Dear Readers and Friends,
If you haven’t seen it yet, make a plan to watch Generation Zero, the documentary reviewed in quite a bit of helpful detail below this message, today, or as soon as
convenient! Note the title and proceed to find it easily and accessibly on YouTube. I recently discovered that the currently uploaded version has only been seen a number of times in the tens of thousands, which I found hard to believe. Although I saw it years ago, it still remains relevant and offers ideas and insights on the current climate of generational relations, including conflicts, that characterise society in our age. By no means the final word on the topic, Generation Zero introduces us to the setting for the time in history when a new generation of ‘heroes’, the young Millennials, will make their presence felt in the world on all terrains. It makes entertaining & effective use of the views, analyses and predictions of several dozen experts in making sense of the recent Financial Crisis with its origins in the American subprime lending market. Seen in the round, it’s much more, namely perceptive conceptual & theoretical social analysis and application.
Wherever you may be, or are planning to go, wishing you & yours herewith safe travels and happy holidays!
Carl J. Kieck.
Generation Zero (2010)*:
*(Please see the end of the review for complete, useful & detailed biographical and cinematic references).
A retrospective, commendatory review by Independent International Educationist and Social Researcher, Carl J. Kieck:
Is Generation Zero (2010) a documentary that helps us to make sense of the historical and social currents, as well as quite baffling inter- generational attitudes, relationships, conflicts and misunderstandings behind current major economic and political predicaments, in the period following the so-called Great Financial Crisis (2007-8)? Although by no means definitively, it most certainly serves as a launch pad with a distinctive populist touch, ideal for opening up a wide discussion … and here’s why:
Introduction & Background:
Generation Zero is a documentary movie with abiding relevance to everyone in today’s interconnected world of economics, originally released at the outset of this decade (i.e. 5 February 2010), one that I have found myself referring a lot of people to, recently, for various reasons. Typically, in work and social life, I come across multitudes of people on a daily basis who continue to be baffled by the apparent divergence in generational attitudes, linked to, and expressed in, voting patterns and socio-political attitudes, related to matters ranging from the most quotidian and insignificant, all the way to how contending economic theories like socialism and capitalism are viewed.
In citing reasons for its occurrence, a common mistake is made to argue that the (sometimes called Great) Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, and its ongoing repercussions, centred on Wall Street (the focus of American finance in New York) and its financial institutions, must be blamed for a demonstration that ‘capitalism’, or even more basically, the notion of ‘the free market’, should be blamed. If we backtrack briefly to 2008, you will doubtless recall that the world’s financial system reached a point where total meltdown threatened and a depression of indeterminate duration was in the prospect.
This portentous historical ‘turning point’ (an otherwise overused expression, but apposite to the analyses proffered in Generation Zero) has preceded an era in society, economics and naturally the arena of politics that has generally defied explanation, analysis or understanding, dramatised by the conflicting daze reflected in the comical, if not at times hysterical, daily mainstream media circus.
Influential Western democracies like that of the United States itself, the financial and economic ground zero of the crisis, but also further afield the United Kingdom, and regional/continental powers like South Africa, have experienced the emergence of populist movements with, policy-wise, everything from radical to revolutionary recipes or solutions, and beyond, to perceived economic exclusion and inequality, often linked back historically to the experience of the recent crisis.
On the populist Left, in the US, Bernie Sanders, until very recently an eccentric distraction on the margins of the Democratic Party, politically sidelined for more than a generation, had suddenly emerged as a useful mouthpiece for the disgruntled younger generations of that country, mostly Generation X and Millennials.
In the United Kingdom, the Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn, congruently marginalised and generationally cast aside - and instead, away from the main scene of leadership at Westminster, a regular feature at radical rallies and union demonstrations/marches – had seemingly been buoyed by the historical eddies originating with the Financial Crisis, recently expressed by an extra-parliamentary movement (called Momentum).
Thereby, Corbyn has fulfilled a disturbingly similar national political role to that of Sanders on the US scene, in turn in the United Kingdom, attracting an artificially high youth support in the most recent parliamentary General Election (June 8, 2017) that has, moreover, complicated the tricky yet necessary divorce proceedings between Britain and the economically ossifying European Union. The latter, almost a perfect historical example of the prediction contained within the historical-generational theory explained below, as manifestation of the Fourth Turning’s (an intra-historical mini-phase) generalised institutional decline and decay.
