I know that human history is cyclical. So how can I use that in my own life? How can I get practical value from the insight that history consists of a series of cycles in which, although there are new inventions and new types of human knowledge, although those grow cumulatively and perhaps even in an accelerating way phenomena, events, episodes like wars, regime changes, economic crashes recurrently occur - how can I make use of it?
One very important way you can make use of it isn’t so much in being able to predict it with any degree of accuracy. I think one can sometimes predict things with a reasonable degree of accuracy. One can predict as I did in my book in 1998 that there would be a large scale crisis of global capitalism. One can predict as I and many, many other people did in America and elsewhere that the Iraq adventure would go badly wrong. But beyond those so to speak geopolitical or large scale predictions can one really make use in one’s own individual life, planning one’s own individual life of the cyclicality of events in history?
I'm not one of those who thinks it’s possible to use cycles as some theories of financial markets suggest or as some astrologists suggest to predict things in such a way that they happen on specific days or specific months or specific years. I don’t think that’s possible because human events as well as being cyclic in certain ways have a degree of chaos in them and they may even have, although I'm not fully convinced of this, something like even free will in them.
What one can do is absorb and act on the insight that events which we’ve been taught are abnormal are in fact normal and that normal collapses, normal breakdowns, normal crises occur within most human lives. That’s to say a crisis of capitalism, a crisis of the banking system, a crisis of the monetary system, a crisis of international order, a crisis of terrorism, crises like this don’t happen ever few hundred years and we’re not moving to a world in which they will never happen or happen less and less. We are in a world in which they happen several times, crises like this during a given human lifetime and I think that will continue to be the case in any future that we can realistically envisage.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock