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2020s: The Fourth Turning
Armageddon in our Lifetimes
The 2020s have emerged as a decade marked by profound social, political, and economic changes, starting off with a financial squeeze, pandemic, global lockdowns, supply chain disruptions, extraordinary economic interventions including monetized stimulus, bailouts, and zero interest rate policy (ZIRP), race riots, urban exodus, stolen elections, raging inflation, de-dollarization, brinksmanship, and outbreak of war. As with other similarly turbulent periods, the 2020s can be viewed as a "Fourth Turning," a concept popularized by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe. The Fourth Turning theory posits that history moves in cycles, characterized by generational shifts and recurring patterns of crisis and renewal. By analyzing and drawing parallels with previous Fourth Turnings in history, we can perhaps assess some implications for the future.
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Understanding the Fourth Turning Theory
The Fourth Turning theory postulates that history unfolds in cycles, roughly spanning 80 years, known as saecula. Each saeculum comprises four generations of approximately 20 years each: the Hero generation, the Artist generation, the Prophet generation, and the Nomad generation. These generations exhibit distinct characteristics and life experiences, shaping the course of history.
According to Strauss and Howe, a Fourth Turning is a time of crisis that occurs at the end of every saeculum, marked by social and political upheaval. During these periods, institutions are challenged and the old order is replaced with a new one, usually violently. The last saeculum was punctuated with World War II as its Fourth Turning. The authors identify four key archetypes during a Fourth Turning: the Prophet leaders, who diagnose societal problems; the Nomad leaders, who navigate through crisis; the Hero generation, who provide the necessary action; and the Artist generation, who focus on cultural and societal renewal.
The generational archetypes are a result of the times and parent generation in which they grew up. Saecula occur in 4 generations because that's approximately the extent of generational memory in humans. We learn from our parents and grandparents primarily, with some influence of our great grandparents, but very little knowledge or input from our great, great grandparents. And so, as Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Thus we essentially find ourselves in the same general circumstances as our great, great grandparents and replicate to a large extent their reactions to those circumstances since human nature doesn't appreciably change over time. I.e. we are the same generational archetype as four generations prior.
Today, we're in the Millennial Saeculum and our generational archetypes break down as follows:
Prophet Generation: Born in the aftermath of the last "crisis" or Fourth Turning, Baby Boomers (b. 1943-1960) grew up during the "high" or First Turning and came of age during the "awakening" or Second Turning. They were known for their activism in the 1960s and 1970s, protesting war and advocating for civil rights and social change. They are driven, loyal, and unafraid to challenge authority. Their predecessor Prophets -- i.e. great, great grandparents -- were the Missionary Generation (b. 1860-1882), who came of age post-Reconstruction.
Nomad Generation: Generation X (b. 1961-1981) grew up during a time of spiritual and cultural revolution, known as the "awakening" or Second Turning, and came of age during the "unraveling" or Third Turning. They are known for navigating the changing landscape of work and technology to become pragmatic, realistic leaders in the post-awakening world. Their predecessor Nomads were the Lost Generation (b. 1883-1900) who navigated WWI, the Roaring '20s, Great Depression, and were the leaders during WWII.
Hero Generation: Millennials (b. 1982-2004) grew up during a time of "unraveling" in the post-9/11 world and are coming of age in a time of "crisis" or Fourth Turning, including the Great Recession and whatever comes next. They have been seen as community-minded, working towards causes like environmentalism and social justice. Their predecessor Heroes were the G.I. Generation (b. 1901-1927) who lived through the Great Depression and then went off to fight in World War II.
Artist Generation: Generation Z or Zoomers (b. 2005 - 2023) are growing up in an era of "crisis" or Fourth Turning and will come of age in the "high" or First Turning of the next Saeculum. Their predecessor Artists were the Silent Generation (b. 1928-1945), who were so conformist out of fear from the turmoil (Great Depression, WWII) faced in their youth that they were silent through the McCarthyism era of anti-Communism.
Strauss and Howe are far from the first humans to identify cycles in nature and civilization. In fact, these observations go back to prehistory.
The ancient Mayans were adept at identifying human cycles — their primary calendar was based on the human gestational period and the length of a Baktun (one of thirteen sub-periods of the Mayan long-count calendar) applies to generational cycles.
Ancient Western cultures observed the precession of the equinoxes, whereby the Earth's axis moves slowly through the 12 symbols of the Zodiac. One Platonic Year (full Zodiac cycle) is approximately 25,860 solar years, which is also approximately 4 Mayan long-count calendar cycles, give or take. I.e. one long-count cycle is equivalent to precession through 3 Zodiac symbols (3 Astrological Ages).
