If you tried to invent something to symbolize the Aquarius conjunction that’s been dogging the US Moon for a couple of years now, you’d never come up with anything more perfect – in a perverse kind of way — than what actually happened. Up in the sky Neptune (universality) has been orbiting alongside Chiron (healing) and Jupiter (reform) in Aquarius (medicine). Boom: health care reform.
Now that Jupiter has sped ahead and left the conjunction, the reform piece seems to have dropped out: it’s just Neptune and Chiron again. As the transit wafts along into its third year, it’s time to take stock of some of the other dimensions of its symbolism.
Neptune is about illusion: it teaches that things are never as they appear. As a Buddhist truth, this is pretty unarguable. But in the absence of spiritual maturity, the fullness of the idea doesn’t translate; and we get stuck in the transit’s dark side. We become vulnerable to deception: a crippling (Chiron) of our ability to discern the real from the unreal (Neptune).
There is nothing wrong with stagecraft per se, of course. When it’s used consciously, it becomes an art form. But when stagecraft is not seen as such by its audience, negative Neptune takes over. This is what’s happened to American politics.
The agencies set up to inform misinform instead, with a mess of flashy distraction and deliberate lies. The bills that pass are the results of bought-and-paid-for politicians brokering backroom deals. The national conversation has all the dignity of a food fight in a grade school reformatory.
But these are symptoms only. As a fever can be symptomatic of a whole-body disease, the corruption and ludicrous incivility of America’s current political discourse are symptomatic of an all-encompassing social illness. To arrive at an understanding of it, we need to float up above the fray and cop a planets’-eye view.
From the moment we turn off the TV and leave the propaganda behind, we see in the health care debacle a set of meanings very different from those received wisdom has conferred upon it. First of all, we see a bill apparently rooted in GOP principles — in that it’s market-based and eliminates any chance of buying insurance from the government — that the Democrats passed and the Republicans unanimously stonewalled. This should be our first signal that there’s something fishy in how it’s being served up.
Before the propaganda went into full swing, it was clear that the majority of US voters wanted a public option. Democratic politicians – who are billed, per the script, as champions of the working stiff — appealed to this majority in their campaigns. Once elected, however, they did a little bait-and-switch number: they changed the plan to one that would subsidize the insurance companies, claiming that they lacked the votes for a public option. The fact that they still had a clear majority was empirically verifiable; but they shamelessly refused to hold a vote to prove it. The truth is, of course, that these guys had just raked in record-breaking amounts of campaign money from the insurance industry, just as their counterparts across the aisle had. Towards the end, drug companies were actually hunkered down with the Dems in unpublicized meetings, lending a hand to help the bill pass. But the public didn’t see this part on TV.
What the public did see was what they’ve been trained to expect: the ol’ two-teams-mixing-it-up trope, displayed with increasing degrees of acrimony. Like TV wrestlers breaking fake rebar over each other’s heads for the amusement of a boozed-up crowd, the Democrats and Republicans are putting on a show. Health-care, like many another high-profile issue, has been presented as a rousing, nasty, “Left-vs-Right” match. But if we want to learn anything from the Neptune (drama, masques) transit, and that of the Cardinal Cross, we need to look beyond this cartoon narrative.
No way did Republican politicians truly believe the bill was “socialistic.” They knew quite well the opposite was true. But they were pledged to the script. As for the Democrats, at the same moment that Obama was declaring the bill a victory for “ordinary working folks,” in another part of Washington the insurance execs, who had just been promised 32 million new customers, were throwing themselves victory parties.
And the show goes on.
As suggested by the Pluto-Saturn-Uranus T-square, the reasons for this charade go as deep as we dare to look. The multi-billion-dollar spectator sport that is American politics is designed to distract the public from the singular truth of US society: the one Jim Hightower was referring to when he said, “The true political spectrum in this country is not right to left but top to bottom.”
Most Americans are so brainwashed by the Right-to-Left narrative that they can’t imagine asking any other question except Should the bill have passed or not? But the partisan madness surrounding this issue, orchestrated to compel our undiluted attention, is not where the meaning lies.
The meaning lies in the fact that our politicians are funded by corporations through the lobby system, and that the media is too.
To overlook this fundamental fact in all the culture-war hooplah is to lose sight of the power of these times, as signified by the most critical of current transits, the epochal Cardinal T-square. Once sucked into the narrative of the powers-that-be, we neglect to ask the trenchant questions. This happened to the tea-party bunch, who had their script handed to them by Fox News, and obediently transformed themselves into a vicious mob. And it happened to the “Anyone-who-doesn’t-back-Obama- is-a-traitor” liberals, who likewise accepted the terms of debate that had been dictated to them.
Alas, most Americans are either too dumbed-down by the way issues are framed to ask Cui bono? or so dispirited that they zone out in angst. Thus they neglect to use the power of their minds to repudiate the nonsense, the power of their votes to throw the bums out, or the power of their numbers to demand reforms of public benefit.
But the era is demanding that we address the fact that the country is a plutocracy. It’s a fact that we’ll either be subsumed by or do something about.