June 2008
The Myth of the Classless Society

Telling time

If you woke up suddenly out of stage-four sleep, with no idea in the world what time it was, which hand of the clock would you look at first?  If you are like most of the denizens of Earth who have learned how to tell time the old-fashioned way,1 your eyes would naturally seek out the short little hour hand.

In astrology, the transits that correspond to the hour hand of a clock are those of the mysterious outer planets. These are the ones that map out the premier themes that define not just our days, weeks and months, but whole eras. To know what the most distant planets in the solar system are up to is to see the overall point behind the chaos our world is in. It makes little sense to focus on speedy little transits (Mercury retrograde, for example) without first having assimilated the long, slow, overarching transits that express these background themes. That would be like waking up from a deep sleep, grabbing the clock and looking at the second hand first.

The upcoming drama between Uranus and Pluto is analogous to the hour hand of the epochal clock. Their relationship is the big news; it’s what all the astrologers are talking about. For the next seven years, the square (90-degree angle) between these two planets will be the premier reference point for humanity as the Industrial Age falls over from its own weight and crumbles into dust.

The most recent peak of this long cycle coincided with the ideological and culturalrevolutions of the 1960s. Earlier peaks corresponded with military and economic revolutions throughout human history. In the early 1930s, when Pluto and Uranus were squaring each other in Cardinal signs as they are now, the roaring twenties segued into the Great Depression and finally into a world war that ended with the first atomic bomb (Pluto) exploding (Uranus), changing forever the nature of international relations. 2

Whenever either one of this pair makes a station (goes retrograde or direct), intersects with another planetary cycle, makes an ingress (shifts signs) or is set off by some other astrological event, it’s time to pay sharp attention. Such triggers perform the function of the minute and second hands of a grandfather clock, which, when they sweep up to meet the hour hand, set off the chimes.

These quick transit triggers particularize and encapsulate the meaning of the whole overarching period. They usually give rise to dramatic events, which, when interpreted with sufficient vision, reveal important lessons for the collective. The meltdown of Wall Street as Mars aspected Pluto at the Full Moon Equinox was a recent pithy example. Such auguries can be seen as operating instructions about how to negotiate the upcoming turbulence with as much grace as we can manage.

In this light, let us consider this month’s return of Pluto into Sagittarius on 6/13.

Top to Bottom

The real political spectrum in our nation is not right to left; it’s top to bottom.
–Jim Hightower

Both Capricorn and Sagittarius – the two signs Pluto occupies this calendar year – are associated with social class. America’s self-image as the country with the most class fluidity in the world will shatter when contrasted with the economic facts coming inexorably to light. The truth is that the USA has the most limited class mobility of any industrialized nation.

This theme is being introduced against the backdrop of an extraordinary presidential election cycle, unprecedented in many ways. If we look beneath the punditry and analyze the process astrologically, we see ideas breaking through the threshold of mass consciousness that could only have come with this transit.

The seven-year period to come will feature people power (Uranus) clashing stridently with agencies of entrenched absolute control (Pluto). One can see the signs already; for example, in the burgeoning grassroots movement for election reform. Gaining currency are truly democratic impulses (Uranus) such as the denunciation of pork-barrel spending, and the call to repudiate the sanctioned bribery of the lobbyist system and replace it with the public financing of campaigns. Pluto has fifteen years’ worth of work to do to expose the rot in the current system before any such transformation will be possible, but we are hearing these ideas voiced ever more loudly and consistently.

The over-the-top hype and appalling waste of resources that characterize the pre-election period have been denounced by observers from every corner of the political spectrum. Even members of the mainstream media expressed disgust at the fatuousness of April’s Democratic “debate,” if that is the right word for a media performance of such shameless vacuity.  The unseemly sniping that has arisen between the top two Democratic contenders seems to be backfiring on their campaign strategists, as such displays cause the ideals of millions of American voters to curdle in front of their television sets. Those supporters of Clinton and Obama who may have thought they were going to hear sincere and specific discussions about anything important– such as, say, the restoration of the Constitution (through, to choose just one example, the repudiation of signing statements) — have been grievously disappointed.

As Pluto (breakdown) entered Capicorn (monetary systems) at the beginning of the year, pollsters found that the economy had edged out the war in Iraq as the most pressing issue on the electorate’s mind (see last month’s Skywatch: http://www.mothersky.com/skywatch.html). Seldom mentioned in the corporate media, however, is the fact that these two issues are joined at the hip.

