Déjà vu is the expression borrowed from French to evoke an event or a moment that seems familiar. The literal translation is already seen. I have often used that expression, and it comes to mind when I read work by another author whose point of view invokes a sense of strong understanding and agreement in me. Today I read one such piece, and realized that déjà vu is not an appropriate expression. So in borrowing from déjà vu I have invoked Google Translator and found déjà senti (already sensed) too represent those things we hear, read or learn that we somehow felt as though we already knew them, despite the fact we have never seen or heard them before.
In the most recent newsletter from John Mauldin titled Foundations of Crisis, John kindly publishes a great summary of a book which I have not heard of, but have already ordered on Amazon because the summary was a déjà senti moment for me. The newsletter is dedicated to a summary of the work of Richard Strauss and John Howe and their book The Fourth Turning. The juxt of it is that there is a cycle of generations that creates some repetition in history, or at least the undercurrent for repetition based on when we are born, what we experience through the stages of our life, and how those events influence us as we age, collectively as generations. One paragraph that strikes me profoundly was this one:
The real watersheds in history, crises that make or break a civilization, occur roughly every 100 years. The most recent ones in American history that will resonate without looking up the facts in a reference book are the Revolution, circa 1782; the Civil War, circa 1863; and WW II, circa 1943. We’ve had other wars, and they were traumatic enough; that’s the nature of war. But the War of 1812, Mexican, Spanish, World War I, Korean, and Vietnam wars had nothing to do with the country’s survival as an entity, as a civilization. They were optional wars, sport fighting, if you will, by comparison. Wars that occur at a secular Crisis, a “Fourth Turning” to Strauss and Howe, when a Prophet generation is acting as elder statesmen, with Nomads as operational commanders, and Heroes as front line soldiers tend to be total wars that have an ideological underpinning. They’re life-and-death struggles not just for the individual participants, but for the civilization as a whole.
That major wars occur at such long remove from each other probably isn’t an accident. Really catastrophic wars, from at least the days of Troy on down, have usually been the Great Events that resound through living memory. The Great Event of a century forms the thought and character of everyone alive when it happens, influencing them relative to the stage of life they’re in at the time. Perhaps that’s why a people will collectively do its best to avoid a repeat, at least while there’s anyone still alive who saw the last crisis.
The newsletter ends with a strong plug for investing in commodities which on first pass I found distasteful and skeptically placed. But on some initial reflection the argument at least deserves further understanding which is why I look forward to buying the book. I also encourage you to read John’s newsletter, and more importantly to subscribe to them going forward.
Foundations of Crisis
John Mauldin’s Outside the Box, December 29 2008