Monday, May 22, 2017

The 'Good News' About All This Turmoil In The Streets?

'It has happened before. It will soon pass.'

So say the authors of a book you should read, 'The Fourth Turning' by William Strauss and Neil Howe published in 1997.

Which you should read after you read their first book, Generations, published in 1991 which set forth some provocative ideas about how to view history and its cycles which would be purely just 'provocative' and 'interesting' except for one thing:

'Most of everything in 1997 they said was going to happen by now has happened'

Before you scoff and label these guys as some sort of goofy soothsayer such as Jeanne Dixon or Nostradamus who put out so many 'predictions' of the future that when a few came true, some people started revering them as prophets of one kind or another, here's some personal testimony about them.

Neil Howe at least.

In 1991, we were working on the House Budget Committee dealing with the thorny (and still unsolved) issue of entitlements in the federal budget when we first met Neil Howe. Mr. Howe is a well-known expert on entitlements in the federal budget and what to do with them so our children and grandchildren don't drown in a a sea of debt long after the Boomers are gone from the American scene.

Back then, entitlement spending accounted for roughly 32% of the federal budget. Today it is approaching 75% when you add in interest on the national debt.

So too bad for the Millennials and Gen Xers and beyond that current and past elected officials have not listened more to experts such as Mr. Neil Howe over the past 30 years.

They should have.

Neil inscribed the following note in the book we asked him to sign for us:
'To (our three sons): Hope you Millennials will save us from ourselves! Neil Howe 1/24/92'
He knows what he is talking about.

After reading 'Generations' almost without putting it down because it was so captivating of an idea, we started to see how many of his and William Strauss' theories and concepts fit together in evaluating past generations and their attitudes towards work, war, families and government among others.

Their basic idea is that generational outlooks and characteristics have followed 4 distinctive cycles in roughly 21-year intervals that have repeated themselves now almost 4 full times in American history.

The most recent American generations are described in terms familiar to us:

  • Idealistic (Missionary Generation born 1860-1882)
  • Reactive (Lost Generation born 1883-1900)
  • Civic (GI Generation born 1901-1924)
  • Adaptive (Silent Generation born 1925-1942)
  • Idealistic (Boomers born 1943-1960)
  • Reactive (13th Generation or 'Gen Xers' born 1961-1981)
  • Civic (Millennials born 1982-2003)
  • Adaptive (Generation Z? Yet-to-Be-Named born 2004-2025?)
Their basic premise goes like this:

An Awakening occurs after a Crisis, such as a war or massive economic depression. The Idealists lead the way intellectually first in literature or art (think 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' prior to the Civil War as part of the abolitionist movement led by Transcendentals in the North) followed by a Reactive generation that basically pulls back in after the activism of their older brothers and sisters.

The Civic generation is best exemplified by the GI Generation, 'The Greatest Generation' as coined by Tom Brokaw about our parents and grandparents who grew up and survived the Great Depression only to have to save the world for democracy from the Nazis and Japanese Imperialists in the largest and bloodiest world war ever in history, World War II.

The Adaptive generation follows in the footsteps of their highly-acclaimed and honored GI brothers and sisters and are considered relatively 'silent' by comparison in terms of their outlook on life, both personal and political, as well as their parenting skills and philosophies.

It is all very interesting and worth your time to read all books put out by Mr. Howe and Mr. Strauss (now deceased). They do a very good job of researching and outlining how history lines up according to this recurring cycle of generational characteristics.

What did they say would happen in 2005-2017 in their book 'The Fourth Turning' when published in 1997?
'Somewhere around the year 2005, perhaps a few years before or later, America will enter The Fourth Turning (or transition into a new 4-cycle series of generations)...
(The last flicker)....will catalyze a Crisis. In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash (think 2008-2009, (our highlights), as ordinary as a national election (think either 2008 or 2016), or as trivial as a Tea Party (scary huh? remember this was written 11 years BEFORE Rick Santelli screamed out on CNBC that what we needed in America today was a 'New Tea Party!' during the Crash of 2008)...
(The Crisis catalyst triggers Unraveling trends which might include the following)
A global terrorist group blows up an aircraft (Think '9/11' which happened 4 years after publication of this book)..The new mood and its jarring new problems will provide a natural end point for the Unraveling-era decline in civic confidence....individuals will feel that their survival requires them to distrust more things. This behavior could cascade into a sudden downward spiral, an implosion of societal trust'.
We could quote much of the 334-page book here to prove our point that these guys are onto something but you need to read it for yourself.

The authors predict that a climax could occur by 2020 with a resolution of most of the conflict and uncertainty by 2026. We seem to be in the midst of a radical reshuffling of the tectonic plates of emotions and politics certainly starting with the election of very left-of-center President Barack Obama in 2008, the nation's first African-American president who served for 8 years only to be replaced by the wild-card-of-all-wild-card presidential candidates perhaps in American history, President Donald Trump in 2016.

In terms of prescience, Mr. Howe and Mr, Strauss certainly get an A+++ for predicting such a jumbled-up mixture of political outcomes 20 years ago now. The quixotic presidential campaign of socialist hero Senator Bernie Sanders just added a bushel of cherries to to this mixture as well.

Our best guess after reading these books and being a somewhat keen and involved observer of politics over the past 38 years now is that the extremism we have seen in the streets with violent protests and staged protests such as the Notre Dame students walking out on the commencement address of Vice President Mike Pence this past weekend will start to peter out pretty much like the violent protests and activism of 1968 died down prior to the 1972 elections.

One reason why is that people eventually 'grow up'. When they leave the cozy confines of university and college life in academia and start to work, pay taxes, get married and buy a home with a big mortgage and a car payment or two and start to have children, they start to see the world with different, less rose-colored glasses than they did before.

One thing we doubt you will see again anytime soon is a call for 'free college education for everyone!' as called for by Bernie Sanders. Simply because it is way too expensive and as far as we know, no college professor or administrator has offered to work for free yet, right?

We also know many people who worked to pay their way through college and if anything, that seemed to make them appreciate their education all the more because of the sacrifice and hard work they personally put into paying for their own education.

We have heard not one but two recent stories about grandparents paying for their college education and grad school by raising bees and selling honey and new hives to neighbors and friends. That hard work did not hurt their careers because they went on to achieve acclaim and honors in their respective fields of study and work.

The lyrics to The Byrds' rendition of the Pete Seeger classic 'Turn, Turn, Turn' is almost totally based on the passage from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8*.

Another passage that might be applicable to these transitioning times as people grow up and mature is from 1 Corinthians 3:11:

'When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things'

Let's all hope and pray we will all bear witness to such grown-up talk and civil discourse in our country soon.

But you still need to read these books by Neil Howe and William Strauss.

*To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

Songwriters: George Aber Adaptation And / Pete Seeger / Words From The Book Of
Turn! Turn! Turn! lyrics © T.R.O. Inc.

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