Under the Oriental lunar calendar, the Year of the Monkey begins with the new moon on February 8, 2016 and lasts until January 27, 2017. Different cultures have slightly different interpretations of the various years, and in this post I will refer primarily to the so-called “Chinese zodiac.”
Most people know that the years in the Chinese zodiac cycle through twelve different animals. Additionally, each of those animal years cycle through affinities to the five elements – fire, earth, metal, water and wood. This will be the Year of the Fire Monkey, which occurs every 60 years.
I will be making some predictions as to what may occur during the next year, but I am not holding myself out as having extraordinary psychic powers. I am no more or no less psychic than you are – and that is true whether you are Suzy Skeptic who does not believe in the existence of anything “paranormal” or you are the world’s top psychic or astrologer (whomever that may be be at the moment).
The approach here is to assume that there are historical cycles such as those recognized by the Chinese zodiac, and then look at what has occurred in previous Monkey years. With that historical perspective, we should be able to extrapolate and predict what may occur during the next few months.
Before getting into that, let me say that the Year of the Sheep or Goat, which is thankfully coming to a close, has been a rough one. For the past several weeks I have been dealing with some personal crises that have limited my research and writing. Consequently, this year’s discussion is going to be more brief and cursory than have those in past years.
There is a children’s rhyme that begins: “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed/One fell off and bumped his head/Called for the doctor and the doctor said/’No more monkeys jumping on the bed.'” Monkey years are often like that. Acting on irrational exuberance without sound planning is the order of the day. Things may go wrong and need to be fixed, but in most cases, it is going to be done after the fact.
Buddhists and other meditators tell us about the “monkey mind” that keeps us from controlling our thoughts. While that unsettled way of thinking is with us too much of the time, it will be even more prevalent during the coming year.
The best advice would be to recognize these trends and try to quiet the monkey mind and act rationally before making any important decisions. That may not be possible for many of us over the next 12 months, however.
As the new lunar year is ready to begin, the American news media is focusing on the presidential campaign and the distressing state of the stock market/economy. Let us begin by looking at those topics.
The last Year of the Fire Monkey was 1956. The presidential elections held in Monkey years since then have seen the following results.
1956: Dwight Eisenhower (R) soundly defeated Adlai Stevenson (D).
1968: Richard Nixon (R) won, though he received less than 50% of the popular vote. The majority of the voted was divided between Hubert Humphrey( D) and upstart third-party candidate, George Wallace.
1980: Ronald Reagan (R) won in a landslide over Jimmy Carter (D) and John Anderson, who mounted an ineffective third-party campaign.
1992: Bill Clinton (D) defeated George H. W. Bush (R) and businessman turned candidate Ross Perot.
2004: George W. Bush (R) squeaked out a narrow victory over John Kerry (D).
Thus, the Republicans have been in control of the Monkey year elections. The single exception was Clinton’s victory in 1992 over an unpopular incumbent. This year, we have another Clinton, Hillary, seeking the Democratic nomination. The question becomes whether she can follow in her husband’s footsteps and reverse the general Republican advantage.
Hillary Clinton was born in the Year of the Fire Pig. The coming year should be a lucky one for her, with an emphasis on increased wealth and fame. Many Fire Pigs, though, will feel that they are entering a lonely period, isolated from friends and supporters. Hillary does not seem to have the charisma and people skills that were so pronounced in her husband, Bill; and that lack could well be her undoing in the upcoming election.
The leading Republican candidate at the moment is Donald Trump, who was born in the Year of the Fire Dog, and should also have a lucky year. Old dogs like him do tend to get caught up in the exuberance of the Monkey, though. They see a rabbit or a squirrel and immediately want to chase it. However, their eyesight is not what it used to be, and it is easy to mistake a skunk or a porcupine for an innocent squirrel. Many dogs, and perhaps Trump, will be running home with their tails between their legs in need of a tomato juice bath or a painful session with tweezers.
It is much too early to say who the final candidates for president will be. The Republicans seem to have the edge based on history, but before it is over there could be a third-party candidate to upset the mix.
Turning to the stock market, there have been many news stories telling us that the Year of the Sheep is ending on a terrible note, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average posting its worst January result ever. We are told that such a beginning of the calendar year portends even worse results to come. To evaluate that analysis, we need to look at how the the market has fared in past Monkey years. The following table shows the market results for January and then the entire calendar year for the most recent Monkey years (the January results coming mostly in Sheep years, as they have in 2016):
January Entire Year
1956: -2.1% +8.8%
1968: -5.5% +4.3%
1980: +4.4% +14.9%
1992: +1.7% +4.2%
2004: +0.3% +3.1%
2016: -5.5% ???
While we all know that in the investment world “past performance does not guarantee future results,” history points to Monkey years as being good ones for stocks. This year, there may be quite a bit of volatility until the Fall, when the market should turn positive for most of the rest of the year.
Speaking of history, we will now look at some of events that have occurred during recent Monkey years.