One could site countless more examples of quite contentious, as well as more often than not, theoretical, but also practical everyday political reactions to, and alleged consequences of, the ‘Great Financial Crisis’. In keeping with the context provided above, one may perhaps adduce, in order to give the socio-political context more flesh and colour, the emergence of the revolutionary Economic Freedom Fighters (aka EFF) led by Julius Malema, in South Africa, as another instance of a typical response that only drastic solutions can address the perceived, and actively promoted (i.e. as view, stance, interpretation, propaganda etc.), failure of the liberal democratic capitalist system as such. In this last political case, solutions proposed extend to policies like nationalisation of all economic strategic sectors and areas of activity, and dispossessing, followed by redistributing, productive privately owned land.
All in all, the three symbolic and representative political and personal micro- case studies expounded immediately above, consequently, constitute real, parliamentary driven policies and publically defended notions that have not circulated or received serious consideration in large, mainstream democratic countries for many generations.
The Clash of Morality/Values originating in the Clash of Cultures in the 60s:
A growing number of cultural critics, this reviewer would venture, would agree that even if they did not altogether consider the younger generation of the 60s as exactly problematic, it was not until this period in recent history that a challenge arose, not only to traditional American values, but more generally to the well-established, long-term values of Western society. Thus, a phenomenon by no means limited to the United States. This is pivotal to tapping into the analyses expressed in Generation Zero.
In one of the initial segments of the film, “Abyss’’, an exposition is offered of the horrifying situation that had been reached in respect of the subprime mortgage crisis, leading to the questionable bailout agreements agreed between the biggest Wall Street banks, and the US federal government. More importantly, this leads into the next segment, “The Awakening”, that traces how a sub-culture of irresponsibility and risk-taking, not to mention the coming about of a deplorably absent guiding morality, had over a period of time contributed to the creation of an institutional context that bore the crisis. Although it might be regarded as hackneyed generalisation, there is merit in any argument that places the causes of this firmly with the so-called ‘Woodstock Generation’.
During the period 1966-1969, culminating in the Summer of Love (1969), those that would later be responsible for running the institutions, like banks, that led up to the Financial Crisis, were part of a movement that rewrote the rules of society. Pleasure or gratification replaced the old-fashioned work ethic associated not only with the founding spirit of the preceding two centuries, but indeed the enterprising values of European immigrants reaching not only America, but other parts of the emerging broader ‘Western’ world, various areas opened up to settlers by the great Age of European expansion (strictly speaking, a period of five centuries).
Anyone observing American culture, economics and politics over a long period, would agree with comment that portrays, moreover, the cultural revolution of the 60s as the point at which two competing or struggling visions of society had crystallised. These visions are symbolised, rather graphically, by the enterprise of the moonlandings on the one hand - call this scientific-commercial-nationalism - and Woodstock and what it represents – call this liberal-therapeutic-collectivist - on the other.
An important observation made here, as in the other sections of Generation Zero, is that the over-protective parenting style of the post-war (i.e. WWII) generation had a decisive role not only in the creation of the described dichotomy in American/Western culture, but in the fashioning of the ‘Woodstock Generation’. Quite unintentionally, parents who had as children and youth lived through, and survived, the horrors of the Crash, Depression and World War II, the last great cycle of ‘Crisis’ in terms of the Howe/Strauss model, were by then trying to shield and create a cocoon around their offspring, and, made it far easier for them to adjust, adapt, reform or finally reject, outright, the values that they (i.e. the parents) had lived by, and had striven to convey.
Social Theory and Analysis meet Historical Fact:
The most important defining – specifically as a ‘framing’ device - contribution to Generation Zero is that made by Neil Howe, the author (with William Strauss) of an influential generational historical study, The Fourth Turning, first published in 1997 (please see the complete title and biographical entry below this review). Although I can recommend this book as an item of essential reading for the times we’re living in, it’s not necessary to have read this in order to deduce its gist for the subject at hand. Simply stated, the social theory set out in Howe’s book is applicable, given the necessary adjustments, to every nation, but it is obviously relevant most of all to this specific national case, illustrated in fine, persuasive historical detail, with examples from American history.
The theory of historical generational turnings holds that in terms of this example of national history, every eighty years (sometimes up to a century) there is a major crisis, this being referred to as the ‘fourth turning’, the source of the book’s title. The immediate relevance of this to the topic of the Financial Crisis is obvious, for the period converging with it, give or take a few years, can be seen as the inception of a new ‘fourth turning’ (to adjust the book’s original periodisation, from 2005 to about 2008). However, by reviewing what comes before the last turning (within a greater cycle, i.e. eighty years), the theory can also help to explain the ‘cultural revolution’ represented by the events and schisms of the 60s (between generations), already referred to as a decisive historical divergence.
If the period shaping the parental generation of the 1930s/1940s is seen as the last one to have experienced a major crisis (in that case, interrelated, successive crises), the so-called ‘Greatest Generation’, then the ‘Baby Boomers’ (and to a far lesser extent a portion of Generation X), those identified with the ‘Woodstock Generation’, are the ones to have rejected their values. Indeed, as the film makes unequivocally clear at several points, few can argue that many representatives of this generation, through copious self-acknowledgement, were inclined to selfishness, narcissism, rebellion, even ‘a-moral’ or anti-social practices and behaviours, etc., tags that have been pinned on countless sub-cultures and lifestyles attributed to the 60s.
The Successive Sections of Generation Zero in more Detail:
Although the generational perspective offered in Generation Zero on the cultural genesis of the Great Financial Crisis should by no means be approached in any definitive manner, i.e. this is certainly not the final word (and long may the debate continue!), it is nonetheless impossible to dismiss particularly without giving serious consideration to the strikingly persuasive contentions volunteered by the distinguished contributors to the narrative, many of whom – like those associated with the American Enterprise Institute, CATO Institute, Hoover Institution and the Manhattan Institute – are under-exposed, and sidelined, by the shallow, turbid stream of second-rate, opinionated noise pollution broadcast 24/7 by the run-of-the-mill daily (and nightly) mainstream media.
It’s obviously preferable for the prospective viewers of Generation Zero to have a more detailed look, for themselves, at what these contributors have to say, yet it’s at the same time possible, in the remainder of this review to follow, to make this easier, by way of selective summaries, thereby ensuring a more satisfactory encounter. What follows, therefore, helps by providing an outline of the documentary’s structure, and also serves to identify various potential discussion points for the viewer’s attention.
As mentioned in the discussion thus far, the introductory sections of the documentary introduce the idea of the ‘Awakening’ or maturing generation with its typical 60s indulged post-Crisis children who are distrustful and critical of institutions. Contrary to the normal, stable-period pattern of history early in the larger cycle (of eighty to a hundred years), they feel morally superior to others in their seemingly nonsensical rebellion, even daring to tell older generations what they should believe.
Generation Zero intelligently introduces Saul Alinsky’s radical activist thought (i.e. working class-oriented community organising) as the exemplary Machiavellian source for the era, for insight into the tactics and collective psyche of the ‘Woodstock Generation’, in which his so-called rules for radicals (derived from the title of his 1971 book), introduces false allegations like racism, sexism, elitism ,and much more, as strategies to undermine institutionalised forms of power. The timeless utopianist ideal which dominates the social thinking of this generation, as personified by the hippies, characteristically represents a break with the past, but also with the future, rendering the outcome of any project somewhat open-ended, informed by a-moralism.
“The Turnings” takes us deeper into the generational-historical framework that informs the documentary. In the case of the long cycles that constitute American history, each recurring cycle or turning can be compared to a season, with four seasons in succession making up one giant turning of about eighty to a hundred years. The four cycles, in typical order, are the High, the Awakening, the Unraveling and the Crisis. The symbolic seasons accompanying these, (in the same order) are Spring (new ways, fresh order), Summer (coming change), Autumn (growing problems) and Winter (Crisis, problems at a prolonged peak).
