Local authors: Exploring the rhythms of change in society

Edward O’Malley has something to say.

His 40 years of international travel and residences on behalf of his career in the food-service industry have immersed him in the societies, economies and politics of more than 20 other countries. This has informed him of a diversity of circumstances and perspectives that have influenced his worldview, as well as his sense of American culture and the hope he holds for it.

All of which he has distilled into a book, “American Renewal: A new season of optimism, cooperation, and community.”

“My goal was to write a book that would inform people about politics and economics, that would help readers understand the cycles of change that define and explain our eras,” O’Malley said. “I’ve read a number of texts about cycles which are a big part of trends. Whether we’re looking at culture, economics, social mood, or foreign policy, these cycles repeat over time, and the catalyst is generational movement.”

Time, by many interpretations, is a human construct. We typically ascribe a framework around decades, 10-year periods, as if a bell goes off at midnight on the last day of the decade, introducing humanity to a new era of thinking, of doing, of being.

Yet really, it’s just the next day.

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Our society moves in social cycles, O’Malley says, characterized, not by decades, but by longer spans, among them a high period, an awakening period, an unraveling period, and a crisis period. Consider the 1950s, he says, the last of what we call the American high period, which came after the crisis period during WWII.

“Cycles are part of nature, part of our personal lives and the social fabric of our country. Just as the four seasons progress through the year and repeat, so is there a rhythmic cadence to social change in America,” he said. “The social cycle, like nature, has four seasons within it, lasting a total of 70 or 80 years.”

Each generation in America has a crucial and unique role in shaping each cycle, O’Malley says. Societies develop, change, fall into crisis, he says, and evolve into new phases of development.

“I am intrigued by how people experience and perceive the events during these cycles,” he said. “We are definitely in the middle of the next crisis period and have been since Sept. 11, 2001.”

Yet this crisis period will end, he says, and America will enter a new high period, a time of greater optimism, cooperation, and community. Generation X, Millennials, and the newly emerging Gen Z will drive this new era forward, while Baby Boomers gradually withdraw from the stage, having made their own important contribution to social change in America.

“People tend to look out to the horizon and miss the cycles, assuming that tomorrow is going to be just like today. Cycles,” he said, “are like the curve of the earth’s bend. We are so linear in our thinking, we can’t see what is past the horizon. I wrote my book because I wanted to educate people about the rhythm of repeating cycles.”

Accessible ideologies

The subject matter of O’Malley’s book may seem complex, particularly among readers who didn’t achieve a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana, followed by an MBA from Santa Clara University. Particularly when paired with decades of international agribusiness.

“My audience is people who read about current events and history, and find interest in them both,” O’Malley said. “But I wrote my book in lay terms for people who don’t have master’s degrees. It has a fluid narrative writing style that pairs historical events with pop culture.”

A lot of early readers told the author they followed his discussion and understood what he meant because weaving in the elements of popular culture within the cycle gave them a context that made sense.

It took O’Malley decades to live the experiences and develop the perspectives that inspired his book. It took him a year and a half to write it in his Seaside home, and develop a digestible manuscript into a book. Pleased with the outcome and the artistry of the cover, which conveys a sense of life cycles, he has just one regret.  Although he brought in elements and events from popular culture, he did not weave in his own personal experiences, which were the impetus for writing the book. Now, he wishes he had.

“I was living through the changes I wrote about, which took place when and where I was traveling and working,” he said. “I was in Russia, consulting. I was in Afghanistan, working with farmers on value changes and going to market. I was in the Georgia Republic right after their civil war. All of my experiences around the world inspired and helped me write my book.”

O’Malley self-published “American Renewal” in 2018 through Celtic Free Press, an imprint he established, with a nod to his Irish heritage and his belief in the freedom of speech.

He grew up in Chicago and headed to the University of Illinois to major in agricultural economics, not because he wanted to go into farming, he says, but because he wanted to go into international business. While he never tilled the earth, his career has given him a sense of both.

“American Renewal: A new season of optimism, cooperation, and community,” is available online and via River House Books at The Crossroads Carmel.

Contributed by local news sources

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