Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fourth Turning is a Crisis

The Fourth Turning is a Crisis. Old Artists (born 1925-1942) die, Prophets (born 1943-1960) enter Elderhood, Nomads (born 1961-1981) enter midlife, Heroes (born 1982-2004) enter young adulthood—and a new generation of child Artists (born 2005-??) is born. This is an era in which America’s institutional life is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up—always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression finds a community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group. 

In every instance, Fourth Turnings have eventually become new “founding moments” in America’s history, refreshing and redefining the national identity. America’s most recent Fourth Turning began with the stock market crash of 1929 and climaxed with World War II. The generation that came of age during this Fourth Turning was the Hero archetype G.I. Generation (born 1901 to 1924), whose collective spirit and can-do optimism epitomized the mood of the era. Today’s Hero archetype youth, the Millennial Generation (born 1982 to 2004) show many traits similar to those of the G.I. youth, including rising civic engagement, improving behavior, and collective confidence.

A Fourth Turning is an era in when the availability of social order is low, but the demand for social order is high. Examples of earlier Fourth Turnings include the Civil War in the 1860s and the American Revolution in the 1770s—both periods of momentous crisis, when the identity of the nation hung in the balance.

Moods of the Four Turnings


ELDERHOOOD Nomad Hero Artist Prophet
MIDLIFE Hero Artist Prophet Nomad
YOUNG ADULTHOOD Artist Prophet Nomad Hero
CHILDHOOD Prophet Nomad Hero Artist
FAMILIES Strong Weakening Weak Strengthening
CHILD NURTURE Loosening Underprotective Tightening Overprotective
GAP BETWEEN GENDER ROLES Maximum Narrowing Minimum Widening
IDEALS Settled Discovered Debated Championed
INSTITUTIONS Reinforced Attacked Eroded Founded
CULTURE Innocent Passionate Cynical Practical
SOCIAL STRUCTURE Unified Splintering Diversified Gravitating
WORLDVIEW Simple Complicating Complex Simplifying
SPECIAL PRIORITY Maximum Community Rising Individualism Maximum Individualism Rising Community
SOCIAL MOTIVATOR Shame Conscience Guilt Stigma
SENSE OF GREATEST NEED Do What Works Fix Inner World Do What Feels Right Fix Outer World
VISION OF FUTURE Brightening Euphoric Darkening Urgent
WARS Restorative Controversial Inconclusive Total

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Moods of the Four Turning

Each Generation enters a new phase of life.  Boomers, born 1943-1960, enter Elderhood when 60 years old.  By 2020, all the Boomers are in Elderhood phase of life.  GenX, born 1961-1981, enter Midlife when 39 years old.  By 2020, all the GenX are in Midlife phase of life.

Boomers are the Prophets, the idealists, they articulate the moral and ethical narrative.  They are about evenly split between liberal and conservative, however they self-select to live in blue states/counties and red states/counties.  GenX are the Nomads, the practical and independent managers and supervisors of the Millennial generation.

Millennials, born 1982-2002, enter Young Adulthood when 18 years old.  By 2020, all the Millennials are in the Young Adulthood phase of life.  Starting with the 2018 election and finally with the 2020 election, Millennials vote with their feet and at the ballot box.  Millennials and the GI Generation are the Hero Archetype.  They rescue America.

Society Norms

From the late 1980s until about 2020, the maximum emphasis was placed on individualism. Inequality became the norm.  Public debate continued to confuse people about who benefits from policy decisions on healthcare, climate change, taxes and many social programs once supported by the federal and state governments.  Families were weak, child nurture has tightened, the gap between gender roles was at a minimum.

As the Crisis Era Climax begins in 2020, families will strengthen, children will be overprotected, and the gap between gender roles will widen.  Ideals will no longer be debated.  Ideals will be championed.  The catalyst will be the Inequality of the consequences of climate change.

Even now, as conservatives continue to attack decades old institutions, and the public’s trust erodes, new local, national and international institutions are being founded to support the implementation of championed ideals.

The cynical voices in American culture have been the loudest for decades.  Beginning in 2020, practical GenXers will stabilize society with a practical culture focused on sustainability.  A social structure that has been diversifying will begin gravitating toward unity.  

Even by 2017, the American worldview includes complications and complexity.  About 2020, the worldview will condense to simplifying societies goals and objectives.  Boomers and GenXers will refocus priorities away from maximum individualism.  A social norm of rising community will dominate the voices of Boomers and GenX.

How will Boomers and GenX motivates their peers and Millennials?  Not like in the past by appealing to conscience and guilt.  In the 2020s, a social stigma will motivate people.  Like what happened after Pearl Harbor, when not supporting the troops in Europe and the Pacific was taboo.  The social stigma will be implemented on the job and at home, by institutions and society.

In the past, a sense of the greatest need was to do what works, or fix the inner world of values, or in the 21st Century to do what feels right.  By 2020, the greatest need will be to fix the outer world caused by the consequences of climate change and eroding institutions.

