘hedonists without heart and specialists without spirit’ (1904), ensnaring modern people in a system of dead technocratic rules and regulations, devoid of meaning. We have indeed arrived at this stahlhartes Gehäuse or ‘steel-hard casing’, as Weber called it in his native tongue. 

What many of us now understand is that the colossal failure of pandemic policy is in many respects the logical outcome of instrumental rationality servicing the interests of GloboCap. The balls-up that was the ‘plandemic’—mandating an experimental ‘vaccine’ that didn’t stop transmission, violating civil liberties, outlawing debate, creating a scapegoat class and denying mounting evidence of vaccine injury—is a logical consequence of a mechanistic force divorced from the sacred value of life and, on thus, from reality itself. 

This same force is creating a pandemic of mental, physical, and spiritual illness and a form of cultural psychosis—e.g. the splitting apart of a coherent narrative and set of shared norms that serve as an implicit organising episteme by which to guide right action. The problem now is that nothing makes sense. The mirror of reality has shattered and we are all floating on our own little shards of bias waiting for the next crisis to divide us further (the Israel-Hamas war is the latest). This is the everything crisis, calling forth the transcendence of dualistic and mechanistic consciousness into (or back to) an integrated gnosis. What does this look like after modernity, is the real question.

What we see now, then, are literally two realities: the old mechanistic paradigm has morphed into its totalitarian end-point: a living hell of government-by-unelected-expert imposing heartless hyper-specialist, myopic risk analysis and inflexible rules in abstraction from people and nature. The other reality—the new one that ‘we’, the disparate dissidents, are co-creating—is one that seeks to unite the hemispheres of reason and emotion, object and subject, facts and values, science and religion. 


Sticking to what we know

However, just as there is a rationale for being ‘vaccine-critical’ or ‘vaccine-free’, with science and reasoned argument to support it (albeit not that is granted legitimacy in the mainstream), it is important for those of us in the new dissident heterodox paradigm to recognise the salience and ‘reality’ of the pro-thesis position for those who subscribe to it (for good-faith examples, see here, here and here). In truth, those subscribing to the ‘pro-thesis’ position are on their own shard of reality, just as we are on ours, underscored by a different set of animating values and beliefs. Perhaps this will put to rest the spurious idea that science ever was separable from the society that created it. 

I am not speaking about those in power here, who have essentially outlawed dissent and imposed coercive measures; that is an unequivocal travesty by any stretch. Rather, I am speaking about the many ordinary citizens who prefer (or imagine they prefer) safety and medical management over freedom and responsibility. I refer to those whose faith in the institutions has not collapsed; those who have not encountered any information critical of the emergency-use authorisation, rushed to market, for-profit vaccines; those who exist in the shadow-banned lands where vaccine injuries do not exist and are all attributed to ‘long Covid’, etc.

This space, which ‘we’ (the dissidents) recognise as replete with propagandised falsehoods, also contains truths, such as that the jab reduces symptoms or that obtaining herd immunity is for the greater good. ‘At what cost?’, you may implore (and I agree); but my point is, this is an epistemological question, not (only) an epidemiological one. Moreover—and this is the deeper point—the issue here is nothing less than a paradigm shift in Thomas Kuhn’s radical sense of a shift in our understanding of reality, with a new world view integrating with and superseding the old. Unless and until dissidents come to terms with this, we will not understand our position vis-à-vis the mainstream. This is not about either coercion or acquiescence, but the forging of something new that is, paradoxically, very old. We have stepped off the modernity train that is hurtling to hell; they have not. 

As it stands, dissidents constitute a breakaway sect refusing the New Normal, and—much like the Amish or a colonised people—we are defined by the dominant culture as backward, anachronistic, recalcitrant, biased, unsophisticated, irrational, stupid, quaint and superstitious. We believe in silly old things like the category of woman, natural limits, personal responsibility, civil liberties, privacy and God. All these notions are incorrigibly passé. We negotiate with institutions rather than being told what to do by a cacophony of unimpeachable ‘experts’, and we view the government as there to serve the people, not the other way around. Laws and policies are not a fait accompli but embedded within democratic institutions. As such, they can be robustly debated, disagreed with and voted out—up to and including injection mandates!

One doesn’t need an advanced degree in epidemiology for this stance, but simply to be a citizen and a human being. Politics is for everyone, not just the ‘experts’ whose truncated and highly specialised knowledge often creates a myopic worldview. We have far too many specialists and almost no generalists capable of parsing the evidence of many fields and measuring it against ethics and values. These views are no longer the dominant views, and so dissidents are no longer part of the dominant culture. We are, as Naomi Klein disparagingly put it, in the ‘mirror world’, the caricatured doppelgängers without a grasp on (new normal) ‘reality’. We have become curios in the dominant culture, lodged down the proverbial ‘rabbit hole’. Already, this strange ‘diagonal’ sect (which you, reader, belong to) is the object of anthropological investigation. See here, here, here, here, here and here

And this is where I perhaps part ways from both the top-down and bottom-up theses. Rather than defining the masses as either victims of GloboCap or mass formation, which rely either on an outdated Marxist theory of ‘false consciousness’ or, conversely, on a theory of Machiavellian collaboration (of both the opportunistic and cowardly kind), it is my argument that what is actually going on is a paradigm break, and that it is us—the dissidents—who are the anomaly (which is why it doesn’t matter your status, credentials, extant record or even fame, becoming a Covid critic is a one-way ticket to reputation destruction and social exclusion). We cannot unilaterally dismiss as cowardice or ignorance the decisions of most people.

