Slouching Toward the Climax

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Soon thereafter, this great gate is sealed by the Crisis resolution, when victors are rewarded and enemies punished; when empires or nations are forged or destroyed; when treaties are signed and boundaries redrawn; and when peace is accepted, troops repatriated, and life begun anew. One large chapter of history ends, and another starts.

In a very real sense, one society dies— and another is born.

—*The Fourth Turning*

Blogger’s interpretation of The Fourth Turning generations

This post should be fun because it involves games.

You’ve probably heard of the game called Chicken. And maybe you’ve heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Just in case you don’t know these games, I’ll give you quick overview.


Two rivals get into cars at opposite ends of a long straightaway. On a signal, they accelerate toward each other. The winner is the one who doesn’t chicken out by swerving out of the path of the other car. If neither player chickens out, it’s a draw.

Prisoner’s Dilemma

Two people are arrested for a crime. Call these suspects A and B. Police separate them into different interview rooms where they have no way to communicate with each other. A detective tells A that if he cooperates and confesses, the DA will recommend a short prison sentence of 1 year. If he doesn’t cooperate and is found guilty, he’s looking at 20 years. Oh, and by the way, B already confessed to his minor role and implicated A as the mastermind.

A must decide whether to cooperate or keep his mouth shut. If he cooperates, he’ll get 1 year. If he keeps his mouth shut and the detective lied about B’s confession, both men could walk. But if B really confessed and A doesn’t cooperate, A will be in prison until he’s old.

Meet Ben Hunt, PhD

Ben Hunt is that genius financial planner I quote often. Dr. Hunt is no fan of Donald Trump, but his latest blog post illustrates our present situation rather well. He points out in his latest post that in normal times, life is a series of repeated cooperative games like Prisoner’s Dilemma. But now we’re playing repeated games of Chicken.

That first bit — the nature of repeated-play competitive games — is a mouthful. All it really means, though, is that our real-life social interactions, whether in politics or markets or everyday life with our family and friends, are never a single, solitary game. We play the same core game over and over and over, each single interaction setting the stage for the next, and what we really should be concerned about is the overall pattern of the entire set of interactions. That’s real life, as opposed to some 2×2 matrix of Cooperate/Defect like you’d see in a game theory textbook.

In Hunt’s view, Trump has transformed America’s repeated game—from a cooperation game to competitive game. Chicken is winner-take-all.

Trump, on the other hand … I think he breaks us. Maybe he already has. He breaks us because he transforms every game we play as a country — from our domestic social games to our international security games — from a Coordination Game to a Competition Game.

And Dr. Hunt points out that’s a bad thing:

Well … first off I’m going to suggest that we should all prepare for impact. The evolution of competition and the success of “mean” strategies in games like Chicken is at least as robust as the evolution of cooperation and the success of “nice” strategies in games like Prisoner’s Dilemma. Once you introduce, say, mustard gas into the trench warfare game, it doesn’t just un-introduce itself on its own. These bells are really hard to un-ring, and it typically takes a lot of car crashes on both sides before you get a peace treaty and a chance to rebuild a cooperative game structure. That’s at least four mixed metaphors, but you get what I mean. And unfortunately, all of these metaphors apply just as aptly to a social structure of family and friends as to a social structure of a political party or an entire nation. The evolution of competition is a powerfully contagious virus, and it hops easily from a big tribe like a nation to a small tribe like a family.

So, the question is: Is Dr. Hunt right?

Good Diagnosis, Erroneous Causality

If you’ve read my previous posts in the #PeopleWantYouDead series, you know that I agree with Dr. Hunt’s diagnosis of the American condition. We are playing repeated competitive games of Chicken. On that, he’s absolutely right.

I also agree that Donald Trump is a master of the game of Chicken.

But I strongly disagree with Hunt on a key point: Donald Trump is a symptom of the competitive game, not the cause.

Long before Trump decided to run for President, we abandoned, as a nation, those coordination games for competitive games. I’m not smart enough to give you the exact cause or the exact date, but we in the center-right were still playing Prisoner’s Dilemma and getting our asses kicked by the side playing Chicken. I knew the game had changed when SEIU thugs beat up Ken Gladney at a town hall in 2009. I knew the game had changed when President Obama talked about our stupidity for bringing a knife to a gunfight. I knew the game had changed when the president of the AFL-CIO told his members to punch us.

Dr. Hunt probably wasn’t paying much attention to our little Tea Party movement back then. His Epsilon Theory blog wasn’t around at the time. Or maybe politics wasn’t his thing then. He is an economist, after all, not a political scientist. I don’t expect him to pay attention to obscure political events—events made more obscure by a national press that ignores events that are potentially damaging to the American left.

Had he been in the trenches with us in 2009, he would probably agree that the game changed long before Trump. He might also agree that someone else changed it. He might conclude that the game was changed by the same people who exercised the “nuclear option” in the US Senate. And I know Dr. Hunt agrees that it’s important for us to know which kind of game the other side is playing. He said so:

the most important thing in that interaction is to figure out the meaning of cooperation for yourself and whoever you’re dealing with. Otherwise you’re going to find yourself playing a different game from the other person, and that never ends well. This is a tough piece of advice to follow (myself included!) because we assume that whatever our “identity weighting” might be for a given issue, the person or group we’re interacting with attaches that same meaning.

Dr. Hunt also points out an important aspect of competitive games like Chicken. In Chicken, the player who swerves is a coward and he’s scorned or ostracized by his tribe. In Prisoner’s Dilemma, it’s different:

If you cooperate in a game of Chicken — i.e., you’re driving your tractor straight on at Kevin Bacon’s pick-up truck and you veer off from the looming crash, or you and James Dean are racing towards a cliff and you put on your brakes first — you are the LOSER. You are the COWARD. That becomes your identity and your reputation, which means that others will now treat you like a loser and a coward in the games that they play with you in the future. Compare that to the meaning of cooperation in a game of Prisoner’s Dilemma, where cooperation — i.e., you refuse to rat out your partner and cut a deal for yourself at his expense — means that you are STRONG and LOYAL. The words and the examples used to illustrate bloodless, mathematical game theoretic matrices are not accidental! If we believe that our identity is at risk in a repeated-play competitive game, we behave very differently than if it’s not. More to the point, we should behave differently if our identity is at stake. It’s the rational thing to do.

So I am confident that Dr. Hunt would agree that we on the right should be playing Chicken because the left most certainly is. Plus, the left has been playing Chicken for years. It took us longer to recognize that the nature of the game had changed. Which means we’ve already lost a few rounds. Worse, many on the right—Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, etc.—they’re still stuck playing Prisoner’s Dilemma. They still think cooperation is a sign of strength and loyalty. That’s why the Tea Party went after them so hard and continues to. Their reputations are as cowards and losers.

We Chose Trump

When we recognized that the game had changed and that our Republican leaders refused to recognize this shift, we looked around for someone with clearer vision. And along came Trump.

Donald Trump might have always been a Chicken-player, but we didn’t need one when the other side was playing a coordination game. Once the left dropped coordination for a competitive death match, he had to change our game or die.

You might even conclude that Hillary Clinton failed to inspire the left because she, like Ryan and McConnell, is a Prisoner’s Dilemma politician, too. The left changed the game and she ignored the shift. She was wrong for the time, even for Democrats.

Where To Next?

All of this fits the Fourth Turning prophesy. In the 1770s, the Crown changed the game from coordination to competition and the colonists responded by declaring our independence. In 1861, the South changed the game by seceding from the union and attacking Fort Sumter which triggered the North’s response and the bloodiest war in US history. In the 1930s, Hitler changed the game from coordination to competition, and, after Neville Chamberlain gave away a chunk of Europe in a desperate attempt to keep the coordination game alive, the Allies recognized the new game and put down the tyrant.

So here we are in the fourth turning of the fourth cycle of American history. The previous three cycles ended in total war, and two of the three were fought primarily on our soil. These cycle-ending wars are brutal and rare, occurring once about every 80 years, at the end of the fourth turning.

Not many people recognize these historical cycles. Most people see history as a straight line. Most people expect the future to be a linear progression of the recent past. But that linear view fails the test again and again. No one expected British colonists to break away from the crown. No one expected the South to sever ties with the United States. No one expected Germany to take over Europe and Africa. No one even saw the Great Depression coming.

No one, I should say, saw those climaxes coming except those few of us who see history as a circle instead of a line.

