Archive for 4 months ago
Clash of civilisations

Clash_of_Civilizations_map

Osama bin Laden predicted the United States would break up. The measures and expense of the “security” state and the eternal war are certainly causing tension. Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order seems to be on the mark. The Western, Turkish, Persian, Chinese, Russian and Hispanic civilizations are all generating friction with their neighbors.

“”Ramos took an unusual tack, pivoting from talk of diversity and togetherness into boasts of conquest. Mass immigration, particularly illegal immigration, was a fait accompli. There is nothing the U.S. can do about it, and they must accept that America is “not their” country and that illegal aliens, particularly Latinos, “are not going to leave,””

The US is traditionally a society of citizens living under the rule of law, as opposed to the rule of a king, despot or tyrant. It was not race or religion based, but incorporated a state of mind. The melting pot ensured continuity of their different perspective through time. The ending of assimilation and increased emphasizing of difference have weakened the glue which bound the society. Recent history will have encouraged views like these:

A 2013 poll found that 66 percent of Mexicans believe the U.S. government has no right to limit immigration, while 52 percent said Mexicans have a right to be in the United States. Another 88 percent said it is fine to enter the U.S. illegally if one needs money. Over half, 56 percent, said they had friends or family who tried to immigrate to the U.S. illegally.”

Attempts to remake the world order to remove the role of States with the right to enforce their boarders is not without popular appeal. As utopian visions go, it is probably no more far fetched than those of Marx, Hitler or even Charles Fourier. The split between the national and international socialists was heated and bloody. Both had state sponsors. The internationalists Russian state sponsor won the war against the national socialists. Socialists have defined themselves as having an internationalist perspective ever since. Global dominance is nothing, if not international in nature. States, be they socialist or otherwise, cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the inevitable glorious socialist future.

I’ve labeled their vision utopian. Like other central communist tenets it contradicts fundamental aspects of human nature. We evolved as tribal creatures. We will form tribes. They can be based on race, religion, ideology, geography, sport, hobby or basically anything which we have in common with some and not others. The internet has greatly expanded the range of possibilities. The current US unrest may prove to be the tip of the iceberg.

 
History cycles

generations-and-the-fourth-turning

Our 2010 claim that “Strauss & Howe’s The Fourth Turning is looking more prescient by the day” is holding up well. As is the view that “we are currently witnessing the latest populist revolt against elitist authority” extracted from Lee Harris’s “The Next American Civil War”. It appears we may not be the only ones thinking along these lines:

President Trump’s chief strategist (Steve Bannon) is an avid reader and that the book that most inspires his worldview is “The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy.”

The fourth turning takes a view that history is cyclical. It is made up of 4 cycles, which correspond to four human generations. The cycles are driven by human experience and have common themes, resulting in similar manifestations:

The cycle begins with the First Turning, a “High” which comes after a crisis era. In a High, institutions are strong and individualism is weak. Society is confident about where it wants to go collectively, even if many feel stifled by the prevailing conformity. Many Americans alive today can recall the post-World War II American High (historian William O’Neill’s term), coinciding with the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy presidencies. Earlier examples are the post-Civil War Victorian High of industrial growth and stable families, and the post-Constitution High of Democratic Republicanism and Era of Good Feelings.

The Second Turning is an “Awakening,” when institutions are attacked in the name of higher principles and deeper values. Just when society is hitting its high tide of public progress, people suddenly tire of all the social discipline and want to recapture a sense of personal authenticity. Salvation by faith, not works, is the youth rallying cry. One such era was the Consciousness Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s. Some historians call this America’s Fourth or Fifth Great Awakening, depending on whether they start the count in the 17th century with John Winthrop or the 18th century with Jonathan Edwards.

The Third Turning is an “Unraveling,” in many ways the opposite of the High. Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. Third Turning decades such as the 1990s, the 1920s and the 1850s are notorious for their cynicism, bad manners and weak civic authority. Government typically shrinks, and speculative manias, when they occur, are delirious.

Finally, the Fourth Turning is a “Crisis” period. This is when our institutional life is reconstructed from the ground up, always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. If history does not produce such an urgent threat, Fourth Turning leaders will invariably find one — and may even fabricate one — to mobilize collective action. Civic authority revives, and people and groups begin to pitch in as participants in a larger community. As these Promethean bursts of civic effort reach their resolution, Fourth Turnings refresh and redefine our national identity. The years 1945, 1865 and 1794 all capped eras constituting new “founding moments” in American history.

 

In their 1997 book, “The Fourth Turning”, they predicted that “starting around 2005, America would probably experience a “Great Devaluation” in financial markets, a catalyst that would mark America’s entry into an era whose first decade would likely parallel the 1930s”. Their book incorporates the promise of renewal, before the cycle repeats.  One of the authors, Neil Howe, adds:

Despite a new tilt toward isolationism, the United States could find itself at war. I certainly do not hope for war. I simply make a sobering observation: Every total war in U.S. history has occurred during a Fourth Turning, and no Fourth Turning has yet unfolded without one. America’s objectives in such a war are likely to be defined very broadly.”

Thus far, at the grand strategic level, everything is proceeding exactly as I expected. There are blips on the trend, but the trend train is remorselessly rolling down the tracks. This also appears to accord with The Fourth Turning and The Next American Civil War.

 
Ageing

Ageing

 

Maurice Chevalier’s comment on ageing “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative” is misleading. There is strong evidence that once past middle age psychological well-being (WB) improves. Stone’s classic study A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States states:

Consistent with prior studies, Global WB and positive Hedonic WB generally had U-shaped age profiles showing increased WB after the age of 50 years. However, negative Hedonic WB variables showed distinctly different and stronger patterns: Stress and Anger steeply declined from the early 20s, Worry was elevated through middle age and then declined, and Sadness was essentially flat.”

 

WellbeingUbend

 

Viktor Frankl has provided a strong rationale for why this should be the case. Why ageing should be embraced with enthusiasm:

The old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past—the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past

Viktor E Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust

and

The opportunities to act properly, the potentialities to fulfill a meaning, are affected by the irreversibility of our lives. But also the potentialities alone are so affected. For as soon as we have used an opportunity and have actualized a potential meaning, we have done so once and for all. We have rescued it into the past wherein it has been safely delivered and deposited. In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend to see only the stubble fields of transitoriness but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity

Viktor E Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust

 

Undoubtedly ageing can be associated with infirmities, with aches and pains. Often there is memory loss. Yet for much of the time when we are old we are blessed with the knowledge of a lifetime well led. There is no point being pessimistic about ageing, about growing older. Look back on life and relish what you have achieved: Nothing can touch your past, you’ve banked it and it will live forever:

The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy

Viktor E Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust