A Time for Heretics

Over time, what was once fresh discovery becomes dogma.

We have seen this in institutions as varied as the church and the sciences, as it offers the opportunity to exercise power and control, and along with it, accumulate wealth and influence.

Eventually, it percolates down from the corridors of power to the dusty corners of everyday life until the orthodoxy doesn’t just control what’s going on; it strangles it.

When this starts to happen, the heretics appear. While things are running satisfactorily, we ignore them as fringe or lightly deranged, their influence is limited, and they are easy to control. When things start to seriously fray at the edges, though, people begin to listen and take them seriously.

Now is such a time. At times like this, we cannot delegate our thinking or responsibility for our actions to others because the new wants to emerge, and the new we get is the one to which we pay attention.

The transition is made more difficult by the bindweed of previous means of control, from qualification and accreditation that promote the orthodoxy that no longer serves. Some of it resides in professional bodies and institutes that have operated for generations in medicine, law, and architecture.

Others are more recently created bodies based on more opportunistic control in occupations from coaching to health and safety. They have in common a desire to ensure that any changes happen under their guidance and that such changes do not disturb the status quo on which they rely.

The challenge we face is that the pace of change that they can cope with is far slower than is possible, desirable and available. Orthodoxy ends up getting brand makeovers that do not change the substance.

It is a time for heretics. As the industrial era legitimacies dissolve, from ideas of perpetual growth to the implied certainties of science, growth proceeds do not apply at anything like a reasonable and just level.

Ever since Copernicus pointed out that the earth revolved round the sun rather than the other way round, and Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church, iconoclasts and heretics have been the harbingers of change.

Today, we have those heretics and iconoclasts who are pointing out that we are here on terms the planet dictates, not us, and that the economy is something that we can shape to ensure our continuation rather than something that belongs to a few to decide.

There’s a heretic in each of us, and it’s a good time to listen to it’s quiet but increasing voice.

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