Our Fourth Turning Strategist

In a previous post, I mentioned that I had no idea whether Donald Trump knows about The Fourth Turning. I’ve since learned that he does. Bigly.

In the White House, sitting at the right hand of President Trump, is Steve Bannon. You know him as the Honey Badger who took to a new level after Andrew’s early death. You might not know that Mr. Bannon is at least as impressed with the Fourth Turning view of history as I am. Chances are, Mr. Bannon’s views are similar to mine in many ways: the nature of the game we’re playing, the left’s commitment to our death or enslavement, and the need to understand the real threat this domestic enemy poses.

Mr. Bannon likely agrees with me that our growing understanding of his cyclical history gives us a chance—but only a chance—at avoiding the kind of bloodshed that ended the previous three cycles. We both know that pretending the other side wants to coordinate with us is the surest way to end up in a full-scale civil war. It’s why we both supported Donald Trump. It’s why we warn our friends of the diabolical nature of today’s political left. It’s why we prepare for the worst-case scenario, because preparing for that horror is the best way to avoid it.

As Howe and Strauss wrote in 1997, a society will die and a new one will be born. Either our side will give birth to that new society, or their’s will. This is no time for coordination except among ourselves. But there’s good news.

The Gray Champion is coming if we earn his return. And we’ll explore what it means to Earn It in a future post.

The Resistance: Defined

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The leftists who want you and me to die (at their hands?) call themselves The Resistance.

Okay. Let’s call them that.

Author Steven Pressfield wrote a book about defeating The Resistance. It’s called The War of Art, and it’s an awesome, wonderful book.

Overcoming and defeating The Resistance, Pressfield tells us, is the key to living the good life. I agree, even if I don’t agree on some of his enemies. The Resistance must be defeated. On that, we definitely agree completely.

The Resistance hates virtuous actions. Here are the virtues that Pressfield says conjure up The Resistance in all its diabolical powers. These are the things The Resistance hates:

1) The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.

2) The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.

3) Any diet or health regimen.

4) Any program of spiritual advancement.

5) Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.

6) Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.

7) Education of every kind.

8) Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.

9) The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.

10) Any act that entails commitment of the heart. The decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.

11) The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity. In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.

Oh, Mr. Pressfield, you know The Resistance so well. So well.

The book then lists The Resistance’s nature:

  • Invisible
  • Internal
  • Insidious
  • Implacable
  • Impersonal
  • Infallible
  • Universal
  • Never Sleeps
  • Plays for Keeps
  • Fueled by Fear
  • Only Opposes in One Direction (this short topic alone makes the book worth buying or borrowing)
  • Is Most Powerful at the Finish Line (like the Boston Marathon Bombers)
  • Recruits Allies

Finally, (well, not finally for the book, but finally for this post), Pressfield reminds us that The Resistance can be beaten:

If Resistance couldn’t be beaten, there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo and Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge. Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years.

Yesterday, you heard about the climax of the Fourth Turning. You were teased about the Gray Champion. You might have heard Senator Marco Rubio concurring with my grim conclusion on all this. Soon, you’ll meet the Gray Champion and understand why I’m so certain that The Fourth Turning‘s prophecy is coming true before our very eyes.

People Want You Dead

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a riot? Even if you’ve only seen riots on television, you can probably imagine how it feels to be inside one.

Imagine yourself surrounded on all sides by angry faces dressed in shabby clothes, some faces covered with bandanas or ski masks. People are chanting something you can’t quite understand, like a private joke you’re not allowed to get. Or maybe they’re chanting at you. Maybe you’re what they’re so mad about.

You can smell acrid smoke and burning rubber from the fires set a block away. The cracked asphalt street is spotted with trash and debris. You’re jolted by shattering glass and turn to see the window of a coffee shop spider-webbing and collapsing onto the sidewalk with a crash. Angry, violent shouts. A woman shrieks in pain or fury, you can’t tell which.

Soon you realize you’re in grave danger. You might tell yourself the mob could turn on you any moment. Those rocks they hold in their hands could come flying at your head. From behind where you cannot see. So you turn around and see a police car smoldering then burst into flames as the mob roars in an angry, hate-filled celebration of their destruction and violence.

You really should get away, but you find yourself wondering, “will they follow me? Should I just blend in? Will they turn on me? Will they discover that I’m not one of them?”

The more you see and hear and smell, the more confused and terrified you become. You might even think about loved ones and whether you’ll ever see them again. And what will they think of you being in the midst of this riot? How will they explain it to themselves?

You might find yourself starting to cry, but you know your tears will give you away. They’ll know.

And how will you get away? How will you deal with the police when they show up. They might arrest you. If they ever show up. Maybe the police abandoned you? Maybe the police will just let the mob tire itself out.

The Left Has Declared War On You

There’s no need to worry about finding yourself in the center of a riot until a faction of society decides it’s okay to intimidate or kill people they don’t agree with you. So maybe it’s time to start worrying.

Meanwhile, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, Time Magazine, and everything else you would consider “responsible” journalism openly condones violence against Trump supporters. Academics and Democrat leaders justify violence and encourage leftists to attack their political opponents.

Having lost at the ballot box, having lost in the court of public opinion, the left has decided to intimidate or kill its adversaries. Just like the Nazis. Just like the Leninists. Just like the Maoists.

Fighting Is Under Way

And leftist blood-lust is not limited to a fringe. A very intelligent and gentle acquaintance of mine, someone with whom I once enjoyed a cordial and friendly long-running debate, believes that Trump sent federal troops into Berkeley the other night to conduct mass arrests of protesters, trigging the riots. It’s completely untrue and she had no idea where she heard it, but she believes it as much as she believes in gravity. And her false belief, what psychologists would call a hallucination (h/t Scott Adams), allows her to justify anything the rioters did, up to and including murder.

Here’s the thing. You’ve probably heard the word “privilege” so much you could puke when you hear it. The idea of white privilege is central to the leftist hallucination. And the idea of a privileged race led Germany to the Final Solution.

Adolf Hitler wrote in 1919:

But an anti-Semitism based on reason must lead to a systematic legal elimination of the privileges of the Jews. The ultimate objective of such legislation must, however, be the irrevocable removal of the Jews from civil and cultural influence.

In fact, the Nazi propagandists worked overtime to defame Jews for their privilege. Hitler claimed Jews avoided physical labor of any kind, preferring work in finance, mercantile, and the arts. He lamented that Jews wrote and produced 90 percent of German movies despite being only one percent of the population. His propaganda depicted Jewish women as fat and lazy, yet wealthy, feeding off the labor of the German people.

Substitute “working class whites” for “Jews,” and Nazi propaganda sounds a lot like CNN commentators and UC Berkeley professors. Even so-called conservative Bill Kristol says it’s time to replace America’s white working class with immigrants.

It’s pretty clear that the left uses the same rhetoric and scapegoating against conservatives as the Nazi used against Jews. So we have to ask if these leftists use the propaganda techniques to the same end.

The Nazis wanted to vilify and dehumanize Jews so the German people would be conditioned for the Final Solution: extermination.

When you hear the speeches of campus protesters, you have to conclude that the left has a final solution in mind for people like you and me. You don’t have to take my word for it. Here are the words of a school teacher in Seattle protesting against Trump and his supporters:

And we need to start killing people. First off, we need to start killing the White House. The White House must die. The White House, your fucking White House, your fucking Presidents, they must go! Fuck the White House.

Pay the fuck up, pay the fuck up. It ain’t just your fucking time, it’s your fucking money, and now your fucking life is devoted to social change.

Democrats, establishment Republicans, and the supposedly “responsible” media ignored this story. They ignored it because they are afraid of attracting the mob’s attention. Like Germans in the 1930s, some people value their own survival too much to stop bloodshed and brutality.

You Are Not Alone

Since the election in November, I thought I was alone in seeing the life-threatening hatred in America’s leftists. But I’m learning I’m not alone. For example, Kurt Schlichter wrote recently on

They hate you.

Leftists don’t merely disagree with you. They don’t merely feel you are misguided. They don’t think you are merely wrong. They hate you. They want you enslaved and obedient, if not dead. Once you get that, everything that is happening now will make sense. And you will understand what you need to be ready to do.

. . .

You wonder why the left is now justifying violence? Because they think that helps them right now. Today it’s suddenly OK to punch a “Nazi.” But the punchline is that anyone who opposes them is a “Nazi.”

