We Can't Stop the Fourth Turning
But We Can Learn How to Survive it
If you’ve been paying attention at all to the predictions made by Neil Howe and William Strauss in their 1997 book, The Fourth Turning, you will know we are in the thick of it now. According to Howe, the end won’t come until around 2030. The book offers up several possibilities of outcome - good, bad, devastating and even: the end of mankind as we know it. They can’t predict exactly what will happen but they know whatever does happen will completely remake either the global world order or certainly our country.
They base this on the cycling through of generations. 80 years is typically the span of a human life. They have divided each of these cycles into generations that are born into them: Artist, Prophet, Nomad, Hero.
The turnings of these generations cycle through an awakening, an unraveling, and a crisis. The way I always find my way through it is knowing that the last fourth turning was in 1943. The big events that altered the course of Western society were World War II, how that started, how it ended, what it left it behind, what changed: formation of NATO, Israel, the Red Scare in America, Japanese Internment camps - and eventually, giving way to a “high,” the 1950s. That would last only as long as the “awakening” period (1960s), followed by the unravelling (1990s) and the fourth turning, starting in 2008. The new “high” is set to begin around 2030.
It is a lot of information to take in and requires a broad strokes view of history. Here is a graphic that outlines it:
According to Neil Howe, who is writing a follow-up in 2022, what will determine the “high” or the reordered state will be left to the millennial generation, born 1981-1994. There is an already discernible difference, I think, between millennials and Gen Z. I notice in both of these generations, at least so far, is that they are very structured, very ordered and able to problem solve. They also believe in big institutions fixing the problems of society. They don’t understand why there is not free college, free healthcare, equity. It makes sense when you think about how this generation was raised. They were raised primarily by my generation - Generation X - we were helicopter parents who believed in centering our lives around our children and raising them to be “good” people, free of abuse and neglect in hopes that they did not become school shooters or very unhappy adults.
We also started drugging the public and children in the 1990s with anti-depressants, which adds another layer to the situation, as does the rise of social media and now, whatever becomes of our country out of COVID.
We do not know what the big thing coming will be. We don’t know what war, if any, will be fought - whether it will be internationally or domestically. As of now, we can easily see that the left is afflicted with rising authoritarianism based on a mostly false notion that Trump represented the rise of white supremacy and racism in America. Using that accusation they have been gifted an enormous power grab and will ride it as long as they can; the last thing anyone wants to be accused of in this country is racism.
However, the ongoing persecution of Trump supporters will backfire. Trump wasn’t Hitler. He did not have the singular ideology to be Hitler. He didn’t run the country like a fascist. It might have gone that way if he had the same sort of single-minded discipline and vision for Germany that Hitler did. But Trump didn’t. He championed nationalism, wanted to close the borders and “buy American” for sure but this was never turned into law. He also didn’t arrest protesters, shut down the press, burn books, put up signs on store windows demanding the boycott of all Jewish business. Where the left’s main focus of fear was Trump’s treatment of families crossing the borders to come to the US, calling them “rapists and murderers,” it morphed into “Trump wants to kill all black people.”
The problem was that Trump and his movement were actively recruiting working class black and Hispanic voters for at least four years. That is due, in large part, to none other than Stephen K. Bannon who made a documentary about the Fourth Turning and genuinely believes he knows how it’s going to go. Bannon thinks the future is a populist revolution where the people rise up to bring down what has become too big and too powerful a government.
But surely he must know that this is not in his hands, a class baby boomer, or in the hands of people like but is in the hands of the millennials to figure out which why the country will ultimately turn. But for many years now, Bannon has been preparing for the fourth turning, and he references it often in his podcast The War Room.
As you can see by the above clip, Neil Howe is having a hard time distinguishing himself from Bannon. When you try to mention this book to anyone they will immediately disregard it as some crazy right wing screed but in fact, it is wholly nonpartisan.
The bottom line to note is that the idea that Bannon’s world view is a “white supremacist” one is wrong. It is nationalist, anti-globalist but he spends time defending the Chinese who are rising up against the Chinese Communist Party, and he even supports and champions AOC and Stacey Abrams. This is not to defend Bannon but to say that he is trying to build a working class populist movement that centers on white people is flat out false. He’s too smart for that. He knows that whites will be the minority in 2040, for starters. He repeats the notion that today’s millennials and Gen-Z are “Russian serfs” who will own nothing and have no future if they don’t rise up and overtake the government. His plan includes a multicultural populist revolutionary movement. Whether he succeeds or not will depend on whether he can overcome the stigma that he is a Nazi. That isn’t going to be easy.
