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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 2-Dec-05
Belgians shocked to learn that suicide bomber is Belgian woman

Web Log - December, 2005

Belgians shocked to learn that suicide bomber is Belgian woman

Her parents try to make sense of the life of their daughter, 38 year old Muriel Degauque.

Working class couple Jean and Liliane Degauque hadn't been able to make contact with their daughter for a month, but immediately feared the worst when they heard the Tuesday evening news about a native Belgian female suicide bomber in Iraq, they immediately suspected the worst.

Muriel Degauque - "Here's the Kamikaze Belgian woman killed in Iraq" <font size=-2>(Source: <i>La Dernière Heure</i>)</font>
Muriel Degauque - "Here's the Kamikaze Belgian woman killed in Iraq" (Source: La Dernière Heure)

The details are available in a an article in the Thursday's La Dernière Heure.

Muriel Degauque grew up in southern Belgian as a normal Christian girl, though she was a disaffected Generation X teenager occasionally on drugs, and was somewhat estranged from her parents.

A boyfriend, Belgian-born Moroccan Issam Goris, converted her to Islam in 2001, and they married in 2002. They spent time in Morocco, and she started wearing burkas, covering her body entirely, except for the eyes. She became "more Muslim than a Muslim," according to her parents.

Both Muriel and her husband died on the same day, November 9, in separate suicide bomber attacks. He was shot before he had a chance to detonate his bomb. She detonated her bomb, and killed either just herself or six people, according to conflicting reports.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this situation is very interesting and instructive, because it can be combined with information about the London subway bombers of July 7 to obtain interesting new theoretical results in generational theory.

One thing we've known for a long time is that societies and nations change during "generational crisis" periods. A generational crisis period occurs about 50-60 years after the end of the previous crisis war, when the people who grew up during the previous crisis war and have personal memories of its horrors all disappear (retire or die), all at once, leaving behind a new generation of leaders with no personal memory of the last crisis war. At that time, the national mood changes dramatically, so that problems are dealt with by confrontation and retribution, rather than by confrontation and containment as they were prior to the crisis period.

America's last crisis war was World War II. We're at a unique time in history today because 60 years have passed since the end of WW II, and almost all the nations that fought in WW II have entered a generational crisis period. Generational Dynamics makes predictions about the attitudes and behaviors of large masses of people, and currently predicts that the world will be fighting a new "clash of civilizations" world war, sooner rather than later.

Generational Dynamics cannot predict the attitudes and behaviors of any individual, since each individual is free to do what he or she wants. But we're seeing that suicide bombers only come from societies that have entered generational crisis periods, and not before. This indicates that the generational crisis period changes society so that it makes the creation of suicide bombers possible.

I've also begun exploring the correlation between crisis wars and suicide bombers in my article on Robert Pape's study of suicide bombers, published in the new book Dying to Win. Putting his research together with Generational Dynamics, we find that suicide bombers are most likely to come from countries in generational crisis periods where the land is occupied by another country. They justify their terrorist acts as "altruistic suicide," believing that they're helping the people of their country.

So what we saw with the July 7 London subway bombers is that were the children of immigrants from a Muslim portion of Kashmir, a region in dispute between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu and Sikh India. The bombers attacked England because it's an ally of India.

However, Pape's research also found, among the Mideast countries he examined, most suicide bombers come from Saudi Arabia and Morocco. These two countries that have had exceptionally long times pass since their last crisis wars. Saudi Arabia's last crisis war was the Ibn Saud conquest, ending in 1925, and Morocco's was the Rif War, ending in 1927.

The new Belgian situation is exciting because it further confirms these newly discovered correlations. The husband, Issam Goris, was a second generation Moroccan, born in Belgium. The suicide bombing occurred in Iraq, which radical Islamists consider as occuppied by Americans. Muriel Degauque, of course, was raised as a Christian in Belgian, but became a Muslim suicide bomber under the influence of her radical husband. So we can see that this kind of "altruistic suicide" can be adopted not only by the children of immigrants but also by their wives.

The foundational work on generational theory was done by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe, who studied what's happened in previous Anglo-American crisis periods, and published their findings in two books, Generations and The Fourth Turning. Their generational theory forms the basis of Generational Dynamics.

In their theory, a nation cycles through four periods, or "turnings," each roughly 20 years long. The "fourth turning" is what we've been calling the generational crisis period.

Thanks to the new research that we've developed, based on Pape's work, we're able to paint a much better picture of what happens to a nation when it enters a generational crisis period; in particular, we're getting an answer to the following question: What happens when te fourth turning (generational crisis period) goes by without any crisis period?

We developed some of this new theoretical material in the article a few days ago on Ariel Sharon's political "earthquake" in Israel.

As we discussed, a country that goes into a generational crisis period goes into a kind of "cruise control" before the crisis war begins. During this "cruise control" period, little gets actually accomplished, except a lot of political bickering. Of course, once the crisis war begins, the country unites and pursues the war for its own survival.

But what happens if there IS no crisis war? Then what we're finding is that the country appears to enter a "supplementary crisis era" or "fifth turning," a period which is as distinctly different from a fourth turning as a fourth turning is from previous eras.

In brief, the picture that appears to be forming is as follows: During the fourth turning, the middle-aged and older generations (Generation X and Boomers in America today) get nothing done except bicker and argue. The young adult generation, which would normally be the new Hero generation fighting in the crisis war, matures into middle age as placid and content people who are, shall we say, "not looking for trouble." However their children, who normally would have grown up during the crisis war, reach adulthood having incorporating their parents' frustrations and smoothed-over hatreds. They turn into a distinctly new type of generation that I call "Super-Nomads." They feel a great deal of anger and little appreciation for the value of life. Thus, during this new "fifth turning," they adopt strategies like suicide bombings, but they also keep their intentions hidden from their parents, who would oppose them.

This is a new theoretical development in Generational Dynamics, and more research needs to be done on it. However, it provides the answer to one more question that people sometimes ask me: Suppose a country just gets through the generational crisis period without a war, something that, according to my research, happens about 10% of the time. Can they go on without a crisis war forever?

The answer appears to be no. Once a generational crisis period begins, the younger generations become increasingly angry and vengeful, and hold human life to have less and less value. With that kind of anger and hatred becoming increasingly pervasive, a new crisis war cannot be prevented.

Another question still to be answered is: Why is it possible for a society or nation to get through a crisis period without a crisis war? For now we can only guess by looking at some examples: Saudi Arabia avoided a crisis civil war in the 1970-80s because of its massive oil revenue; Morocco avoided a crisis war in the 1970-80s because a guerilla war with the Polisario in Western Sahara didn't spiral out of control (though we don't know why it didn't); and the American colonies should have had a Revolutionary War in the 1750s, but it was postponed to 1776 because of the French and Indian Wars. (2-Dec-05) Permanent Link
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