Was 2012 The Start of Something New?

Generational theory tells us that there are four stages to the cycle of history: The High, The Awakening, The Unraveling and The Crisis. We are in The Crisis phase now and this can be further divided into events that Neil Howe describes in a recent post as the catalyst, the regeneracy, the climax and the resolution. As Neil stated in that article, we are clearly in the Crisis, but he wonders when the regeneracy will hit.

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor would argue that we are already there. As Editor John Yemma argues in his upfront commentary:

There’s much more good news than bad news. But bad news travels fast and commands attention. Good news is like water carving a valley or a tree gradually extending its branches. Good news is a child learning a little more each day or a business quietly prospering. We hardly notice it.

Here are some reasons for hope: Extreme poverty is declining. HIV is no longer a death sentence. Technology is transforming everything from African agriculture to urban transportation. Drug violence is decreasing in Mexico. Travel is safer almost everywhere. Crime rates are falling.Somalia is emerging from a long night of anarchy. Myanmar (Burma) is coming out of its dictatorial shell. And while it’s true that China and Russia are only semi-free and the Egypt and other post-dictator nations may be going down ill-considered paths, water is still carving the valley. Freedom lives in 7 billion hearts.

If the regeneracy (which Howe describes as “a new counter-entropy that reunifies and re-energizes civic life”) is more of a ethic rather than a specific event, then I would argue that the world is already moving together in ways that our daily news does not reflect.

Perhaps it will take another massive event to make us truly come together, but all of the articles in the CSMonitor this week point towards a shift that is already in progress. Young people’s expectations and abilities are starting to influence our global conversation. The shift in global power is starting to reveal how the US, while no longer the super-power it once was, is still a symbol of some of the freedoms that many people long for and see as possible in their lifetimes. In some ways our various fumbles (bitter elections, legislative gridlock, unstable economy) will give other nations more empathy for the US as a country that still strives in a very human way.

The regeneracy is about a time when people come together, perhaps as a nation, perhaps globally. It is a difficult time when many will see their ideals crushed and their way of life disrupted. But it is also the time that will define the nature of the next cycle. So while we will likely see political battles and crisis in many forms over the next 10 years there will be an undercurrent (perhaps not noticed) of a strengthening of civic values and cohesion that will eventually overcome whatever we will face.

Call me a blind optimist (an unlikely title for a [X] like me) but that is the way I see it.

4 thoughts on “Was 2012 The Start of Something New?”

  1. The Regeneracy is scheduled at the end of the new presidential term in 2016 according to Neil Howe. So we’ll definitley see some changes for real. Maybe people giving Goverment and Institutions this one more chance and succeeding it.

  2. I hope your optimism proves reasonable. I don’t share it. The last time the US went through this cycle, our people had self-disclpline; they knew how to work hard, and they possessed the strength that comes from living without luxuries. Today, we all are weak, lazy and unable to focus. Our children do not do their homework, while we blame their teachers for somehow not pouring the knowledge and skills into their rude little heads. They are doomed to an impoverished life: they will grow up and inherit our debt, and they won’t have the knowledge or ability to work their way out of it. The poorer, less-enlightened-and-less-free developing countries like China and India have it all over us. The brightest light of human history, the 20th century western world , is gone forever.

    1. I agree with much of what you have to say. In addition to our Millennial children often being entitled that our Boomer leaders (congress in particular) seem more interested in arguing about ideals and minutiae than coming up with real solutions. It’s a bad combination but I would argue that neither group has truly been tested yet. If the climax of the crisis comes (in the next 5-10 years) then we will find out whether Boomers are cut out to be the next Grey Champions and the Millennials the next Hero generation. The cynic in me also shares your doubts, but if you had talked to adults in the late 30’s and 40’s they would have seen little reason for optimism as well.

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