"The Curse of Interesting Times"
Things are the most interesting they've been
in 80 years, 250 years, and, well, ever.
by Contemplations on the Tree of Woe
"The Chinese curse their enemies with the phrase “may you live in interesting times.” Or, rather, Americans think that Chinese curse their enemies like that; according to Infogalactic, “despite being widely attributed as a Chinese curse, there is no equivalent expression in Chinese.”
Fortunately, there’s an actual Chinese phrase that’s much more interesting. It’s found in a 1627 short story collection by Feng Menglong called "Stories to Awaken the World," and it states "better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic times.” And to be a dog in 17th China didn’t mean being a beloved fur baby with your own YouTube channel. It meant being a workbeast that got eaten when times were lean. The Chinese still have an annual dog meat festival.
Whichever adage you prefer, our times are both chaotic and interesting. In fact, they are monumentally interesting - they are so interesting as to beggar coherent description, to put to shame historical comparison, so remarkable that every single one of us would be justified in screaming from the rooftops in shock and awe. And yet we don’t. We keep calm and carry on, sturdily gripped by our bias for normalcy, by our human ability to adapt to even the most bizarre circumstances. It’ll be fine, we tell ourselves. This is fine.
But what if we put aside our normalcy bias for a moment and look at how just how “interesting” our times really are? What do we see then?
Once Every 80 Years…Once every 80 years, a country enters a crisis. That is, at least, the assertion of Strauss-Howe Generational Theory. According to Strauss and Howe, human history is organized into repeating patterns marked by four “turnings”: the High, the Awakening, the Unraveling, and the Crisis. Each turning is approximately 20 years long, and an entire cycle of four turnings is therefore about 80 years long. According to Strauss and Howe, American history looks something like this:
○ American Revolutionary Crisis, 1765 - 1785
○ American Civil War Crisis, 1855 - 1875
○ Great Depression and World War II Crisis, 1930 - 1950
○ You Are Here, 2010 - 2030
If we believe Strauss-Howe Generational Theory, we are in the midst of what they call a Fourth Turning - a moment of Crisis.
Are we in a Fourth Turning? I certainly believe so. As I documented in "Running on Empty," the United States now stands at a financial precipice. US inflation is at its worst in 40 years because the monetary system we established under Truman and rejuvenated under Nixon is now about to collapse. With that crisis have come challenges from a resurgent Russia and burgeoning China that could lead to a Third World War or, at best, a post-American world order. The Thucydides Trap has never been so close to springing. It’s no wonder then that US fears of nuclear war have surged to levels not seen since the Cold War. But unlike the Cold War, no one wants to ‘ask what they can do for their country’ anymore. US Army recruitment is at its worst in 50 years. And why would they want to serve? Our nation is divided into warring camps. US partisan distrust of the opposing party is at its worst in 30 years.
All right. That all sounds bad. But if Strauss-Howe Generational Theory is true, the Fourth Turning will be over in about 5-10 years and we’ll move into the next Turning, the High. And those are awesome! But what if we won’t be heading into another high?"
Full, fascinating, most highly recommended article is here:
Freely download "Stories to Awaken the World",
by Feng Menglong, here: