On the Horizon

Posted by on August 1, 2011

The Monday Morning Memo for August 1, 2011

If History, Indeed, Repeats Itself

“There is a holy mistaken zeal in politics as well as in religion.” – The Letters of Junius, 1769 – 1771

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to bed in the streets, and to steal bread.” – Anatole France, 1844 – 1924

“Men who believe themselves to be good, who do not search their own souls, often commit the worst atrocities. A man who sees himself as evil will restrain himself. It is only when we do evil in the belief that we do good that we pursue it wholeheartedly.” – David Farland, 2001

We are in danger of becoming self-righteous, sanctimonious and insufferably judgmental. You don’t want to see this happen. Neither do I.

My hope is that you and I – with open eyes and soft words – might be able to mitigate this coming trend.

I recently completed a study of societal trends that have repeated themselves for the past 3,000 years. Pendulum, the book that resulted from this study, will be released next spring (2012.)

Let me start at the beginning:

We see the world through the lens of an entirely different set of values every 40 years. We become a different people.

We are pulled 20 years up from the tipping point to the zenith of a “We” (1923 to 1943.)

We swing 20 years down to the next tipping point (1963.) Tipping points are interesting times.

We are pulled 20 years up to the zenith of a “Me” (1963 to 1983.)

We swing 20 years down to the next tipping point (2003.)

Eighty years is a complete cycle but there are only 40 years between the extremes. (The 1943 zenith of “We” to 1983 zenith of “Me.”)

We’re nearly halfway up to the next zenith of “We” (2023.) 2011 is 1931 all over again. But instead of being gaga over a thing called “radio” we’re gaga over this thing called “online.”

A new set of values every 40 years…

On one side are the values of “We,” the team, the tribe, the group working together, staying connected.

On the other side are the values of “Me,” the individual, unique and special and possessing unlimited potential.

1. …demands freedom of expression.
2. …applauds personal liberty.
3. …believes one man is wiser than a million men, “A camel is a racehorse designed by a committee.”
4. …wants to achieve a better life.
5. …is about big dreams.
6. …desires to be Number One. “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
7. …admires individual confidence and is attracted to decisive persons.
8. …leadership is, “Look at me. Admire me. Emulate me if you can.”
9. …strengthens a society’s sense of identity as it elevates attractive heroes.

1. …demands conformity for the common good.
2. …applauds personal responsibility.
3. …believes a million men are wiser than one man, “Two heads are better than one.”
4. …wants to create a better world.
5. …is about small actions.
6. …desires to be a productive member of the team. “I came, I saw, I concurred.”
7. …admires individual humility and is attracted to thoughtful persons.
8. …leadership is, “This is the problem as I see it. Please consider the things I am telling you and perhaps we can solve this problem together.”
9. …strengthens a society’s sense of purpose as it considers all its problems.

“Me” and “We” are equal-but-opposite attractions that pull our perspective one way, then the other. Western society swings like a pendulum from one set of values to the other every 40 years with the regularity of an old and reliable grandfather clock.

“Me” and “We” values are equally good, but we always take a good thing too far.

If history is to be our guide, the next 20 years will be when we move from our agreement of mutual brokenness, “I’m Not Okay – You’re Not Okay,” to embrace a self-righteous indignation, “I’m Okay – You’re Not Okay.” Sanctimonious vigilante-ism will become popular as indignant leaders demonize their enemies and rally their followers by appealing to their inborn sense of rightness and social obligation, “Let’s clean this place up and to hell with compromise. They are entirely wrong and we are entirely right. They are stupid. We are wise. They are evil. We are good.”

The last time we went through this, America formed a committee in Congress called the House Un-American Activities Committee (1938) which later watched with glee while Senator Joseph McCarthy destroyed countless careers by recklessly branding his enemies as “Communists” and creating the infamous blacklists.

This sounds a bit far-fetched, doesn’t it? I know it does. I’m writing because I want you to be able to look back and recall how absurd this all sounded when I first told you what was on the horizon if history can be trusted.

A self-righteous nut with a gun killed dozens of people in Norway and believed he was doing the right thing.

That’s the problem with self-righteous nuts; they always believe they’re doing the right thing.

Roy H. Williams

PS – Come to this 2-day class next week. You’re guaranteed a room in Engelbrecht House so you won’t have to have a hotel room and we’ll also be providing all your meals. Mark Fox is an amazing instructor and Roy adds some magic as well. You’re guaranteed to leave Austin with 40 specific techniques for seeing innovative solutions to problems you’ve not previously been able to solve. The class is August 9-10. Register for DaVinci and the 40 Answers at WizardAcademy.org or call me at 512-295-5700 (Central Time Zone) – Jackie

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