We need a plan.
We need an approach that will keep us grounded in sanity and able to respond in the highest possible way. We need a perspective that’s way bigger than what passes for perspective in most modern people’s thinking. We need a model along the lines of what the Mayans had.
There’s a reason why these ancient seers are in the news just now: they were famous for being able to see the big picture. Their phenomenal calendar dealt with swaths of time so vast that it makes our own culture’s approach to Time look like the historical equivalent of sound bites.
Western astrology, too, has a way of framing the meaning of the 2012 phenomenon that is the centerpiece of the newly popularized Mayan prophecies.1 Modern sky watchers have similarly called attention to the period between now and 2022, with a peak of sorts in 2012, as encompassing a threshold between a great ending and a great new beginning.
Since it began in earnest, last fall, we have been looking at the opposition between Saturn and Uranus (2008-2010); and how it is overlapping with the tenure of Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024), the latter beginning to T-square the former this autumn. History will remember this period as having begun with the meltdown on Wall Street, which has now segued into a worldwide crisis of money and faith.
The signal event that began the calendar year (especially, but not exclusively, for Americans) was the inauguration of a new president. As sky-watchers know, the Saturn-Uranus opposition had its first geometrical peak on Nov. 4th, 2008: Election Day. Talk about mind-blowing timing. Here was the perfect match-up between a transit and an earthly event signifying its key message: Uranus (The People) and Saturn (the Establishment) at loggerheads. On the day that these two planets reached 180° of arc, Uranus triumphed in the person of a wildly popular, anti-Establishment candidate. At least, this was the scenario in Phase One. Obama’s symbolism has already changed (see MotherSky blog, Jan 21st and following).
The Saturn-Uranus opposition runs a full two years. Over the course of this period, whole new sets of messengers will be introduced, and these characters will not be so easy to peg. The forces of Uranus will be channeled through new persons and vehicles; the forces of Saturn will find new exponents. To maintain our footing we need to keep sight of the over-arching theme of the transit: the Past vs. the Future. Our job is to keep asking the essential question, Will humanity change (Uranus) its old ways (Saturn) in order to save itself? And its converse: Given that genius without implementation is just a head trip, will we be able to press into service (Saturn) the urgently relevant new ideas (Uranus) that are pouring forth from forward-looking thinkers?
As Pluto intensifies this opposition into a Grand Cross, we will be led deeper into the core meaning of Uranus: that of true radicalism, freedom, and honest-to-goddess democracy. It’s time for those public figures and groups who genuinely represent the Will of The People to step up to the plate. As cultural observers we must ward off the temptation to become complacent just because a political event we approved of took place, and we feel like we can finally exhale. In a period as volatile as this, it is folly to think that what happened in January will still be happening in March.
In the metaphysical view, a prominent figure like Obama is no more or less than a composite of the myriad projections of the populace: a many-sided being who represents the aspirations and values of the group. Granted, this is a tricky idea to wrap our minds around: we’re brought up to see our leaders as either heroes or villains, and the media aids and abets this comic-book approach. But it is too simplistic a viewpoint to give us any real understanding.
Public characters will change their roles over the course of this transit. In some instances they will even switch places.
In December 08, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was reported to have intimidated his cohorts into bailing out the banks by saying that, unless they did, riots would break out in the USA to the point of necessitating martial law.2 Over in Europe, Dominique Strauss-Kahn of the IMF was issuing the same dark warning. As Rebecca Solnit has pointed out, one suspects that what really worried these two was not the possibility of throngs in the streets demanding social change, but that some of those demands might actually be met.3
Who’d have thought that Iceland would be the first First-World state to crumble? To denizens of the rest of the world, Iceland had always seemed a good place to imagine fleeing to, if-and-when one’s own government bit the dust. But this stronghold of well-functioning capitalism has become the poster child for financial and governmental collapse in Europe, providing observers with a paradigmatic picture of the forces at work.