COVID changed much about this country and the fear and paranoia has never been higher. So far, Bannon has been tracking this since 2008 after the 700 billion bailout of Wall Street, which ignited and began the Fourth Turning. We do know that uprisings have been more frequent since 2008. Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, which led to Bernie Sanders and Trump’s movements. Then the mask protests by the right, the Black Lives Matter protests by the left, the riot at the Capitol and the Game Stop movement on Reddit and Robinhood. The mainstream press only focuses on one of these things as an ominous sign - the riot at the Capitol. They’re trying to tie the Game Stop movement to January 6th. But I think, if you look at the larger picture, you can see that there is frustration mounting.
This country is beginning to feel more and more like a powder keg. I do not think putting people in jail for deceptive memes is fair unless you also put the people who helped to sabotage the vote in Georgia by putting out ads to keep Trump supporters home. These two things are the same but only person was punished. Does it violate his free speech rights?
Mackey is accused of violating a U.S. statute that makes it illegal for people to threaten or intimidate others from exercising any right secured to them by the Constitution, such as the right to vote.
But the Lincoln Project put out an ad that did this very thing, an ad that was removed by Facebook:
The ad, titled "Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election?" featured Wood at a rally in Georgia prior to the Senate runoffs, telling voters "we're not gonna vote on your damn machines made in China," alluding to the Dominion Voting Systems machines, which have become a focal point for claims of widespread voter fraud from Trump and his allies following the results of the 2020 presidential election.
This is just one of the many double standards Trump supporters are supposed to accept.
Taking down Parler, firing people for being Trump supporters and now persecuting the Trump supporters who were protesting peacefully in DC on January 6 as though they too are white supremacists and insurrectionists. In short, they are deciding who deserves basic rights and who doesn’t. The hypocrisy is plainly visible to most Americans - especially with regard to comparing the summer long protests to what we saw on January 6.
This is only going to add to the tension building. There does not appear to be any actual plans to unify the country. Especially if you look at what the Democrats have done to DC, turning it into a “green zone,” which they harshly condemned all summer long.
Where does all of this go, I do not know. But it’s a good time to think about protecting yourself. Neil Howe says the one thing that will protect you in a Fourth Turning is your reputation. The better it is, the better you will survive it. Don’t take unnecessary risks just to prove a point. Be careful what you say and where you say it.
From the Fourth Turning:
“In the coming Crisis, sharp distinctions will be drawn between people who can be counted on and those who cannot. Build a reputation as a person of honor and integrity who values self-restraint, family commitments, cultural decency, and mutual trust. Be a good citizen in your town, a good neighbor on your block, a good work partner on the job. Be mannerly and adhere to public standards of conduct. Expect your community reputation to matter far more than it does now. The Fourth Turning will not be kind to the free agent (or organization) with a reputation for discarding loyalties, revising settled deals, or pressing every point of leverage. The more your bottom line is interwoven with other people's (and your community's), the more helpful these other people (and public officials) will be in an emergency. Expect to be dealt with according to the reputation of your group. Regardless of your current institutional advantage, if your business is perceived as predatory, your profession as parasitical, or your influence as corrupting, then you will personally be at risk.”
Excerpt From: William Strauss & Neil Howe. “The Fourth Turning.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-fourth-turning/id421521687
Whether reading this book, knowing what lies ahead, is helpful or not I do not know. There is no history of generations seeing something like this coming and preparing for it. Most of them were caught unaware. Does that change the outcome? Maybe.
Hitler’s rise in Germany did not happen overnight. When he did rise to power he was addressing something long buried inside the German people who were jobless, starving and demoralized. He made them feel powerful, utopian. He taught them to hate and blame the Jews for sucking the life out of Germany and in turn made the German people feel special. The rise of Hitler and the allies response to him could have ended much worse than it did. We had Winston Churchill and we had FDR and we had the moral good on our side.
America likely won’t see a fascist rise, but it isn’t a good sign that Joe Biden feels so emboldened to simply implement broad reaching power over a divided country that expected him to govern as a moderate.
Maybe it will turn out well in the end. Or maybe it will lead to war. Or secession. We can’t know the answer to that yet. But we can take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones in the event the worst is coming.