What is your vision of the future?  The Fourth Turning vision describes the recent past as a slide into darkness.  As our present political and social situation darkens, we approach a tipping point when everyone has a sense of urgency.  Actions will speak louder than words.

Instead of controversial and inconclusive wars without worldwide support, America will be forced into total mobilization to combat the consequences of climate change.  A war on CO2 emissions will implode the fossil fuel economy and lead to worldwide chaos.  Americans will rise up to support a new social order in the same way that the Revolutionary War, Civil War and WWII required the total commitment and urgent response of America’s resources.

System Dynamics and Climate Change

How might System Dynamics (SD) be used to support an amicus curiae brief?

How might the SD community collaborate to document the cause and effect of climate change, as a system, to be used in an amicus curiae brief?

Where a case may have broader implications, amicus curiae briefs are a way to introduce those concerns, so that the possibly broad legal effects of court decisions will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case.

Challenge: How can you prove that oil dug out of the ground by Exxon is causing a tiny Alaskan village to disappear?


1.  “There is no realistic possibility of tracing any particular alleged effect of global warming to any particular emissions by any specific person, entity, group at any particular point in time,” wrote US District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong.

2.  “In the case of global climate change, a molecule of carbon is literally around the world in seven days,” Scott Segal, an attorney who defends energy companies, told the Washington Post in July. “The requisite causation needed for nuisance suits is missing and unprovable.”


1.  “We have better science,” Berman argued. “We think causation will be easier to prove.”

2.  Financial damages from climate change are more quantifiable.

3.  They marketed and sold a product that they knew is causing climate change.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Fourth Turning Analogy

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria plowed through Puerto Rico with a deadly destruction that left island residents scraping for survival or forced to flee to the U.S. mainland.  The hurricane destroyed the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, however the old electrical grid design will not be used to rebuild.  The new design includes solar power, batteries, and micro-grids.

This is an example of a crisis becoming an opportunity to rebuild using design thinking.  Hurricane Maria has made Puerto Rico the land of opportunity for solar power and micro-grids.

In the same way, on November 8, 2016, the election of Donald Trump as President destroyed the political and social norms of America, however the old political design will not be used to rebuild.  The political and social norms will be redesigned for a different future as described in the book “The Fourth Turning” (1).

The election hurricane plowed through America’s political and social norms with deadly destruction.  The winds of change will continue through 2020 when a new President will be elected.  Hurricane Trump continues to destroy the political and social infrastructure of America.  However the old design will not be used to rebuild.  A new design for political and social infrastructure will emerge over time through 2030.

The current crisis causes a reaction by citizens and non-citizens in America.  The polarization of Democrats and Republicans, by race, ethnicity, gender, wealth, income and many other self-identity measures will continue through 2020.

A perfect storm of Generations influencing events and events influencing Generations accelerates toward 2020. The older cohorts from the GI Generation and the Silent Generation are passing out of society and the Millennials come of age as Young Adults over 18. GenX moves into Midlife and Baby Boomers replace the Seniors by becoming Elders. 
As these Generations move through time, we can see for example, the increasing influencing of the Millennial Generation in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Presidential elections, and yet less than 50% voted in 2012. What happens when the majority register to vote and they actually vote? What happens when Millennials organize to support social movements like climate change and partner with Baby Boomers?
(1) Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. New York: Broadway, 1997. 

President Trump

Trump has low self esteem.  When he receives positive affirmations, he gets a short-lived boost in self esteem that quickly decreases without a constant flow of positive affirmations.

In order to boost Trump’s self esteem, a constant inflow of positive affirmations are required to maintain a higher level of self esteem.  Trump seeks out ways to find people who give him a constant flow of positive affirmations.  With Trump’s wealth and position, and using Twitter, he is buying a constant flow of positive affirmations from the people around them.

A President with low self esteem, is like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” story about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent.

The clothes represent an inflow of positive affirmations from the weavers.  The people around Trump are the weavers he is paying to give him a constant flow of positive affirmations.  If an adult or a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!”, then they are fired or removed from access to Trump.

Any criticism of Trump, or facts that don’t agree with his world view, are quickly suppressed or discredited or not heard by Trump.  He learned to tell stories in public that are positive affirmations that boost his own self esteem when his audience agrees. For Trump, false information, conspiracy theories and blatant lies become a constant flow of positive affirmations believed by Trump and his audience.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Beach Buddha

The man standing close to me on the sand was wrapped in burgundy cloth gathered over his left shoulder. If he was real, I could have reached out and touched him.  But before I could do anything, we were startled by that one wave that flows higher on the beach. With his back to the ocean, the wave washed over the tops of his ankle-high shoes and he started high stepping beside me as I backpedaled, watching him go past me. 

His friends were laughing so loud, for what seemed like a long time - two couples and a little boy.  There was nothing remarkable about their clothes or behavior.  They weren’t speaking English, but maybe one would speak to me.  I didn’t know what to say to him, so I didn’t speak.

“Are you the Buddha?” I wondered.

Not his skin color, but the color of his cloth robe told me his country of origin.  Only Theravada monks wrap themselves in burgundy cloth.  Theravada Buddhism is strongest in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar). What was a Theravada Buddhist monk doing on an Oregon beach?

I doubt that he knew the rule about never turning your back on the Pacific Ocean.  We were complacent, standing in the sun on a warm October day with little or no wind.  What a strange situation and coincidence that brought us together here at this place, at this time. 

On the right beach, on the right day, at the right time, under the right conditions, you may find — just for a while — that the seventh wave washes up higher on the beach.  Or you might stand there counting waves, you lose track of time and who is near you.  In that moment, your mind wanders, you stop counting, then realize you have stopped counting and have to start over again.

If this man was not the Buddha, then maybe we were there to share that moment without talking. Each breath we took had a moist ocean smell. I turned and glanced behind me to see him reach down and pull up his wet socks.  Looking along the beach the people appeared to be stationary ghosts in a translucent fog.  Sunlight and ocean mist painted watercolor ghosts standing on the sand. 

If the ghosts standing on the beach, in the warm October sunlight, didn’t appear to move, then they might not be real.  As the tide was going out, waves broke farther out, exposing more sand on the beach.  Sea gulls stood with certainty in the shallow water waiting for the next wave to bring food.

Remember what the moment felt like when that one wave, unannounced, pushing a front edge of foam across the sand, washed over the top of his ankle high boots? Watching him and the foam edge, engaging my motor skills to run backwards; that all happened in a second.  Now, I am uncertain that not talking to him was the best way to react.  Maybe I should have taken a stand, to stand absolutely firm in my intention to engage with him.

Standing Man

The man standing alone on June 17, 2013 was Erdem Gunduz, Turkey's "Standing Man," who became a symbol of peaceful protest in Taksim Square, inspiring a movement.  All he did to earn this status was to stand completely still.

Hope means believing that society and laypeople have the ability to undertake actions to make a difference.  Gunduz stood from 6pm until about 2am.  Police searched his clothes and bag while he was standing still.  They tried to talk to him.  Then slowly other people came and stood nearby, not moving.  There were live broadcasts and videos shared over the internet of Gunduz and the others standing still.

We remain forever in doubt of where we come from before we are born and where we go after we die.  Between those two events, we choose hope.  We choose to stand for something: for principles, values, ethics, insight, mindfulness and many other positive experiences.

I used the “Standing Man” technique once at a public event with someone who’s behavior I had finally determined was not going to change no matter what I said or did.  I tried many times to understand why they behaved the way they did.  Finally, at a scheduled event, instead of engaging with them or confronting them, I decided ahead of time I was going to simply stand there and not react or engage but simply look them in the eye.

I gave them nothing to criticize. They were totally flustered and walked away.  That person has never spoken to me since, except via email communication that remains cold and calculating. I doubt that I will ever get over the lies, misinformation, manipulation and criticism that they flung my way without any justification.  All for the purpose of putting me down to temporarily inflate their own ego.

When my mind wanders into the past, the uncertainty of relationships informs the ghosts in my mind. They remind me of the watercolor ghosts standing on the sand that day I saw the Theravada monk at Cannon Beach.  

In Theravada Buddhism, a very strong relationship exists between monks and lay people.  In the present, that bond would not exist without interaction by way of mutual support - lay people supply food, medicine, and cloth for robes, and monks give spiritual support, blessings, and teachings.  But this is not a tit for tat situation. Monks are not allowed to request anything from lay people; and lay people cannot demand anything from the monks.  The way of Theravada, in the spirit of open-hearted giving, stands for values that support community.

The spirit of the Theravada tradition emerges from their scripture, first passed on verbally and then written down based on the original teachings of Buddha.  Unlike Zen, that is based on verbal teaching from a Zen Master, Theravada requires reading the scriptures and verbal instruction.

Maybe someday I could adopt a Theravada monk and ask him if he is the Buddha. Or simply live with my watercolor ghosts, my wandering mind, my relationships.  Maybe there is a way for me to join a community.

Impossible Dilemmas

The Beach Buddha and the Standing Man create in our mind impossible dilemmas.  They engage our emotions so that we feel doubt.  The greater the doubt, the greater the insight.  But insight into what?  And just how do we do this?  And why subject myself to this emotional disorientation?

Zen Koans are an ancient example of verbal dilemmas that encourage uncertainty and doubt. Encouraging fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) also became a common tactic in negative marketing campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s in the software industry.

FUD might be a personal strength.  The poet John Keats (1795-1821) argued that the secret to being an artist was to cultivate a mindset he called Negative Capability: “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”  As an artistic practice, Negative Capability becomes learning all sides of a question as a critical thinker. Maybe an artist and intellectual’s ability increases when they hold in their mind, at the same time, negative capability and personal beliefs.  

When you really stop believing your thoughts, insight happens.  In psychology, positive thinking reigns supreme and an infinite number of self-help books describe how to stop negative thinking.  If I practice holding duality in my mind, then negative capability and positive personal beliefs, life and death, the sound of one hand clapping, and many other impossible dilemmas remain peacefully unresolved in my mind.