The book I'm going to be paraphrasing HEAVILY in this response: William Howe and Niel Strauss’s book “The 4th Turning”. I highly recommend it. Tremendous read. Let's begin:
This country, like the rest of humanity, is undergoing a predictable, yet definite, transformation. Through the book, one gets a better overview of the general state of distress in this country. ( also, by reading this book, I also anticipated that such calamities would occur). I believe that, by analyzing this book, we will gather a much broader view of the calamities that occurred within the past 5 years (including the Charlottesville protests), and one will also put these events into a much-needed context. A context which, I think, is crucial to understand this and many other calamities, and to resolve them: what, I think, is the most important action we as a society can take.
History repeats itself in saeculum, 80–90-year blocks of time (roughly the span of a human lifetime). Within these saeculi, we have 4 turnings of around 20 years each (often called ‘generations’). Saeculized turnings can be thought of as seasonal occurrences. Throughout our history, these saeculi have been remarkably similar to each other: The first turning is a high. An upbeat era. The second turning is an awakening, a passionate era. The third turning is an unraveling, the downcast era. The 4th turning is a crisis, an era of upheaval. We are currently in a 4th turning, and through analyzing what that era consists of as well as the broader picture surrounding it, we can start to put the events of Charlottesville, and the myriad of other calamities which occurred within the past 5 years, into further context. It should also be noted that by “our” and “we” I mean America: these are America’s saeculi and turnings after all. The history saeculum we are in the crisis of right now is as follows. Our high was the allied victory of WWII, during which we had the evenest distribution of wealth (one could work at a gas station and afford to buy a house). This era also begat the space race and our initial spark of space exploration. Our high ended with the assassination of John F Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963. The high was not a high for everyone: America had a segregated south and homosexuality was illegal. A high, therefore, can be thought of as a period of conformity. The period of non-conformity, and social justice, begins during the awakening: the passionate era. During this awakening, we had MLK and the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war and its protests, the women’s liberation movement, stonewall and the gay rights activism movements. A cultural boom occurs during this turning. This was also when the first Macintosh computer came out. The awakening is a time of increasing individualism. This second turning -- the awakening -- ended with the re-election of Ronald Reagan in 1984. Things get troubling during the third turning -- the unraveling. The fall of Soviet communism, thus beginning the Russian gangster state. The musicians of this time sang about violence and decay and deteriorating cities. The LA riots, the Bosnian bombings and the Colombine high school shootings. 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our unraveling ended with the financial crisis of 2008. This book was written during the last 3rd turning (published in 1997), but the book predicts what’s happening NOW, in the 4th turning we are in. What’s happening now is seemingly right on schedule. Our 4th turning: a crisis. (2008 - now). The crisis-era is an era in which the availability of social order is low, but the demand for order is high. A fourth turning is an era where America’s institutional life is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up, almost always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival (Sound familiar? COVID19, the war in Ukraine, incredibly polarized American politics?) During this era, Civic authority revives, cultural expression finally grips the community, and the people start to find purpose and begin to discover themselves as members of a larger group. Fourth Turnings eventually become new “founding moments” in America’s history, incredibly altering the national identity, usually for the better. In our last 4th turning, we had a great depression, then WWII. 80 years before that, the civil war. 80 years before that, the revolutionary war. We are right in the middle of our crisis. We are in the process of changing our world yet again. The authors of the book compare 4th turnings to forest fires: unpleasant, but necessary: they clear the woods for new growth. As we work towards our next high, this crisis will tilt the playing field away from the old and towards the young (so they predict). The victory is not guaranteed. We will need to rise to the occasion during this crisis. We will need to fortify and develop our defining virtues as we pursue a better future.
Our western society was built to foster the potential of each individual within it. The aggregate effort of individuals keeps it going.
This broad contextualization, whilst seemingly accurate, doesn’t quite satisfy the more precise question of “what is motivating the protesters at Charlottesville”. The main motivation of what I believe is causing them to cause civil unrest can be most likely chalked up to fear. In this turning, once marginalized and despised racial minorities are now getting more headway than ever, appearing in commercials, movies, and media in more positive lights, rather than being used as comic relief or as laughing stocks. This, in turn, most likely scares them (them = white supremacists). It scares them as they realize their once prevalent, barbaric ideologies are slowly fading away; their “identity” is slowly being obliterated by the masses. They’re outnumbered. This, in turn, most likely causes them to seek more drastic measures before they eventually fizzle out.