Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Generation Theory

"That is so pointless....it's like getting a history major!" (Ouch!)
"Why do we have to learn history? Such a stupid subject.."
"Learning history is outdated. We need to start learning more technologically advanced things"

         The above words are faithful (or nearly faithful) overhearings from some of my classmates (who are teenagers; hence, the italics. For some reason it feels like everyone around me is always talking in italics).

So why do we learn history? (Yes, I talk in italics too) What is the "point"?
       It seems like everyone's been attacking history since the beginning of time. It has always been dubbed the most "boring" and the least useful. 
        I can't argue with boring. If you think history is boring, then that's what you think. There are just some people who just. can't. like it. But I can argue with useless. History is NOT useless. 
         Actually, it is anything but useless. Broadly, history is the only area of study that takes into account human thoughts and behavior, and how these two things can cause societies to rise or fall. Because, in history, we/they ask why. It's all about making connections and trying to find the reason behind rises, public sentiment, reactions, falls, and seemingly stupid actions. 
         It's so incredibly important to know why everyone liked President Eisenhower right? Well...maybe not. But by studying history we see trends and patterns (PATTERNS!) which still work today. There are a whole bunch of people who make "educated guesses" about the future just through their knowledge of the patterns of the past. They basically predict the future just because they know history!

         Now don't get me wrong, no historian could ever have told what time the Al-Qaeda was going to strike the Twin Towers, but they did predict a major crisis induced by the Middle East. Within months of the attack, they knew exactly what President Bush was going to do, and how it was going to end. And they were right! They knew the pattern. They knew how this (this system, this society, this world) works. How could anyone not want to know how the world works?
                Strauss and Howe have an interesting theory. They believe that there are different ages in history which keep going in an infinite circle. First we're in a high, then there is an awakening, then there is an unravelling, and then, there's the crisis. From the crisis, evolves a new happy society: a new high; it's a never-ending cycle! 
      When you think about it, that's pretty much how everyone's life works too. When you're happy(high), you're happy for a while, but then you start questioning things and looking for higher reasoning ("What is the meaning of life?"); that's when you undergo an awakening. You see what made you happy before incredulously, and look to a more noble form of happiness. However, you don't find what you're looking for, and keep asking questions, making surprising discoveries about yourself (unraveling). The more questions you ask yourself, the more confused you become. Until, one day, you're broken. You don't even know who you are anymore(crisis). But you'll survive; any obstacle can be overcome once you put your heart to it. Taking baby steps, and avoiding past mistakes, you recover; Et voilĂ  ! you're happy again!
        Strauss and Howe are certain, and they even have proof. 
THE CRISIS               ->  the Great Depression and World War II (1930s to 1949)

THE HIGH                 ->   the 1950s - American suburban life begins. The whole society joins hands and     becomes a community. Together, with 'Duck and Cover,' they are ready to fight  the USSR. Everybody loves the government! (Eisenhower = president = war hero)

THE AWAKENING ->   the 1960s - Americans break the conformity. Why should we all be like one          another anyway? What's with the government and war? Discontent, and mild rebellions.

THE UNRAVELING ->  the 1980s - 2000s Widespread mistrust of the government. Mild economic crises. A change in way of life as technology comes into play. Interest in literature and history decreases while interest in technological improvement increases.

THE CRISIS             ->  As of yet, unknown. Looming environmental disasters; looming economic bubble   burst. Looming everything seems scary right now haha. 

A period of technological advancement is always followed by a period of questioning and epiphanies, and, therefore, a period of literary advancement (literature thrives on questioning and thinking).
Example, the Enlightenment period (1700-1800) was followed by the the Romantic Period (180-1850ish)
            Considering that we are currently in the age of technology, I think we should be headed gradually towards an age of literature and thought (yay!) The hipsters are already popping up :)

               I kinda strayed off topic, but history is the best way to understand humans and their behavior. It gives you an idea of what a person would do if they lived for centuries. The cycles of history are the cycles of life. History is a study of life in its most relevant form.