Let me begin the consideration of 1956 by quoting a verse from E. E. Cummings’ poem, “Thanksgiving (1956)”:
“be quiet little hungary
and do as you are bid
a good kind bear is angary
we fear for the quo pro quid”
Life was pretty good in the United States back in 1956. Elvis Presley had his first hit with “Heartbreak Hotel.” Mickey Mantle won baseball’s triple crown and the Yankees took the World Series in seven games behind Don Larsen’s perfect game. In other parts of the world, though, things were less peaceful and many people were suffering from the aftermath of various forms of colonialism and oppression. The Cummings poem was written to criticize the failure of the U. S. to support Hungary and other Eastern European countries in their attempts to become free of control by the Soviet Union. When the Americans chose not to intervene, the freedom movements were violently suppressed with the Soviets extending their influence and increasing the tensions of the Cold War. 1956 was also the year of the pandemic known as the Asian Flu, and the year that the first Islamic state, Pakistan, was established. In the Middle East, Egypt claimed to nationalize the Suez Canal precipitating a crisis that ended with Israel invading and capturing the Sinai as Britain and France conducted bombing raids on Egypt.
Times were not so good in the USA during the next Monkey Year, 1968. The focus then was on racial injustice and civil rights and on the continuing war in Vietnam. There were protests and violence in the streets, most prominently at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and what some had considered as a “just” war in Southeast Asia was marred by by the My Lai massacre. Progress was made on some fronts as Congress passed both the Civil Rights Act and the Gun Control Act of 1968. Tensions flared again in Eastern Europe. During the so-called “Prague Spring,” Czechoslovakia attempted to gain autonomy from the Soviet Union, a move that was crushed by an invading Soviet army. The musical Hair, which is still seen as daring, innovative and controversial, opened that year. The Catholic Church issued the encyclical letter, “Humanae Vitae.” Pierre Trudeau became the prime minister of Canada.
The next Monkey year was 1980. Much of the news that year centered on the extended crisis in which Iranians held American hostages in the American embassy in Tehran. They were released only after Jimmy Carter was defeated in his bid to be re-elected president. Eastern Europe was still a volatile area as Poland officially recognized the Solidarity movement and began moving away from the influence of the Soviet Union. The Soviets were also involved in a ground war in Afghanistan which caused the United States to boycott he Summer Olympics held in Moscow. That Spring, Mt. St. Helens erupted in Washington state. In Canada, Pierre Trudeau was once again chosen as prime minister after having been out of office for several years.
That brings us to 1992, another year in which Eastern Europe was in the spotlight. United Nations peacekeepers were sent into the former Yugoslavia, but violent ethnic battles continued in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. Tensions were also high as the Russian majority in Crimea declared independence from the rest of Ukraine. As an illustration that all civil rights matters had not been resolved back in 1968, racially motivated rioting occurred in several cities, with the most serious being in Los Angeles. It was also the year in which the Catechism of the Catholic Church was officially adopted.
The most recent Year of the Monkey was 2004. Once again, Eastern Europe was featured through increased violence in Kosovo and the beginning of the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine. The European Union added 10 member states that year, including several former Soviet satellites such as Poland. The Republican Convention was marred by several demonstrations and the arrest of more than 1,800 protestors. There were a number of terrorist attacks around the world, but the largest tragedies occurred without terrorism. More than 400 people were killed in a supermarket fire in Paraguay; a nightclub fire in Argentina left some 200 dead; and more than 250 people were trampled to death in a stampede during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia. During the year, the Vatican became a permanent (non-voting) member of the United Nations.
With that background, we should be able to project some of the things that may influence our lives over the next year. In international affairs, it seems that the focal points should be Russia and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Southeast and South Asia. Russia will continue to rebuild its influence among its former satellite states, and the situation in Ukraine has not been resolved. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq will remain volatile as Arab-Israeli tensions continue to be unresolved and Iran attempts to extend its influence in neighboring countries. Vietnam’s economy should grow, while oppressed minorities seek to assert their human rights in places like Burma and Cambodia. China will continue to make territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Although they were not specifically mentioned in the discussion above, Monkey years have seen a disproportionate number of airline, shipping and mining disasters. We can expect more such man-made tragedies in the coming months. We might also expect problems relating to the food supply, especially with respect to food coming from China. Influenza and other viral diseases could be especially serious this year.
As we begin the Year of the Monkey, Pierre Trudeau’s son, Justin, is serving as prime minister of Canada. It seems that he may have an increasingly prominent role on the world stage over the next few months.
The Catholic Church should experience cultural and theological changes and evolution based on the beliefs and leadership of Pope Francis. Islam will also be in the spotlight, both for religious and secular matters.
One problem with making forecasts based on news and traditional approaches to history is that it tends to emphasize the negative. In general, however, Monkey years are more fun and exciting than many others. The keyword for the year is probably “surprise.” One never knows what is going to happen next. Some of it will bring problems, but it can also bring happiness and vibrant new ideas. This should be a good year for the arts and for technology in areas other than electronics.
The Chinese believe that the year of the Monkey is a good one in which to be born, so we may expect a mini population explosion, especially in light of China loosening its one child policy.
During this coming year, 4 and 9 are considered to be lucky numbers, while 2 and 7 are seen as unlucky. The best colors should be gold, blue and white, while red and pink are to be avoided.
Enjoy yourself this year, everybody. Just be careful not to get too carried away. It may sometimes be hard to think before you act, though it is important that you do so.
Gong xi fa cai!, as they say in Mandarin. Happy New Year!