Sunday, June 12, 2016

Paradigm Shift: Breaking Free From Confirmation Bias

By Lual Garang*
"Shifting our paradigm could be a powerful campus for navigating the world."
Paradigm shift refers to a fundamental change in the way we view the world. This shift is not in the visual sense of sight but rather in terms of how we understand, perceive and interpret the world. This view can be a gradual process or a sudden change in perception. For example, our priorities tend to change when we experience a major health problem or when a close friend dies, our paradigm shifts. This phrase was made popular by Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 classic book: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 
The most popular scientific example being the widely held view that the earth was the center of the universe by many scientists, who followed the work of the great Egyptian astronomer, Ptolemy. But a paradigm shift happened when Copernicus placed the sun as the center of the universe. Though this was met with great resistance by the church and the popular scientists at the time, it still changed the way many things were interpreted. After Galileo came through with the discovery of telescope, the orbits where observed not to be perfect circles but elliptical. This further view shifted the model used to look at the universe and other stars.
The further we are away from that point of view, the likely we are to have that ‘aha’ moment. 
I remember reading a story about two New York train commuters. One Sunday morning, passengers were sitting quiet, some reading newspapers, others lost in thoughts and some resting with their eyes shut. And then suddenly a man and his kids entered the subway car and the kids were loud and running rage. The nice and quiet environment changed. The kids’ father sat down and closed his eyes as though those were not his kids. Everyone was irritated by the whole situation and possibly exercising restraints. Eventually, the man next to him got more irritated and couldn’t believe how he could be so insensitive to let his kids run wild and not take responsibility. He turned to him and said: “Sir, your children are disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you could control them a little more!” 
The man then woke up from his trance as if he'd just realized the nature of his kids for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother just died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.” 
Guess what happened to the man who asked him to control his kids? How he felt that very moment he heard the man’s tragedy? His paradigm shifted, his irritation of the kids’ wild behavior disappeared and he suddenly saw things differently from the rest of the subway commuters who didn’t hear the man’s story. Because he saw things differently, he thought differently, felt differently and behaved differently. His heart was filled with the man’s pain and his compassion flowed freely and he asked how he could be of a help to the man.
Shifting our paradigm could be a powerful campus for navigating the world. It will make us treat people of other cultures, religions and social backgrounds differently if we take time to learn about them. But a paradigm shift comes with so much resistance as it disrupts careers, put companies out of business and change entire industries. Yet this is the way forward for civilization. What would you tell the Wright brothers if they told you that they were building a machine that could fly and you were their neighbor at the time? 
The key is not in changing the world but changing how you view your world. I have no idea who wrote this quote but nevertheless, I will share it here:
It starts like an itch. Something happen in our lives that cause us to question what we know. We open our eyes and seek the truth. The more we uncover, the hungrier we are for understanding. But the world isn’t perfect and there’s a lot of pain and deception. We have the burning desire to do more. We read a lot. We start protesting. Our family label us as too negative. Our friends start to pull away. Our spouses reject us. We are labelled as hippies, anarchists, angry kids, conspiracy theories and terrorist. We are beaten by police and mocked by news. Yet we have become obsessed with spreading the truth. It becomes a very solidarity journey.”

 *Lual Garang's informative and educative writings appear on his blog: Visit his blog to read more of his writings.




As someone who grew up in war conditions and lived as a refugee for a long time, I'm sometimes considered by many people in the 'west' to be prone to (or have) low self-esteem, be poor or illiterate. Living as refugees or displaced persons, who depended on the good will of others put people in a situation where they don't think much about themselves. But that's not everyone though.

As I stood by our front desk at my place work talking about Race and Identity in relation to my book, Is 'Black' Really Beautiful?, the issue of why many African peoples in North America become so over-sensitive when racial issues come up! For many rational people, this owes its origin to slavery and racial segregation.

But one of my coworkers, a person of European descent, was surprised to realize that her 'black' friend, a very intelligent woman, easily becomes irritated by simple things she [friend] considers racist. The friend considers any mention of a watermelon racist; and complains a lot about 'white privilege.' This means that discrimination is considered something 'whites' don't face because of 'white privilege.' In any discussion between 'blacks' and 'whites', 'white privilege' issue comes up!