Any serious consideration of this linkage would beg questions about economic priorities, about the allotment of resources in this land of plenty; and about the prevalence of poor and minority youths among the soldiers being blown to bits in Iraq (or dying, later, by their own hand) for the profits of government-embedded petro-billionaires. Such questions would open up to view the biggest non-secret in American life: that of social class.

Sagittarius governs the kinds of cultural standards that can be used to justify notions of educational, moral and social superiority. In its distorted guise, this sign renders judgments applied by the privileged classes to dismiss the undistinguished masses. Capricorn governs all hierarchical systems, together with their overt and covert routes of access to “the top”. Without consciousness, Capricorn expresses as the stratification of a society into haves and have-nots and all the subtle divisions in between.

As it straddles these two signs, what is Pluto likely to do with America’s image of itself as a classless society?

Two Americas

There can be no doubt that Dennis Kucinich was dis-invited to the Democratic debates because he gave voice to Plutonian truths about the USA’s economic priorities before the transit’s tipping point had been reached. The powers-that-be knew only too well that Kuchinich, having grown up in real poverty, might well strike a deep chord among disaffected voters with his observations about the impossibility of properly funding social programs in a permanent war economy, where more than half of federal discretionary funds go to the military. If allowed to debate, he might have said things that made the other candidates and their establishment backers very uncomfortable. Such as the fact that one-fourth of the Iraq war budget alone could pay for health care for close to 47 million uninsured people.

The late and somewhat ambivalent endorsement by John Edwards of Barack Obama in mid-May served as a reminder that Edwards, too, was excluded from the front running early on. His campaign phrase about “Two Americas” has become, if anything, more relevant than when he was a contender. The Two Americas he was referring to include one America whose chronic poverty is not an unfortunate accident but an integral feature of the economy; and another America whose privilege is established and maintained at the very highest levels by barely-hidden backroom deals and jerry-rigged law. Though we can see evidence of these Two Americas everywhere we look, what he was calling out is a majorly disturbing concept to those of us conditioned to believe the stories we learned in grade school about The World’s Greatest Democracy.

It was the verboten idea of social class that incredulous observers were grasping for when they tried to articulate their dismay at what happened in New Orleans in August 2005. It was the concept of class that was universally understood but never uttered by the pundits who were so shocked-and-appalled about the subprime mortgage debacle (which broke just as Pluto entered Capricorn at the beginning of the year). It is the notion of class that lies behind the movement for environmental justice advocacy, whose goal is to render more equitable the locations municipalities choose to locate their polluting power plants and toxic dumps.  It is the issue of class that lies behind the explosive issue of immigration.

Not unlike the unapologetic caste system of old India, where it was left to theuntouchables to cart away the offal, the excrement and the garbage, in the USA it is the undocumented immigrants who comprise the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder; toiling in fields sprayed with poisons, working in the stinking slaughterhouses, mopping floors in the high-rises after the white-collar workers have gone home.

Unnamed yet obvious as an elephant in the middle of the room, America’s class system is one of those taboos that Pluto in Capricorn will raise to the surface of national discourse like flotsam. Though it has been there since the beginning, not until now has there been an astrological imperative to bring it out into the open. The concept of class will come in handy in discussions about which segments of society will feel the pinch first whenresource depletion begins in earnest.

Pluto’s job is to expose essential truths by ripping off the covering provided by polite social fictions. Uranus’ job is to slap people awake, shattering popular complacencies in the process. One can already hear these planets sharpening the blades for their attack on the cult of the American Dream.



1 I refer here to an analog clock, of course; the kind with three hands. Given the proliferation of digital time-telling (even stand-alone clocks are becoming an anachronism) and their new status as the normative way of telling time, not only does my analogy (pun intended) fall apart, but a model deeply rooted in the human brain for the way Time itself works also falls apart.
Astrology, which is based on circles and spirals — not lines and points (binary code; pixels) – is, for all its infinite complexity, very well synopsized by an old-fashioned clock face. This ancient conceptual format, with its sweeping hands at varying speeds, parallels quite neatly the geocentric sweep of the planets as they make their way around the ecliptic. Looking at the visual of an analog clock triggers our innate awareness of the inter-cyclic universe. Digital timepieces eliminate this unconscious parallelism, thus undermining our spatial-temporal relationship to the cosmos we live in.

2 For more detail on the Uranus-Pluto square, see my article in The Mountain Astrologer Magazine (June-July 08); as well as the Skywatches from May 08, Feb 08, Nov 07 et al (linked on the homepage of this website).