Remember in The Wizard of Oz, when Toto started tugging at the curtain behind which the old scamster was pulling levers; and the big scary face intoned, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”?
The Great American Meltdown we’re watching now has much in common with that other great American tale. This time The Great and Powerful Wizard is Alan Greenspan.
Amazingly, it wasn’t that long ago that Greenspan’s every word and gesture were parsed by stockbrokers and investors worldwide for coded signals about that unfathomable Mystery of Mysteries: Free Market Capitalism. As if he were an anointed messenger from on high, for years the whole of Wall Street sat at his feet waiting for his latest pronouncement. The public was assured that what was going on was too complicated and esoteric for them to understand; but that whatever it was, it was to be unconditionally trusted. We were told that, ultimately, all would be revealed when the Great Trickle-Down came to pass. Through Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush, moguls and fat cats reassured the little people with phrases that sounded like invocations from an alchemists’ convention: the Magic of the Marketplace, they said, would correct all economic imbalances. Through its Invisible Hand all financial crises would be averted.
Now, with the huge Neptune (which governs illusion, as well as the taking-away of illusion) transit hanging above us, and the Saturn/Uranus opposition T-squaring the USA’s own Neptune-Mars square, a thirty-year scam has been exposed. Like the looming face of the Wizard of Oz, the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace has been revealed to have been a smoke-and-mirrors sham.
This turn of events calls to mind another unquestioned post-war truism, similarly taken as gospel right up until the moment when it was disproved by events: the Domino Theory of Communism. Growing up in the fifties and early sixties, we little boomers trembled in our boots at the implications of the Domino Theory. I remember in fifth grade being told by my Weekly Reader that the Free World would collapse if we didn’t support the Viet Nam War.
But then, suddenly — poof! The whole scary scenario just petered out without a whimper. Kind of an anticlimax. And oddly enough, afterwards I don’t remember hearing any mea culpas from the Domino Theory’s fire-and-brimstone prophets. Does anyone remember a single one of those hundreds of pundits and politicians stepping up to the mike and saying, “Uh, I guess we were wrong about that whole domino thing”? Maybe they were too busy forging lucrative contracts with their former mortal enemy. How convenient, for those war-promoting businessmen, that the Vietnamese turned out to be such sharp and ready trading partners for American companies.
But the early Kennedy years were a different universe. When the mid-to-late sixties arrived, the group mind crossed a definitive threshold, associated by astrologers with the Uranus-Pluto conjunction that was opposing Saturn at the time (1964-67). Millions of people, notably those of us who were then under thirty, had their consciousnesses wrenched upwards. And then there was Watergate. Public naivete would never be the same. Of course, it could be argued that the co-option of all this energy into consumerism, and the passive cynicism that developed to accompany it, were worse for the collective soul than naivete ever was.
In any case, now that the long Bush nightmare has segued into the glorious dawn of Obama, there is a new public mood of citizen engagement. The populace is more hip; ready to spot fat-cat chicanery when it’s staring us in the face. At this writing a surge in popular outrage has the American airwaves abuzz. The recipients of those AIG bonuses must be sweating in their beds at night, listening for lynch mobs on the lawn.
Since the economy started breaking down last fall, some remarkable facts and figures have been making their way into the stunned consciousnesses of taxpaying citizens. No longer tucked behind the veil of the Beltway, where the deals are made, these facts are being discussed among ordinary folks.
It was not exactly a secret that during the past few administrations, the real incomes of 90 per cent of Americans shrank smaller and smaller while a tiny percentage of plutocrats got very, very rich. It’s just that it wasn’t part of the public conversation. And now it is. More crucially, it is starting to dawn on more and more people that none of this was a fluke. The ever-widening disparity between America’s haves and have-nots was not some weird, unaccountable accident. The system was set up so that exactly this would happen.
Whether you describe what’s going down in the USA as a subprime mortgage collapse, a credit crunch, a recession, or just Capitalism Doing Its Thing, one way to get a bead on it is to compare and contrast it to its most obvious recent antecedent, the Great Depression of the 1930s. That one was agricultural and industrial-based, and hit small towns and farmers; the current one is financial sector-based, and is hitting cities and suburbs. Right when people need them the most, the life-supporting social safety nets are getting decimated. Organized labor is the weakest it’s ever been.
In a financial climate where the median US income is $50, 000 a year with wages stagnating, we’ve just watched our leaders hand after trillions of our tax money to the banks; and as a coup de grace, we hear CEOs go on the air whining that the bankers “can’t live on $150 to $180, 000.” One company head, in response to Obama’s wage-cap plan, had the supreme lack of tact to complain to the press, “Five hundred thousand is not a lot of money”.
One would think these words would be enough to provoke full-scale riots. After all, rebellions in other places in other epochs were triggered by disparities far less outrageous than these.
But most Americans see revolution as something that only happens in history books. Rebellion has already been shanghaied by Madison Avenue: it now means getting tattooed, perhaps, or wearing ripped jeans at your cousin’s wedding.
Still, a great many Americans, now waking up to the fact that the system was rigged, are mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore. Just like Peter Finch in Network. Alas, the fact that this image is already a media cliché should tip us off to what is happening here: The public’s anger has become a human interest story.
Historically, citizen outrage has always terrified the powers-that-be. Whether in Elizabethan England or in sprawling postmillennial America, there’s nothing that threatens an establishment more than civil unrest. And though there are signs that the feds have a contingency plan to cope with this messy spectacle the old-fashioned way, should it come to that (see March’s Skywatch on this website), they have at their disposal a much more efficient means of containing mobs; and it is being deployed right now. They are making Citizen Outrage the subject of the evening news.
Co-opting popular outrage through the media is far more effective than strong-arm tactics. The consolidation of the telecommunications industry was polished off during the Bush era; the 24-hour-news cycle and its vapid infotainment conventions are already in place; and Jon Stewart has an enormous youth audience primed to see everything that happens — no matter how tragic or world-altering — played for laughs (last week’s Daily Show segment on public reaction to the AIG bonuses was smirkily
entitled “Indig-NATION”). The American meta-media is the perfect instrument with which to defuse the mass energy that, in a pre-technological age, would have erupted into genuine popular rebellion.
Who knows what direction this could take if everybody turned off their televisions?
Today, on the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq, there will be demonstrations in several American cities. The theme of the protest is the discrepancy between the staggering amount of money — never mentioned in the media, despite all this talk about the federal budget — that the US spends on wars of occupation (in Iraq, still — despite the cant about “withdrawal”; in Afghanistan, where more troops are being sent, not fewer; and in Palestine, where American taxpayers pay for the slaughter [see Blogspot from 12/28/08]); and the claims that there is no money for education, health care, housing and jobs.
This Equinox is a preview of the globe-changing transit building above us in the sky (see http://www.mothersky.com/writing/27_The_Cardinal_Cross_Years_2010-12.html). The Sun is spotlighting the degree of the Grand Cross upcoming, and the Neptune conjunction is getting ready to hit the US Moon.
Transits to the Moon, which in a country’s chart represents The People, mean the native is coming home. Will Americans come home to ourselves at last? Will we click our ruby slippers together and realize that we, the ordinary folks, have had the power the whole time?