A few years back, I came upon a book titled
The Next 100 Years, a Forecast for the 21st Century written by George Friedman, the chief
intelligence officer and founder of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (aka "Stratfor").
I won't get into a detailed discussion about the significance of the
organization (aside from mentioning its nickname "the shadow CIA"),
but the book is worth looking into if you have the bug for interesting
perspectives and the forecasting prowess of the likes of Mr. Friedman.
First, let me say that were it not for Mr. Friedman's reputation, I
would dismiss this book as an absurd reflection. However, given who he
is and what he does for a living, Friedman shows some guts with this attempt
to look into our future, beyond our iPads and doo-dads, and loan us a
tiny bit of his imagination.
Most of the book is dedicated to international developments that are likely
to happen within the next century. But then he shifts to sociographics
- more relevant to us, about marriage and family life.
Friedman takes the reader on a brief journey through history, the shift
in marriage, childbearing, and
divorce over the past two hundred years. For instance, he observes that 200 years
ago, life expectancy was lower, people married younger and not only did
women have children in their teens, they kept trying to produce children
for many years on. Now that we've bounded past the age of industry
and into the age of information, a college education is considered a minimum
for social and economic success and graduate school (or certification)
is prerequisite for professional the lifestyle. The result, Friedman observes,
marriage has shifted dramatically, poignantly with couples marrying much
later in life and having children much later still – if at all.
This brings me to a few paragraphs that really stopped me from stirring
This brings us to a place where marriages are not held together by need
as much as by love. The problem with love is that it can be fickle. It
comes and goes. If people stay married only for emotional reasons, there
will inevitably be more divorce. The decline of economic necessity removes
a power stabilizing force in marriage. Love may endure, and frequently
does, but by itself it is less powerful than when linked to economic necessity.
And this gem:
There is now a period built into life patterns where people are going to
be sexually active but not yet able to support themselves financially.
There is also a period in which they can support themselves and are sexually
active, but choose not to reproduce. The entire pattern of traditional
life is collapsing, and no clear alternative patterns are emerging yet.
Cohabitation used to be linked to formal, legal marriage, but the two
are now completely decoupled. Even reproduction is being uncoupled from
marriage, and perhaps even from cohabitation. Longer life, the decline
in fertility rates, and the additional years of education have all contributed
to the dissolution of previous life and social patterns.
More things to make you go, "Hmmmm."