The last High cycle or first turning, characterised by the conformity and placidness of the 1950s, is parentally associated with heroes (produced by the last Crisis) and their Boomer children, in recent history roughly 1946-64, therefore a period of consolidation after crisis, but also of those who spoiled and over-protected their children too much; the Awakening cycle or second turning belonged to the Boomers (and some extent, Generation X) who were coming of age (but transitionally seen), as well as to their children, called Generation X (1964-84), or so-called Busters, who are often also in competition with institutions; the Unraveling, unfolding during the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, is a period of cultural entropy in which institutions are subjected to individual interest first, in which reigning values are challenged, converging with the Millennials, the children of Boomers and Generation Xers, who progress from childhood to adulthood (1984-2005).
All these turnings are followed by the Crisis (in terms of the Howe and Strauss model, 2005+) that, although issuing in institutional challenge and loss, is also a period of rebirth and new ideas, ultimately leading to the founding of new institutions, if so required. It is thus important to emphasise that the ‘Crisis’ turning isn’t necessarily something negative, as proved to be the case with other Crisis periods in American history, thinking here of the (American) Revolution, (American) Civil War and New Deal, as well as WWII, very much demonstrating that they were in the end also significant new founding periods.
With the coming about of Casino Capitalism in the 1980s and 1990s, Generation Zero, for the purposes of dealing with the Financial Crisis, places “The Unravelling” (see this segment in the documentary) between 1987 and 2007. This period in recent history can be termed ‘The Money Culture’ where different forms of materialism informed human interest in advanced, Westernised democracies, not only in the United States. Like almost no other phase in history, self-centredness and preoccupation with all aspects of advancing the Self, became the dominant theme is personal life, as well as in the professions and business, thereby acquiring a materialistic quality.
It is also within this extremely narcissistic atmosphere that we may detect the moral and ethical causes, certain shortcomings, of the later Financial Crisis. Some of the most important points in Generation Zero are made in the next section, “The Party of Davos”, yet as the ambiguous and sardonic subtitle indicates, this is also exactly where critics of capitalism and free markets perhaps need to put on their thinking hats again in order to reconsider the reception, popularly and more formally, of those systems and their alleged failings.
The ‘narrative’ that we are overfamiliar with in the mainstream media and on the radical, Left-wing fringe as reflected in its media vendors, is that the Financial Crisis had been caused by too much deregulation. This supposedly demonstrates that capitalism, or ‘the market’, doesn’t work, for it can’t operate independently. However, this is patently untrue, because what we have instead, dating back to the Clinton-era, is a cosy marriage between Big Business and Big Government. The chief beneficiaries of the eventual bailout were not the ordinary man and woman in the street, but billionaire Wall Street bankers … and, in indirect ways, successive administrations (Democratic and Republican, the former not necessarily associated in a linear way with advancing free market theories) looked after ‘them’, i.e. the financier elite/s.
The appropriate word used in this context is that of ‘corporatism’ in order to describe a phenomenon in which the lines in these so described “incestuous” relationships between politicians and bankers, become blurred. Tellingly, the provenance of this is centred in the 1990s Clinton Democratic administrative period. The habit of thereby subsidising Wall Street, so to speak, also became, quite ineluctably, support for elitist globalist values and re-engineering society in accordance with those, a complete package of sorts inherently faustian in nature, also exceedingly undemocratic.
Although drawing an exact inference is left to the viewer, it’s impossible to pass on the undeniable decline in standards represented by having ‘Clinton values’ imposed on broader society. A final point, in this section, that helps to transfer the flow of the argumentation into the next, is that tax payers, as part of the unraveling process or cycle, became the sponsors of risqué Wall Street behaviours, continued contrary to political expectations and stereotypes, from Bush (41) to Clinton, and again Bush (43) to Obama.
The next section, “Welcome to the Casino”, underscores one of this reviewer’s main points about the significance of Generation Zero to the rest of the world. It was the creation of a Bailout Culture in association with expanding globalisation in the 1990s that would, in the long run, culminate in the biggest bailout in world history (2008 vis-à-vis Wall Street banks, with global scope). The problems that manifested in Mexico (early 1990s), and the artificial solution to it, set a really bad precedent, followed by other, even worse, precedents (to the Financial Crisis) in the rest of Latin America, eventually encompassing Asia.
