Chinese Rooster Year Outlook, Part
Terrible Events, Endings and New Beginnings
M.A. Nystrom, M.B.A.
Man on the street in (the Republic of) China
February 4, 2005
1. The Chinese Calendar System
The Chinese calendar system is the oldest continuous
timekeeping system in existence. It is a combined solar/lunar calendar,
meaning that days are measured by the sun,but months are measured
by the moon. The approximately 29.5 days between new moons constitutes
one Chinese calendar month. Since the lunar cycle does not correspond
neatly with the earth’s annual cycle around the sun, the beginning
of the Chinese New Year can fall anywhere between late January and
the middle of February on the Gregorian calendar. This year, the
new moon on February 9, 2005 will herald the first day of the 4702nd
Under the Chinese system, each year is designated
by one of twelve animals -- Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake,
Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar. The upcoming year
will be the year of the Rooster. A complete cycle of 12 calendar
years constitutes a Great Year. Five great years, (60 calendar years)
represents one Cycle, and 60 Cycles (3,600 years) makes an Epoch.
China of the last 56 years under communist rule has been one of
the more backward places on the planet, it must be remembered that
when it comes to invention and innovation, the Chinese are historically
no slouches. They were the first to invent a number of “modern”
wonders while Europe was backward, mired in the Dark Ages. Their
society was the most advanced of its age. Some Chinese inventions
include gunpowder (originally for fireworks), the compass, paper,
movable type printing, the abacus, acupuncture, blast furnaces,
wheelbarrows and water clocks, to name just a few. Marco Polo brought
the idea for Spaghetti back to Venice, from his travels in China
in the 12th Century. (Raviolio are simply the Italian version of
potstickers) It is even said that the Chinese had a machine that
could predict earthquakes!
So what happened? How did a nation that was so far
ahead fall so far behind? That is a fascinating story with a very
relevant message for America, but it will have to wait for another
time, because I’m afraid I’ve digressed.
of many kinds are found throughout nature, and there are cycles
within cycles within larger cycles. History is in fact a fractal,
with periods and events ceaselessly repeating over and over, again
and again. Specific places, names and faces – these may change,
but the underlying stories of the social
cycles remain, rising and falling, ebbing and flowing with the
tide of time.
As a New Year dawns, it is therefore useful to take
stock of our past, to see if we can discern any patterns and discover
any wisdom from the events that have come before us. There are many
ways of doing this, but in keeping with the Chinese theme, I will
look back at past Rooster years to see what kinds of lessons, if
any, they may hold. I have chosen this project because these years
seem to hold a number of significant events that are relevant to
our lives today. Beginning in the depths of the Great Depression,
with 1933, subsequent Rooster years include 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981
and most recently 1993. This is an impressive set of years full
of impressive events.
The Chinese have traditionally considered anyone who
lived 60 years to be very wise, since they have lived through and
seen one complete Cycle. But since the cycle of human events is
determined by human actions, and since human life spans have elongated
drastically in the last century, it is plausible that traditional
long-wave cycle lengths may be increasing. It is for this reason,
and because the Great Depression was one of the most fascinating
periods of the last century, that I begin 72 years ago with the
Rooster year of 1933.
2. Past Roosters
1933 - Terrible Events
The world was in the depths of the Great Depression, and the specter
of war and financial ruin haunted the world. Shanghai was occupied
by Japanese troops. Adolf Hitler, a man who had never held political
office in his life was appointed Chancellor of Germany in January
of 1933. A month later he staged a fire at the Reichstag, pinned
the blame on his political enemies, then bullied the sitting government
to pass the Enabling
Act, making him dictator of Germany. The machinery of evil went
into overdrive as the Gestapo was established, non-Nazi political
parties outlawed, book burnings began, and the first Nazi concentration
camp at Dachau was completed, marking the start of the Holocaust.
Today it seems inconceivable, but it was only 72 years ago.
In the US, Franklin Delano Roosevelt succeeded Herbert
Hoover as President, giving his famous “Nothing
to fear but fear itself”speech. The following day he declared
an emergency “bank holiday,” closing all US banks, and
suspending all financial transactions for a week. Apparently there
was more than just fear to fear, as he went on to outlaw the private
possession of gold by US Citizens, officially taking the US off
the gold standard. Gold coins were no longer legal tender and people
were forced to turn in their gold for fiat Federal Reserve Notes
on pain of imprisonment. After 1933, paper money no longer stated
that it was backed by gold, because after 1933, it wasn’t.
The statement was quietly removed from all bills. FDR was not popular
with the business community at the time, and there was an attempted
a coup against him.
