As some of you know, I’m very interested in Generational Theory as described in The Fourth Turning by Strauss & Howe. The intricacies of their writings are a bit too much to detail here, but as early as 1997 they clearly saw what we were heading for. The future they predicted is happening now and it is as bad as they thought. In fact, worse is coming. Much worse. We cannot stop it, but we can avoid prolonging it.
The authors described the era of their time as a Third Turning, an Unraveling, a cyclical period in which the social order begins to fall apart. Strauss and Howe called that era the Culture Wars and forecast that as the Baby Boomers rose into the senior leadership of the nation, they would wage it as a continuation of the great social issues of the 60’s. And how they did.
The authors saw that America would remain divided on social and economic issues until our society was no longer able to resolve any problem. The result would be a devaluation of assets, national debt, and other upheaval as parties serve their own interests and bicker too much to stop any of it. It would lead to a Crisis period, or Fourth Turning where everything is broken apart and remade. Previous Fourth Turnings included the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Depression/WW2 eras. Yeah. It’s going to be that kind of decade.
In 2008, the surviving author Neil Howe pronounced that the Great Devaluation had begun. We are early in a Fourth Turning area that will see a radically different America by the time it ends, sometime in the 2020’s.
Anyway, it’s a fascinating book.
One characteristic of a Crisis period is that as the greater problems facing society become more daunting, the small, previously unsolvable issues become manageable by comparison. The Culture War issues are already starting to either resolve themselves or take a back seat. The best example is probably our society’s complete reversal on gay marriage over less than a decade.
See how the Boy Scouts finally dropped their objection to admitting openly gay members. Similarly, we await a Supreme Court verdict that may spell the death of the Defense of Marriage Act as well, making this the greatest year in the history of gay Americans
since track lighting was invented… since the first male masseuse filed a complaint against John Travolta… since Magic Johnson cured AIDS…ever.
Abortion continues to dominate the battlefield. The federal courts chose to protect Planned Parenthood’s funding, but the states are still finding ways to kill it with a thousand cuts. The Gosnell trial may have had an impact in altering the public’s perceptions, but it’s too soon to tell.
The Supreme Court (which, as an institution is mostly to blame for the Culture Wars, in my opinion) is also set to rule on Affirmative Action. Who knows what to expect?
We also have guns, church and state separation, drugs (a lot of movement happening there at the state level), birth control, and on and on. I believe that all of these issues will be decisively resolved within 15 years, for better or for worse. It’s not that we will so much change our minds on things, we just won’t be interested in fighting over it anymore. Bigger fish to fry and all that.
The paralysis in government and the chaos that is ruling the news are there because Americans have not accepted the Crisis stage and still want to cling to the simplistic comforts of the Culture Wars. Democrats won in 2012 by scaring the bejeezus out of women and minorities on old Culture War issues. Conservatives didn’t turn out to vote because they couldn’t support the Mormon. Am I simplifying? Probably, but does any serious person truly believe that America chose to keep Obama in the White House, the Democrats in the Senate, and GOP in the House because they thought that was the answer to the debt and deficit crises, bankrupting of Social Security, or any other problem that is gazing right at us? Fear of The Other and apathy won the day.
This is why I was so despondent after Election Day. It’s not because “my guy” lost. It’s because the American people showed that they are going to let it all keep slipping out of control, because they won’t acknowledge the real threats and stop bitch-slapping each other until they’re forced to.
We have to start finding common ground, folks. I know some people would rather let it all burn than work with the other side, but that’s what it is going to take. We need a realignment. We need to find a consensus.
So here’s your chance to get the Culture War out of your system. Let’s have:
1. Sounds of the Third Turning: Music from 1984-2008. Particularly that which really captures the death of the American dream, culture clashing, and decadence.
2. Culture Warriors: Artists who are known as lighting rods for social issues. Lady Gaga is a good one.
3. You Have Issues: Songs about any Culture War issue you can think of. Race, religion, abortion, homosexuality…
Bankruptcy Bonus: Songs that truly captured the spirits of their eras. They saw things as they were and spoke up about it. We really need that now.
Oh, and in true RTFLC tradition, I encourage everyone to support their selections with outrageous personal insults whenever possible. We never merely argue explosive social issues with reason and logic do we, you dicks?
Biggie G, have some white boy blues, you neck-bearded hipster. Sums up how I feel about our current state: Everything is Broken by Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Mississippi Yankee, you should enjoy this, you tea-bagging jarhead: Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other by Ned Sublette
Santino, ah, I just can’t do it. I’ve even learned to accept your lifestyle choice of enjoying Oasis. You’re too good-natured for this blog: Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis
InsipiD, you are a straight-shooting gentleman and I cannot find fault with you for anything except that time you lost an arm-wrestling match with Rachel Maddow’s clitoris. Let’s be friends: Sexuality by K.D. Lang
stogy, if I thought that Eric Holder needed to be circumcised, I’d simply kick you in the jaw and have it done. Let’s destroy the institution of marriage: Divorce Song by Liz Phair
pfluffy, you once believed that Barack Obama was an acceptable libertarian alternative to Ron Paul once he bowed out of the GOP primary. Just let that settle in. It will start to sting shortly. This is a great Third Turning band: A Drug Against War by KMFDM
WVR…Damn you. Just damn you. Bodies by The Sex Pistols
Iconoclast, you forgot to post a song last week, you bloviating theocrat! But I’ll let you have a dedication anyway: Theologians by Wilco
DJ Thread Subpoena: I summon dakrat. A powerful culture warrior, this one.
This week also proved to be a great personal milestone for me. It held the first thread in which one of my comments was downvoted into oblivion, despite my best efforts to upvote myself on as many computers as I could log onto. Remarkable, given my astonishingly high personal popularity around here. Proof, if proof were needed, that I remain the most divisive individual in the annals of RTFLC. Seriously: You guys are pricks.