One of the most important self-regulatory mechanisms within capitalism is the timely demise of businesses and companies (and profligate individuals) that are neither competitive nor sustainable, as may be logical. However, if the US government subsidised (indirectly) the international banking system, the mechanism described above, in its ethical guise, i.e. as ‘moral harzard’, had thereby in effect been cancelled out. In the absence of risqué economic, business and professional behaviours being deterred, automatically, as a result, free reign could be given to speculation, risk (i.e. the financial mechanism thereof), and snowballing (unsupported) debt.
The imagery used at this point in the documentary is extremely memorable. If you’re au fait with economic history, you will no doubt recognise the (economic) bubble phenomenon, so that it could be said that all the more or less minor bubbles of the 1990s and early 2000s (perhaps suitably also called the ‘Noughties’) led to the biggest economic bubble in history!
Generation Zero has, in some quarters, been crticised for exaggerating some of its claims. Nonetheless, in light of what has gone before, it’s doubtless necessary to paraphrase the final insight to this section of the documentary, because precisely so apposite and poignant:
The Financial Crisis was completely unprecedented in economic history for a number of reasons, but especially so for the manner in which political and financial elites were letting down ordinary men and women as they had never been in history before.
In the next two sections, “The Forsaken” and “The Shakedown”, we see something of the complex legacy of intertwined socio-economic and political processes afoot since at least the 1960s. Contemporary America is plagued by barriers to free trade (imposed mostly from abroad), thereby limiting growth whenever companies want to venture internationally; the spectre of de-industrialisation, around since the 80s, has taken on ever greater proportions; unemployment, previously a source of shame (and pride, when rectified) to administrations, has become a chronic factor in the life of the nation, exacerbated by the Financial Crisis, etc. etc.
Pertinently in “The Shakedown”, however, we’re given a number of possible causes that, over decades, may have contributed to the mood (typical of a generation, according to Howe & Strauss, as each one has this) of entitlement first radiated by the rebellious children of the 60s, later the traders and bankers of the ‘Unraveling’. In 2010 when Generation Zero was released, the first administration of Barack Hussein Obama was at its mid-point, accompanied by signs that the entitlement culture was being encouraged to an alarming degree. Over the various successive decades cited above, activism arising in the 60s (remember Alinsky!) had also contributed to changing lending standards, a possible contributing factor being the attempt to deal with allegedly racist (lending) practices of the past, resulting in ‘easy loans’.
Welfarist organisations and policies of yesteryear can, for instance, quite easily be associated with a slogan like, “Everybody has a right to a house”. The specific origins thereof lie with radically, ideologically motivated pressure groups like ACORN (founded in 1970 by Wade Rathke). On the legislative side, the Community Re-investment Act (1977) comes to mind as a particular instance making possible the lowering of lending standards, with very little collateral provided, all in all creating a culture of dependency on the government, progressively (perhaps rather ‘regressively’, then?), since the 1990s, contributing to the atmosphere of the corporatist culture described above, the final guarantor or insurer (government) of subprime lending/mortgages.
Granted, there may be those who would attempt to detract from any attempt to blame the Financial Crisis on what’s commonly called social engineering derived from the late Twentieth Century welfare culture phenomenon, but the elaborate Ponzi scheme-like scaffolding described above leaves any observer, including those who may feel critical, with certain inevitable conclusions. Is this capitalism, or the free market system, and how it’s supposed to be, or somethings else? (Something else!)
In “The Fourth Turning” we’re inevitably asked to consider if America, with the Financial Crisis and subsequent bailout in mind - and by extension the automatically affected rest-of-the-world - is heading for Howe and Strauss’s period of ‘Crisis’. No doubt about it, in 2008, the entire Global Financial System was in danger. The eye-watering bailout amount (from) around $700 (up to $800) billion was needed to “forestall” meltdown and another Great Depression. The opinions expressed here demand that we reconsider very carefully what had led up to one of the worst catastrophes ever seen since the first half of the previous century.
