The Pendulum Predicts a Bumpy Ride – Part I

Comparing the authors' predictions in light of current conditions

 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18 (NIV)

In a recent post, I summarized the message of Roy H. Williams and Michael Drew’s book Pendulum: How Past Generations Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future. You really should read the post and get your hands on a copy of the book. (I don’t get any form of compensation for recommending the book, by the way.)
The thrust of the book is that history unfolds in cycles — like a pendulum — through forty year arcs from what the authors refer to as a “Peak Me” phase to a “Peak We” phase. The period from a peak We to the next peak We  — one round trip — is roughly eighty years, and the authors claim we are heading for the next peak We in or around 2023 — less than six years from now.

Time flies. What’s the big deal?

welding, metal stairs, ascending, going up, climbing, social, unity

We need to strengthen social cohesion.

Williams and Drew explain that a We phase has a number of characteristics — the belief in teamwork, an ascendant populism, and an emphasis on community. Unfortunately, the zenith of a We phase overplays these generally good aims, imposing conformity for the common good. Reviewing our history in eighty-year leaps shows some disturbing events at peak We periods.
The last peak We occurred in 1943, during World War II. Note that Stalin was starving his countrymen by the millions, Hitler was exterminating millions of Jews in concentration camps, and the generally well-regarded President Franklin D. Roosevelt was imprisoning as many as 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent in internment camps.
The peak We before that occurred in 1863, during the American Civil War. The United States, polarized over the issues of states’ rights and slavery, engaged in a bloody conflict that took the lives of some 600,000 combatants. And the peak We before that occurred in 1783, during the American Revolution. Although the principal conflict occurred between the American Colonies and the British crown, other smaller conflicts arose between revolutionaries and loyalists. The authors give examples and timelines to illustrate the unpleasant events at We phase peaks over the past 3,000 years of Western history.
Peak We cycles are periods of what Williams and Drew refer to as witch hunts and bloodbaths. Based on the examples above, I find their analysis persuasive, and I already see indications that we may hit the next peak We ahead of schedule.

What do you see?

Given the current conditions within the US, our coming troubles could be of our own making. Consider the following:
  • Polarized politics – the left and the right do not talk to each other, so much as they talk at or past each other.
  • Contentious social issues – Triumphalism and scorched earth seem to be the order of things, “Coexist” stickers to the contrary
    • Intolerance in the name of tolerance
    • Flash mobs, shouting down of unpopular points of view, suppression of dissent, and speech codes
  • Nationalism vs. Globalism – diametrically opposite and irreconcilable views concerning the relationship between citizens and their government
    • This is actually a three-way clash between the worldviews of militant Islam, international Socialism and classical Liberalism
  • The rise of populism – It may be pure cynicism, but notice how political candidates speak of The Little Guy or Everyday Americans
  • Tribalism and parochialism – intensifying competition among identity groups
    • Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart examines the stratification among college-educated versus non-college-educated whites, showing how what he calls the “cognitive elite” increasingly keep to themselves.
  • Fraying moral consensus – Americans no longer share a common view of what makes up a good life, or of the values that encourage and sustain it.
  • Setting groups against one another – note political rhetoric aimed at appeals to group identity. These pit:
    • men against women
    • black against white
    • poor against rich
    • Law enforcement officers against civilians
  • Suspicion and hostility toward institutions – some of it well-deserved. Consider the opinions of your friends about:
    • Church
    • Government
    • Media
    • Business
    • Academia
  • Erosion of social trust – note the rise of gated communities, security systems, and neighbors who don’t know each other
    • This is, in part, a byproduct of the failure of institutions. If authorities lie with impunity, trust dies.
  • Reality television and social media rewarding the lack of self-control and exhibitionism
    • This creates an amplifying effect – creates a self-fulfilling perception that “everyone is doing it.”
    • This also undermines notions of personal modesty and privacy
  • Acceptance of near-universal surveillance – we aren’t the only ones recording video, but “it’s for our safety.”
This is an admittedly incomplete snapshot, and you could accuse me of highlighting only those aspects that fit the authors’ template. Fair enough. It’s been a fallen world for a long time, and there certainly is no shortage of things going wrong.
I was a child during the upheaval of the 1960’s and I remember those years well. The current list above has a different feel about it — much more ominous and much less generous in spirit– and that’s just trouble from within. Islamic terrorism or a nuclear or electromagnetic pulse attack from, say, North Korea could create enough disruption from without to provoke lawlessness here.

What vulnerability?

Our economy is more dispersed than ever. In stable times, this is wonderful, since you can, for example, enjoy strawberries nearly all year round. But it also means that it is much easier to disrupt the economy — and on a much larger scale — because of its sprawling complexity.
Just as one example, disruption of the electric power grid could ground air freight, disable computer aided navigation, and wipe out logistics systems. Given that most grocery stores have only three days’ worth of inventory, you can see that the shelves would be empty very quickly since the supply chain would be disrupted. Add to this the disruption of banking, and the less-frequent use of cash, and people would lack the means to pay for the dwindling supplies. And hungry people will resort to desperate measures to secure food for themselves and their families.

Is it hopeless?

I wouldn’t ever say it’s hopeless, because I believe in a sovereign God who is present in and rules over His cosmos. At the same time, God allows free will, and there have been plenty of We cycle peaks through history over the past three millennia. With that understanding, I think we need to prepare ourselves and make up our minds how we intend to respond before things get sporty.
In my next post, I’ll tell you how and when I think this will play out — and most important, give you my thoughts on how we ought to live through such times.

So how about you? What do you think about Williams and Drew’s prediction? What am I missing? Add your comments below

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

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