Iceland’s banks were deregulated in the 1990s, with the by-now predictable results of mountainous government debt, lost citizen savings and unredeemable mortgages. When desperate government ministers turned for help to the IMF – that august organization whose poisonous cocktail of deregulation, privatization and globalization caused the catastrophe in the first place — the Icelandic people raised a ruckus. They hurled eggs at the Central Bank. They threw out the old government and replaced it with an interim prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, an out lesbian with links to the Green Party.
Chalk up another victory for Uranus.
Iceland’s power-of-the-people moment is a bellwether of the situation all over the world, as the mega-mistakes of high-rollers in skyscrapers lead to repercussions at ground level. Uranus is the planet that brings discontented masses into the streets. Meanwhile, the forces of Saturn are losing no time trying to get them to go back home and turn on their televisions, where they can stay safely seated and watch their leaders sign stimulus packages in historic photo ops.
The second exact opposition between Uranus and Saturn was February 5th, a few weeks ago. We are now in Phase Two of the transit. Following the governments’ lead, the mainstream media has now backed away from the dramatic pronouncements it was making last fall, when the crisis was rearing its head. We are no longer seeing bold headlines announcing the death of capitalism.
As the entrenched power elites of the world scramble to regain their fumbled authority in the public eye, we are hearing quickly cobbled-together proposals from experts steeped in the old economic thinking. No longer looking like deer in the headlights, these worthies are now soberly issuing complicated edicts and brand new plans. Which, upon inspection, sound a lot like the old plans.
In the USA, the career Big-Money men who cut their teeth on Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and the Clinton Treasury, all of them empirically shamed but somehow still shameless, are being rewarded with high-ranking policymaking positions even as the carnage from their own disastrous economic theories plays itself out before the world’s eyes.4
Strange bedfellows are being made. In their mutual distrust of banker bailouts, radical populists in the USA are singing out in harmony with GOP reactionaries. One hears murmurings from unlikely sectors of society about officially nationalizing the banks rather than just rewarding the scoundrels who run them. As more and more people start to see Wall Street as one big Ponzi scheme, the Dow is bobbing up and down like a buoy in a storm. Facile political interpretations are being thwarted daily, as the hope-and-change president green lights retrogressive policies that had been identified with his perfidious predecessor (e.g. increased defense spending, rendition, civilian wiretapping).
The US citizenry is nowhere near as clear as it was just two months ago about whom to trust and whom to blame. The situation calls to mind Bob Dylan’s warning against speaking “too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin,” words written in the mid-60s – the last time the Saturn-Uranus opposition appeared in the sky.
Philosophical clarity, at least the kind we grew up with, is going to be difficult to maintain as Jupiter (worldviews) and Neptune (ambiguity) conjoin in the sky this year in Aquarius (see February’s Skywatch). In fact clarity in the conventional sense of the word is not a very useful goal right now. A more appropriate ambition is genuinely visionary thinking (positive Neptune): the type that is usually derided by conventional thinkers as “unrealistic”.
By this I do not mean the kind of “outside-the-box thinking” rhetorically touted by CEOs and politicians trying to hold onto their jobs. I mean authentically outside-the-box thinking, such as the idea proposed by economist David Korten to close down Wall Street.5 Or the idea to shut down private utility monopolies and replace them with public power. Or the whimsically common-sensible idea of Berkeley geoengineer Hashem Akbari to cool the surfaces of the Earth’s cities by making all rooftops and paved surfaces white.
So brilliantly simple they are almost childlike, ideas like these do not come from the corridors of power. They are coming not from the inside (Saturn) but from the outside (Uranus). They are coming not from government-sponsored think tanks but from individuals with bright ideas (Aquarius), and from broad coalitions of people en masse (Neptune). For an informed citizenry, the breakdown of old economic models portends an enormous liberation, as is happening politically in Iceland, and in the USA by means of several important grass roots movements.