Schlichter is absolutely right, of course. They hate you. You can feel it when you hear them speak and when you see them assaulting young women as the police stand around watching, encouraging the mayhem by their passivity. Yes, the Berkeley, California police are complicit in this woman’s serious injuries. They let it happen.

Look, the police will not protect you from leftist mobs. They’re too afraid. They have families and pensions to think about. And the left will not simply get jobs and go away. They want you dead. They want us all dead or enslaved.

And we’ve been warned.

The Prophesy 

In The Fourth Turning1, Howe and Strauss warned us that these Crisis eras end in a climax. That means the worst is yet to come.

The Crisis climax is human history’s equivalent to nature’s raging typhoon, the kind that sucks all surrounding matter into a single swirl of ferocious energy. Anything not lashed down goes flying; anything standing in the way gets flattened. Normally occurring late in the Fourth Turning, the climax gathers energy from an accumulation of unmet needs, unpaid bills, and unresolved problems. It then spends that energy on an upheaval whose direction and dimension were beyond comprehension during the prior Unraveling era. The climax shakes a society to its roots, transforms its institutions, redirects its purposes, and marks its people (and its generations) for life. The climax can end in triumph, or tragedy, or some combination of both. Whatever the event and whatever the outcome, a society passes through a great gate of history, fundamentally altering the course of civilization.

Yet one generation—Generation X2, aka, “13ers”—holds the key to surviving the climax:

The 13ers’ gravest Fourth Turning duty will be their society’s most important preseasonal task: to ensure that there can indeed be a new High, a new golden age of hope and prosperity. For the Crisis to end well, 13ers must keep Boomers from wreaking needless destruction and Millennials from marching too mindlessly under their elders’ banner. They will not find it easy to restrain an older generation that will consider itself far wiser than they, and a younger one that will consider itself more deserving. For this, 13ers will require a keen eye, a deft touch, and a rejection of the wild risk taking associated with their youth.

Warning us in 1997, Howe and Strauss said:

From now through the end of the Fourth Turning, 13ers will constantly rise in power. From 1998 until around the Crisis climax, they will be America’s largest potential generational voting bloc. As the years pass, their civic contributions will become increasingly essential to their nation’s survival. They will have to vote more and participate more, if they want to contain the Boomers’ zealotry. They will have that chance. Their own elected officials will surge into Congress as the Crisis catalyzes, eclipse Boomers around its climax, and totally dominate them by the time it resolves.

As they go one-on-one with history, 13ers should remember that history is counting on them to do whatever hard jobs may be necessary. If 13ers play their script weakly, old Boomers could wreak a horrible apocalypse, and 13er demagogues could impose a mind-numbing authoritarianism— or both. If 13ers play their script cleverly but safely, however, a new golden age will be their hard-won reward. As they age, 13ers should remember Hemingway’s words: “Old men do not grow wise. They grow careful.”

“Slackers” to the Rescue

Luckily, we Gen Xers have a role model in Missouri’s new governor, Eric Greitens. Greitens is the epitome of doing whatever hard jobs may be necessary, from Rwanda and Bosnia to Iraq as a Navy SEAL to charity and now to politics.

Even luckier, Generation X is already hardened. We grew up with hard rock and hard drugs and hard breakups and hard attitudes. We were eager fans who made Nirvana and Pearl Jam possible. And it’s an honor. History has handed us the keys to survival.

Those haters in Berkeley are largely Millennials. They’re following the bad examples of destructive, reckless Boomers. If America is to survive the coming climax, history will note that the Slackers, the McFlys, the generation nobody watched overcame our recklessness to rescue civilization itself.

But Generation X cannot win the battle for America’s survival alone. We need to attract soldiers from the Millennial generation. And we need to follow the lead of the Gray Champion, about whom more in future posts.

It’s Going to Be Okay

In the meantime, cut out carbs, eat more healthy fat, practice dry fire drills, stock up on ammo, and be ready for the inevitable climax. You, my friends, are the first and last line of defense in our battle for self-government. We won’t go down without the fight of the millennium.

And we will be #winning.

  1.  Strauss, William; Howe, Neil (2009-01-16). The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition. 
  2. In generational history, 13ers are the 13th generation since the American Revolution who were born between about 1961 and 1982. If you’re too young to remember JFK’s assassination, you’re a GenXer, not a Boomer.