Though Pluto will be tending to the last flickers of the Sagittarian flame until late 2008, the portents of its entry into Capricorn have been astonishingly obvious since it made the big crossing on January 25th.1 And we would expect no less.
Two cycles ago when Pluto was in this sign, Europe was in the throes of the Protestant Reformation, ushering in the storied Protestant Work Ethic. Pluto’s next foray into Capricorn brought us the Industrial Revolution. Not so revolutionary any more, industrial structures and economic models are now rotting like boarded-up factories in the Rust Belt.
The next fifteen years will similarly redefine the basic conceptual infrastructures by which societies glue themselves together: governments and economic systems.
“Naturally, the common people don’t want war, but … it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”– Hermann Goering, 1946, speaking at his Nuremberg trial
Capricorn governs executive authority; Pluto, absolute power. The concept of fascism matches this pairing quite exactly; so let us look a little more closely at it. Aside from its usefulness in the all-American sport of political name-calling, what is fascism, really? In the vernacular, the meaning of the term lost its precision after WWII, and during the sixties it became a cliché. In contemporary American culture, its invocation now calls up movie images of long-dead villains like Mussolini and Hitler. Hearing a left-wing activist use the term to describe America, the typical American may consider it a tasteless exaggeration; and many of us consider Rush Limbaugh’s use of the term to bash liberals as just plain silly.
Similarly, though it is true that one hears the phrase “Big Brother” a lot recently – a reference to George Orwell’s dystopic novel 1984 — that phrase still bears the association in most people’s minds of science fiction, as does the book itself. For a serious social critic to talk about fascism has had the feeling of a warning, not of a reality.
Pluto in Capricorn will change the way people think of fascism. It will acquire a new relevance, as a way of looking at government that will be used to assess what is going on here and now. For a while, no doubt, the concept of fascism will continue to be dismissed as hyperbole; certainly the state-run medias across the world will have a large stake in people seeing fascism as an anachronism. But it won’t work, because this transit is about exposing the corruption of absolute power in governments wherever it exists. Trying to contain a Plutonian process is futile.
By way of analogy, consider how the immensely wealthy Catholic Church at first tried to hide the pedophile priest scandal — paying out hush money and shuttling offending clerics from one parish to another – when Pluto was in Sagittarius (religion). It didn’t work. Their efforts could not cover up the rot. No power on Earth can stop a decaying entity from falling apart. And the first phase of the process of putrefaction is the stink that catches people’s attention.
To identify as democracies nations whose leaders are determined by the popular vote only in theory, not in fact (e.g. India, the USA) is like spraying room deoderizer on a garbage can. Pluto will have none of this. In Capricorn it will push the issue of governmental systems to the fore, compelling the world’s citizenries to use different political models in order to ask questions – whether they want to or not – about the status quos in their countries.
To get a jump on the lessons ahead, let us consider the textbook delineation of the word/concept fascism. There are thirteen facets that tend to accrue universally to such regimes:
1 heightened nationalism
2 disdain for the human rights
3 creating “enemies” to unify the populace
4 supremacy of the military
5 exaggerated patriarchal values with accompanying sexism
6 controlled media
7 religion merged with government
8 corporate power protected
9 labor rights suppressed
10 disdain for intellectuals and artists
11 obsession with crimes, penal instruments, “corrective” institutions
12 cronyism at the highest levels
13 fraudulent elections.
Before its tenure in Capricorn is over, the USA will experience its first Pluto Return. The country’s relationship with money will be on the table as never before2. We are feeling the pre-quake tremors of this now with the tanking of the housing and lender industries, capped off by Washington’s banker-bail-out scandal. And it really was a scandal; Pluto always involves very naughty shenanigans on a big scale.
Even the American populace, distracted by nonstop election-year hype and harried by worries about never-ending war, was scandalized to hear that these bankers and fund managers, operating without the barest shred of government restraint, had been allowed to betray investors with impunity without worrying themselves about such details as national solvency. A calamity in the making for decades, the die was cast under Bill Clinton, who permitted the banks, brokers and insurance companies to merge. The resulting mess was then allowed to blossom into full disssaster mode by good ol’ Dubya, who appointed corporate cronies to the agencies assigned to (not) keep an eye on what the big boys were up to. The their chagrin, ordinary Americans are beginning to see that they are getting no such bail-out for their financial problems: their credit card bill with its thirty per cent interest rate contrasts mightily with the two per cent the Fed will charge the banks. Meanwhile, the average Joe’s ability to write off bad debts has become much more difficult and filing for bankruptcy has become much more expensive.
