Re(2): 'A Fragile Basket...', My Sandmen, Mr. Atos
I recommend four books in the study of our times (copyright order):
- ‘Clash of Civilizations’, Samuel P. Huntington, 1996
- ‘The Fourth Turning’, William Straus and Neil Howe, 1997
- ‘Carnage & Culture’, Victor Davis Hanson, 2001
- ‘The Pentagon’s New Map’, Thomas P.M. Barnett, 2004
Here, I will key on the generational archetype study (Anglo Saxon) by William Straus and Neil Howe. To inadequately summarize – their theory is that four generational archetypes cycle repeatedly, and in order, through one ‘long life’ saeculum. Generations cycle this way because they rear children differently based on how they themselves were reared - and as a result of calamitous crises, ie. Fourth Turnings. Neil and Straus wrote their book in what they defined as a Third Turning.
Remember the mid-90’s. Dead center in a Third Turning generation Straus and Howe remark in the first pages of the book that:
AMERICA FEELS LIKE IT’S UNRAVELING.
Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long-term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.
We perceive no greatness in our leaders, a new meanness in ourselves.
Popular trust in virtually every American institution – from businesses and governments to churches and newspapers – keeps falling to new lows.
Wherever we’re headed, America is evolving in ways most of us don’t like or understand. Individually focused yet collectively adrift, we wonder if we’re heading toward a waterfall.
That was the mid-90’s. The Third Turning of a four season saeculum. The authors then defined and predicted a Fourth Turning:
The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the
values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.
Basic math placed the beginning of the Fourth Turning somewhere around 2005. Sixty years after the end of the previous cataclysm – World War II. Forty years after the ‘Consciousness Revolution’, an Awakening period in which social mores are challenged (this would be the 60’s and 70’s). Twenty years after the Millennials started to be reared in ever more structured households. And, concurrent with the Millennials starting their very own Artist generation.
Simply awaiting the spark…
To make an understated argument – that spark was 9/11. Can there be any argument?
Like most, Straus and Howe did not read the effect Islamism would have on the world. In the mid-90’s it was thought that Islamism was contained and any problems were happening ‘over there’. So, I will select individuals that seem to fit the archetypes of this Fourth Turning:
|Archetype||Other than Islamists||Islamists|
George W. Bush
Osama bin Laden
Donald Rumsfeld *
|Abu Musab al-Zarqawi|
|Artists||Being Born||Being Born|
* Secretary Rumsfeld is outside the age demographic, but acts decisively like a Nomad.
** I do pick sides.
In other words, we are now perfectly aligned for a decisive war.
How well are we prepared for the struggle?
Here was the advice of Straus and How – with my interpretation on success and/or failure:
Prepare Values: There has been a decisive trend in American values in the past twenty five years. The struggle now is on the periphery. The values that are proving victorious are best defined by President George W. Bush – Compassionate Conservatism.
Prepare Institutions: The Congress has decidedly shifted and is now stable and gaining further stability. The current Left is being relegated to the periphery – the parenthesis. Under Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. we did destroy our major adversary. We did modernize our military. We did build the framework for expanding our economy. Under President Clinton we did cut fat from the government structure. We did reform welfare dramatically. We did learn how to run Federal budget surpluses.
Prepare Politics: Reagan did define America as the “shining city on the hill”. Bush Sr. defined our world as “a thousand points of light” – a world were “aggression will not stand”. President Clinton signed reform that made our economy a more capitalist, work based economy. All three Third Turning Presidents emphasized the value of community and social structure. All three missed the important concept of preparing Americans for our nations ‘future’ challenges. However, ‘W’ has repeatedly and candidly and to great consequence to his political survival addressed those massive issues: Social Security, Immigration, War, and Values.
Prepare Society: President Clinton tried with many of his youth service programs. This is a very weak area – because Liberals and Conservatives have no consensus on how to do this.
Prepare Youth: This could be our weakest link. But, I think not – because our military age youth seem mature and socially adept and group oriented. Note the growth of religion, the fight over the boy scouts, the increased recruitment into the military, etc… However, our leaders did not restructure their resources from rich oldsters to budding youngsters – and still haven’t. It is coming.
Prepare Elders: ‘W’ is trying. The rest of our ‘leaders’ are not. Our corporations – and in fact our government – have shifted our retirement plans from defined benefits to defined contribution plans. The dividend tax changes also help. But, the elders are in for a big, big, big fall sometime within the next ten years. Could we be in a situation where social upheaval follows external upheaval? Yup…
Prepare the Economy: We are on target for moving folks to self-managed retirement plans, but too many are still counting on Social Security. Technologically, we are locked on for success. Our business and technological innovation is first rate. Our savings rate sucks (nice use of French) and nobody seems to care. ‘W’ is trying to readjust the tax base to enhance savings.
Prepare the Defense: Thank the Lord there was a Reagan and a Bush Sr. and a Gingrich. And, now ‘W’ is building a very strong and relatively inexpensive military. Did you know there are about 60,000 more grunts in our military than were present in 2001. And, as we recruit, more of the recruits are becoming teeth rather than tails.
So, again where are we:
A selected final thought from Straus and Howe:
The Fourth Turning could spare modernity but mark the end of our nation. It could close the book on the political constitution, popular culture, and moral standing that the word America has come to signify. This nation has endured for three saecula; Rome lasted twelve, Etruria ten, the Soviet Union (perhaps) only one. Fourth Turnings are critical thresholds for national survival. Each of the last three American Crises produced moments of extreme danger: In the Revolution, the very birth of the republic hung by a thread in more than one battle. In the Civil War, the union barely survived a four-year slaughter that in its own time was regarded as the most lethal war in history. In World War II, the nation destroyed an enemy of democracy that for a time was winning; had the enemy won, America might have itself been destroyed. In all likelihood, the next Crisis will present the nation with a threat and a consequence on a similar scale.
The new saeculum could find America a worse place. As Paul Kennedy has warned, it might no longer be a great power. Its global stature might be eclipsed by foreign rivals. Its geography might be smaller, its culture less dominant, its military less effective, its government less democratic, its Constitution less inspiring.
Alternatively, the new saeculum could find America, and the world, a much better place. Like England in the Reformation Saeculum, the Superpower America of the Millenial Saeculum might merely be a prelude to a higher plane of civilization. Its new civic life might be more nearly resemble that “shining city on a hill” to which colonial ancestors aspired.
My silly opinion:
I see a “shining city of a hill”. I watch as the Nomad generation increasingly votes for Prophets of a certain bent – Reaganesque. I listen and view vibrant arguments in the new media with great confidence. I watch as our Nomads lead our Millenials in successful military endeavors. As our nation maturely accepts the good and the bad. As our polity turns away from the isolationist self-centered screeching of folks and institutions stuck in prior generational seasons. As our economy grows in a sustainable fashion – with low unemployment and high productivity. And, as we work with others to resolve our demographic, economic, and military needs.
I watch as our enemies Prophets are silenced and their Nomads killed. As they further isolate themselves and their ideas. As they increasingly become viewed as rogues and barbarians.
On the other hand, I do have concerns:
That the Islamist threat may not actually be the Crisis (an odd, but honest thought). That half of our citizenry may be so entrenched in the Third Turning as to not cooperate in the Fourth Turning. That steps taken now may damage our polity. That much of our population is isolating themselves – and their valued opinions and concerns – from our polity. That, as a result of an Islamist move or the isolation of the Liberal polity, the next President may be a very dangerous Demagogue – the actuality of the Hard Lefts portrayal of ‘W’.
Time will tell, eh…