Attn: Prophets, Nomads, and Artists
How Can We Help the Heroes?
“Emergencies” have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.
— Friedrich August von Hayek, Nobel Prize in Economics (1974)
n the theory propounded a generation ago by the bestselling book Generations—about what will happen to America in the future—history is hypothesized to be driven by essentially four different types of generations:
1) a civic generation, 2) an adaptive generation, 3) an idealist generation, and
4) a reactive generation. Important recent iterations have been GIs (1), Silents (2), Boomers (3), Xers (4), and Millenials (1). Each generation is defined by the impacts of events and the beliefs that are engendered at the time when the members of each successive generation enter adulthood. Each generation lasts on average about 22 years or so.
Will the Future Be Right on Target?
It all sounds pretty simple, but in looking back at this book and its predictions, the authors (Strauss is now deceased; Howe continues his research) seem prescient. Their predictions about the 1990s and the early 2000s were “right on” target. But that’s not all. Strauss and Howe went on to write several additional books following their initial bestseller, including the last in the series, The Fourth Turning, which takes the conclusions of Generations to daring new heights of analysis. This book predicts that around 2010, an era of great crisis will envelop the U.S. that will be on par with the severity of World War II or the Great Depression or the American Revolution, and which will last until the mid-2020s. And in keeping with the authors’ previous thesis, the outcome will depend not only on provoked beliefs and tempered reactions. The outcome will also rely on the collusions of the different generations in the roles that they play in response to the impending emergencies and cataclysms that will characterize this era. Indeed, this could be both a tragedy and a great opportunity. The ultimate ending could help us to raise our civilization up to a new level, or tumble it into a dark age.
What is especially helpful, in trying to understand the disparate roles of the different generations and how they may come together in common cause, the authors assign each generation a common name. The archetypes-GIs and Millennials are “Heroes,” Silents are “Artists,” Boomers are “Prophets,” and Xers are “Nomads.” Furthermore, Strauss and Howe revisit the age-old theory that time moves through seasons in a cyclical pattern, corresponding to the seasons of the year. Thus the post-WWII era of the GIs was our “High” or spring; the Consciousness Revolution of the Boomers was our “Awakening” or summer; the 80’s and 90’s of the Xers was our “Unraveling” or fall; and we’re currently headed for our “Crisis” or winter. In keeping with seasonal metaphors, The Fourth Turning labels the seasons “turnings” (thus the title) and the time encompassing the four turnings as the “saecula,” a label used by the ancients that roughly corresponds to a century, or a long lifetime (90 years).
You Can Make The Difference
So if we are headed for an upheaval (and it certainly seems that way, judging from the tone of what passes for political argument), the question to ask is “What role will I play?” And one thing is certain. Unless you can be all that you can be, your involvement may be of little to no consequence. But people who read, and take the advice of a publication named Life Enhancement, are not likely to settle for less. In your hands lies your fate. If you are a part of history rather than just a bystander, you can make all the difference.
- Howe N, Strauss W. Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069. New York: William Morrow; 1991.
- Howe N, Strauss W. The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. New York: Broadway Books; 1997.