Given the modern world economy, nothing that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (i.e. Washington).3 Since mid-March, the world’s most desperate nations – those in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia – have seen their food prices double.4 The timing on this one was stunning: Wall Street’s meltdown at the Vernal Equinox occurred when a Pluto-Mars opposition met up with the Full Moon to form a Grand Cross in the sky.
Almost overnight, the USA’s disastrous foreign trade and domestic budget deficits shifted from being the dangerous knowledge of academics and Washington insiders to being discussed openly in the mainstream media. The Olympic torch run – a PR fiasco from China’s point of view – opened the public’s eyes to Sino-American relations in a new way, begging disturbing questions about America’s three-trillion-dollar debt, most of which is owed to that great new superpower the West can no longer ignore.
The USA Pluto Return
In the years leading up to the exact Pluto return in 2022, we will see a different type of culture wars than we saw when Pluto was in Sagittarius (religion, morality). This time the polarizing will be around nuts-and-bolts material matters. A newly minted anti-consumer movement is likely to split violently from the broken-down materialist status quo. Pluto works to subject a certain set of conditions first to intense scrutiny and then to attack, as it burrows like a ferret into the issues governed by the sign through which it is transiting. The Old Materialism, together with its abuses and abusers, will have nowhere to hide.
In the times ahead we will need more than ever to keep the big picture in mind. Pluto’s only purpose in destroying old forms is to usher in new forms; so we should keep an eye out for the New Materialism that will begin to arise. Those who are destined to be midwives of this epochal rebirth will be inspired by the idea – very ancient, yet brand new — of valuing matter5 as sacred.
Through this lens, things of worth would be assessed in an utterly novel way. The cultural systems that underlie earning, purchasing and saving would be handled very differently from the way they have been since the USA was born. A re-visioned economy would be one that sees resources not as hoarded personal valuables that reflect the ego and power of their owner, but as physical systems that support the survival of the denizens of Earth. Such a change would, of course, be nothing less than transformational; but then, transformation is what we expect of Pluto. To get a bead on the profound significance of this transit, consider that Americans are to witness the slowest-moving planet in the sky 6 make a return to its natal position; a rare astronomical drama that augurs a confrontation with the law of evolution at its deepest level. The nation will be asked to evolve or die.
Human nature being what it is, a general backlash against the new vision will be inevitable. We may expect extreme last-minute policies to protect the uber-rich, with the forces of globalization and privatization moving into a penultimate phase of over-the-top power plays. The patriarchs (Capricorn) at the very top of corrupt (Pluto) governments worldwide, such as the kings of K Street in Washington DC, and companies like Halliburton and Enron that have gotten used to having the keys to the US Treasury handed to them, will presumably not let the old system go without a fight.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it,” said Upton Sinclair. Add to this “salary” the long-established wielding of worldly power, and it is easy to see the struggles that could arise. To keep our perspective amidst the scenarios ahead we will need to use Universal Law as a role model, as the Christians use Jesus. What would Nature do? The cosmos accepts birth and death throes without a qualm, as equal and integral parts of life.
1 For more on the Pluto-in-Capricorn years, see my article, and that of Maurice Levanant (last of an excellent three-part series) in the June-July issue of The Mountain Astrologer Magazine.
2 Literally, never before: the USA is too young to have ever experienced a Pluto Return. The cycle takes an average of 250 years and the country hasn’t been around that long.
3 See James Surowiecki in The New Yorker (4/21/08).
4 The stage was set for the current crisis long before Washington’s equinoctial folly. World food shortages, among other resource scarcities, are part and parcel of globalization. The World Bank estimates that over the past three years the price of rice has risen 83%.
5 In the US chart, Pluto resides in the second house of material possessions.
6 Not counting Eris, the newest “dwarf planet”, whose cycle of 557 years dwarfs that of Pluto.