Avoiding the Fourth Turning


For those of us schooled in the dismal science, the Strauss–Howe generational theory, created by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, and held by Chief Trump Adviser and Breitbart King Steve Bannon, is overly deterministic, non-falsifiable, and just not supported by available data. The kind of a theory more likely to excite historians.

Nonetheless, the theory – that the history of a people moves in eighty to one hundred year cycles called saecula and that, at a given saeculum’s end, there would emerge ekpyrosis, a cataclysmic event that destroys the old order and brings in a new one in a tumultuous and violent way – is both provocative and somewhat entertaining. Just as Bannon’s three most famous documentaries, In the Face of Evil (2004), Generation Zero (2010) and Torchbearer (2016) are provocative and entertaining watches.

Bannon thinks we are approaching ekpyrosis round about now – a Fourth Turning. The last two that America experienced were the Civil War and the Reconstruction, followed by the Great Depression and World War II. In the West, we are now apparently in the regeneracy phase of the Strauss-Howe cycle. Howe and Strauss describe this period as one of isolationism, of an uptrend in infrastructure projects, and of powerful, centralised state power, marked by a re-imagination of the economy.

Of course, the previous examples of ekpyrosis – the Great Depression, World War II and so on – occurred in an age without sufficiently instantaneous mass popular communication which the Internet Age allows us. These crises occurred in times when panics could not be effectively countered by Governments, Central Banks or super-advanced military – either due to lack of a swift, informed resistance to them, or a failure to comprehend their nature.

Nowadays, we tend to get through debt cycles by grumblingly entering a period of a few years of recession. Even 2008 proved that a swift reaction by governments and central banks working in consort (however disgraceful bailouts of private institutions using public cash were from a moral standpoint) stopped a run on the banks and prevented the end of life as we knew it.

Bannon is not alone in finding the Strauss-Howe generational theory alluring. Defeated Presidential candidate Al Gore is said to be a big fan also. Talk of Bannon being dangerous for his penchant for Strauss-Howe is misplaced and just a lazy-minded extenuation of Trump-bashing. If you watch the three aforementioned documentaries, you will see that Bannon is an emotional scrapper who stands on the shoulders of Great Americans like Jefferson and Reagan, who gets the big problems of our day – an overgrown state, the welfare time bomb against the backcloth of greying populations in the West and Japan, and the need to eviscerate extreme political Islam. If anything, Strauss-Howe in the hands of Al Gore should be more concerning. With the ear of a President, Gore might be more inured to missing the big threats altogether and throwing the bulk of resources at the Green Blob while the Islamist crazies run riot. Not unlike Obama, really.

What we need to avoid the historical, hysterical cycle of war and regeneration is education.

Bannon was right (and brave, considering how conservatives get chewed up and spat out by liberal media and the Left) to direct his resources into documentary making and trying to get the message out there to wake up and educate sheeple who have forgotten how to think. The wake-up calls of Brexit then Trump taking the White House have seen a rise in the masses getting interested in politics – they increasingly get the con of Islamophobia and other well-crafted Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist plots to use the West’s soft, liberal underbelly as oil for their sharia engine.

Credit where credit is due: even the BBC has done its bit recently – likely for the wrong reasons – to warn its viewers about fascism by running a series of “Nazis, A Warning from History”. The Mainstream Media in the UK in the face of the Corbynistas has reminded its readers of what happened to the UK the last time the reds got near the levers of power and have stressed Corbyn’s associations with starving, socialist Venezuela. Films like The Big Short starring Brad Pitt helped educate the masses on the dangers of subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s). Mainstream coverage of Daesh’s crimes in Syria and Iraq have opened the eyes of the masses as to how Mohammed’s religion of peace hotheads set about conquest in his time; how, when political Islam is allowed to manifest itself, there are dire consequences for Freedom; for non-Muslims and most Muslims.

Education and instantaneous enlightenment (winning the argument), spurred on by technology, is our way out of war. Bannon has a shot, from where he resides, to be successful.

Better to see the back of socialism by understanding its history of painful, bloody failures via YouTube. To reject Fascism by seeing how Hitler cowardly used debt then theft to initiate post ’33 successful infrastructure projects. To attack environment issues with ingenious science and cut out the political hijacking of everything green by Fabians and the Left. To avoid the Road to Serfdom by cutting back on regulation and cutting government down, apparatchik by apparatchik. To curb the rise of Islamofascism by droning the cadres out of existence abroad, developing nanotechnologies and mass exposure to snuff it out at home and prevent pathetic attacks like happened yesterday in Westminster. By playing videos of the worst of Saul Alinksy, George Bernard Shaw, Maurice Strong, Ayn Rand, George Soros and the recently departed David Rockefeller to undergraduates on repeat until they comprehend the true meaning of evil; that, yes, evil does actually exist. By organising school trips to Auschwitz and insisting iPhones and selfie sticks are left on the coach.

My money’s on education in hand with a justified avoidance of repeat 9/11’s by going hard after the crazy Islamists. But hey, I’m a pragmatic optimist. And I’m not for turning – Fourth or any other kind of turning.

Bannon would argue we are already at war. Maybe. But we’re not necessarily heading for ekpyrosis. 

3 thoughts on “Avoiding the Fourth Turning

  1. Brilliantly written. I’d argue that instantaneous enlightenment is far-fetched even in today’s technology-driven environment. The only way people come together is when war is declared. The way we are heading I see war being declared as inevitable. Another 9/11 as being inevitable. Pogroms across Europe are inevitable. Ekpyrosis is therefore inevitable.

  2. Very thoughtful piece, as usual, Mr Wightman. I wonder whether a short, sharp, shock like a nuclear bomb might just wake the crazed ones from their stupor?

  3. Education to avoid repeating historical mistakes is indeed vital. However as we see too often with today’s college students ( I use interviews from the USA as my touchstone as you very rarely see them done in Uni’s here) when interviewed in online pieces it’s clear that the evils of communism, for example, are not being taught in our schools. Indeed I recall seeing links to a bit of school teaching material where they were showing the pros and cons of communism, it was a shocking thing to see.

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