This is the final post of this series. In PART 1 we examined our nation’s social fabric and the damage we are doing to it. In PART 2 we considered the price of unrestrained factional politics. We are so busy fighting each other we have neglected important issues. Here, in PART 3 we will propose a way out of this problem.
The Lessons of History
William Strauss and Neil Howe published The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny (amazon.com) in 1997. What was it about? Something that now goes by the name Strauss–Howe generational theory (en.wikipedia.org). Strauss and Howe believed that we begin a new cycle of human history about every four generations. Since a generation lasts about 20 years, we begin a new cycle about every 80 – 90 years.
What characterizes the beginning and end of a cycle? A time of crisis. Society slowly unravels until there is a crisis. Then the people fight among themselves to resolve the crisis until some group becomes dominant and “wins”. Then, a recovery of some sort begins.
Is Strauss–Howe generational theory real or true? There is probably some truth to it. The last crisis American society experienced involved the Great Depression and World War II. The Great Recession started in 2008. That is about 80 years after the Great Depression started. So, if Strauss and Howe are right, we should expect something like World War II to be starting around about now. The impeachment of Donald Trump? That doesn’t seem much like World War II. So, what is coming? What surprise should we expect? What disaster will we conjure up?
Why would history run in cycles? We only live about 80 years. That is about the length of our institutional memory. After 80 years latter generations start repeating even the worst mistakes of previous generations. Apparently we have that much trouble grasping the suffering we can cause with our own stupidity. Consider a couple of quotes.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana (from here (en.wikiquote.org))
People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors. — Edmund Burke (from here (en.wikiquote.org))
I like the second quote better. If we care about our children — if we love them — then we will try to understand our parents and the generations that preceded them. What disaster will we conjure up? What have we forgotten that we should have remembered for the sake of our children?
An Example Of How Stupid We Can Be: The Big Story Of 2019
There will be many stories from 2019 that today’s pundits will highlight instead of this one. Still, in the long run, this story is probably more serious.
- Transgender sprinters finish 1st, 2nd at Connecticut girls indoor track championships (washingtontimes.com)
- AGAIN: Transgender Athletes Dominate at Connecticut Girls’ Track State Meet (pjmedia.com)
- Don Jr.: Transgender sprinters winning high school girls track race in Connecticut a ‘grave misjustice’ (washingtonexaminer.com)
Of all the things we could focus upon, why focus on the fact that two boys competed in an athletic competition for girls? The issue is truth, determining what is true. Is it my truth? Is it your truth? Or is the truth something we can determine objectively? That I think is the issue that surfaces and leads to a great crisis about every four generations. We fight over how to decide the truth. We take sides, and we insist that our version of the truth is the only correct one.
When does conflict arise? If we are tolerant, we allow others to believe what they wish, to live in accordance with what they believe is true. If we are not tolerant — especially if our our “truth” demands intolerance — then we force our beliefs upon others.
Consider how Everett Piper (washingtontimes.com) defines the battle.
More than 60 years ago, in “The Abolition of Man,” C.S. Lewis challenged his readers to enter the town square and the marketplace of ideas with boldness and confidence. He argued that in failing to do so, we would become “men without chests;” a culture of heartless people divorced from any agreement of what is right and wrong; a society of disconnected individuals who care little for what is enduring, accurate or true.
The Oxford don warned of a time when questions would lie fallow in a field of disingenuous inquiry with little interest in a harvest of answers.
With the political season upon us, we face a time of big questions.
Life: When does it begin, when does it end, and who has the right to define it and take it?
Climate: Is the theory of anthropomorphic warming scientific, principled or opportunistic?
Sexuality: What is healthy and best for body, soul, family and society?
Tolerance: Are all worldviews and religions epistemologically, ontologically and morally equal?
Women: Is a female a biological fact? Should she have the right to her own bathroom, facilities and sport?
Feminism: Can you be a feminist if you deny the reality of the feminine?
Socialism: With 100 million already dead at its hand, why are we intent on repeating history?
Immigration: Can a nation exist if it doesn’t have clearly defined and defended borders?
Justice: If society rather than God defines justice, then isn’t the concept of what is just and unjust somewhat arbitrary, meaningless and potentially deadly?
These are fundamental questions. But do we really want answers? In the present political climate, do we care more about silencing our opponents than correcting our opinions? Do we want to learn, or are we content to lecture? Does our query assume that one position is going to be closer to the truth than another? Are we honest enough to want an answer even at the expense of being wrong? (continued here)
In 2020, we each must make a commitment to participate in the debate. We must understand the importance of resolutely seeking the truth. If we stand apart from the debate, evil people may force their lies upon our children and grandchildren.
Consider the resolution of the last great crisis, the end of World War II. Part of the world was cut off behind an iron curtain.
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone-Greece with its immortal glories-is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy. — Winston Churchill (from here (winstonchurchill.org))
Thugs led by Joseph Stalin (en.wikipedia.org), not the truth, prevailed behind that iron curtain. If we do not do our part, we may condemn our children to living behind a new iron curtain.
Will we defend our constitutional republic, or will we not?