The Only Cycles I Know are Vicious

It occurred to me recently that the only time I hear the word “cycles” these days it’s preceded by the  word “vicious.”

Such an odd way to have a word redefined, isn’t it? I used to think of “cycles” being seasonal temperatures, maybe economic trends like

Richmond Re-Cycles - My Favorite Bike Shop in RVA

Richmond Re-Cycles - My Favorite Bike Shop in RVA

supply and demand, or how the “cool” restaurant gets replaced every few months. I even used to associate it with the plethora of bikers that inhabit RVA.

But now, the only time I hear the word “cycles” it refers to how economic pressure begets poverty which in turn creates violence and theft which causes businesses to leave and tourism to drop and an economic situation that gets worse by the month. When I talk with business owners or school directors who live in the neighborhoods where I work, they describe the history of prosperity and the marked decline. It seems that everyone can remember when things were good, and at which moment they turned bad.

I usually comment, “Yes, I’ve seen that happen in other places, and the problems continue to get worse.” They respond, “Oh yes, it’s a vicious cycle.”


  • given or readily disposed to evil
  • reprehensible; blameworthy; wrong;
  • spiteful; malicious
  • unpleasantly severe

I used to think that word was reserved for dogs who had been trained to protect their owner. Once an intruder entered, the dogs would with little professional cordiality would ask them to leave. Or maybe a football team that disregarded the rules and intentionally tried to hurt the other team. Probably the best reference is a disease that wreaks havoc on the human body and an innocent population.

I suppose those are all good metaphors for the way poverty can tear up and destroy a community and leave it so barren and charred that it becomes nearly impossible for it to climb out of its own pit of despair save for some external force.

A goal in my life is to know better “cycles.”

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