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A New American Prophecy

Winter is Here

By The Bantering WelshmanPublished about a year ago 22 min read
Winter is Here, photo by M.S. Humphreys


This is not a book review, though the beginning discussion of a book is crucial to the rest of the article. There are political figures and political events mentioned, but it is not political commentary. Moments in history are touched upon, but it is not historical. There are elements of a dystopian future, but it is not fiction. This is a new American prophecy inspired by one made more than 25 years ago. It is dark and eerie, but there is hope in the foreboding.

Winter is Here

I need to get something off my mind, and I’m a little scared because I’m not sure where it’s going, but I don’t think it is going to be pleasant, at least not for people like me.

I recently listened to The Fourth Turning, An American Prophecy, by William Strauss and Neil Howe, first published in 1997. Since finishing the audio version of the book, I’ve wished for hope, but the prevailing feeling I've experienced is one of foreboding. The picture Strauss and Howe painted 25 years ago of the first quarter of this century has been surprisingly accurate and we are still pending the climax of our Fourth Turning, the last turning of this saeculum (80 to 100-year period – roughly the life of a person), the winter of our generational constellation when the four generational archetypes coalesce at the end of the saeculum. Yes, winter is here, and after hearing the narrator of this book actually read, “winter is coming,” I’m convinced George R. R. Martin was inspired by The Fourth Turning.

The Prophecy

What has me most concerned is my own prophecy now developing after listening to the book, but before I can get into that, I need to summarize Strauss and Howe’s theories. The authors surmise that time, our history, is not linear but cyclical, renewing every 80 to 100 years. Though this is a global phenomenon, Strauss and Howe focus their predictions for the end of the current saeculum on the United States. According to the authors, a saeculum has four turnings, 20 to 25 years each. The first turning is The High, followed by The Awakening, followed by The Unraveling and concluding in a season of Crisis.

Each turning, or season, gives birth to its corresponding generational archetype. The Prophets are born in The High and spawn The Awakening. In our current saeculum they are the Boomers. The Nomads are born during the Awakening and because of their visionary parents (generational not individual) have a collective feeling of neglect which develops greater independence and survival skills. In our current saeculum, The Nomads are the Generation X, aka The Thirteeners because they are the 13th generation of United States citizens. The Heroes are born during The Unraveling and because of the realized mistakes of their elder Prophets and frustration of their Nomad parents, The Heroes are nurtured (protected) more than their parents. They will be the order-takers and warriors of the “pending” crisis brought on by their elder Prophets, who will subsequently be the order-givers. The Millennials, aka Generation Y, are The Heroes of our saeculum, a worrisome thought.

Born during The Crisis are The Artists. They will grow up highly protected to inherit a new world order where their dependency on their parents and elders will preclude their participation in organizational leadership until perhaps near the climax of the next Crisis. Less likely to assume leadership roles, The Artists will mostly be arbitrators between the new Prophets and the old Heroes of the new saeculum. In our current saeculum, near the climax of The Crisis turning, there are notably two generations of Artists, Generation Z, born since the turn of the century, and The Silent generation born during the Great Depression and World War II, the climax of the last saeculum.

In 1997, during the Unraveling of our current saeculum, Strauss and Howe note in The Fourth Turning that American citizens have a national memory that covers three saeculum. The first American saeculum in our collective memory comes to its climax and renewal at our War of Independence. The second Crisis climax is the Civil War, and the third Crisis includes the Great Depression and World War II. Again, this book is very American centric, but even Strauss and Howe note here that many Americans can trace their lineage back through many more generational constellations indicating the global, human nature of the saeculum. As eerie as it is to deconstruct human history from linear time and fit the pieces back into the clear patterns of the saeculum, it is nowhere near as frightening as the authors’ 1997 prophecies about our own time.

photo by M.S. Humphreys

The Current Fourth Turning

The subject of The Fourth Turning that is perhaps the most damning and causes me the most consternation, is the prophetic appearance of the “Gray Gentleman,” or “Gray Warrior.” This seemingly supernatural vision takes this book to a whole new level...

