Forwarded by Negativland.
>This is all very interesting. It's a cyclical generational study
>called 'The Fourth Turning:'
>The Fourth Turning says:
>> Just after the millennium, America will enter a new era that will
>>culminate with a crisis comparable to the American Revolution, the
>>Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II. The survival of
>>the nation will almost certainly be at stake.
>> Strauss and Howe base this vision on a provocative theory of
>>American history as a series of recurring 80- to 100-year cycles.
>>Each cycle has four "turnings"-a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling,
>>and a Crisis. The authors locate today's America as midway through
>>an Unraveling, roughly a decade away from the next Crisis (or Fourth
>>Turning). And they recommend ways Americans can prepare for what's
>>ahead, as a nation and as individuals.
>Here's a sample of the text. It should be noted that this was all
>written well in advance of 9/11.
>- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
>WINTER IS COMING
>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.
>Neither an epic victory over Communism nor an extended upswing of the
>business cycle can buoy our public spirit. The Cold War and New Deal
>struggles are plainly over, but we are of no mind to bask in their
>successes. The America of today feels worse, in its fundamentals,
>than the one many of us remember from youth, a society presided over
>by those of supposedly lesser consciousness. Wherever we look, from
>L.A. to D.C., from Oklahoma City to Sun City, we see paths to a
>foreboding future. We yearn for civic character but satisfy
>ourselves with symbolic gestures and celebrity circuses. We perceive
>no greatness in our leaders, a new meanness in ourselves. Small
>wonder that each new election brings a new jolt, its aftermath a new
>Not long ago, America was more than the sum of its parts. Now, it is
>less. Around World War II, we were proud as a people but modest as
>individuals. Fewer than two people in ten said yes when asked "Are
>you a very important person?" Today, more than six in ten say yes.
>Where we once thought ourselves collectively strong, we now regard
>ourselves as individually entitled.
>Yet even while we exalt our own personal growth, we realize that
>millions of self-actualized persons don't add up to an actualized
>society. Popular trust in virtually every American institution-from
>businesses and governments to churches and newspapers-keeps falling
>to new lows. Public debts soar, the middle class shrinks, welfare
>dependencies deepen, and cultural wars worsen by the year. We now
>have the highest incarceration rate, and the lowest eligible-voter
>participation rate, of any major democracy. Statistics inform us
>that many adverse trends (crime, divorce, abortion, scholastic
>aptitudes) may have bottomed out, but we're not reassured.
>Optimism still attaches to self, but no longer to family or
>community. Most Americans express more hope for their own prospects
>than for their children's-or the nation's. Parents widely fear that
>the American Dream, which was there (solidly) for their parents and
>still there (barely) for them, will not be there for their kids.
>Young householders are reaching their mid-thirties never having known
>a time when America seemed to be on the right track. Middle-aged
>people look at their thin savings accounts and slim-to-none pensions,
>scoff at an illusory Social Security trust fund, and try not to dwell
>on what a burden their old age could become. Seniors separate into
>their own Leisure World, recoiling at the lost virtue of youth while
>trying not to think about the future.
>We perceive our civic challenge as some vast, insoluble Rubik's Cube.
>Behind each problem lies another problem that must be solved first,
>and behind that lies yet another, and another, ad infinitum. To fix
>crime we have to fix the family, but before we do that we have to fix
>welfare, and that means fixing our budget, and that means fixing our
>civic spirit, but we can't do that without fixing moral standards,
>and that means fixing schools and churches, and that means fixing the
>inner cities, and that's impossible unless we fix crime. There's no
>fulcrum on which to rest a policy lever. People of all ages sense
>that something huge will have to sweep across America before the
>gloom can be lifted-but that's an awareness we suppress. As a
>nation, we're in deep denial.
>While we grope for answers, we wonder if analysis may be crowding out
>our intuition. Like the anxious patient who takes 17 kinds of
>medicine while poring over his own CAT scan, we find it hard to stop
>and ask: What is the underlying malady really about? How can we best
>bring the primal forces of nature to our assistance? Isn't there a
>choice lying somewhere between total control and total despair? Deep
>down, beneath the tangle of trend lines, we suspect that our history
>or biology or very humanity must have something simple and important
>to say to us. But we don't know what it is. If we once did know, we
>have since forgotten.