Financial bureaucrats and politicians had begun to believe that a free market system could be run by the elite, thereby making them the primary beneficiaries of the arrangement. This is in other words a failure of policy, because the characteristics of social engineering, referred to in preceding sections, created the false belief that there would never be bad consequences for failing institutions. Although there isn’t an exact connection, veteran economic journalist Lou Dobbs is right to reintroduce the theme of necessary moral hazard as a deterrent to misbehaviours of this kind, because the credibility of leaders, already questioned as would be typical for the Fourth Turning, had been badly exposed by these events. To quote, “they were no longer believed”.
As already pointed out, these corporatist practices do change the nature of capitalism when there is no longer such a thing as a bankruptcy, and definitely for the worse. This hybrid form of government, ‘corporatism’, becomes the norm in this transitional period (in terms of the Howe & Strauss analysis, to remind you, moving from the ‘Unravelling’ to the ‘Crisis’) in which institutions (like government and banks) are questioned. But when this happens, i.e. when government becomes the partner of the largest banks, fostering a bailout culture, we are morally, culturally and ethically also being transported all the way from ‘Unraveling’ deep into ‘Crisis’ territory.
The penultimate section of Generation Zero, i.e. America/ “The Turnaround”, thus early on in the historical cycle as part of what is indeed likely to be a ‘Crisis’ turning, uses the events of the Financial Crisis to provide the viewers with a speculative glimpse of what may lie ahead. With a growing US national debt (around $12 trillion in 2010), and an estimated total national wealth of around $50 trillion, as well as total social security commitments amounting to around $100 trillion, mostly benefiting the Baby Boomers/Generation of 60s, there is a temptation to keep on borrowing and following that a danger of a financial death spiral of which the Financial Crisis would merely have been a pale foreshadowing.
Moreover, under difficult economic circumstances, mismanaged by the partnership between ‘Big Business’ and ‘Big Government’, hyperinflation could finally bring about the Great Depression that had been just averted through bailout in 2008. Since the cyclical view of history obtains in the analyses offered in this documentary, social and political phenomena last seen in periods like the 1920s and 1930s, could once again become commonplace. During the financial and economic crises then, fascism came about because people were prepared to put their trust in strong leaders offering easy solutions, ultimately leading to tyranny and war.
Nevertheless, if ‘Big Government’ and ‘Big Business’ remain “joined at the hip”, in the colourful linguistic imagery used, leaders with fresh ideas who are challenged to escape the fascist leadership models of less enlightened cycles in history, within hopefully rejuvenated democratic institutions, will have to find alternatives to the policies characteristic of the Obama administration at the time (of the Financial Crisis), concerned with overregulation and consequentially overspending as part of the welfarist, social engineering -generated ‘social justice’ (to use the politically correct parlance of the moment) model promoted.
As the point is resonantly well made, what it will take is to find ways to “STOP!” and drastically reform the culture, initiated in the socially permissive and experimental 60s, of subsidising hybridised, financial-political elites who try to insure their own survival by taxing and redistributing the hard-earned wealth of the active, productive part of the populace. As mentioned in the introduction, if we go along with the analysis, the ‘Fourth Turning’ currently upon us has also turned out to be not only an era of popularly expressed and politically (i.e. electorally) registered discontent, we have the makings of a turbulent period in history with powerful, yet ideologically and politically divergent ‘populisms’ emerging and becoming more vocal in many parts of the world.
A fact that can’t be denied is that banks and other financial institutions have borne the brunt of popular outrage since the earliest time of the (Financial) Crisis. Yet, the contributors to Generation Zero are right on the money to identify at the time the growing nature of the discontent as well. They also anticipate the ongoing stirring of discontent, aimed at the political elites, associated with the crisis - thereby of course being partly prophetic. In many cases, anger felt towards the financial system has had far-reaching political and electoral consequences. The documentary’s contributors are correct in stating that ordinary men and women are more knowing than political elites wish to believe. In realising that they have effectively been subsidising the upper crust, those forgotten men and women also realise that not only they, but their children and grandchildren, future generations, have been saddled with debt and a lowering of living standards for decades to come.