Many Western astrologers believe that the Age of Aquarius has arrived recently or will arrive in the near future — for those who define an Age as 2000 years exactly (which doesn't quite add up to a Platonic Year), the Age of Pisces began around the period in which Jesus is supposed to have lived (Jesus and the Pisces fish symbol are tightly correlated), and the Age of Aquarius therefore begins right around the current period. Jesus is historically supposed to have lived from about 5 BCE to about 33 CE, so if we use his life as the demarcation, then the Age of Aquarius begins around 1995-2033, which aligns with the Millennial/Zoomer generations.
The ancient Greeks, Babylonians, Egyptians, and others believed that great social change occurred during the changing of an Age, just as the Mayans believed regarding the changing of a Baktun. Ages generally aren't so strictly defined as exactly a set number of years however. Just as human lifespans and generations may be variable, so must be the Ages defined by them. Astrologically, there is no hard border between one constellation and another, so there is some interpretation required to identify the transitional period of up to several decades, known as a "cusp", about which the turning of an Age occurs.
As another example of a Western (or Near East) conception of cyclicality, in the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Atrahasis, the god Enlil is said to formulaically issue famines and droughts every 1200 years (which is equivalent to 3 Baktuns) to control overpopulation. Coincidentally, the classical Mayan civilization, which used the long-count calendar, dissolved almost exactly 3 Baktuns ago in what some scientists attribute to a period of severe drought. And much of the world today is also in severe drought and suffering from wildfires. The most recent Baktun ended in 2012.
A little more granular and recent, long-term cycles within civilization have been independently observed by the likes of Nikolai Kondratiev (Russian, b. 1892) and Ralph Nelson Elliott (American, b. 1871).
Kondratiev's long-wave theory posits distinct economic and societal phases over roughly 50-60-year cycles (2-3 generations). They include Spring (economic growth and innovation), Summer (peak prosperity and expansion), Autumn (economic downturn and challenges), and Winter (economic depression and upheaval). Each season corresponds to specific socio-economic trends and innovations. Spring sees technological breakthroughs, Summer experiences economic booms, Autumn encounters economic turbulence, and Winter reflects economic crises and transformations. This theory highlights the cyclical nature of long-term economic and social trends, providing a framework to understand historical patterns and anticipate future developments.
In the present context, Spring could be seen as the development of the microprocessor and computers in the 1960s - ‘70s, Summer was the economic expansion of the 1980s - ‘90s, Autumn was the Dot-Com bust, Global Financial Crisis, and Great Recession of the 2000s - ‘10s, and Winter is the coming economic depression and upheaval of the 2020s - ‘30s.
Elliott Wave Theory also seeks to identify repetitive patterns in financial markets over extended periods, driven by investor psychology and market sentiment (often driven by generational predispositions). The theory, which was developed in the 1930s when Ralph Nelson Elliott identified that markets were fractal in nature, defines two types of waves: impulsive waves, which move in the direction of the trend, and corrective waves, which move against the trend. These waves are further subdivided into smaller degrees, forming a hierarchical structure. Traders and analysts use Elliott Wave Theory to forecast future price movements by recognizing patterns and anticipating trend reversals, making it a valuable tool in stock market analysis and trading strategies.
Analysis suggest that we might be in a corrective phase following the strong bull market of the late 2010s. After the market top in 2021, it appears that we've completed a very long-term 5-wave structure starting from the bottom of the market crash in 1929 - 1932, and now we're in a multi-year or even a multi-decade 3-wave bear market. It is likely to last 13 - 21 years.
These natural cycles all relate to the length of a median human lifespan and the way that human nature reacts to certain predetermined inputs which were the result of the prior cycle or wave. E.g. a Baktun is approximately equivalent to one or two Elliott Wave grand supercycles, 7-10 Kondratiev waves, 5 Strauss & Howe generational cycles, or 20 turnings. The idea is also related to crowd psychology and the collective unconscious espoused by Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. However you define these cycles, there is a deep foundation that they are an indelible characteristic of human civilization.
Fourth Turnings of Recent History
Revolutionary Saeculum: One notable Fourth Turning in American history was the American Revolution (1760s-1780s). During this period, the Nomad and Hero generations led the charge for independence, while the Artist generation crafted a new vision for the nation. The crisis of the time resulted in the birth of a new nation, with the old colonial order giving way to a constitutional republic.
Prophet Generation: The Awakening Generation (b. 1701-1723) were largely 2nd generation Americans, the grandchildren of early colonists. They were discontent with moral complacency. 11 out of the 56 signatories to the United States Declaration of Independence were in this generation, ranging in age from 53 to 70 at the time. Prominent figures from this generation include Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Eliza Pinckney, John Woolman, and Crispus Attucks.
