The Manga character Beerus (“God of Destruction”) says: “Before creation, comes destruction” which is synonymous to Pablo Picasso’s quote: “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction”. Everywhere we look there’s evidence of what Beerus and Picasso are telling us: destructive forest fires return nutrients to the soil so new plant life can begin, the mass extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago gave birth to homo sapiens’ rule of planet earth and life could never have started until there was a supernova; the most violent explosion possible in the universe. This pattern of destruction before creation is not only present in nature. It also plays an important role in forming societies. Throughout history, there have been wars, depressions and plagues that were disastrous at the time but the impetuous for seismic change that couldn’t happen otherwise. This is what Winston Churchill meant when he used the quote: “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.
The Fourth Turning
The Fourth Turning is a theory devised by William Strauss and Neil Howe. According to the theory, throughout Anglo-American history, there are cycles that last around 80-100 years and within each cycle, four turning that last between 20-30 years. Turnings are thought of as seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. The final winter phase is called the Fourth Turning and is needed to washout debris and start afresh. It’s also described as a crisis and it’s the phase we live in today.
Fourth Turnings since the 15th century
Seasonal patterns of euphoria, calm, unwinding and crisis have been observed as far back as the Roman times. More recent fourth turnings start with the inspiration for The Game of Thrones; The Wars of the Roses and continue until WW2 and the Great depression:
- 1459 – 1487 | Wars of the Roses | A series of civil wars battling for control of the throne of England which was an important period and turning point within British history
- 1569 – 1594 | Armada Crisis | The defeat of the Spanish Armada recognised England as Europe’s most fearsome sea power and led to a surge of national pride in England
- 1675-1704 | Glorious Revolution | King James II of England was overthrown which changed how England was governed and gave Parliament power over the monarchy, starting the beginnings of political democracy
- 1773-1794 | American Revolution | The Revolutionary War waged against Britain influenced political ideas and revolutions around the globe
- 1860-1865 | The American Civil War | Caused by the long-standing controversy over black people enslavement, the end of the war brought the abolishment of the institution of slavery
- 1929 – 1946 | Great Depression & WW2 | The biggest and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries and ending with the fall of fascism
According to the author of The Fourth Turning, the latest winter season started in 2008 with the Financial Crisis and will likely continue until 2030 with the 2020s being the climactic decade.
Is COVID-19 our Fourth Turning?
“Every Fourth Turning starts with a catalyst event that terminates the mood … and unleashes one of crisis … The catalyst can be one spark or, more commonly, a series of sparks that self-ignite like the firecrackers traditionally used by the Chinese to mark their own breaks in the circle of time.”
Let’s hope we are in peak crisis, my opinion is we’re nowhere close. The economic fallout from covid is yet to be realised and a deep recession will have damaging secondary consequences. Hardship will be compounded because global interest rates are already at record lows with nowhere to go. Central bankers’ most effective weapon for fighting downturns has been blunted. But let’s be clear, coronavirus wasn’t the cause of this mess; record debt, inequality and populism were already here, these dark forces have only been accelerated.
“The world has come into this moment with divisions among its great powers and incompetence at the highest levels of government of terrifying proportions. We will pass through this, but into what?”
“The world economy is now collapsing” – Martin Wolf, CBE (Financial Times)
There are many themes around the world that are still to play out. A day doesn’t pass without China making headlines on Taiwan, the US trade-war, fighting at the Himalayan border, tensions in the South China Sea and the Hong Kong protests. America looks more divided than any time since the Civil War and Europe has problems of its own that include Brexit. No one knows what’s around the corner but it’s unlikely to be a time of milk and honey.
“People worldwide are beginning to realise that greed does not actually lead to joy”Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough said we should ‘curb excess capitalism’ to save nature. Is a global economic collapse the solution? The health of our planet and the health of the infinite growth financial system are at odds. Something needs to give to let the other flourish. Needless to say, governments won’t introduce policies and the public won’t vote for what makes them poorer. It has to be forced. The next few years will undoubtedly be a wild ride but remember: “before creation, comes destruction” and look forward to what comes out the other side. Just be patient!
Further watching and reading
Attenborough: ‘Curb excess capitalism’ to save nature
The world economy is now collapsing