A Sense of Inevitability

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My wife teaches fourth grade at a local public school where she usually has about twenty-four students in her class.

I hear a lot about fourth graders. It appears to be the year they transition from being little kids and enter the early stage of the pre-teens.

While typing an email recently I was struck by a sense of dread, a sense that embraced the kids my wife teaches and kids like them throughout the U.S. and across the oceans in far off lands, kids whose parents care about them just as much as parents here care for their own.

I subscribe to a theory of social prediction called socionomics by its originator and leading exponent, Robert R. Prechter, Jr. The theory applies the Elliott Wave Principle, best known as a branch of technical analysis of investment markets, to predicting the tenor of social events in collective human endeavor.

Socionomic theory, best explained in a large two-volume set of books, holds that social outcomes are a result of collective social mood, not the other way around. In this regard, it reveals that people don’t become collectively pessimistic because of war; they go to war because they have become collectively pessimistic. [Listen here for an August 17th radio interview discussion of the Russia/NATO confrontation and its predictability given their plunging stock market.]

The theory further states that the movement from optimism to pessimism to optimism, etc., is endogenous. It does not respond to external stimuli because it is not self-reinforcing (it’s not a feedback loop); otherwise, as things get better people would get more optimistic, causing things to get better, causing people to get more optimistic, etc. Prechter and his colleagues have produced numerous analyses that show how social mood, measured inferentially by the stock market, changes before the tenor of social events changes.

All this is not meant to be a persuasive essay on socionomics. I only offer it to set up the forecast and suggestion that follows.

According to socionomic theory, significant wars break out near or shortly after the bottom of what are called "cycle degree wave c" declines in the stock market. This lines up rather well with current events since I believe we began such a cycle wave "c" in November 2007.

Since significant wars come near the end of such waves, this puts all the posturing over the Caucasus into a particularly frightening perspective.

If the theory I follow is correct, and my interpretation of the pattern is accurate (it is a probabilistic system, not a crystal ball), things don’t look too promising. Prechter published a book in 2002 that presciently described much of what has occurred in the real estate debacle and other related markets. Some of what he forecasted has come, while other points remain to be seen (he forecasted and continues to expect a deflationary depression).

A bottom of this cycle wave "c" is not likely for several years. Then, or in the following couple years, is when we should expect a significant war.

Prepare to have your life so affected.

Which brings me back to my wife’s classroom full of children.

Envision in your mind the little cherubs in her class. Think of little round-faced boys who by spring will be noticing that little girls are different in an interesting way. Imagine them in colorful shirts and blue jeans, laughing and chasing each other around the playground at recess, a core of toddler surrounded by a hue of the masculinity about to burst forth.

Now fast-forward to 2016.

Those same little boys (and perhaps a few of the little girls) now are dressed in indistinguishable camouflage Battle Dress Utilities. They are covered in the mud of a far-off land whose language sounds like gibberish to them. One or more of them is literally blown into chunks that resemble nothing as much as the back room of a butcher shop. Others are witness to horrors worse than the most nauseating and gruesome of scary movies in part because in war it’s not just video…it’s the smell, too. And it doesn’t come to an end after about 120 minutes of terror. It goes on and on and on.

Those same little boys (and girls?) are mutilated, or their souls are seared and branded by doing the mutilating themselves, because they are part of the mass of humanity mobilized by a social mood that has waxed so negative that kill or be killed is all anyone seems able to think.

Where did you think wars come from?

They arise from the same set of irrational herding impulses that cause politicians, central bankers, bank regulators, bankers, mortgage companies, purchasers of McMansions, condo-flippers, and everyone else to build an historic credit bubble.

"They" didn’t see it coming, and never do! Do you expect anyone to see what’s on deck now?

The phrase, "we’re all in this together," is as true a statement as ever was made.

What’s the point?

The point is that while herding is natural and inevitable on a collective scale, the urge can be overcome on an individual level. By recognizing the invisible pull of collective social mood a person can, with practice, overcome its siren song and follow a different path, a path that seeks to avoid the collective, self-destructive behaviors of the crowd.

Like the investor who resisted the (collectively, insanely optimistic) urge to buy those Florida condos in 2005 when everyone else seemed to be "making a killing" doing so, a prudent person will recognize the pull of waxing pessimism and misplaced self-defensive anger and refuse to be pulled into the meat grinder of war.

This knowledge is especially essential for young men. Given this forecast of war we must expect a surge of nationalism, of pseudo-patriotism, of groupthink fear, and of testosterone-induced desire for "kicking someone’s butt."

Parents and grandparents of boys (and girls?) who don’t begin to lay the groundwork today will risk seeing those children reach early adulthood in time to goose-step to oblivion.

We parents owe our kids a lot. We owe it to our kids to explain why a lot of "popular" behaviors from "hooking up" to flouting laws against underage drinking are poor choices that lead to unnecessary difficulties and have a high likelihood of producing unhappiness. We must communicate our accumulated wisdom and our values in a way that makes sense to young minds.

Most of all, today, parents need to inoculate their kids against the coming flood of war desire. It will come, it will be insidious and invisible, and if not explicitly battled it will take ones children and possibly kill them, no different from a pestilence or pandemic.

Kids need to see the military for what it is (a big centrally-planned bastion of irrationality) and recognize that obedience to authority is neither manly nor a demonstration of adulthood. Blindly following orders and giving orders is tantamount to humans behaving like insects. It’s the polar opposite of how business is successfully managed and teaches not self-discipline but simple obedience…the more doglike the better. It is truly Orwellian Newspeak to see how inverted the propaganda remains; large numbers of people actually think the Army or Marine Corps will make a "man" out of their adolescent. By the same logic, so might playing Russian roulette while being hazed by an upper classman at a college frat house.

Just as war-lust comes near or just after lows in social mood, the trend does inevitably reverse. Making every effort to avoid participation is thus the most pro-life act we can undertake. The trick is to see the wave of irrationality for what it is, even as it tries to seize us, and then make plans to quietly sidestep the troop train as it collects its victims. Those who do so reap the benefits of the boom that follows each bust by living to experience it.

Pity those parents who believe the lies and who are caught up in the throes of an extreme social mood (whether positive or negative, extremes lead to self-destructive behaviors). Pity those whose children are destroyed, who will never see sons (or daughters?) marry and bear grandchildren, or whose sons and daughters return from war with shattered bodies or minds. There is no escape for the masses, because after all, they are "the masses." History is inevitable; Utopia is not an option.

YOU, however, can try to avoid the worst things that accompany lows. Tell your sons and daughters that real adulthood doesn’t come from mindlessly putting your life in the control of others, it comes by navigating life’s obstacle course the hard way, captaining your own destiny (with the support of loved ones), and those who can do this as individuals during the most difficult of times (such as those we are all but certain to experience) are truly the ones who have pride-worthy accomplishments.

Sincerely, I wish you the best of luck. Don’t let war-mongering politicians and bloodthirsty fellow citizens steal your children. No matter what they claim, they are not entitled to them.

September 4, 2008

David Calderwood [send him mail] a businessman, artist, and author of the novel Revolutionary Language, selected January 2000 Freedom Book of the Month at Free-market.net.

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