Our country is in crisis.
Divisions and factions appear everywhere we look. We are slicing and dicing ourselves into homogenous –some say tribal– groups where our thinking is validated and the “other” is increasingly demonized, dehumanized and assessed with evil intentions.
And it’s all happening on schedule.
The last time we had a–mostly–global agreement about how we would treat each other, how we trade between nations and an agreement to common human rights was following World War II. We were wearied by war and sacrifice, by hunger and scarcity, by uncertainty and fear. We wanted peace and prosperity. So we drafted the agreements to form NATO, rebuilt Germany and Japan, created Israel and thought, “ah…this is it, the good life.”
People do not give up power until they either find themselves confronted with greater might or see a dignified place for themselves in a new configuration.Robert Fuller, Somebodies and Nobodies
Only now, 70 years later, those agreements are insufficient. What was peacemaking at the time, became the foundation of our next set of societal issues. From inequity in society to increasing conflict and war in the Middle East, we again find ourselves at the precipice of chaos. Right on schedule.
A few years ago, I read a book called The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe. They outlined a general pattern, which is called a saeculum, in Anglo-American history that has existed for at least 500 years through 25 generations. Within each saeculum are four turnings…each about 20 years or the length of a human generation. The saeculum itself is roughly the length of a human life. So every 80 or so years, we repeat the pattern, moving from the most social cohesion to the least and ending in a major–or total–war.
Evidently, suffering has been required for us to advance. Can we make a peaceful transition this time?