Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


A generational interpretation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"

Written in 1843, this classic novel depicts a clear generational struggle (5-Dec-2004)
Summary Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, during a generational awakening period, pitting an older versus a younger generation. Ebenezer Scrooge represented the older generation, who had lost their parents and loved ones during the Napoleonic Wars 30 years earlier, and were exceedingly cautious and self-protecting. The three ghosts spoke the voice of the younger generation, who were born in the prosperous times following the war, and rebelled against the austere rules of the older generation.

Charles Dickens' novel, A Christmas Carol, takes place in London during a generational awakening period. Such periods are always characterized by savage political battles between two generations:

America's last awakening period was the 1960s and 1970s, pitting the older generation of World War II heroes, who were concerned about the dangers posed by Russian and Chinese Communism, against the college-age Baby Boomer generation, who objected to the sacrifices required to fight Communism, and fought for public welfare and individual rights.

When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, it was just 28 years after England had beaten Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and England was in a major generational battle of the time, as represented by two principal protagonists:

The younger generation wins in A Christmas Carol, as they always do since, after all, they outlive the older generation.

Watching A Christmas Carol today greatly saddens me, because today it's the Ebenezer Scrooges who are going to survive. Today you should prepare for the worst, save every penny you can, and be ruthless in protecting yourself, your family and your community.

However, you don't have to be a complete Scrooge. Increasingly many people are in real distress, and a little kindness and decency can go a long way.

Those Americans in the arrogant, risk-seeking Baby Boomer generation (born right after World War II) or the angry, disaffected Generation X (born in the 60s and 70s) should remember to avoid hubris. America's greatest danger is the belief that we can do everything. Remember the mythical story of Icarus, who escaped with his father from a prison island by wearing fabricated wings made out of feathers and wax and flying away. His father warned him that if he flew too near the sun, the sun would melt the wax in the wings. However, filled with hubris, Icarus thought he could fly to the heavens and become a god. When he tried, the sun melted his wings and he fell into the ocean and died.

Today, the cautious, risk-averse Ebenezer Scrooges are few and far between. The lesson that we can learn from A Christmas Carol today is not exactly the lesson that Charles Dickens was teaching. The new world war that we're facing in the next few years will be more terrible than almost anyone can imagine, and will test us as individuals as a nation. What we need to do today is to balance Ebenezer Scrooge's petty, mean-spirited niggardliness with kindness and decency; and we need to balance the three Ghosts' narcissistic, arrogant hubris with confidence. That's the path to both physical survival as a nation and personal survival as a human being.

Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.