Nomad Generation: The Liberty Generation (b. 1724-1741) came of age during the French and Indian War and were highly patriotic. 35 out of the 56 signatories to the United States Declaration of Independence were in this generation, ranging in age from 35 to 52 at the time. Notable figures include George Washington, John Adams, Francis Marion, Daniel Boone, Ethan Allen, John Hancock, and Patrick Henry.
Hero Generation: The Republican Generation (b. 1742-1766) grew up in the age of British Imperialism as the children of over-protective parents during an era of rising crime and social disorder. Coming of age the years during and following the Revolution, they were known for their secular optimism and spirit of cooperation. 10 out of 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence were in this generation, ranging in age from 26 to 34 at the time. Some of its notable members include Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Alexander Hamilton.
Artist Generation: The Compromise Generation (b. 1767-1791) grew up during the Revolution and came of age in its aftermath, becoming the administrative founding fathers. Prominent figures included Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Washington Irving, and Dolly Madison.
Civil War Saeculum: Another Fourth Turning occurred during the Civil War and its Reconstruction aftermath (1860s-1870s). The crisis of the time, marked by the Hero generation's sacrifice and the Nomad generation's leadership, resulted in the abolition of slavery and a significant reshaping of the American social and political landscape.
Prophet Generation: The Transcendental Generation (b. 1792-1821) were born with the Revolution in their rear view mirror and lead the Second Great Awakening. Prominent figures from this generation include Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Susan B. Anthony, Nat Turner, and William Lloyd Garrison.
Nomad Generation: The Gilded Generation (b. 1822-1842) came of age during a time of economic innovation, rampant immigration, and cultural revolution. They came to detest moral zealotry. Most Civil War soldiers were from this generation. Notable figures include Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, Louisa May Alcott, and William James.
Hero & Artist Generation: The Progressive Generation (b. 1843-1859) grew up or came of age during the Civil War and Reconstruction and mostly sought social melioration and socialist policies. Some of its notable members include Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Henry James, Booker T. Washington, Katherine Lee Bates, and Clarence Darrow.
Great Power Saeculum: The most recent Fourth Turning occurred during the Great Depression and World War II (1930s-1940s). It was characterized by economic upheaval, political turmoil, and the deadliest global conflict in history. This era featured the rise of authoritarian regimes, including Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The outcome reshaped the world order with the establishment of the United Nations and the Marshall Plan and heralded the era Pax Americana.
Prophet Generation: The Missionary Generation (b. 1860-1882) came of age after Reconstruction and tried to shake things up with populism, muckraking, and women's sufferage. Prominent figures from this generation include Franklin Roosevelt, W.E.B. DuBois, William Jennings Bryan, Upton Sinclair, Jane Addams, and Douglas MacArthur.
Nomad Generation: The Lost Generation (b. 1883-1900) grew up in a time of mass immigration, urbanism, and corruption. They came of age as soldiers of World War I (many of whom were lost to the war) and entrepreneurs of the Roaring '20s before being hobbled by the Great Depression at the peak of their careers. Notable figures include Harry Truman, Irving Berlin, George Patton, Mae West, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong.
Hero Generation: The G.I. Generation (b. 1901-1924) were the coddled children foist into schools and scouts and kept out of factories only to come of age as soldiers fighting in Europe and the Pacific. When they came home -- those who came home -- built sprawling suburbs and fought the Cold War. Some of its notable members include John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, Judy Garland, John Wayne, and Walter Cronkite.
Artist Generation: The Silent Generation (b. 1925-1942) grew up in economic depression, rationing, and global war. They were risk-averse and just wanted to get along. They promoted civil rights and world peace. Prominent figures included Colin Powell, Walter Mondale, Woody Allen, Martin Luther King, Jr., ElizabethTaylor, and Elvis Presley.
The 2020s: A Fourth Turning in Progress
We first have to understand that the Awakening — the civil rights movement and social change of the 1960s and '70s, economic reformations of the 1980s, growth of the Asian economic powers, and technological revolution of the 1990s — set the stage for the Millennial Saeculum. And then the Unraveling — fall of Communism, Middle East interventions, September 11th terrorist attacks, War on Terror, Petrodollar hegemony, trade wars, monetary wars, de-dollarization, financial bubbles, and growing brinksmanship — created a global tension leading up to the 2020s that must be resolved.
Crisis: The 2020s began with the COVID-19 pandemic, a global crisis that has upended lives, economies, and healthcare systems. This crisis has prompted a widespread reevaluation of healthcare, public policy, and the role of government. The subsequent economic fallout, including mass job losses and persistent inflation, has driven social and political unrest.