My point is, maybe some in the crowd knew what they’re doing. Not in Hopkins’ ‘which way the wind is blowing’ way; rather, consciously and willingly throwing their lot in with the expert class, and their Big Pharma-funded ‘science’. Not all ‘collaborators’, but a goodly proportion of them. Propaganda, mind control, fear, coercion, violence and groupthink are an inextricable part of the mix. This is beyond question. However, I suspect, what dissidents have also to come to terms with is the reality of this core paradigm break, rather than always-already assuming that others lack ‘the facts’ or are victims of ‘fearmongering’ and ‘false consciousness’, which is incidentally exactly how ‘they’ see ‘us’. Rather, we have to come to terms with the fact that the mirror of culture has shattered, and we float on one lonely sectarian shard with our own politics and culture. There is no longer an integrated worldview in the West. This argument is different, and it feels different. Doesn’t it? 

For the dominant culture, trading liberty for safety and truth for comfort is a defensible—and heavily defended!—position that relates to a core set of secular, technocratic, rationalist, modernist values. Haven’t we been told for a while now that we live in a ‘post-truth’ world where privacy is anachronistic, democracy is dead, and where ‘you will own nothing and be happy’? This world has arrived. What’s new and different is that you don’t want to be in it. Not just lonely ol’ David Icke or Alan Watt, but you, you too. 

For a substantial number of people, there is a faith in and a preference for the security, comfort and control that comes with hyper-modernity. At least, it is important to consider this possibility and thereby confer on our opposition the same level of rationality and capacity for choice that we ourselves would like. I certainly see that many were coerced and hypnotised (caught up in pernicious behavioural manipulation)—probably the majority—but there are others who cannot be corralled into these categories because they understood and agreed (or believed they did, which amounts to the same thing). They want ‘scientific management’ and strong-man (or woman) experts, and they’re willing to trade their freedom for it. Our resident doctor on the ABC, Norman Swan, is still banging on about boosters to avoid a ‘Covid Christmas’. To his myriad mainstream listers, this is all as normie-normal as can be! It is the world they inhabit. It is the mainstream culture. We are the odd ones out. 

I offer the following hypothesis: we are living through—and part of—a paradigm break between those on the side of ‘the machine’—the matrix of man-made, techno-pharmacological dominance of nature, culture, mind, body, soul and spirit—and those for whom this mechanistic paradigm has reached its end. In Noah Yuval Harari’s terms, ‘history will end when men become gods’, by which he means when men—a select few, to be sure—are designing their own reality and transhuman selves. The issue here, as Harari correctly identifies, is what to do with all the ‘useless eaters’. The capacity to dominate nature (the cradle of life), culture (the locus of meaning) and human beings (the centre of love, relationships, and community) has arrived with the internet of bodies and things, and we now face a fork in the road. This is the crossroads that Native American Indian scholar Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks of in her beautiful rendition of the Seven Fires prophecy:

We stand there at a time of choice in the history of humanity and the history of mother earth as well, and we know what path we want to choose. We all want to walk barefoot. But what the prophecy tells us is that that is not our work. Here in the time of the seventh fire, the seventh fire people might look longingly at that green path, but we can’t walk it yet. We have instead to turn back along the ancestors’ path and pick up that which was left for us, pick up the fragments of language, pick up the ceremonies, pick up the healing stories, pick up the world view that says that we are givers to the world. Pick up the worldview that says the world is sacred. When we pick those things up and put them in our bundles, only then can we go and walk that green path. We have to remember, we have to remember who we are, remember how to be in loving relationship with the earth that loves us. 

She continues, ‘These prophecies have […] become reality, so it’s an interesting space where prophecy and history are converging, right here, right now […]’. 

This is the technocratic apotheosis that creates a fork in the road, just as it created forks in all the Covidians’ tongues. Two paths are emerging, with many tributaries on each. 

Some of us don’t want to live in an endless ‘state of exception’, to use Giorgio Agamben’s apt term, a place in which governments declare that the ‘old rules’ and rights can be swept away at a moment’s notice and replaced by authoritarian control. We would rather, as many elderly people felt, risk death than live like this (see also here and here). Clearly, some of us—a minority, no doubt, but a substantial one—would rather hug our loved ones and determine what is safe for ourselves and our children than live in a Covid or carbon-zero dictatorship.