Congress got busy spending money on New Deal legislation,
creating make-work programs to try to end the Depression. Although
the stock market had bottomed just one year earlier at 41 (from
a 1929 high of 381), the unemployment rate stood at 25%, up from
just 3.2% in 1929. Germany and Japan left the League of Nations,
charting the terrible course to war. Leo
Szilard came up with the idea for the nuclear chain reaction
while waiting for a red light on Southampton Row in Bloomsbury.
Prohibition ended, but marijuana and hemp were outlawed (yes, there
was a time when both were legal in the US, and it is a tragedy that
hemp, one of the most useful plants on the planet, is still
illegal in the US). 1933 was one of the worst years of the dust
1945 – Endings and beginnings
The crescendo of violence reached a fever pitch as World
War II drew to a close in 1945. The Russians liberated Auschwitz
in January, where 1.5 million people were murdered. The US firebombed
Dresden, killing 35,000 humans, and Tokyo, killing 100,000. Kobe
was hit, killing 8,000, and the U.S. sent 1,250 bombers in one night
to destroy Berlin. Adolf Hitler, realizing defeat, ordered all industry,
military installations, shops, transportation and communications
facilities in Germany be destroyed. Hitler took his own life as
allied forces approached his bunker in Berlin. FDR also died in
this final year of the war.
the month of August, Leo Szilard’s idea came to fruition on
August 6th in Hiroshima and again on August 9th in Nagasaki, Japan.
Over 200,000 were killed, and WWII ended less than a month later.
Was this the start of peace? Not really; it was just the beginning
of a new, different kind of conflict. The US and Russia split Germany
and Korea, marking the end of the old war and the start of the Cold
War. The Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, took power in Hanoi, presaging
the Vietnam war. But nations made efforts to work together - The
United Nations Charter was ratified by the US, and the World Bank
was formed. The computer was born: The Electronic Numerical Integrator
Analyzer and Computer - ENIAC, the world’s first general purpose
computer was completed.
1957 – A Quiet Rooster
all the activity of the previous two Great Years, 1957 was relatively
speaking, quiet. But 1957 still had its significant events. The
USSR launched the first manmade satellite, Sputnik, marking the
beginning of the space race. The first commercial use of nuclear
power occurred in Santa Susana, California. IBM released the FORTRAN
programming language for commercial sale, making it the most widely
used computer language of its time. Osama bin Laden was born. John
Lennon and Paul McCartney, who would go on to form The Beatles,
first met at St. Peter's Church in Liverpool, England. And an Asian
flu pandemic that lasted into 1958 claimed the lives of over 1,000,000
worldwide, including 72,000 in the US.
1969 - Nostalgic Endings
1969 holds a singular place in US history, as the end of
the fabled decade of the 1960’s. Bryan Adams captured the
feeling in his song “Summer of 69:”
Oh when I look back now/That summer seemed to last
forever/And if I had the choice/I'd always want to be there/Those
were the best days of my life
In general, it was a nostalgic year of endings. The last issue of
the Saturday Evening Post was published after 147 years on the newsstands.
LBJ who didn’t want to be president anymore, made way for
Tricky Dick and a new regime in the White House. The Beatles made
their last public performance on the roof of Apple Records and had
their concert broken up by the cops. Micky Mantle retired from the
Yankees. Ike, who took the oath of office for his second term as
president in 1957, and who everybody liked, died in 1969. 1969 was
of course the year of Woodstock, the big music blast that said goodbye
to the decade of the ‘60s. Neil Armstrong became the first
man to set foot on the moon, marking the end of the space race that
started 12 years earlier. John Lennon left Paul and the Beatles,
and he and Yoko went off on their merry way imploring the world
to ‘give peace a chance.’ In the UK, the halfpenny gave
way to inflation and ceased being legal tender. A severe famine
in China was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 20 million.
Hurricane Camille, a Category 5 storm ravaged Mississippi, killing
248 and causing $1.5 billion in damage.
Notable new beginnings in 1969 included the Automatic
Teller Machine, which made its first appearance in New York City.
ARPANET, predecessor to the Internet, was born, and the Boeing 747
made its first flight from Seattle to NYC. Wal-Mart Stores was officially
incorporated, and Yasser Arafat was appointed leader of the PLO,
embarking on a reign of terror against Israel. Bell Laboratories
developed Unix, Linus Torvalds of Linux fame was born, and AMD,
Intel's main competor today was founded.
- "Morning in America" (Start of the 1982 - 2000
Bull Market just one year away!)
The world refused to give peace a chance. John Lennon was shot and
killed in December of 1980. Ronald Reagan began his first term as
president, promising "Morning in America" and was shot
just two months into the job. Two months later, Pope John Paul II
was shot and nearly killed. Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt, was
assassinated. Walter Cronkite retired after 19 years on the air.
The CDC first took note that a rare form of pneumonia was taking
the lives of homosexual men in LA. These turned out to be the first
AIDS cases. Who can forget that the 52 American hostages in Iran
were released in 1981? In a blow to labor unions the world over,
the Reagan personally fired 11,359 striking air traffic controllers
who ignored his order to return to work. Regan then gave the CIA
the authority to support secret Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The
effort to support the Contras was a major component of the Reagan
Doctrine, championed by American conservatives, that provided U.S.
military support to movements the government didn't like.
It seemed like quite an inauspicious, dark year at
the time, but 1981 was a turning point from the bottom. It was the
first year that a woman, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, was appointed
to the Supreme Court. The IBM PC was introduced along with MS DOS.
Pac Man became the first worldwide computer videogame craze. And
the great bull market of 1982-2000 was just one year away.
- Bill Clinton was sworn in as 41st president of
the United States
- The First WTC bombing took place
- Branch Dividian complex was razed by Federal Authorities
at Waco, Texas
- IBM’s $4.97B loss became the largest corporate
loss in history
- Arafat and Rabin shake on peace deal in the Middle
- Intel shipped the first Pentium
- The first piece of spam was sent
- NAFTA was signed, marking the start of the “giant
sucking sound” of jobs out of the US.
3. Predilections and Patterns
As the years advance, the drama of the Rooster seems
to lessen. In a way, the events of 1933 and 1945 seem like a distant
nightmare, but in another way, they seem closer than ever. One thing
that stands out sharply from this review of years past is the ever
presence of war and human conflict. In 1933, the path to war was
clearly set; indeed the entire period from 1933 – 1945 was
one long period of war. And even when it ended, it continued to
smolder on in ideological form, as the Cold War, and expressed in
violence in Korea and in Vietnam. Every one of our Rooster years
was touched by war, somewhere in the world. This is not saying much,
since every year of human history is marred by human violence, and
2005 will be no exception. Humanity, at least to date, seems to
have a predilection for war.
The second thing that stands out to me is a certain
symmetry of events. For example, both Hitler and FDR rose to power
in 1933, and then died in 1945, a 12 year reign. The atomic chain
reaction was first conceived in 1933, first tested and used as a
violent weapon in 1945, then first used to generate power commercially
in 1957. The space race between the US and USSR that was started
in 1957 with Sputnik, ended in 1969 with Apollo 11. The Beatles
met in ’57, broke up in ’69, and John Lennon was shot
in December of 1980, just one month shy of another Rooster year.
The first computer was invented in 1945, the first commercial programming
language released in 1957, in 1969 UNIX, Linux and the ARPANET were
born, 1981 came the IBM PC, and though the new Rooster has yet to
officially begin, Hewlitt Packard has just announced nano-molecular
technology that it expects will replace the transistor, the foundation
of modern computing. These are all major milestones in the development
of this technology. And finally, Rooster years have been notorious
for terrible earthquakes, as seen in this Table:
During Rooster Years
||Rat Islands, Alaska
||Fox Islands, Alaska
||Long Beach, California
||Andreanof Islands, Alaska
||San Francisco, CA
Do these events have any significance, any connection,
or is this all merely coincidence? Humans are notorious Meaning-Making-Machines,
finding patterns and reading meaning into them where in fact nothing
but randomness exists. Is this an example of the former or the latter?
There is a recent trend in society towards the idea
that there are no such things as coincidences, that everything has
meaning and happens for a reason. I first came across this idea
nearly a decade ago in the popular best seller The Celestine
Prophecy. New Agers embrace such ideas whole heartedly, while
the strictly rationally oriented believe this is a shift away from
logic, towards dangerous, magical thinking. The truth is that humans
are both logical and emotional beings, and to ignore either of these
equally important sides of ourselves puts our species at great risk.
5. Questions for You.
If the 2005 Rooster year were to resemble any of the
past years, which, would it be? Will it be a year of endings, new
beginnings, or terrible events? Or none of the above? If any symmetry
were to appear in 2005 to complete event started in previous Rooster
years, what kinds of events would arise? These are the questions
I will be thinking about over the coming week, and I invite you
to think about them as well and email me with your ideas. What kinds
of associations came up in your mind looking at the pictures? I
promise to read all the emails, even if I cannot respond to them.
But I will post the most interesting, stimulating ideas (both good
and bad!) in a fashion similar to these responses to my last article:
on ‘The Bull Market is Dead! Long Live the Bull Market!
Next week comes Part 2. If you would like to be notified, please sign
© 2005 Michael Nystrom