Rogue | March 2014
To the Manner Born
by Manuel L. Quezon III
What are the conditions that made
yesterday’s babies today’s leaders—
and what does that mean for us?
I am an avid reader of the blog of David Kaiser, an American historian very much concerned with tracking the effects various generations have had on the history and politics of his country. In turn, Kaiser has relied on an idea put forward by William Strauss and Neil Howe: that different groups age in different ways; that each group, or cohort, usually falls into one of four types: Prophet, or idealist; Nomad, or reactive; Hero, or civic; and Artist, or adaptive; that each type, in turn, has a different outlook and behavior.
In their writings, Howe and Strauss propose that these four types of generations in turn exist in different mileaux or eras, defined by a generational event or turning: “High,” which comes after a crisis, where individualism is weak, and institutions are strong—people, fresh from a crisis, want to come together; this is followed by an “Awakening,” where those seeking individual or spiritual freedom attack institutions; leading, in turn, to an “Unraveling,” where besieged institutions are deeply distrusted, and individuals are relatively independent of each other; and then there is the fourth turning, called a “Crisis”—when, in the face of the threat of a general collapse, people turn once more to a sense of community, to renewing cooperation and strengthening institutions. Each of these turnings comprises roughly 20 years, and a full cycle of four turnings lasts 80 to 90 years.
Prophets are born near the end of a Crisis, and as crusaders, they are part of an Awakening. In old age, they become elders guiding generations through the next Crisis. Nomads are born during an Awakening, and as alienated individuals, they are pragmatic during a Crisis. Hero types are born after an Awakening, during an Unraveling: generally self-reliant, they are optimists when young, overconfident when middle-aged, and powerful in old age. As for Artist types, they are born after an Unraveling, during a Crisis. Their quiet years leading to adulthood leads them to being consensus- builders who are strong advocates of fairness.
For example, they labeled those born from 1901-1924 as the GI Generation, which was a Hero or civic type. After all, they participated in that great group effort known as World War II, which defined them, and in terms of the USA they provided much of the leadership—Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Bush, Sr. came from their ranks. The next cohort was the Silent Generation, also of the Hero or civic type, who, for example, embarked on the civil rights movement as a logical progression of the freedoms espoused by the GI Generation—but this generation never rose to national leadership. They were followed by the Boomers, of the Prophet or idealist type, who questioned and rebelled against the certainties of the GI and Silent Generations, and from whose ranks leaders like Bill Clinton emerged, with their tendency to either extreme liberalism or conservatism.
The Boomers themselves are now fading from the scene, as Gen X (born 1961-1981), of the Nomad or reactive type, developed as a generation lacking the sense of endless optimism (and entitlement) of the Boomers— a brooding cohort whose life experiences have been on the whole negative when it comes to both institutions and the fulfillment of individual desires, but who seem to have won the respect of their Boomer parents.
I have often wondered if a similar classification— along generational lines, with each generation having its own personality, so to speak— is possible within the Philippine context, and if so, what those generations might be.
Here is how the chart on the opposite page works: a description of the Generation; the characteristics of that Generation (its “Type”); the years in which the generation was born, and what was happening in that era. So Our Founding Father were Prophets (Idealists), born in 1861- 1882, who grew up in a High era, the time of the opening of the Suez Canal, who were active participants in the Awakening known as the Propaganda Movement and the Revolution, and who were the senior leaders in the Unraveling era and elders in the Crisis era of the Commonwealth, War, and Occupation. In this manner, each generation is born into an era, matures and rises to active leadership in the next, and reaches seniority and fades away in the era after that.
Thus in the lifetime of our nation, we have gone through one full cycle and the babies of today will be the ones to complete the next full cycle we’re in.