Strauss and Howe eloquently depicted the social effects of population implosion on the arts generation in “the Fourth Turning”. I’ve studied business cycles and have lead corporate teams during periods of downturn. In marketing, this is known as “decline”. In Kondratieff Wave economics this downward trend is called “the fall”. Everything has a lifecycle, even governments.
So, we tend to want to call a total change in governing powers, a collapse of the seat of authority, one of these words. But, which one? It’s very simple, really. There is only one definition that fits: the fall.
When we talk about rulers, governments, and civilizations falling, we typically think back to historical events where there was some sort of struggle that started with violence and ended with violence. History is rife with examples of revolts, overthrows, and coup d'états. Our own Founding Fathers attempted a bloodless revolution, but ultimately could not resolve the conflict with just a diplomat’s pen. This is not always the case, though.
There are occurrences where a change in the ruling party, ruling clan, or ruling class happened by way of some sort of stepping down without a fight. In England, some successors to the monarchy were hand-picked; some were tutored. In the United States, we do have these non-violent changes in governance all the time; they’re called elections. And, there are some elections that are quite similar to an overthrow.
The recent “trifecta” elections, for example – where several states saw a resurgence of Republican takeover in 3 out of 3 governing bodies – reminds us that no government is immune from a fall. Whether one believes this occurred due to gerrymandering of political districts, redrawn to suit a particular political party, is of little consequence to the historical observer. It happened. Now the effect of it is to be determined by sociologists and political pundits.
However, one would probably not consider the 2014 elections a “fall” just because there was a sweeping change of the guard. In our two (primary) party system, these transformations are more like voter disgust than citizen backlash. A ruling faction would have to undergo either a serious legal consequence, or degrading self-implosion that would result in utter replacement, for our society to have considered them “fallen”. Perhaps then, this election epitaph on the Obama administration is more like “fail” than “fall”.
What is that mechanism, then, that causes a fall? Often, we recognize the need for change, but don’t seem to achieve it. Obama promised change, but all that changed was the political party, not the politics. Political scientist Michael J. Glennon of Tufts University thinks that President Obama couldn’t have brought change even if he wanted to. Mr. Glennon capitalizes on Walter Bagehot’s economic theory of 1860 that suggests there is government for show, and then there are those who do the real policy making behind the scenes.
In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Mr. Glennon described key policy decisions are frequently made from biased expert advice that exaggerates the need for a particular direction. John Kerry equally alluded how our government has no real command structure, when he acknowledged some programs run automatically. Corruption in government is not some isolated or even a rampant problem. It is the government.
The Maya understood this to be a “total collapse mechanism” of an institution. Although they were extremely superstitious and occultist, the Mayan people combined the sciences with their religion to form a social-political, economic, generational, and civilization cycle calendar. They knew the times to plant and build, as well as harvest and tear down. The idea behind this was that anyone could know the propensity for something to succeed or fail. And, they understood when it was time to leave and walk away from a bad situation gone worse, such as when a government would face its pinnacle of debauchery and corruption.
We have the total collapse mechanism, so what is missing? That is the wrong question. We have the puppet politicians and “rigged” elections (redistricting, retraction of the Voting Rights Act, and state laws calling for additional encumbrances on voters, etc.). We already have societal angst and voter disgust, revealed in the protests, marches, and assemblies. So, the question is not what is missing, but has been diverting it from its intended purpose.
The United States is ripe for a fall, but we are distracted. We cast blame. We find an object of our hatred. We say it is none of our concern. We look away. These are all misdirects. We have misdirected our attention to things that do not really matter, and to people whose biggest fault is that they belong anywhere but where they are. The fact is, they really do belong there. You don’t.
In our arrogance, we tend to think we can do a better job. The fact is, only Bush the younger could have finished what his father started in Iraq, and only Obama could have repaired relations with the Middle East afterwards. That’s all there is to it. Stop looking for a birth certificate – when a president’s home state is surrounded by international waters and laxed documentation; you won’t find it. Or, stop looking for a fight to protect women’s rights; abortion’s already legal. At what point does one take notice and stop chasing geese? It is a misdirect – to keep your eyes -off- of the ball.
There are many people who are anchored to these shifting sands of political games. You are probably one of them. Nod; it’s okay. Feel free to agree with that statement. Come into the perceptual reality that you have been swindled by a smooth-talking elixir salesman trying to get you to buy a product you do not want, do not need, and can’t afford. Let it sink in until it hurts. And, let these words roll off your tongue like a dry heave: “What have I done? What have I been doing all this time?”
What we need in the United States is a fall. For real. What does that fall look like? There is a need to return to the principles of the Founding Fathers and Constitution for good governance. Now, we learned a fall can be an election, legal maneuver, or political fallout, and does not have to result in loss of life. But, our minds have been trained to think that the only way it could possibly happen is for some cataclysmic event or military campaign. There are those who would say, “It can’t happen unless a bunch of people somehow take it by force”. That is another misdirect.