1776 - American Revolution
1861 - American Civil War
1941 - America Enters World War II
What do these three dates have in common? Well first off, they are the three major periods of upheaval in our country's history. Difficult times in
history, but necessary times...times that have made our country and our people what we are. Without the terrible trauma of the American Revolution,
the American Civil War, and World War II, the United States of America would not be the country it is today.
What else do these moments in time have in common? Look at the start dates of these periods of national trauma: Strangely, they all occur in
approximately 80 year intervals. Which also happens to be the length of the average human life. Think that's a coincidence? Well think again my
friends...this is no coincidence, it is science, and it is fact. Every human generation experiences a time of trauma at some point in their lives, and
guess what? We're about due...80 years from the last major upheaval is...
Years ago, I was driving home late one night listening to Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell, and Art was interviewing a fellow by the name of William
Strauss. Mr. Strauss and his co-writer, Neil Howe, had (at that time) recently written a book called 'The Fourth
, and in that book they laid out their case that generations, and generational change leads to a repeated cycle of history, and if we
simply look at that cyclical generational history, we can essentially predict the future.
I was totally and completely sold.
It made perfect sense to me! I have always been a huge Issac Asimov fan, and as one who has read the entire 'Foundation' series twice through, The
Fourth Turning sounded, to me, like nothing short of Hari Seldon's invention of 'Psychohistory'. I decided that night that I HAD to get this book.
I don't intend to regurgitate the entire synopsis of the book here, you can read the book yourself and I highly recommend you do so,
(or at least read the Wikipedia entry)
but here is, in an extremely brief
summary, what the basis of this theory is:
There are four types of generations in each cycle, and every cycle lasts about 80 years, the length of one average human life. In our current world,
the generational identity looks like this:
Greatest Generation: 1901 - 1924
Silent Generation: 1925-1944
Baby Boomers: 1945 - 1960
Generation X: 1961 - 1981
Millennials: 1982 - 2004
Homeland Generation: 2005 - ?
So the Greatest Generation is pretty much dying off at this point, these are the WWII veterans, and the new 'Homeland' generation is just starting
to be born. So essentially, we have my parents, the Silent Generation (the only American generation to never have a president from their generation),
The aging Boomers, The Gen Xers like myself who are poised to be the ones in charge of the world in the coming years, and the young hipsters, the
In the theory laid out in The Fourth Turning, each generation has an identity, and a purpose. For obvious reasons, I'm mostly interested in my own
generation's purpose, and as everyone knows, Gen X'ers are a cynical, squirrelly bunch. We were the latchkey kids, the punk rockers, the headbangers
and the grunge generation in our teen years, the ones who would forever never amount to anything. But our generational cynicism and restlessness will
prove to be our strongest traits in the coming years as we take the reigns of our world, and navigate through the next crisis.
It is not my generation's destiny to be the heros that the Greatest generation was, nor the idealists that the boomers were, but rather to be the
generational nomads that grew up in a period of social unraveling, and matured into adults during a time of crisis, destined to have the unpleasant
task of seeing our country through the next major upheaval, which I have no doubt is only a few short years away.
Godspeed to all my fellow Gen X'ers, you're going to need it.
In fact, I have no doubt that we have already started the current crisis period. In this theory, each period lasts approximately 20 years, and we are
definitely in the early stages of our new crisis period. The only question is when it began, and there are two clear dates that we can work with, and
only history will tell us when the true start of our next period of national trauma began. 9/11/2001 is a pretty obvious start point, but this date is
a bit early in the cycle, and may prove to be more of a foreshadowing of the coming crisis. The second date would be September 2008, the start of our
current economic crisis. Although I truly hope that the fourth turning began on 9/11/2001, as that would mean it's already half over, my gut tells me
that it really started in Sept. 2008, and we have a good 15 years before we see the light of prosperity and peace again.
It's going to be a long, strange trip my friends, buckle up, and be prepared...