Strauss and Howe indicated that the next crisis period would begin with a catalyst about 2005 and end with a climax near 2025 or 2026. They said of Fourth Turnings, The Crisis turning, that it often brought war and that wars fought during The Crisis, were generally decisive and fought with the most devastatingly destructive and highest casualty producing weapons. They missed it by a few years, but I think it is quite clear that 9/11 was the catalyst they predicted. After September 1, 2001, we waged war for 20 years and during that time, the stock market crashed, the housing bubble burst, we experienced The Great Recession, an energy crisis, an ongoing cultural crisis, a global pandemic and now unrest in the former Soviet Republic states. All of these things, Strauss and Howe predicted in one way or another and we still haven’t reached the climax of our saeculum’s Crisis. Or have we?

The subject of The Fourth Turning that is perhaps the most damning and causes me the most consternation, is the prophetic appearance of the “Gray Gentleman,” or “Gray Warrior.” This seemingly supernatural vision takes this book to a whole new level, but if you consider the psychology of the generational constellation at the closing of the saeculum, it stands to reason that an elder is at the point of the turning. During our War of Independence, George Washington stands out as the Gray Gentleman, but considering the age of our only truly elder statesman at the time, I’m leaning more toward Benjamin Franklin. During the Civil War, I think it is much too obvious an answer to say Abe Lincoln though because of his assassination soon after, he does fit Strauss and Howe’s description as a man that rises to the occasion then fades away. Still, I’m leaning toward a more obscure and ominous character; I believe the Gray Warrior leading us up to the Civil War, the climax of that Crisis, was none other than John Brown. Before the end of the last completed saeculum, culminating in WWII, we have several Gray Gentleman-Warriors from which to choose. It could be Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, or somebody history has forgotten, but nevertheless, there was a Gray Gentleman.

By Dan Mall on Unsplash

This brings me to our current saeculum, near the end where an unknown, but easily imagined cataclysmic climax looms. If the US and the human race survive the climax, which I believe they will this time, I have no doubt that the new saeculum will usher in a new High that will appease our Heroes and the Artists, Millennials and Gen Z respectively, but elder Prophets (Boomers), will regret creating, and aging Nomads (Xer’s), will suffer to manage. I believe there is actually two courses of action solely dependent on who the Gray Gentleman of our time is. Unfortunately, the course of action that is clearly more developed and plausible in my mind is the course of action I’m going to elaborate on here and is not the course of action that is most appealing to Xer’s like me, at least not in my lifetime.

In their 1997 book, Strauss and Howe frequently talk about the last Artist generational archetype, the generation we know as the Silent generation between the last Heroes, the GIs, and the current Prophets, the Boomers. They mention that though the Silent have held elected positions and they have graced the Oval Office as First Ladies and Presidential aides, no Silent Generation has ever been elected President or even held the office of Vice President. At the time The Fourth Turning was published, The Office of the President of the United States and The Vice President had always been filled with either a GI or a Boomer in this saeculum. That would still hold true today if not for three notable exceptions. Born January 30, 1941, Dick Cheney became the first Silent Generation to hold the Office of the Vice President when George W. Bush, a Boomer, was elected in 2000. When Barack Obama, a Boomer, was elected in 2008, his running mate, Joe Biden, born November 20, 1942, became only the second Silent Generation to hold the office of VP. When he was elected to the Presidency in 2020, Joe Biden, Uncle Joe (a moniker FDR also gave to Joseph Stalin), became the first Silent Generation to ever hold the position of President of the United States.

At the apex of our generational constellation, the most elder of our elders, from the end of the last saeculum, the oldest man elected to the office, a man that both parties will cast away in “no confidence” at the end of his first term or sooner, Joe Biden is this Fourth Turning’s Gray Gentleman-Warrior? Can that be true, and what does it mean if it is?

I speculate, good or bad, that Joe Biden is the Gray Gentleman and I have a feeling about how things are going to unfold at this climax and into the next saeculum. I’ll even venture an educated guess at the next crisis.

The Climax

In the next two years Russia will expand its war in the Ukraine to the west, specifically against the United States starting most likely with cyber-attacks against energy infrastructure and transportation but may even launch physical attacks within the continental US. They will push the physical war in Europe west expanding intentionally to Moldova and perhaps accidentally to Poland and Romania. They will gain support from Belarus, Iran, Serbia, and North Korea. China may eventually side with Russia but will remain openly neutral for the immediate future even if they secretly provide aide.

