8. Cultural Cycles and Climate Change Western Culture - Cycle 3 Second Half
Fire Period, Summit Reached, Decline Begins 1723 – 2000 CE
It was avery productive period for Europe with the Industrial Revolution playing a major role in expanding wealth creation and increasing international presence. Key to the latter stage of this period is America’s role as an economic leader.
The Age of Enlightenment, a period of intellectual and philosophical thinking that dominated the world of ideas in Europe emerged duringthe 18th century. It was not a single cohesive movement, nor did it have a simple start and finish. It was in many ways a manifestation of the key ideas and vision of the Air period such as more freedom of thought. Enlightenment included a range of ideas centred on reason as the primary source of authorityand legitimacy and it came to advance ideals such as liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government and eventually the separation of Church and State.
In France, the central doctrines of the Enlightenment philosophers were individual libertyand religious tolerance, in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the fixed dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Enlightenment was marked by an increased questioning of religious orthodox - an attitude captured by the phrase Sapere aude, ‘Dare to know.’ It was closely associated with the scientific revolution. Earlier philosophers whose work influenced the Enlightenment included Bacon, Descartes, Locke, and Spinoza. Some of the other major figures of the period included Diderot, Hume, Kant, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Voltaire. Benjamin Franklin visited Europe repeatedly and contributed actively to the scientific and political debates there, bringing back the newest ideas to Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson closely followed European ideas and incorporated some of the ideals of the Enlightenment into the Declaration of Independence(1776). One of his peers, James Madison, incorporated these ideals into the United States Constitution, during its framing in 1787.
TheIndustrial Revolution is the name given to the enormous changes that took placein technology, farming, mining, manufacturing, and transportation from the middle of the 18th century, through to the middle of the 19th century. These changes had a massive impact on people’s social and cultural life, as well as theireconomic conditions.
Here are some of the basic aspects of the Industrial Revolution:
· It began in Britain, later spread to Western Europe, North America, andaround the world.
· Machines replaced people in some cases, animals such as horses in performing manual tasks
· More people moved from rural areas to cities
· Capitalism improved the economic conditions for most, but not all people
· Industrialisation caused problems such as unhealthy working conditions, pollution and waste
· The fire-based steam engine improved transport and production
What began with the steam engine later morphed into petrol-based engines, making transport faster and more flexible viacars, buses, trains and airplanes. Preparing meals went from gas and electricpowered stoves to microwaves. Unfortunately, one of the negative aspects of thetechnological revolution has been the development of weapons, eventually weapons of potentially mass destruction. As happens in the Fire period, people become convinced that what is happening is good and progressive, making it fully accepted that the weapons industry is one of the most prolific and it needs further investment to be maintained.
The two world wars were fought in periods when the conjunctions were still in Fire signs. The destruction of European life during that 30-40 year period has been horrendous and has seriously damaged theEuropean culture.
In the period after the Civil War, (1870 – 1890), the US became the number one economic power in the world, exceeding the economies of India and China with their large populations and well-established trading histories. Key to American growth were inventions in applied technology. From 1860 to 1890, 500,000 patents were issued for new inventions.
In the 19th and 20th centuries there was a mass migration to America of 34 million people.The free and liberal atmosphere upon which America was established, provided ideal conditions for the diverse groups of immigrants.
There were not the fixed rules and expectations of the long-established countries, meaning that people felt freer to develop and express their potential. The atmosphere was such that a feeling of anything is possible prevailed. This, indeed, became the best place where the fulfilment of one of the essential ideas of the cycle, the power of the individual, could be most fully expressed. I certainly experienced this, being born in America in the 1940s, I passed through my youth there in the 1950s and 1960s. The great potential for growth and expansion created a highly competitive environment. With many people believing that anything is possible, it is easy to see why there was serious competition in all aspects of life.
Winners were held in high regard, while losers were ignored. Life was seen as a zero-sum game. There was great pressure to win, which for some acted as a positive incentive, while for others, some negative responses arose. People could become quite depressed about not winning, even losing confidence in their abilities. Or an attitude could be assumed that one can do anything needed to win, including lying, cheating, or even taking drugs to enhance performance.
As previously noted the latter stage of the Fire period is characterised by a growing level of excess and also an intellectual shield which declares that everything is proceeding on a straight line higher and higher of the scale of wealth and prosperity which bring greater happiness. That expected result is where the mistake has been made.
The next blog will examine the current Earth period and the challenges which the Western Culture is facing..