History's Cycle

The West is entering a degenerative phase. This is normal, and necessary.

There is an old Berber proverb of the hardy mountain people who raid the nearby city. The people of the city live a life of luxury. They are soft and weak willed. The mountain Berbers quickly take control and rise to power.

Years pass, new generations are born and the original conquerors grow old. Their descendants live a life of luxury, built on the spoils of their forebears. They are soft and weak willed. Hardy mountain people descend and raid the city. They quickly take control and rise to power.

This is an anecdote that feels innately familiar:

  • In the USA, immigrants and their children are twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as the general population. The struggles they experience, and the “frontier mentality” that drives them to the land of promise, are powerful triggers.

  • The main reason given for the old adage that wealth is “built and lost in three generations”? Younger family members ill-prepared or unwilling to shoulder the responsibility of wealth stewardship.

But history’s cycle plays out at a macro level as well. It governs not just the lives of individuals, but the lives of whole societies:

  • Plato wrote of the “Kyklos” of government, where each period of rule affected social norms and inevitably led to the next, moving through aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and - finally - tyranny.

  • Strauss and Howe’s theory of the fourth turning maps the patterns of American history and proposes that generations are predestined to fulfil a certain societal role, based on their place in the historical cycle.

Thus it is not Napoleon that steers the course of history, but history that gives birth to Napoleon.

Millennials in the West are often accused of being lazy, selfish complainers who lack a sense of personal responsibility. They were raised being told the world was their oyster, but they are the first generation in a century that will be poorer than their parents. They came into the workplace during a global financial crisis, and now face a second, potentially much worse one. Many will lose jobs and struggle to support their families.

Meanwhile, culturally, we are in a time of war. In most of the West, the left and right are entrenched in a deep conflict drawn along lines of economic policy, gender, race and values.

This is not good or bad. But it will make those that live through this period tough and resilient.

History will take care of the rest.