>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.
>The reward of the historian is to locate patterns that recur over
>time and to discover the natural rhythms of social experience.
>In fact, at the core of modern history lies this remarkable pattern:
>Over the past five centuries, Anglo-American society has entered a
>new era-a new turning-every two decades or so. At the start of each
>turning, people change how they feel about themselves, the culture,
>the nation, and the future. Turnings come in cycles of four. Each
>cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly 80 to 100 years,
>a unit of time the ancients called the saeculum. Together, the four
>turnings of the saeculum comprise history's seasonal rhythm of
>growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction:
>>* The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening
>>institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order
>>implants and the old values regime decays.
>>* The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual
>>upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values
>>* The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of
>>strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old
>>civic order decays and the new values regime implants.
>>* 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.
>Each turning comes with its own identifiable mood. Always, these
>mood shifts catch people by surprise.
>In the current saeculum, the First Turning was the American High of
>the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy presidencies. As World War II
>wound down, no one predicted that America would soon become so
>confident and institutionally muscular, yet so conformist and
>spiritually complacent. But that's what happened.
>The Second Turning was the Consciousness Revolution, stretching from
>the campus revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early
>1980s. Before John Kennedy was assassinated, no one predicted that
>America was about to enter an era of personal liberation and cross a
>cultural divide that would separate anything thought or said after
>from anything thought or said before. But that's what happened.
>The Third Turning has been the Culture Wars, an era that began with
>Reagan's mid-'80s "Morning in America" and is due to expire around
>the middle of the Oh-Oh decade, eight or ten years from now. Amidst
>the glitz of the early Reagan years, no one predicted that the nation
>was entering an era of national drift and institutional decay. But
>that's where we are.
>Have major national mood shifts like this ever before happened?
>Yes-many times. Have Americans ever before experienced anything like
>the current attitude of Unraveling? Yes-many times, over the
>Elders in their eighties can remember an earlier mood that was much
>like today's. They can recall the years between Armistice Day (1918)
>and the Great Crash of 1929. Euphoria over a global military triumph
>was painfully short-lived. Earlier optimism about a progressive
>future gave way to a jazz age nihilism and a pervasive cynicism about
>high ideals. Bosses swaggered in immigrant ghettos, the KKK in the
>South, the mafia in the industrial heartland, and defenders of
>Americanism in a myriad Middletowns. Unions atrophied, government
>weakened, third-parties were the rage, and a dynamic marketplace
>ushered in new consumer technologies (autos, radios, phones, juke
>boxes, vending machines) that made life feel newly complicated and
>frenetic. The risky pleasures of a "lost" young generation shocked
>middle-aged decency crusaders-many of them "tired radicals" who were
>then moralizing against the detritus of the "mauve" decade of their
>youth (the 1890s). Opinions polarized around no-compromise cultural
>issues like drugs, family, and "decency." Meanwhile, parents strove
>to protect a scoutlike new generation of children (who, in time, aged
>into today's senior citizens).
>Back then, the details were different, but the underlying mood
>resembled what Americans feel today. Listen to Walter Lippmann,
>writing during World War I:
>>"We are unsettled to the very roots of our being. There isn't a
>>human relation, whether of parent or child, husband and wife, worker
>>and employer, that doesn't move in a strange situation. We are not
>>used to a complicated civilization, we don't know how to behave when
>>personal contact and eternal authority have disappeared. There are
>>no precedents to guide us, no wisdom that was not meant for a
>Move backward again to an era recalled by the oldest Americans still
>alive when today's seniors were little children. In the late 1840s
>and early 1850s, America drifted into a foul new mood. The hugely
>popular Mexican War had just ended in a stirring triumph, but the
>huzzahs over territorial gain didn't last long. Cities grew mean and
>politics hateful. Immigration surged, financial speculation boomed,
>and railroads and cotton exports released powerful new market forces
>that destabilized communities. Having run out of answers, the two
>major parties (Whigs and Democrats) were slowly disintegrating. A
>righteous debate over slavery's westward expansion erupted between
>so-called Southrons and abolitionists-many of them middle-aged
>spiritualists who in the more euphoric 1830s and '40s had dabbled in
>Transcendentalism, utopian communes, and other assorted youth-fired
>crusades. Colleges went begging for students as a brazen young
>generation hustled west to pan for gold in towns fabled for their
>violence. Meanwhile, a child generation grew up with a new
>regimentation that startled European visitors who, a decade earlier,
>had bemoaned the wildness of American kids. Sound familiar?