By Christian Lue on Unsplash

Though unchecked expansion of the European Union and NATO are the catalyst for the current conflict, Russia’s march across the continent will force the US and its NATO allies to activate the premise of their mutual protection pact or become irrelevant. The resulting actions will be the actual World War III. It will be a quick but devastating conflict pitting two massive military machines against each other. Many 100s of thousands, perhaps millions will die and 100s of billions of dollars of key infrastructure will be destroyed. Every tool in the destructive conventional arsenals of both sides will be exhausted but nuclear weapons will not be used. Unlike WWI or WWII, this is not a war for dominance, it’s a war for unthreatened sovereignty. Ultimately, it will end in a virtual stalemate. Russia will retreat to its former borders, weaker, perhaps even neutered temporarily, but still relevant and unoccupied. In contrast, though it did not earn a clear victory, NATO will justify its existence and solidify its position as the military arm of the new burgeoning superpower, the European Union.

Back in the US, Joe Biden will be the champion that defeated Russia, though that won’t be entirely true. Subsequently, he will either die or be removed from office for health reasons before the war is over, but his actions will be canonized by a euphoric American public and offer a mandate to his party that will be largely controlled by progressives at this time. Racial and cultural tensions resurrected during The Crisis will be resolved during the climax as all sides recognize a common foe. Instigators, anarchists and small specialty sects demanding equal, albeit specialty treatment, will be drowned out during the cacophony of war drums and rattling sabers, and a collective “shut-up already” will resonate from the majority of Americans after the conflict.

The High

The ensuing High of the new saeculum controlled by the established, aging Boomers, a growing number of Xers and a handful of up-and-coming Millennials will see to the end of private, for-profit oil. The oil industry will be nationalized by an empowered federal government, which will control distribution mostly to fire current power production plants, support alleged cleaner and more renewable energy, air travel, and an existing, larger military machine still dependent on oil. They will phase out, to an eventual ban, privately-owned, internal-combustion engines, perhaps allowing for expensive special permits to collectors. Electric vehicles will be the new norm, which will in turn drive up the demand for electric utilities and infrastructure improvements. Of course, this will come at a great cost, more than the average American can afford, but in the new High, domestic production, tax collection and the elimination of a large portion of the US national debt – spoils of war – will create such an abundance that a larger, stronger, richer government will enact new entitlements and subsidize energy and transportation costs up to a recognized middle class. They will also subsidize the retooling of the automobile industry and other power equipment manufacturers – for a cost.

photo by M.S. Humphreys

Lithium, needed for the power plants in electric motors, will displace oil as the new finite resource in world-demand. Powerful world leaders will turn a blind eye to the debilitating social, economic, political and environmental impacts in the underdeveloped regions where the metal is mined. Cults-of-personality will seize the opportunity to gain control of lithium mines and manipulate the lithium trade either through force or intimidation compelling the United States and other advanced nations to deploy troops world-wide to protect “national interest” and prop up political leaders unable or unwilling to stop corruption in the trade of the newly priceless resource.

Between the late 20’s and mid 30’s one of the world's half-dozen or so experimental tokamaks, a fusion reactor derived from 1960’s soviet technology, will begin a sustainable reaction capable of providing safe, clean and unlimited power to all of mankind. This will fuel a new Carbon-Clean, Energy Revolution that will further diminish the world’s dependency on fossil fuels and coal but drive-up demand in an already tense global lithium trade. Visionaries in the oil and mining industries will have already shifted their focus to lithium prospecting and mining and with the success in fusion technology, will convert the oil refining process into industrial hydrogen production and deep-sea platforms into deuterium and tritium extraction platforms as hydrogen and its isotopes of deuterium and tritium will power the tokamaks.

Born during this period, the Alpha Generation will grow up in a world of limitless electric power, huge advancements in artificial intelligence and virtual reality, nearly constant connectivity and privacy always under attack. They will be shaped by their parents, the Millennial Generation, in our own saeculum regarded as the most connected generation. The Millennials, our constellation’s Heroes, will raise the Alpha Generation to respect the diversity, progression and technology they helped to usher in. But with new threats against identity and safety in both a physical and virtual world, the Millennials will closely guard their children against this technology, a precaution the Alpha Generation will grow to resent.

