About three days ago, as the news spread of our world rapidly grinding to a halt, I sent a text to some friends:
For you Fourth Turning fans, the Climax is right on time.
If you’ve never read my Fourth Turning posts, now might be a good time to do so. I’ll wait right here. (Link to Fourth Turning Posts)
Here are some important quotes about the Climax.
Is Coronavirus the Climax? #
Strauss and Howe conceived many scenarios that could trigger the Crisis, but not the climax of the Crisis. Here is one such scenario:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce the spread of a new communicable virus. The disease reaches densely populated areas, killing some. Congress enacts mandatory quarantine measures. The president orders the National Guard to throw prophylactic cordons around unsafe neighborhoods. Mayors resist. Urban gangs battle suburban militias. Calls mount for the president to declare martial law.
The authors note that it’s unlikely that any of the scenarios they proposed would actually happen the way they described. But something will happen.
What happened was the financial crisis. That kicked off the crisis era.
The Fourth Turning explained, as previously posted in 2017:
If the Crisis catalyst comes on schedule, around the year 2005 [it was two years late], then the climax will be due around 2020, the resolution around 2026. What will America be like as it exits the Fourth Turning? History offers no guarantees. Obviously, things could go horribly wrong—the possibilities ranging from a nuclear exchange to incurable plagues, from terrorist anarchy to high-tech dictatorship. We should not assume that Providence will always exempt our nation from the irreversible tragedies that have overtaken so many others: not just temporary hardship, but debasement and total ruin. Since Vietnam, many Americans suppose they know what it means to lose a war. Losing in the next Fourth Turning, however, could mean something incomparably worse. It could mean a lasting defeat from which our national innocence—and perhaps even our nation—might never recover. As many Americans know from their own ancestral backgrounds, history provides numerous examples of societies that have been wiped off the map, ground into submission, or beaten so badly they revert to barbarism.
I’m not saying we’re on the verge of complete societal collapse, but it wouldn’t happen gradually. We are not Rome. Our society is actual far less stable than Rome’s was.
To put this into perspective, think of airplanes. Rome was a Sopwith Camel, a super-light bi-plane with an enormous glide scope. Sopwiths could lose their engines at 200 feet and land safely in a field 10 minutes later.
Modern America is an F-18, a super jet with almost no glide scope. If an F-18 loses its engine, you eject. They fall straight down (more or less).
Rome petered out over a few centuries. America could disappear in a matter of weeks.
And, it won’t be the Coronavirus that wipes us out: it will be our response.
They Have to Give Oil Away #
Buyers are demanding cash to take oil off the hands of producers. (I’d fill up today, if you still can.)
What does that mean? It means there is no incentive to produce oil. None. No one in his right might would pump, refine, or deliver oil.
You can say, “yes, but there’s demand, so someone will provide it.” Maybe. But demand might be below the cost of production. Remember regulations. Taxes. Those things can actually cause the cost to produce and deliver a commodity higher than the economy can afford.
Plus, negatively priced crude oil can trigger financial meltdowns that make 2008 look like 2019.
The Healthcare Sector Is Collapsing #
You’d think with a pandemic going around, hospitals would be overflowing. Think again. From today’s Wall Street Journal:
Oxford Economics forecasts that 1.5 million “non-essential” health-care workers will lose their jobs this month. The Mayo Clinic is cutting physician salaries by 10%. Boston Medical Center is furloughing 10% of its workforce. Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health, with 43 hospitals and 1,000 outpatient facilities across seven states, is furloughing employees who aren’t treating coronavirus patients.
In Orange County, California, a major hospital is shutting down entire wings because of lack of patients.
Most hospitals are corporations. How long before investors just throw in the towel on their investments? How long can hospitals stay open at all?
As with most things in an F-18, it can happen faster than you can blink.
People Are Ready to Explode #
Populist anger at the elites has never been higher in modern times. Never. It has turned from frustration to true, visceral hatred.
And the elites hate the people even more than the people hate the elites.
We are one incident away from all-out civil war. A long, low-grade, guerrilla war. Several economists and industry analysts say 80 percent of privately owned restaurants will go out of business if the lockdown goes much longer. That’s 17 million people out of work for the long term. More significantly, it means a million or more owners will have lost their life savings (and probably their homes and cars) because of a government-mandated closure.
How will people react when they realize they’ve been kicked from middle class to indigent by faceless bureaucrats and pointy-headed academics?
We Are Approaching the Climax #
I don’t know how the Climax will unfold. I don’t even know if coronavirus is the Climax. But I am confident we are approaching the Climax.
The Climax of the last cycle was World War II. The cycle before, the Civil War. Before that, the Revolutionary War.
Besides “the,” the most frequently used word in the previous paragraph was “war.” Is that why Trump insists on calling the fight against coronavirus a “war?” Maybe. Trump learned a lot from Steve Bannon, and Steve Bannon is also a Fourth Turning student. Maybe Trump believes we need a war to get out of the Crisis, and a war against a virus is less deadly than a war against China or a civil war.
But it’s clear that America cannot continue on the path we’ve been on. Beginning with the orchestrated attacks against George W. Bush, America has become an uncivil country. There is no “senatorial” debate anymore. Issues are fought exclusively on the impugned character of their advocates. (Sadly, I helped and continue to help aggravate this problem.)
Adding to the untenable state of affairs is the incredible ignorance and disdain for wisdom in our culture. Education rejects everything older than last week. Millennials have nearly no knowledge of any event or person from before their own lifetimes. Business leaders no longer know anything about what their businesses actually do, only about the theory of business.
The Climax is a great shake-up in which important things become obviously important again. And we need that, however painful the shaking might be.
Gas Up and Pray #
What seems ages ago, I posted “A Fourth Turning Warning for America: Climax.”
Before that, I wrote “What should we do next?.”
Maybe we will turn away from the precipice. Maybe we will begin to re-open the country to save lives.
But history is against us. This looks like the climax to me. Your ability to influence broad events is getting weaker and weaker by the minute. Your scope of interest should be, too. Soon, the only politics that matters will be the politics of family and tribe.
Sorry for the downer.