What if life was not as random as it seemed. What if society moved to imperceptible rhythms that lasted about as long as a human lifetime? What if we could see into the future by looking at the past? These are the haunting questions that Williams and Drew attempt to answer in Pendulum. Their premise? In forty-year cycles, the pendulum swings between the “Me” and the “We”. We always take things too far, and the things we admire about each cycle creates problems. Here are the definitions of the two cycles. The “Me” cycle demands freedom of expression, applauds personal liberty and believes that leadership is “Look at me, admire me, emulate me if you can.” The “Me desires to be number one: “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
The “We” demands conformity for the common good, applauds personal responsibility and believes leadership is “This is the problem as I see it. Please consider the things I am telling you, and together we can solve this problem together”. The “We” desires to be a productive part of the team: “I came, I saw, I concurred.”
In 1943 we entered a “We”. World War II was in full swing and we were all about shared sacrifice and duty. Contrast that to the upswing of a “Me” in 1963 and the growth of the generation that was brought up in that era and you can explain a lot. To give an even better contrast, the authors go back 3,000 years and give examples of the “Me” and “We” throughout that period.
Written in 2012, the book imagines that the pattern will continue. We start a “We” in 2023. What do you think will happen? Read Pendulum and find out.