Many years ago at a luncheon for a purpose my old brain cannot now remember, I sat across the table from Dr. Sixto K. Roxas. During the conversation, he mentioned that the Philippines goes through minor “upheavals” every three years and a major one every six years.
The study of historical cycles has been an interest of mine for some time, and when you have lived long enough—even over a man’s limited life span—you see patterns that tend to repeat themselves.
Peter Turchin is a Russian-American scientist, specializing in population biology and mathematical modeling. In 2003 he coined the term “cliodynamics” to describe statistical cycle modeling of the dynamics of historical societies. Empires rise and fall, economies shrink and grow, and the dynamics of these changes tend to follow patterns over time if you look at a long enough period.
There are also waves of political change that follow cycles. The time frames are often, but not always, precise. Turchin, in the Journal of Peace Research last year, compiled historical data about the cycle of violent incidents in the United States between 1780 and 2010, including riots, terrorism, assassinations and rampages of about every 50 years. This interestingly coincides with Martin Armstrong’s 51.6-year cycle of political change.
At some point, the people will rise up against the political establishment and power elite. It can be bloody, as in France 1789 or Russia 1917, when the political elite of the monarchy fell. It all depends on how strongly the elite want to hold on to their power. The monarchy of England was reduced without such bloody revolutions. But 2016 is a period of global revolt against the powers-that-be. Mauricio Macri of Argentina, Justin Trudeau of Canada and Donald Trump of the US are completely different, and yet represent the same phenomenon.
Macri is trained civil engineer from a relatively rich family who worked in his father’s construction company, for Citibank Argentina, as president of one of the most popular football clubs and the chief of government of Buenos Aires. He was just elected president of Argentina on the first ballot (a historical first), replacing the “anointed one” of former President Cristina Kirchner, who, with her husband, ruled the country since 2003. He is “probusiness” but also strongly supports LGBT and indigenous peoples’ rights.
Trudeau, the new prime minister of Canada, is the son of a former prime minister. He has spent virtually all of his adult life in politics, working for the Liberal Party, considered left of center. He defeated the government that had been in power for 10 years.
Trump comes from a wealthy family, is a billionaire and has never run for public office. His campaign is, in effect, self-funded. He runs as a Republican, but holds policies across the political spectrum from tight immigration controls to higher taxes on the wealthy. He might become US president.
This year we have seen governments being replaced from Iceland to Kyrgyzstan and farther to even Vietnam where Nguyen Tàn Dung —prime minister since 2006—was replaced for being “too reformist.”
But we can ignore the eventual “winners” and “losers.” The effects of the cycle are found in the high emotions, intense frustrations on all sides, and the heated, sometimes bizarre, rhetoric, on the global political stage. The Philippines is not different.
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