The Pendulum Predicts a Bumpy Ride – Part III

How should we live in difficult times?

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C. S. Lewis

In two recent posts under this same title, I summarized the message of Roy H. Williams’ and Michael Drew’s book Pendulum: How Past Generations Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future. As I explained in Part I, 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.

The apex of a We cycle brings an over-the-top emphasis on conformity for the common good, stifling individuality, and suppressing individual liberty. Unfortunately, according to the authors, it always goes to extremes, bringing witch hunts and bloodbaths.

In Part I, I laid out the reasons why I think the current conditions in the US support the authors’ hypothesis. In Part II, I discussed how I think the unpleasantness might show up. Today, I want to offer some thoughts and encouragement on how we ought to live through difficult and dangerous times.

Pendulum, warehouse, window, windows, knowldge park, columns, old buildings,

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? We’re going to find out!

Tough times aren’t anything new

First, it’s important to remember that this generation will not be the first to live through a peak We, or even the first to endure hard times. A family member with whom I was discussing this series pointed out that although World War II was a time of excessive violence and conformity, there was also a great deal of wholesome unity as Americans banded together to endure hardship and support the war effort. This observation is correct, and it neither rebuts nor excuses the internment of Japanese Americans in camps.

The potential for overreach notwithstanding, I believe it is possible for faithful men to live honorable, courageous, and fulfilling lives even in the midst of trouble. Consider the persecution of the first-century church at the hands of the Roman Empire. Christians rejected the empire’s demands that they confess Caesar as lord, and they suffered condemnation and martyrdom as a result. Even so, the apostles Peter and Paul each wrote that Christians were to submit to the authorities,  and more – they were to pray for the emperor. If you are unclear how hostile the relationship was between the empire and the church, take a look at the emperor Nero and the persecution he visited on followers of Jesus.

Options = strength. Strength = options

So once we’ve established in our minds that we will pray for our persecutors and obey civil laws to the extent allowable by conscience, what then?
I submit to you that we need to cultivate strength, resourcefulness, and resilience. This entails improving your health, your diet, your ability to think and act when stressed, and your ability to improvise. Options = strength. Strength = options. This plays into the systems mindset we discussed earlier. Goals are specific and tend to be wedded to a specific outcome — like a pass/fail test. Systems, on the other hand, allow for adaptation and therefore multiple paths to victory, however you define it.
If, to use a severe example, your community experienced a disruption of utility service and access to food, your ability to think and act systematically about food, clothing, shelter, identity, stimulation, and security, will enable you to facilitate your survival. If your goal-based plan centered on a butane lighter as your only way to build a fire, and that were to fail, you’d be far worse off.

Making it happen

Think ahead, please. As even the US government’s own public service announcements advise, you need a disaster plan and some ready stores of food, water, and survival implements. And you need to have adequate preparations for more than one type of disaster event. Then you need to know how to use them properly. Then you need to practice using them.

Your mindset matters

If a peak We is coming, your attitude is vitally important. Are you capable of persevering and hoping, even as you candidly assess your situation? Are you able to sort out friends from enemies, good intent from bad intent? How?
And if you’re thinking it might not be so bad if civil order breaks down, let me ask you: Is the future state you envision based on magical thinking? Or if we descend into chaos is it more likely that you and yours will be up to your necks in it? How exactly do you intend to exempt yourself? If the worst happens, I believe it will touch every household. Therefore, this is nothing to wish for. So here are some ways you can prepare for the worst while still working to help yourself and your community avoid the worst of a peak We.

My not-so-exhaustive list

It’s been done before — First, note that this country has risen above partisan rancor in the past — as our grandparents did during WWII and we did following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Smaller communities have banded together following hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and floods. It can happen. It’s important not to leave this to chance.
Love God — If you’re a disciple of Jesus, you believe that He is the sovereign King over all Kings. Whatever happens on earth does not escape His notice. What’s more, He promises wisdom to anyone who will ask. I wouldn’t want to try to live through any sort of crisis without this wisdom.

Love your neighbor (yes, that one) — If you’re on board with sowing good seed to help your community hold together, let’s go back to the Good Book. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” goes back 3,000 years — and that’s still the best advice. To love your neighbor when things get dicey, you have to get to know him now, before things get difficult.

