Alan Greenspan ran the U.S. Federal Reserve for 20 years. Now that he's up in his eighties, he's collecting his gleanings from history. We need old people to do that; otherwise the current generation, always at risk to imagine prior generations copies of themselves in all respects, only without ipods, attempt to rewrite history in their own image. But old birds like Alan won't let them. His generation reminds us that morality, values, attitudes have markedly changed over the decades. Of course, values have changed throughout time, but the onslaught of a pop-obsessed media, coupled with ever increasing isolation from stabilizing prior generations, speeds up that change. Values that have endured for generations are trashed overnight.
Mr. Greenspan’s 2007 book is The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. In it, one finds yet another reference to that pivotal year, 1914. Optimism prevailed before and pessimism after. It's an idea that pops up repeatedly in historical writings:
Writes Greenspan: "By all contemporaneous accounts, the world prior to 1914 seemed to be moving irreversibly toward higher levels of civility and civilization; human society seemed perfectible. The nineteenth century had brought an end to the wretched slave trade. Dehumanizing violence seemed on the decline...The pace of global invention had advanced throughout the nineteenth century, bringing railroads, the telephone, the electric light, cinema, the motor car, and household conveniences too numerous to mention: medical science, improved nutrition, and the mass distribution of potable water had elevated life expectancy... The sense of the irreversibility of such progress was universal."
But...."World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit. Today our outlook is starkly different from a century ago but perhaps a bit more consonant with reality. Will terror, global warming, or resurgent populism do to the current era of life-advancing globalization what World War I did to the previous one? No one can be confident of the answer." [quoted in the March 15, 2009 Watchtower]
1914 was a pivotal year. Clearly, Mr. Greenspan views it that way.
If you like to read, like to think, and are lacking a hobby, collecting 1914 statements is not a bad pastime. Keep your eyes open, and you'll come across a lot. If you want to cheat, you’ll start by raiding the Watchtower’s stash of quotes, for, it is fair to say, they collect them and have, over the years, amassed an impressive hoard. They do so because such statements dovetail so well with their understanding of Bible prophesy.
As early as 1876, Jehovah’s Witnesses began pointing to 1914 as a biblically significant year. The August 30, 1914 New York World newspaper, in its magazine section, ran the following story:
“End of All Kingdoms in 1914”
“The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy….For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses], best known as ‘Millennial Dawners,’ have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed [!], have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’”
For the most part, Jehovah's Witnesses thought that great war would escalate into the battle of Armageddon - must not Armageddon be concurrent with the "Kingdom of God at hand"? It didn't happen. [A failed end date!!] Yet, I hate to see them derided for it, because, clearly, they were on to something that everyone else missed.
Within a few years, they came to appreciate that the following verses had been fulfilled in that year:
So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God!…..On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time. Rev 12: 9-12
Yes, it was the establishment of the Kingdom (Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ....) but it was not yet time for the end of this system of things. That would come a little later, sort of like the interval between election day and inauguration day. In the meantime...."Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time." You don't think that harmonizes well with Alan Greenspan's 1914 observations? A sense of optimism before, a sense of pessimism after. A tipping point, almost as if the reflection of some greater supernatural event.
Here are a few other quotes (I'll number them) from the 1914 collection, starting with another mentioned in Greenspan's work:
1.) "Those who have an adult's recollection and an adult's understanding of the world which preceded World War I look back upon it with a great nostalgia. There was a sense of security then which has never since existed." Benjamin J. Anderson (1886-1949), Economics and the Public Welfare
2.) We read "Historic events are often said to have 'changed everything.' In the case of the Great War [1914-1918] this is, for once, true. the war really did change everything: not just borders, not just governments and the fate of nations, but the way people have seen the world and themselves ever since. It became a kind of hole in time, leaving the postwar world permanently disconnected from everything that had come before." A World Undone, by G J Meyer, (2006)
3.) Everything would get better and better. This was the world I was born in. . . . Suddenly, unexpectedly, one morning in 1914 the whole thing came to an end.—British statesman Harold Macmillan, New York “Times,” November 23, 1980
4.) Civilization entered on a cruel and perhaps terminal illness in 1914.” Frank Peters, St. Louis “Post-Dispatch January 27, 1980
5.) In 1914 the world lost a coherence which it has not managed to recapture since. . . . This has been a time of extraordinary disorder and violence, both across national frontiers and within them. The Economist,” London, August 4, 1979
6.) The whole world really blew up about World War I and we still don’t know why. . . . Utopia was in sight. There was peace and prosperity. Then everything blew up. We’ve been in a state of suspended animation ever since. Dr. Walker Percy, “American Medical News,” November 21, 1977
7.) Thoughts and pictures come to my mind, . . . thoughts from before the year 1914 when there was real peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know fear. . . . Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914. German statesman Konrad Adenauer, 1965
8.) In 1914 the world, as it was known and accepted then, came to an end.” James Cameron (the historian, not the movie-maker) 1959
9.) Ever since 1914, everybody conscious of trends in the world has been deeply troubled by what has seemed like a fated and pre-determined march toward ever greater disaster. Many serious people have come to feel that nothing can be done to avert the plunge towards ruin. They see the human race, like the hero of a Greek tragedy, driven on by angry gods and no longer the master of fate. Bertrand Russell, New York “Times Magazine,” September 27, 1953
10.) More and more historians look back upon World War I as the great turning point of modern history, the catastrophic collapse which opened the way for others, perhaps the final one. Professor D. F. Fleming, Vanderbilt University:
Here is a list of American historians. Go through all their writings and find some more 1914 quotes. And why should you confine your search to American historians? Just because I'm in America doesn't mean you are. For that matter, why confine your search to historians? Are they the only people who think? However, you may have to confine your search to writers who are old, if not deceased. The modern generation produces only essays about i-pods, stock derivatives, and CSI.
Too, I don't want to hear any more carrying on about Jehovah's Witnesses being so focused on the end of this system of things, as if they're barking up the wrong tree. What does that verse in 2 Peter say?
For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning. (2 Pet 3:3-4)
Details here and there have been off, but the Witnesses' broader view of historical trends and the direction in which they are heading have been spot-on, as testified to by all these 1914 quotes. It's the Bible's viewpoint, (as indicated here, and here, and here) after all, and Jehovah's Witnesses are, above all, Bible students.