Buying locally – and owning locally — is an example of this new thinking (which is in fact not new at all: Uranus governs ideas both brand new and utterly ancient). San Francisco residents, for example, have been packing city planning meetings to protest developers’ plans for big box stores. These citizens argue that not only are chain stores a blight on the character of their neighborhoods, but they don’t add up economically: all they do is export profits to corporate headquarters, while offering residents nothing but low-skilled and dead-end jobs.
Locavorism is another example of the new/ancient thinking. Now a burgeoning international phenomenon, it is one of those bright ideas that replicates its vitality by spawning other bright ideas. The idea of making locally-grown food the cornerstone of one’s diet is quietly radical. A lifestyle change with immense implications, it supports small famers, encourages the consumption of fresher food, and obviates polluting transportation and distribution networks.6
Indeed, the benefits of ideas like this are so easy to see that it provokes the question: why are such policies not already in place? Why have these and similar means of achieving a healthy, well-functioning society not been deployed before now?
The answer would be as obvious as salt were we not so indoctrinated by normative thinking that we could not see it. To wit: Capitalism disdains simple, practical solutions to problems of wide social benefit because it has never been about wide social benefit. Even in theory, its focus has never been the welfare of ordinary people. Its focus is the ownership class, into whose hands it seeks to put as much of the wider group’s wealth as possible. In these terms capitalism has been a roaring success.
Pluto (forbidden subjects) in America’s 2nd house (money) has managed to keep the subject of capitalism off-limits to rational discussion. The fact that red-baiting is still the most potent means of slinging political mud bears witness to this fact. For the same reasons that we don’t mention the imminent death of an aging parent at a dinner party, no American public figure dares to challenge capitalism. As a society we have censored any and all serious debate of what is, when you think about it, a rather boring arena of human experience: just a program our culture has chosen to manage its money.
Meanwhile, the program is breaking down. Modern capitalism is reeling crazily out of control. The USA is approaching its Pluto Return (2022), the country’s biggest challenge yet to this most taboo of all cultural taboos. It is time to release back into the public conversation those blacklisted thinkers who have dared to question the taken-for-granted ways we run the economy. It is time to lucidly reconsider the whole system; if not to get rid of it, then at least to know what to expect if we retain it.
To be continued.
1 A discussion of the correlations between these ancient traditions and current astrological thinking can be found in my lecture at the San Francisco Tse Chen Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center and in my radio interview with Conscious Media Network(scroll to March 08).
2 It didn’t attract much attention, but a bill was introduced in January 2009 called The National Emergency Centers Establishment Act, which calls for six FEMA camps to be set up on US military bases. Purportedly to contain persons “dislocated by an emergency or disaster,” they would seem to be designed to detain large groups of people. Given the riots in Greece and the successful uprising in Iceland, one cannot help but suspect the government of thinking up practical ways to round us up. One is reminded of the federal deployment last fall of US troops within US borders, for the first time since Reconstruction; in case help should be needed “with civil unrest and crowd control.”
4 American taxpayers are noticing that the great gobs of cash handed over to these guys are not having the effect they were supposed to have. Instead of opening up lending, banks are using the windfall to pay down their own debt and acquire each other.
5 Thanks to astrologer Larry Ely for this reference. Korten is the author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning. His argument is that Wall Street steals from the real economy, existing on wealth generated from the populace; and that those few operations it performs that do have use-value could be done better by other institutions.
6 According to received wisdom, organic local food is by definition prohibitively expensive. But one suspects that proponents of this idea have failed to think it through, since it can only lead to the perverse conclusion that healthy eating must be a prerogative of the rich.
While it is true that in the short run the changeover from a wasteful, polluting distribution system will cause prices to rise, barring retailer greed, prices would eventually go down. Consider the case of DeLessio’s Deli In San Francisco, which started using all-organic ingredients in its take-out food. Although prices went up at first, they’ve since gone down, as the owners saved money buying from local farms and passed their savings along to consumers.