“Human history seems logical in afterthought but a mystery in forethought. In every prior Fourth Turning, the catalyst was foreseeable but the climax was not.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997
We are five years into the Crisis that will not resolve itself until sometime in the 2020’s. No one can predict the specific events that will fundamentally change history over the next decade, but the catalysts of debt, civic decay and global disorder were evident sixteen years ago when Strauss and Howe wrote their prophetic generational history. The volcanic eruption occurred in 2008 when the worldwide financial system blew and the molten lava continues to spew forth and flow along the Federal Reserve created channels, protecting the corrupt establishment while incinerating senior citizens, the working middle class and Millennials. Deep within the volcano the pressure is building again as the mood of the country darkens. It will blow again and the economic, social, political and military distress will catalyze into a catastrophic emergency that will tear the fabric of the country asunder. The existing social order will be swept away and replaced by a new paradigm which could be better or far worse.
“Imagine some national (and probably global) volcanic eruption, initially flowing along channels of distress that were created during the Unraveling era and further widened by the catalyst. Trying to foresee where the eruption will go once it bursts free of the channels is like trying to predict the exact fault line of an earthquake. All you know in advance is something about the molten ingredients of the climax, which could include the following:
- Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation).
- Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by walled communities.
- Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders.
- Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction.”
The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997
Linear thinkers are incapable or unwilling to understand that history is cyclical, primarily driven by national mood changes and the interaction of generations entering different stages in their 80 year life cycle. We’ve seen this story before, but those who lived through the last Fourth Turning have mostly died out, and our techno-narcissistic populace has absolutely no interest in understanding history beyond last night’s episode of Duck Dynasty. The mood of the country during a Turning is often captured in literature and/or film produced during that period.
The last Fourth Turning encompassed the period from the Great Crash in 1929 through the Great Depression and World War II, ending in 1946 with a new world order. Four novels written during this Crisis captured the dystopian nature of the time, reflecting the fear, pain, anger, brutality, and courageousness of the common man during that perilous period. Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (1939), Orwell’s 1984 (written during WWII), and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy (written from 1937 through 1949) are masterpieces of literature which captured the aura of the times in which they were penned. Only one of the novels was brought to film during the Crisis, with John Ford’s brilliant Grapes of Wrath screen adaptation capturing the suffering and desperation of common folk during the Great Depression.
Most of what passes for literature and film these days is nothing more than glorified commercials or corporate created twaddle designed for narcissistic, mindless, teenage girls. Many will dismiss Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy and the film adaptations as nothing more than run of the mill teenager nonsense. They are making a huge mistake. Decades from now, if we make the right choices during this Fourth Turning, The Hunger Games will be viewed as the novels and films that captured the darkening, rebellious mood of the Crisis. It is not a coincidence the first novel was published in September 2008. The worldwide financial meltdown initiated by the Wall Street financial elite and their paid for cronies in the nation’s capital, occurred in September 2008 and marked the commencement of this Fourth Turning. Collins has brilliantly created a dystopian nightmare that combines the shallowness and superficiality of our reality TV culture with our never ending wars of choice and rise of our surveillance state, while blending the decadence and debauchery of the declining Roman Empire. She also unwittingly places her characters in their proper generational roles during a Fourth Turning Crisis.
Collins was a military brat who was fortunate enough to have a father that taught her the truth about historical events, not the propaganda taught in our public schools today.
“He was career Air Force, a military specialist, a historian, and a doctor of political science. When I was a kid, he was gone for a year in Viet Nam. It was very important to him that we understood about certain aspects of life. So, it wasn’t enough to visit a battlefield, we needed to know why the battle occurred, how it played out, and the consequences. Fortunately, he had a gift for presenting history as a fascinating story. He also seemed to have a good sense of exactly how much a child could handle, which is quite a bit.”
She learned lessons about war, poverty, oppression, and the brutality and corruption of the ruling classes. Her knowledge of history, the visual images of reality shows and the Iraq War displayed on TV created the idea for her Hunger Games trilogy.
“I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss’ story came to me. One night I’m sitting there flipping around and on one channel there’s a group of young people competing for, I don’t know, money maybe? And on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.”
The central storyline of The Hunger Games is there are twelve districts subservient to the Capitol in the totalitarian nation of Panem. The country consists of the affluent Capitol, located in the Rocky Mountains, and twelve desperately poor districts ruled by the Capitol. The Capitol is lavishly opulent and technologically advanced, but the twelve districts are in varying states of poverty. As punishment for a past rebellion against the Capitol wherein twelve of the districts were defeated and the thirteenth purportedly destroyed, one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are selected by lottery to compete in the “Hunger Games” on an annual basis.
The Games are a televised spectacle, with the participants, called “tributes”, being forced to fight to the death in a treacherous outdoor arena. It’s a combination of American Idol, Survivor, and Middle Eastern warfare. The victorious tribute and his or her home district are then remunerated with extra food and supplies. The objective of the Hunger Games is to provide superficial reality TV entertainment for the vacuous small-minded masses in the Capitol and serve as a constant reminder to the Districts of the Capitol’s supremacy and supposed omnipotence. The Capitol ruling with an iron fist over its 13 Districts is clearly founded upon the British Empire running roughshod over the 13 American colonies and harvesting resources and taxes to maintain their wealth, power and control. Collins utilizes her knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman history and merging it with our degraded shallow TV culture to meld a dystopian nightmare of brutality, child murder, voyeuristic sadism, and a fragile, rotting empire.
“A significant influence would have to be the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The myth tells how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete, where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur. Even as a kid, I could appreciate how ruthless this was. Crete was sending a very clear message: “Mess with us and we’ll do something worse than kill you. We’ll kill your children.” And the thing is, it was allowed; the parents sat by powerless to stop it. Theseus, who was the son of the king, volunteered to go. I guess in her own way, Katniss is a futuristic Theseus.
In keeping with the classical roots, I send my tributes into an updated version of the Roman gladiator games, which entails a ruthless government forcing people to fight to the death as popular entertainment. The world of Panem, particularly the Capitol, is loaded with Roman references. Panem itself comes from the expression “Panem et Circenses” which translates into ‘Bread and Circuses’.” – Suzanne Collins
Any similarities between propaganda posters in Panem and propaganda in America are purely coincidental, I’m sure.