The Awakening

Just like the events of our current saeculum and Forth Turning were shaped by the conflicting views of the GI’s, the last Heroes, and their children, the Boomers and current Prophets, the next saeculum will be molded by the tensions between the new Prophets, the Alpha Generation and their Millennial parents, the current Heroes. Generation Z will be reaching early adulthood now. The children of Xers and late Millennials, they remember enough about their parents and elders during the world in crisis that they quietly appreciate this new gilded age and become the new Silent generation.

Not quiet however, and rising in volume, are the adolescent Alpha-Prophets rebelling against the overprotectiveness of their Millennial-Hero parents. They will express a new individualism and seek value in themselves. These Alpha’s will regard the sacrifices and accomplishments of their parents as petty and distance themselves from the stigma of being the children of the larger-than-life heroes. They will find weak spots in their elder’s armor to exploit and make up pithy counterculture chants like “no lives for lithium,” or “harvest food; feed the world – harvest lithium; feed the rich.” They will allege to shun electronics but will use AI in daily life without even knowing and will prove to be more connected than even their parents were. They will claim to return to an era of physical contact and face to face interaction, but their groups, parties and events will all be dependent on technology, and they will be blind to their own hypocrisy.

While the Alpha-Prophets rail against their parents in what they regard as a superfluous world, Millennial-Heroes will throw their hands in the air at their unruly children. For the disruptive behavior of the Alpha’s, the Millennials will tighten the screws on their children’s social lives, they will restrict their movements and freedoms and they will enlist the help of therapists. Xers, the elder Nomads, will collectively roll their eyes and blame the Millennials for bad parenting. Predominantly the leaders of municipalities, education and law enforcement at this time, Xers will enact laws to publicly restrict that which is being regarded as civil disobedience and counterculture. Remaining Boomer-Prophets, between 80 and 100 now, will smile recalling the days of their youth as they see their own reflection in this new generation.

Unruly youths will grow into remonstrative young adults. They will stand up against what they consider a new American imperialism driven by the expanding energy revolution. They will regard the new tokamak technology of wealthy nations as a boot on the necks of underdeveloped ones. These Alpha-Prophets will charge their Millennial-Hero parents with enslaving children and the underprivileged by negotiating with propped up world leaders to exchange electric power for lithium.

After the energy industry, Alpha’s will target agriculture. They will regard the beef and dairy industry as dirty and a waste of resources with too much input over output. They will promote the cultivation of more ancient grains, natural alternatives to pesticides and herbicides and a reduction of processed foods and genetic modifications. They will bring on a new Agricultural Revolution that will threaten Big Ag, and the cattle industry.

Just like the television was the electronic babysitter employed by the Boomers when raising the Xer’s, technology, especially AI and VR, though they railed against it, will be the babysitter employed by the Alpha-Prophets to the Beta-Nomads.

The children of the Z and Alpha generations will be the new Nomads. As a result of the innocence of the Z’s and the overprotection of the Alpha’s, the new Nomads will enter into a world that expects them to fend for themselves and develop survival skills. The distractions created by the Alpha’s will draw attention away from nurturing the new Nomads. Just like the television was the electronic babysitter employed by the Boomers when raising the Xer’s, technology, especially AI and VR, though they railed against it, will be the babysitter employed by the Alpha-Prophets to the Beta-Nomads. The Beta’s will learn for themselves while their parents focus on changing the world.

By Andrey Metelev on Unsplash

The Unraveling

The Beta-Nomads grow to define their parents and their elders. They will judge the Z-Artists with indifference. They will see them as benign and weak, compromising simpletons without an original thought. In the Alpha-Prophets, the Betas will see a generation of troublemakers, law breakers and bringers of chaos. They will comprehend the Millennial-Heroes and dwindling X-Nomads as organizers, law makers and bringers of order. From these elders, the Betas will choose to model themselves.

