Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our American Winter

This is an update on my thoughts about our current secular crisis.  The basic idea is that our culture cycles through four cultural eras, labeled the high, the awakening, the unraveling, and the secular crisis.  These four eras are equated with the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter.  And, we are in winter.  The idea comes from the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss, especially a book called The Fourth Turning (here).  I have described American eras previously (here).

The most important idea to take away about the secular crisis era is that it is a cultural identity crisis.  It may have powerful economic and/or political issues to resolve but ultimately it is about who we are as a people that is the core of the problem.  I summarized much of this previously (here).

To reiterate I think our current crisis is about the question: is America, the US, still Number One?

We have had horrific events, such as the World Trade Center attack, the War on Terrorism, the Great Recession, the FED stupidly owning everything, and we can expect an episode of genocidal warfare.

We can also expect a status quo change, such as: perhaps the US Dollar being replaced by something else; perhaps the US will see a decline in international economic and political influence; perhaps some wealthy people will be torn down from their gilded balconies.

The final resolution will be such that America becomes a more powerful Superpower, or a fallen and shattered one, or just a less influential player shunned by most others.  The fall (a full-blown collapse or just a big trip) can come quickly, as evidenced by the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1999. Alternatively, we might take over another large portion of the world.

My previous statements on this crisis had it begin with 9/11 because after that event our government became much larger (a usual sign of a crisis era).  The Big Brother effects of that event are still playing out, especially with the attention to NSA lately.  Homeland security is the mantra as they take away our constitutional freedoms. A focus on this issue means that the core question is:  are we a free people? I think the issue is bigger than this.

Many other people proclaim that the crisis era began with the credit crisis of 2007 and the Great Recession that followed.  We have been in a mild depression since 2007 and I think it eventually gets worse before the economic troubles are resolved.  There is no doubt that fear and anxiety in America (another important indicator of the crisis era) ratcheted up significantly after the market crash of 2008.  A focus on economic issues is one way to view the crisis.  Again, I see it as bigger than that.

Folks in the blogosphere who discuss these things ask us to take sides, our “crisis began in 2001 or 2007”. Choose one.

I am not certain that we can make such proclamations, especially as they would be used to suggest when the crisis ends.

The crisis ends when it does.
If we expect the era to last 20-25 years then it spans 2001-2021 or  to 2026.
On the other hand, it spans 2007-2027 or to 2032.
Either way we have a long way to go.

The difficulty in determining when it began has more to do with our Dionysian age rather than micro analyzing each weird event that has happened. 

In Apollonian ages, events will appear to be linear.  It is easier to identify when a crisis begins and ends.  Our American Revolution and the Great Depression-WWII are two crises that played out under Apollonian values.

During Dionysian ages, reflexive and reciprocal relations are more active. Thus, events are not going to line up in obvious linear sequences. When did the Glorious Revolution start and end? Or, how about the slavery dispute-Civil War-reconstruction? Those crises did not have clear-cut start/end dates, and neither does the current crisis.

It is best to just say, “It began in the early part of the 21st century”.
Thirty years from now, we will have a good idea of about when it ended.