Seek peace and pray for the welfare of the city During the period of captivity, when God’s chosen people were exiles in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah gave this instruction to the people:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:4-7 (ESV)
This was an exceedingly difficult time for the children of Israel, uprooted and captive far from home. Yet God commanded them not to withdraw from life or from civic engagement. Note they were to go on marrying, and also to make common cause with the city where they were in exile. People of faith do not have the luxury of being above or against culture, rather they must be faithful in the midst of culture. Christians refer to this as incarnational ministry.

Bridge the divide Find ways to establish common denominators with your opposite numbers. No, you can’t make people love you but you can model godliness. Previously, I referred to Charles Murray’s book, Coming Apart, and the trends he cited that signified a growing separation between college-educated and non-college-educated Americans.

Murray shows how we’re becoming more stratified and more insular. College grads hang with college grads, tradesmen with other tradesmen, and the two seldom interact in a social context. Some of the old civic organizations, such as the Rotary Club used to put people from different backgrounds and careers around the same table. The church also did — and still does — this. In addition to the spiritual strength and encouragement and connection to the transcendent it provides, the has a vital role to play in being an agent of social cohesion.
Imitate greatness There are great and noble examples, even in dark times. We would do well to emulate the saints of Mother Emmanuel who emulated Christ by forgiving their persecutor and praying for his soul. At the same time, they requested that everyone honor the memory of their murdered friends and loved ones by resisting the temptation to hit back. It was powerful. And if you belong to Jesus, you have that same power.

Emphasize and live in the theology of the body — Recognize that we need each other and we need to be able to cooperate with people who are different from us.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Give space — Don’t be the moral busybody Lewis mentions above. Even if — especially if — you disagree with someone, let him be free to have his opinion without fear of reprisals. The gravest provocation is the one that hounds a man for his private thoughts. Speech codes and political correctness, along with employment practices that result in firings for saying or believing the “wrong” thing, .

Hope for the best, prepare for the worstYou’re probably saying that I said this already. I know I did. It’s that important and it’s just good sense — just like having smoke detectors and a fire escape plan. The peak We is likely to be a human-caused, rather than a natural disaster. I’ve told you what I think could happen, but I admit I could be wrong, and I hope I am. But natural disasters occur, too, so you don’t only have to prepare for World War Z.
So have some shelf-stable food, a means of purifying and or storing potable water, of making a fire for cooking and warmth, of hunting, fishing, or trapping game, of identifying edible wild plants reliably, and of defending your home and family. Here’s a hint: This really needs to be done at the community, rather than at the household level. heroic loners are great in the movies, but not super practical in a Haiti, a Bosnia, or a Venezuela.

We don’t get to choose the time or place…

In Tolkein’s The Two Towers, Aragorn implores King Theoden of Rohan to join the fight to save Middle Earth. I love this dialogue, and I think it conveys where we find ourselves quite accurately:
Theoden: I will not risk open war.
Aragorn: Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.”
I take no particular delight in writing on this topic. But I would be doing less than a kindness to my friends if I did not tell them what I see. Again, I hope I’m wrong, and that as a country we choose to have a civil, peaceable, and functioning republic instead of a violent and chaotic future despotism. Although much of what happens in beyond our ability to influence it, keep in mind that what happens after that is in your hands and mine.

So how about you? How do you plan to prepare yourself and your family for difficult times? 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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2 thoughts on “The Pendulum Predicts a Bumpy Ride – Part III

  1. Difficult to find that balance between prudent preparation and excessive self sufficiency, I.e. survival of the physical and survival of the spiritual. Given the former is very finite and the latter is eternal, our focus is divided, conflicted and in opposition. As fallen creatures this physical world tends to subjugate our spiritual identity. But, we are aware of this conflict and ask the Lord to be our Lord of wisdom as we sometimes stumble toward our Kingdom destiny.

    • Thanks for your comment, Gerry. It made me think of Jim Elliot’s famous saying: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.” I plan and prepare as if it all depends on me and pray as if it all depends on God (since it does anyway).