>Run the clock back the length of yet another long life, to the 1760s.
>The recent favorable conclusion to the French and Indian War had
>brought eighty years of conflict to a close and secured the colonial
>frontier. Yet when England tried to recoup the expense of the war
>through taxation, the colonies seethed with a directionless
>discontent. Immigration from the Old World, emigration across the
>Appalachians, and colonial trade arguments all rose sharply. As
>debtors' prisons bulged, middle-aged people complained of what
>Benjamin Franklin called the "white savagery" of youth. Middle-aged
>orators (peers of the fiery young preachers of the circa-1740 Great
>Awakening) awakened civic consciousness and organized popular
>crusades of economic austerity. The youth elite became the first to
>attend disciplined church schools in the colonies rather than
>academies in corrupt Albion. Gradually, colonists began separating
>into mutually-loathing camps, one defending and the other attacking
>the Crown. Sound familiar again?
>During each of these periods, Americans celebrated an ethos of
>frenetic and laissez-faire "individualism" (a word first popularized
>in the 1840s), yet also fretted over social fragmentation, epidemic
>violence, and economic and technological change that seemed to be
>accelerating beyond society's ability to absorb it.
>During each of these periods, Americans had recently achieved a
>stunning victory over a long-standing foreign threat-Imperial
>Germany, Imperial New Spain (alias Mexico), or Imperial New France.
>Yet that victory came to be associated with a worn-out definition of
>collective purpose-and, perversely, unleashed a torrent of pessimism.
>During each of these periods, an aggressive moralism darkened the
>debate about the country's future. Culture wars raged, the language
>of political discourse coarsened, nativist (and sectional) feelings
>hardened, immigration and substance abuse came under attack, and
>attitudes toward children grew more protective.
>During each of these periods, Americans felt well-rooted in their
>personal values but newly hostile toward the corruption of civic
>life. Unifying institutions which had seemed secure for decades
>suddenly felt ephemeral. Those who had once trusted the nation with
>their lives were now growing old and passing on. To the new crop of
>young adults, the nation hardly mattered. The whole res-publica
>seemed on the verge of disintegrating.
>During each of these previous Third Turnings, Americans felt like
>they were drifting toward a cataclysm.
>And, as it turned out, they were.
>The 1760s were followed by the American Revolution, the 1850s by
>Civil War, the 1920s by the Great Depression and World War II. All
>these Unraveling eras were followed by bone-jarring Crises so
>monumental that, by their end, American society emerged in a wholly
>Each time, the change came with scant warning. As late as December
>1773, November 1859, and October 1929, the American people had no
>idea how close it was. Then sudden sparks (the Boston Tea Party,
>John Brown's raid and execution, Black Tuesday) transformed the
>public mood, swiftly and permanently. Over the next two decades or
>so, society convulsed. Emergencies required massive sacrifices from
>a citizenry that responded by putting community ahead of self.
>Leaders led, and people trusted them. As a new social contract was
>created, people overcame challenges once thought insurmountable-and
>used the Crisis to elevate themselves and their nation to a higher
>plane of civilization: In the 1790s, they triumphantly created the
>modern world's first democratic republic. In the late 1860s, wounded
>but reunited, they forged a genuine nation extending new guarantees
>of liberty and equality. In the late 1940s, they constructed the
>most Promethean superpower ever seen.
>The Fourth Turning is history's great discontinuity. It ends one
>epoch and begins another.
>History is seasonal, and winter is coming. Like nature's winter, the
>saecular winter can come early or late. A Fourth Turning can be long
>and difficult, brief but severe, or (perhaps) mild. But, like
>winter, it cannot be averted. It must come in its turn.
>DANIEL J LYNCH
>Partner, Creative Director
>Media Design & Production
>(415) 864-3302 - VOX
>(415) 864-3402 - FAX
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