July 12, 2012 at 6:09 am, by Carl
For the last 8 chapters, I have given a very general overview of the last 4 speculum, the 4 phase period of time that covers about 80 years. The point has been to demonstrate what happened in those times so that I can show you more clearly that there is indeed a pattern leading into crisis. I still maintain that we are not in a crisis yet, but on the cusp of crisis, but regardless, if there is a pattern as I maintain, then there should be clues. I believe those clues can be seen if you know what to look for. The previous “Road to Crisis,” demonstrated in my last 8 posts that described the previous patterns, can show us those clues.
Last year, I finished my latest book, Tracking the Storm. The following post is the twelth installment (find the earlier sections here). You can download a pdf if you enjoy reading on your computer or also purchase a printed copy of the book.
That we are in a crisis seems, to me, indisputable, but where are we? Was President Obama 2008 election the same as President Lincoln’s 1860 election, or perhaps President Hoover’s 1938 election? Is the economic meltdown that started in 2006 the actual crisis, just like the Great Depression was, or is it part of the road to crisis like the economic struggles experienced in the 1750-60s period? Will any of the current political writings, perhaps a book by Glenn Beck or by Al Gore, have the same impact as Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Are we in the crisis (is it 1778, 1863, 1943) or are we approaching the crisis (is it 1770, 1857, 1930)?
Yet, the history that we have looked at can provide us some clues, especially through the pattern. We aren’t looking for exactly the same sort of thing to happen at the same time. That would be unreasonable to assume. We’ve already seen that Thomas Paine’s Common Sense came at the end of the road to the American Revolution, while Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared at the start of the road to the Civil War. In the future, maybe we’ll note that Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 was the equivalent explosive writing when it came out in 2004. Or, maybe that honor will lie with Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth that appeared in 2006; perhaps, as with the road to the Great Depression/WW2, we won’t see any one book (though Mein Kampf could hold that honor for that period).
The first most obvious concept from all 4 “road to crisis” journeys that we’ve seen is that they all start with some sort of war: the Dutch wars/King Philip’s war, the French and Indian war, the Mexican-American war, and World War I. None of those wars were the great crisis; the clicking of the global tumblers had not fully hit, the generations were not in the correct alignment. Yet, each of those conflicts put forces in motion that led into the depths of the Great Crisis.
From the vibrant over opposition to the poor governing decisions, new political voices appear. The various “Congresses” during the journey to the American Revolution gave rise to perhaps the greatest collection of political leaders in US history. Yet, they are at least matched with zeal by the new voices in Parliament in the late 1600s, particularly the new Whig party, during the road to the Glorious Revolution. The Republicans emerging in 1855 and the newly Progressive Democrats of the 1920s both shook up the established order of things politically and brought new ideas and concepts to the fore.
Another aspect visible from the patterns is that as we closed in on each Great Crisis, there had been a significant change in communication. Before the full crisis emerged, rapid communication had become the norm in a new and exciting way. Before the Glorious Revolution, pamphlet writing to express political views had become the norm. In the 1770s, the postal service of Benjamin Franklin had made communication between the 13 colonies a thing of beauty. Quicker still, FDR was able to harness the radio, a technology that had exploded in popularity and use in the 1920s, during the darkest days of the Depression. Now, citizens could hear Edward R. Murrow speak to them live from the Battle of Britain or find solace in the soothing voice of Roosevelt in his fireside chats.
The Great Depression itself is another clue as economic malaise or challenge is one more common aspect to note. While the Depression itself can be considered to be the Crisis from the last saeculum, it can be noted that the Depression itself is merely a step ON THE ROAD to crisis when only looking at the international issues of the war. Another pattern point within the last three “roads” is an explosive event that leads to a very controversial government response. That response, in turn, proved to spark galvanizing action among the citizens. During the road to the American Revolution, the tea party (the explosive event) led to the British Parliament passing the Coercive Acts. These acts were very measured, limited, and from England’s point of view, merely aimed at troublesome Boston. To the colonists, angry along the full Eastern seaboard, the “Intolerable Acts” were evidence of a government response aimed at every American. Immediately after this came arrival of Minutemen from various states and the gathering in Philadelphia. Similarly, after the raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1858, the execution of John Brown, also considered measured by the Virginians, sparked action by both north and south. In the south, as we have already shown, the various state militias became the nucleus of the CSA army; in the north, Republicans were able to show the execution as evidence that the southerners were prepared to act against every American.
The last two key concepts are the ones that perhaps should make us the most nervous: “blood in the streets” and the “unforeseen trigger event.” When the US Army drove into the Bonus Army or when Hitler’s forces rounded up 100s of Jews during Kristallnacht, that sense of open bloodshed should have been familiar to anyone paying attention to the pattern. Bleeding Kansas of 1854-55 was the same sort of event, even leading to bloodshed inside the Capitol Building the next year. The Boston Massacre in 1770 and the Monmouth Uprising both brought open bloodshed to the country. Yet, each road to crisis seems to have a moment when all things could be saved and the crisis averted, were it not for a seemingly innocuous event. No one could had foreseen that when King Charles was tragically killed via a horse riding accident, his horse stepping into a gopher hole in 1685, that three short years later members of Parliament would invite an invading force under William of Orange to their shores.
These common happenings provide us with a template to consider our own times. As we march deeper in to the second decade of the 21st century, we must be watchful for these kinds of events. Some have not happened yet, others perhaps have. Are there matches with the previous “roads?” If so, what do you do about it?
To recap, look at the chart below. Each of these events comprises the steps on the road to crisis. They do not always occur in the same order, though all roads began with a victorious war for the nation. Obviously the actions of government had been different, relevant for the events of that time. Yet, within this chart, we can see a pattern that, if discerned to be occurring, would be a signal to prepare for our own Great Crisis.
The Common Attributes
- War starting the conflict
- Weak governmental leadership
- Poor governing decisions
- Feeling of distance between government and the people
- Active opposition to government
- New political voices
- Explosive political writing
- Significant change in communication
- Economic distress
- Explosive event®controversial government reaction®galvanized opposition
- Blood in the streets
- Unforeseen trigger event propelling government actions that lead to more tension
As we consider these attributes, a more ominous aspect must be considered. It’s not like previous societies have not faced economic distress, a poor choice by the government or someone writing an impactful book that captured the attention of the country. Ultimately, as we study the history of the previous “roads to crisis,” it becomes apparent that the biggest problem was that people lost the ability, or the desire, to compromise. The various sides simply lost the ability for discussion. The growing philosophical divide over whatever the issue was (religion, government style, representation, human rights, economic crisis) became so deep that no middle ground could be reached. As we move into the second decade of the 21st century, that reality of no room for compromise seems more and more obvious.
You can read the rest of chapter 12 in Tracking the Storm; the book provides powerful clues about what is coming, rapidly, to the United States. There is little doubt that a storm is approaching the country, the outer edges of the winds already swirling around us. What does that portend for the nation? Through the clues of history, we can find direction and steps to undertake to prepare. Many believe there won’t be a storm, or maybe that the worst is over. With history as a guide, I demonstrate that we haven’t yet even reached the Great Crisis.
Gripping and “a scary yet necessary read,” Tracking the Storm moves through the past 400 years of Anglo-American history to illustrate the various clues provided that show the steps to the coming crisis. I will tell the story of political instability, economic distress, rapid technological changes and a growing philosophical divide that challenged previous generations. At the end of each Great Crisis, the nation had been radically changed. Pick up your copy of Tracking the Storm today!