The leadership of the Fourth Turning will have to take difficult decisions to make free enterprise viable again. Like the forgotten ordinary ‘small’ people of America (also the case in other countries during this period of economic ripple effect globalisation), small businesses, the backbone of any functioning free market system, have been sidelined and forgotten, burdened with the consequences of a mortgaged future. In the final section, “The Forgotten Man” - as already hinted at, however partially - the extended metaphor of a Greek Tragedy is especially apt to describe the developments of the last few decades in the US, leading up to, and following, the Financial Crisis.
Generationally, parents of the 40s and particularly 50s, raised their kids too well, what is commonly termed as being overprotective. The cultural and social reaction of the (Baby) Boomers and Generation Xers, pertinently with their archetypal (a term deployed by Howe and Strauss) creativity and innovation, but also moral and ethical relativism, created waves culminating in the tidal wave of the Financial Crisis, as articulated in the documentary, i.e. “a dramatisation of 60s ideas” and existential modes: selfishness, irresponsibility, lies, false idealism, and much more.
And thereby – continuing with the interpretative framework usefully introduced, based on the research undertaken by Neil Howe and William Strauss – the ‘Fourth Turning’ is a phase in history filled with danger, unpredictability and radical change, but also with promise. It is “a time for/of MAJOR CHOICES”, amongst these, in the American context, having to crystallise whether traditional (liberal) democratic capitalism can be rejuvenated, or whether the future is instead a static, European-style welfarist-socialist subsidised model, guarded over by a super-statist, overregulated mega-nanny European Union, of which the Obama administration, in retrospect, may have provided an emergent governmental lineament at federal level.
The Fourth Turning event is not only a confusing historical Crisis, it is also redolent with opportunity in which a new dispensation can be created with suitable institutions reformed or created anew in order to support this. Consequential choices can be made about the nature of country, society, values and future. For an international audience, in an increasingly interconnected world, sharing the Global Financial System of which the United States is still the centre, inevitably - to a greater or lesser extent - the same period of threat and opportunity beckons. In every neighbourhood, community, town, region or country, and on every continent, the age of great decision(s) has arrived.
A final word on the politics of ‘Generation Zero’ reviews (including, and followed by, some biographical and cinematic background):
Being aware of what may be termed, more correctly, the trolling-masquerading-as-reviewing that has come the way of Generation Zero in the period since its release, and, revisiting both older and more recent examples of this, reminded this independent, objective and studious reviewer that the ‘Culture of Intolerance’ that’s now in existence, contributing to undermining our sacred democratic right to free speech (inclusive of cinematic attempts to record these), must surely rate as one of the lowest traits of the Culture of the Fourth Turning.
The fact that the documentary is the brainchild of members of the Citizens United organisation in the United States, of which David Bossie is the president and chairman, doesn't in any way detract from the relevance and cogency of any of the views expressed. If indeed we are in an historical Fourth Turning period, then populist voices associated with sadly mistermed so-called old-fashioned or ‘traditional values’ will become much more prominent, and deserve a hearing as much as other points of view that tend to overpower mainstream media coverage.
Neither does the energetic and provocative directing style of Steve Bannon deserve the sometimes dismissive treatment that it has received from certain quarters along the political spectrum. Even more perplexing is the disqualification meted out by self-identifying radical Left-wing ‘viewers’, typically confusing (deliberately?) details from within the documentary, because of Bannon’s (and therefore Bossie’s) visible and prominent involvement in the successful campaign of the recently elected (November 2016) American president.
As far as that background to Generation Zero is concerned, a more plausible and responsible response to the film is instead to take note of ideas and views that have informed and galvanised a current in American political life that has garnered enough support to issue in spectacular electoral victory. On the contrary, then, because when seen from a cultural philosophy/criticism point of view, the activities and aspirations of an organisation like Citizens United can itself be seen as part of a larger cycle or process, akin to the social forces covered in the documentary and the research of Neil Howe and William Strauss, one with populist characteristics, reasserting the claims of the long-term values of not only the United States, but probably that of the West as a super-constellated socio-historical entity.
Whereas it might be easier, especially to those with superficial approaches, to criticise the documentary for ‘political bias’ with reference to directing, style, sources of funding and personal factors, depending of course on your own convictions, ultimately, it’s impossible to dismiss the range of well-informed expertise presented throughout.
On the whole, this represents a welcome complement to the one-dimensional mainstream media debate in relation to politics and economics in the wake of the Financial Crisis (i.e. since 2007/2008).
It would be impossible to give a complete overview of this area within the limited remit of a review, therefore what must suffice, during the remainder, is outlining what this reviewer considers to be the most crucial, thereby highlighting the following:
The American Enterprise Institute (or AEI):
Its complete formal name is actually the ‘American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy’, but what it does best, is to provide an ongoing intellectual discussion helping to promote free enterprise. An outstanding quality of the thought of this ‘think tank’ – to help the general reader, meaning a number of experts, working together to pool knowledge, expertise and research, discussing complex problems and their solutions) - is emphasis on the individual, their liberty, and how this may be further advanced. Contributors at the time of the making of Generation Zero belonging to the AEI, and featured therein, are Michael Barone, John Bolton, Arthur Brooks, David Frum, Steve Hayward and Michael Novak
Visit the AEI online at:
The CATO Institute:
The CATO Institute is known for research on public policy in relation to free markets as well, but the theme of limited – or rather limiting role – government, featured so prominently in Generation Zero, is an important intellectual quantity in much of its deliberations. Moreover, the Institute is also known for its pursuit of peaceful international relations. There is a strong libertarian flavour in thought emerging from the Institute, so it has for instance become known for trying to work out how the tax burden of individuals can be reduced, leading to greater personal economic freedom. It has also in the past been known for a skeptical approach to Global Warming, a political-ideological construct and instruments which poses an increasing threat to the rights and freedoms of the individual. At the time of Generation Zero’s release, Daniel J. Mitchell, featured therein, was associated with the Institute.
Visit the CATO Institute at:
The Hoover Institution:
As may be deduced from the name, the Hoover Institute is named after former United States President Herbert C. Hoover. He founded this in 1919, and it has since been hugely influential and remains, simply put, one of the most important archives, libraries and think tanks in the country, with direct effects on the presidency, secretaries of state, the judiciary, Congress, etc. Located at Stanford University in California, members or “fellows” do not only focus on international affairs, but most areas of public policy come under its scrutiny, including freedoms associated with economics, individualism and politics. The Institution has been home to such well-known economic and social research luminaries as Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell. At the time that Generation Zero was released, Victor Davis Hanson, Peter Schweizer and Shelby Steele were associated with the Hoover Institution.
Visit the Hoover institution at:
The Manhattan Institute:
Located in the heart of New York City and therefore close to the economic epicentre of the United States, the Manhattan Institute also functions as policy research think tank, covering such areas as domestic policy, urban affairs and the free market. If you have followed the activities of the Institute over the years, you may know that it has been an important source of ideas, influencing a large number of figures that have not only domestic recognition (in the US), but overseas as well. In this way, it has impacted policy in healthcare, higher education, public housing and even areas like prisoner re-entry and policing. This Institute is, for instance, credited with shaping some of the most standout policies during the memorable mayoral tenure (New York City) of Rudy Giuliani. At the time of Generation Zero’s making, contributors Heather MacDonald and Myron Magnet were associated with the Manhattan Institute.
Visit the Manhattan Institute at:
Full Documentary Movie Reference for Generation Zero:
Generation Zero. 2010.
Writing and directing: Steve Bannon.
Production: Dave Bossie.
Editing: Matthew Tailer.
Citizens United Productions/Victory Media.
Official Documentary Website:
This can be accessed at: http://www.generationzeromovie.com/index.html
Available via YouTube:
Howe, Neil & Strauss, William. 1997. The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History tell us about America’s next Rendezvous with Destiny. New York: Broadway.
Carl J. Kieck is an Independent International Social and Educational Researcher and Consultant, primarily, and is currently involved in several long-term research projects. He is originally from South Africa, yet, because he finds it stimulating to develop new insights and broaden his horizons, undertakes work internationally in primary, secondary and tertiary education as either a contractual or temporary or part-time teacher and lecturer. Within his many areas of expertise is also that of filmic and/or cinematic research and analysis in most genres, as well as various national and cultural traditions, of this/these, contemporary and historical.
He can be contacted via the following platforms: