“Watch out for emergencies. They are your big chance.” – Fritz Reiner
With such culturally rich programming like Hoarders, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and now the 2016 GOP debates, it’s clear that America is addicted to the sugar high of shock jock invectives and personal attacks.
I’m wondering whether ancient Rome had its own version of “Here Comes the Etruscans” or “The Prelate” — primetime programming just before the Visigoths invaded through rotten walls.
The GOP Debates of 2016 have been manufactured for the medicated masses — a pathetic Roman gladiator spectacle of blood lust and nothingness that does more to damage the GOP than any of its amorphous stances on immigration, healthcare and foreign policy. The great Republican nation state is in danger of reverting to Whig-like irrelevance with its moderate and orthodox factions splintering into a lawless no man’s land of angry contrarianism.
I admit to not liking or trusting Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders is too extreme for this nation to support and too naive to understand that a socialist cannot drive 6% GDP growth — which is what he claims his financial plan will produce so that all the free stuff he’s planning on giving everyone won’t bankrupt the nation. I’m lost searching for a moderate leader that is electable. Trump’s plan when studied requires unrealistic spending cuts or economic growth at almost 10% GDP growth. I know, it’s inconvenient. Most Americans have been reassured by their candidates that there would not be any math — or Syrian refugees — in this debate.
Kasich is my guy but it does not look good. He is DiCaprio in the Revenant, mauled and left for dead. However, this movie will likely end with JK slowly freezing in the nuclear winter of a radioactive Donald. We are indeed in the winter solstice of American politics and at the nadir of American intellectual and political engagement. Like Ben Carson, I feel very excluded from this free-for-all as my GOP candidate lags the three horsemen of absurdity. I actually don’t know anyone that admits to endorsing or liking Trump and do not see the attraction. I admit to not watching The Apprentice. According to those that do watch The Donald, he’s a winner and will tell old Vlad Putin that he has man-boobs, is a loser and should give the Crimea back to the Estonians or is that the Ukranians. The Baltic countries love Trump. Just ask him.
We are now seeing panderers, liars, ideologues and megalomaniacs take center stage. On the GOP side, we are being asked to choose between an orange bigot, a guy who looks like he rode his bike to the debates and Eddie Munster. The Dems get to choose between Claire Underwood and Eugene Debs.
And a crisis is coming. I can’t wait.
The meltdown may be economic, geo-political, environmental or some twisted combination of all three. I ask myself which candidate has the integrity, skills and temperament to navigate geo-political unrest, economic crisis born out of sovereign debt/deficit spending or a crisis borne from the dust and detritus of a scorched, war torn planet where refugees roam Europe like ghosts of the damned during WWII.
Americans are stuck in a malaise and don’t know it. We are at war but you don’t feel it. We are a pampered lot. We think times are hard but really have not yet had to deal with the brutal sacrifices brought on by a true catastrophic crisis. When a society-threatening event occurs, a civilization often finds its capacity for greatness. In history as in nature, we periodically need a conflagration to clear out the overgrowth of excess, self-interest and the internecine fighting that clogs our arteries and causes us to act out of fear and tribalism. At its furthest point from crisis, a society becomes apathetic and indifferent to the values that made it great. In crisis, we rediscover the “better angels of our natures” and often overcome extraordinary circumstances.
In the late 90’s, sociologists Strauss and Howe identified a predictable figure-eight societal cycle that was characterized by four “turns” occurring in twenty-year phases: Crisis, Rebuilding, Deconstruction and finally Disintegration leading to another crisis.
Each generation plays a critical demographic role in each “turning”. A crisis spawns a “hero generation” that tackles the calamity and gives birth to rebuilders who usher in a generation that extends the precious prosperity arising out of the emergency. Some societies don’t survive their predicament and simply disappear. However, those that succeed seem to forget history and repeat the self-inflicted figure eight every one hundred years.
During periods of prolonged sunshine and success, societies get lazy and individualistic. The builder generation will give birth to a demographic known as Prophets – a selfish subdivision that claws at the edifice of archaic post crisis values – an ethos that, while once essential, seems draconian and out of touch. The Prophets begin to deconstruct the institutions that were so essential to crisis resolution and as they do, the generations that preceded them lament that “civilization is going to hell.” It seems we do go to hell – about every one hundred years and need a crisis to get us out of it.
As society moves further from crisis and Indian summer days of apathy and self-interest, a final generation known as the Cynics beholds the vestiges of a society driven by distinctive needs and proceeds to lead us further down the dark alley of nihilism. When we stop believing in the values that made us great, our final wall disintegrates before the Visigoths. In crisis, we encounter fear but we also discover our our hunger for a purpose greater than ourselves. The traditional caste systems of society melt away under a common need to pull together to ensure our mutual survival. Those we held up as icons during the times of selfish self-service and fear-based, reptilian thinking are exiled to the edges of our communities in favor of those who can bring humanity together and rally us around a common set of ideals that are recognized as essential ingredients to become better versions of ourselves.
In times of tumolt, we look up to politicians, religious leaders, generals and larger than life galvanizing people that force us to subordinate our personal desires for the sake of our united character. Soldiers say there are no atheists in foxholes. The magnesium burn of crisis scorches specious things that preoccupy us — leaving nothing but sinew and resolve. The burn cauterizes the wound of division as the need for basic survival transcends race, socioeconomic barriers and religion. We work together and take an interest in one another for the sacred purpose of building a better tomorrow.
Politicians and pundits agree that gridlock in Washington now means we don’t possess the resolve to change our destructive course until perhaps five minutes before catastrophe. It seems that only when we are on the precipice of disaster will we have enough faith in one another and support for leaders to make tough choices and build critical bipartisan support for our future.
Character matters. Today, I am unable see beyond the ethical limitations of leading POTUS candidates in either parties. The election has become a referendum not just on statesmanship but on our ability to listen to history.
The Civil War gave us Lincoln, and the Depression/WWII gave us Roosevelt and Churchill.
A crisis is coming and it can’t get here soon enough!