William Strauss and Neil Howepublished The Fourth Turning in 1997. This was before the internet bubble, before the housing bubble, before 9/11, before the two wars in the Middle East, and before the financial collapse of 2008. They made a strong case for their generational theory of history. Everything that has happened since 1997 supports their theory. We are currently in the early stages of the Fourth Turning. In the last two chapters of their book, they describe the possibilities during a Fourth Turning. In the last section of the book they provide guidance on how to prepare responsibly for a Fourth Turning. Without preparation, the Fourth Turning is much worse. Below is a description of Fourth Turning possibilities, the preparations that were recommended by Strauss & Howe, and my assessment of how prepared we are as a country.
"What will America be like as it exits the Fourth Turning?
History offers no guarantees. Obviously, things could go horribly wrong the possibilities ranging from a nuclear exchange to uncurable plagues, from terrorist anarchy to high tech dictatorship. We should not assume that Providence will always exempt our nation from the irreversible tragedies that have overtaken so many others: not just temporary hardship, but debasement and total ruin. Since Vietnam, many Americans suppose they know what it means to lose a war. Losing in the next Fourth Turning, however, could mean something incomparably worse. It could mean a lasting defeat from which our national innocence and perhaps even our nation might never recover.
If America plunges into an era of depression or violence which by then has not lifted, we will likely look back on the 1990s as the decade when we valued all the wrong things and made all the wrong choices."
"However sober we must be about the dark possibilities of Crisis, the record of prior Fourth Turnings gives cause for optimism. With five of the past six Crises. it is hard to imagine more uplifting finales. Even after the Civil War, the American faith in progress returned with a new robustness. As a people, we have always done best when challenged. The New World still stands as a beacon of hope and virtue for the Old, and we have every reason to believe this can contine.
By the middle 2020s, the archetypal constellation will change, as each generation begins entering a new phase of life. If the Crisis ends badly, very old Boomers could be truly despised. Generation X might provide the demagogues, authoritarians, even the tribal warlords who try to pick up the pieces.
History is seasonal, but its outcomes are not foreordained. Much will depend on how tall we stand in the trials to come. But there is more to do than just wait for that time to come. The course of our national and personal destinies will depend in large measure on what we do now, as a society and as individuals, to prepare."Preparations Needed (1997 2006)
In their chapter on preparations for the Fourth Turning, Strauss and Howe essentially tell Americans to grow up. Give up the bad habits that had become part of our life during the Unraveling. We needed to prepare as if a blizzard was headed our way.
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