We accept that living is also dying, that this is part of the cycle of life, necessary for the full cultivation of the psyche. This means letting go of fear and control, and beginning to compost our egos. The great cycle of life needs death, and if you have lived truly, you do not fear death, at least not with the visceral intensity that we were trained to fear ‘the virus’—and then each other. Rather, to die before you die is indeed to live, and then to face living with courage, strength, spirit, purpose, humility, truth and empathy. This understanding has been with us since the inception of industrial civilisation (and indeed arguably always): from the Luddites who protested their usurpation by throwing their sabots (or clogs) into the machine—becoming the original saboteurs!—to contemporary ‘reactionary radicals’. This is the point at which the dissidents say no, and it isn’t only to vaccine mandates; it is to the pathological civilisation that produced them.


Where does this leave us? 

The paradigm war between the GloboCaps and the mass-formationists is, in many respects, a non sequitur. These are two different lenses—politics and psychology, respectively—that are both critically important for understanding ‘pathologised totalitarianism’. It is both a top-down and a bottom-up phenomenon. However, this paradigm war is of lesser significance. I contend, then, the paradigm break that has sliced through Western culture creating a split between the old worldview and a new one.

The new worldview, necessarily built on the old (pre-2020) view, seeks a harmony between hitherto separated and objectified aspects of life (biosis) and knowledge (gnosis). It marks the end of hyper-specialisation, the end of the separation of facts from values and the end of mechanistic reductionism. Those on each side of this line are (invisibly) incomprehensible to each other, which is to say, completely familiar and yet completely foreign. Of course, these two positions are themselves being brought back into dynamic relation. The shift forms part of what Harvard psychiatrist John Mack calls

[…] the gradual (at least so far) spiritual rebirth taking place in Western culture […] the daishigyō—the great ego death—that is marking the end of the materialist business-as-usual paradigm that has lost its compatibility with life in the world as we now know it. 

There is a new division—even a chasm—where before there was at least a semblance of harmony. Those on the dissident side were vilified, abandoned, isolated and smeared during the pandemic for refusing to ‘follow the science’ and instead practising an integration of critical thinking, independence, wisdom, intuition and free choice. From the credentialed doctors to the Canadian truckers, we see a commitment to ethics over orders. Rather than simply accepting what we were told, we were prepared to live with risk and uncertainty, and to listen to our gut (quite literally)—or, failing that, to Jay Bhattacharya!

We were also willing to stand by our beliefs on pain of economic sanction and social ostracism. We believed in the scientific method, not ‘follow the science’. For most of us, this meant reputational destruction, being struck off, loss of income and livelihood, loss of friends—and sometimes, loss of family relationships. We have lived through the pandemic Rorschach test and seen exactly who we are and who those around us are. We have made decisions from an authentic and vulnerable space, and suffered costly social opprobrium and stigmatisation. Many of us have bloomed on the other side, but many of us are still processing trauma.

Again, Desmet is instructive: dissidents have a tendency to attribute motives where sometimes these don’t exist or can be more clearly linked to the prevailing ideology. In other words, the downside of seeing through the bullshit is the tendency toward ‘conspiracy’—i.e., overarching and over-determined explanations for why this is happening. Before you write me off as a shill, I concur that many of these ‘conspiracy theories’ are ‘conspiracy facts’—e.g. Event 201, Agenda 2030, the Great Reset, 15-Minute Cities, militarised police unleashing violence on the civilian population, suspended bank accounts and frozen funds, digital passports as gateways to more surveillance and control, and indeed, as Naomi Wolf explains, ‘the end of liberty in the West’. Moreover, many of last year’s ‘conspiracy theories’ have become reality—e.g. the lab leak hypothesis or the fact that the vaccines do not stop transmission and that they are injuring and killing people. We saw this unfold before our eyes. There were clearly powerful, nefarious agents acting in concert.

Nonetheless, it is the overarching ethos—the machine of disembedded, disembodied, disenchanted, superordinate, totalitarian ‘facts’—that dissidents are leaving behind. It is impossible to have faith in ‘the system’ after this, and thus the Covid crisis is an inflection point, where a minority have been forcibly cleaved off by state decree, but also—and this is important—by their own choice. This is a minority who distinguished themselves by a choice that integrity is more important than conformity and obedience, but also—and perhaps more significantly in the long run—by a different worldview and belief system. 

Underpinning this worldview is a dynamic, living relationship between spirit and matter that Western culture lost when it was wrenched apart in the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods. We are holding the world and its wounds gently in our hands. We are finding the treasures left to us by our ancestors and weaving them into a tapestry for the future; we are reconnecting matter to spirit, so that we can once again walk barefoot on the path.


Image: Huntsman's Leap, Pembrokeshire, by Colin Park | licence CC BY–SA 2.0