As the Betas enter adulthood, growing discourse between the rising Alpha-Prophets and the diminishing Millennial-Heroes will be adjudicated by the Z-Artists and ignored with prejudice by the Beta-Nomads. It is unclear exactly what will transpire here – it is almost 60 years into the future, but it is most likely that tensions will increase on subjects regarding energy, agriculture, climate change, and new cultural distrust. The fight over the world’s reserves of lithium will be at the forefront of the strain. China will still be China with all the people and resources to defy the world order, but new oligarchs will emerge as Chili, Argentina and other Latin American countries thrive on the United States and Europe’s hunger for lithium. The international power grid, vulnerable to both cyber and physical attack, will be the new target of terrorists. A growing movement in South America, concerned about the plight of laborers, local economies and the environment, will spread resentment for the US and Europe. Cartels will take advantage of the legal lithium trade to bolster the illegal trade of drugs and guns. At home, this will spawn a cultural distrust of Hispanic or Latin peoples.

From the universities, new technologies will emerge in an attempt to reduce the world’s dependence on lithium and Beta-Nomad entrepreneurs will capitalize on these technologies. Alpha-Prophets, now the majority in all branches and levels of government will enact local, regional and federal statutes to reduce consumption and waste, especially regarding lithium. The federal government will increase regulation on the disposal of lithium products and subsidize expensive and complicated recycling techniques.

At this time, the Gamma Generation is coming into the world. The children of late Alpha-Prophets and early Beta-Nomads, their families and communities will coalesce to care and protect them more. The Heroes of the coming crisis, the Gamma-Heroes will grow with a sense of family, community and country that will serve all in the next turning.

Near the end of The Unraveling, crime will increase, markets will fluctuate, people will widely speculate about their personal financial future, distrust for the government will grow and cultural tensions will come to a head. The event horizon is now upon this saeculum, and a new crisis is about to emerge.

The Crisis

Sometime about 2085, give or take a few years, there will be a catalyst that will turn the world to Crisis. Just like our current Fourth Turning, it could be an epic act of terrorism like 9/11, perhaps a coordinated attack against multiple tokamak reactors plunging half the planet into darkness. It could be another stock market crash, housing bubble burst, or world-wide pandemic. Whatever the catalyst, the next Fourth Turning, again just like our own, will likely demonstrate many, if not all, of the above moments of crisis and possibly a few others that cannot even be imagined.

As I write this, fearfully anticipating the climax of our own Fourth Turning, I imagine the next climax to be one of a great conflict. I see a new superpower emerging from the rubble of one long forgotten. The next climax, after our own, will include more of the world’s nations than any before, but the fight will be between two great powers and their struggle for resources. At this point, the world will have fretted over China for more than 130 years, but China will do as it has always done. In this next great conflict, China will guard its interest from the sidelines, perhaps secretly aiding both sides, as they watch the United States and a Unified Europe go at each other until the death.

The End

As dark as this prophecy about the next saeculum is, it is actually written with hope – hope that there will be a next saeculum to worry about the end of days. While my prophecy for the next High may not be The High I would have chosen, there should be much to be loved by all if we make it that far. Sadly, we are at a point in our own saeculum when anticipation is higher regarding tomorrow than next week. If we have learned anything about the last 300 years of American history, then we know that the climax of this Fourth Turning is upon us. Have we made it through the worst and are we now rounding the corner to The First Turning? The last 3 years have certainly been historically epic, but was it the end, or just the beginning of the end.

As observers of the pendulum swinging side to side, we perceive a constant motion, but velocity is the speed at which an object travels in a given direction. If the direction of the object is changed, so too must the speed. As the weight of the pendulum approaches the apex of its trajectory, gravity acts in opposition to kinetic force. The pendulum slows, stops, then gravitational forces overtake the kinetic energy to carry it forth in a new direction. The pendulum that is our saeculum is at the apex of its trajectory, but in this metaphoric millisecond of our time, it is imperceptible to us as observers if kinetic energy is still in excess, if equilibrium has been met or if gravity has overcome. Is the weight swinging still to the west, has it stopped, or is it bound now for the east? Can we rest easy because the worst is behind us and we are heading into a new High, or is the cataclysm moments away? Finally, if we are moments away from cataclysm, will it be the end of our saeculum only, or will it be the end of us all?

By alexandru vicol on Unsplash


About the Creator

The Bantering Welshman

M.S. Humphreys is The Bantering Welshman, an East Tennessee native, author, journalist, storyteller, marketing specialist, husband and step father. and

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