At least that's the official version of events. Conversely, you might reverse the causal relationship of this period and view the pandemic response as a pretext by which to impose healthcare, public policy, and government reforms because of existing economic, political, and social circumstances leading into 2020 which required an authoritarian expansion of power to control. That's basically how the authoritarian regimes of the Great Power Saeculum coerced compliance — by creating a bogeyman in the hearts of the people and then promising to keep them safe, including going to war for them.
When the World Economic Forum declared the Great Reset agenda in 2020, the proximal impetus was the pandemic, but the greater goal was to address financial system imbalances, economic inequality, environmental concerns, technological developments, and other issues long antecedent to the pandemic. Indeed, these issues were generations in the making. Likewise, the UN's 2030 Agenda talks about ending poverty & hunger, imposing sustainable consumption, regulating natural resource development, controlling technological progress, and globalizing governance. The chief bogeymen that these globalist organizations promulgate in order to garner compliance are global pandemic, global warming (or climate change), global resource depletion, and global security (food security, water security, trade security, cyber security, and even security from aliens and artificial intelligence).
Political Polarization: The political landscape of the 2020s has been characterized by deep divisions and polarization. The aftermath of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, accompanied by contested results and accusations of voter fraud, revealed the extent of political fissures in American society. These divisions have led to heightened levels of partisanship and a growing mistrust in institutions, most of which have been responsible for mass gaslighting and censorship since the beginning of the pandemic. In Europe, Russia invaded Ukraine in February, 2022, which inflamed and polarized the entire world as nations took sides. The West consider Putin's Russia a rogue state and danger to the world. In Asia, China has been positioning to invade Taiwan while the U.S. and allies maintain increasingly precarious deterrence activities. As China's economy crashes following their failed reopening after extended pandemic lockdowns, Xi Jinping has little to lose by coalescing his populace around a war with the West.
Calls for Systemic Change: Protests and movements for social justice, such as Black Lives Matter, have gained momentum in the 2020s. These movements call for systemic change in areas like policing, criminal justice, and racial equality. They reflect a growing demand for a reevaluation of societal norms and values. Woke culture, cancel culture, doxing, and ESG increasingly penalize individuals and corporations for pursuing their own goals and priorities instead of aligning with the prevailing social justice narrative. The undermining of national social cohesion of America's classically liberal, free-market capitalist, democratic-republic roots opens up the potential for globalist organizations to gain a foothold in overthrowing the existing world order with a promise of global socialist utopia.
Implications for the Future
The Fourth Turning theory suggests that the 2020s will be a pivotal decade in American and world history, with the potential for significant societal, political, and economic transformation. As in past Fourth Turnings, there is the opportunity for a reimagining of norms, values, and institutions. More than likely, these changes will be imposed violently by way of a global war between the conservative, traditionalist, nationalist forces and the progressive, socialist, globalist forces. If history is any guide, this war will likely be sparked by ongoing brinksmanship between global superpowers triggering a military confrontation when one side or the other initiates a false flag attack on their own forces or populace in order to justify retaliation and represent themselves as the victims of aggression to their own people. The globalist forces need not win the war in the traditional sense, but will use the wartime fear, economic diversions, and state of emergency to impose their vision, whichever side prevails.
Understanding the Fourth Turning theory allows us to view these events in the context of historical cycles, offering insights into the potential outcomes and challenges of this decade. While the future remains uncertain, the lessons of past Fourth Turnings remind us of the importance of leadership, unity, and a willingness to adapt and renew in the face of adversity. The choices made in the 2020s will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of American and global society for generations to come.
There Is No Fate But What We Make For Ourselves
For individuals, it is of utmost importance to prepare yourselves and your families for a brutal series of events that will directly impact you and your posterity in one way or another. Global war, supply chain disruptions, financial crises, hyperinflation, cyber and EMP attacks, rationing, conscription, and other such conditions are highly likely over the course of the next few years. The same kinds of environments and circumstances which impacted the people living during the American Revolution, Civil War, and WWII will again manifest themselves to us, but with a contemporary flavor and severity given technologies and innovations since those times.
Now is not the time to be complacent and suffer from normalcy bias or optimism bias. These cycles have occurred since time immemorial; they're not about to stop now. While no particular future is inevitable, the Fourth Turning is here and will play out in some form reminiscent of the past cycles. It's been 84 years since the inception of WWII. All but a few of the Silent Generation (81 to 98 years old) have passed on, particularly following the pandemic, which mostly affected the elderly. Now it's just the four Millennial Saeculum generations, with the Gen X and Millennial cohorts ascendant. According to Fourth Turning theory, it'll be the Millennials who are the Hero Generation primarily acting as the soldiers in the next major conflict, and they are quickly aging out of that role now. Therefore, the Fourth Turning crisis is imminent and the fleeting time left to prepare should not be neglected. Although a certain series of events seems fairly predestined, how you respond to it is not.
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