AMERICA IN TRANSITION, JUNE 2008
by Jessica Murray
We create our own reality.
Do these words make you roll your eyes just a little bit? Even though you believe them? Over the past couple of decades, this truism has been bandied about so much that it has lost most of its stinging magic. But if we were to truly consider its implications, it would change our lives in revolutionary ways. In the case of the planet Mars, it would inspire us to reconsider violence, blaming and anger.
The deck of the Phoenix lander on Mars, May 2008 (NASA)
In our last America in Transition we suggested that although Mars has long been considered the bad boy of the birth chart, anger is not the be-all-and-end-all of what Mars means, nor are accidents, sickness and aggression. We proposed that the energy symbolized by this planet is essentially healthy: in its undistorted form, Mars is no more or less than individuated life force rearing its head, champing at the bit. Mars says, This is who I am and this is what I want.
If persons and groups create their own reality, it follows that the planets are reflections of our consciousness. If a transit shows up in a destructive way, it is so because we are using it that way. We ended our discussion last month with the question, When Americans look into the mirror of Mars, what do they see?
Right now, they see the war in Iraq.
Mars and war
Almost as much ink has been spilled writing about this abominable war as blood has been spilled in the waging of it, so a few relevant points will suffice here.
Americans were at first told that the war would pay for itself. (1) Now the economist Joseph Stiglitz tells us that the war will cost taxpayers three trillion dollars; although to come up with any final figure would seem misleadingly optimistic, since it is clear that the powers-that-be in Washington—no matter who wins the election—have no intention of leaving the occupied region once they secure their foothold. They don’t call those sixteen permanent US bases “permanent” for nothing. (2)
Even if the ordinary American taxpayer were able to fathom the amount of money three trillion dollars is (this writer gave up trying after hearing that if you taped that many dollar bills end to end they’d reach to the Moon and back), it is doubtful that he could fully absorb the fact that this money, which could be used to fund social security for the next 50 years, is instead being used to fund death and ruination. It’s not only that it’s too tragic; it’s also that it’s too absurd. The US taxpayer risks cognitive dissonance hearing that he is bankrolling the infliction by his government of terrible suffering (3) on a mass scale; at the very same time that social programs for the needy in his community are being deemed too expensive and must be eliminated—including, with crushing irony, those programs set up to help the veterans who come home broken in body, mind and soul after following their government’s orders. (4)
America’s upside-down priorities have entered the realm of surrealism. To see this scenario as the New Normal, as our government would have us do, is crazy-making.
It is Mars gone mad.
Mars transits to the US chart
The Spring Equinox was on a Full Moon this year, and it formed a T-square with Pluto. This augured that the three months that followed would feature explosive breakdown. By the time of the vernal threshold, Mars was back in Cancer (real estate) and was opposing Pluto for a second round, in Capricorn (monetary systems).
It was then that the sub-prime mortgage debacle moved into its next phase: the bailout of bloated bankers by the Fed. Citizen outrage started to broaden and deepen as Americans bore witness to the egregious degree of self-interest (Mars run amok) at the heart of the country’s agencies of material power (Pluto in the US 2nd house). Stumbling bloviations ensued from Washington about why punch-drunk fund managers should be able to walk away scot-free—and with giant severance packages, to boot—from the fiscal mess they themselves had created; while elsewhere in the socioeconomic strata homeowners were being evicted, teachers were getting pink slips and homeless shelters were shutting their doors. Weren’t these sort of exactly the types of scenarios that caused the French Revolution?
Mars continued its way through the seventh house of the USA chart and into the eighth house of banking (5),where it will stay until late June. These transits confirm with astounding precision the factors involved in the current American financial crisis, including the outrage (Mars) that the American public feels percolating within its collective breast. From the point of view of group psychology, one senses the country is nearing a tipping point of anger. One wonders what this great nation of spenders will refuse, at long last, to pay for.
With war coverage having dropped to less than a fifth of what it was even a year ago, the typical American may find the prospect of a scorched, ruined Iraq—a third of its citizens killed or exiled with her hard-earned taxes—less infuriating than the idea of bailing out the gaggle of white collar thieves whose folly has given the country another shove towards the economic precipice.
Soldiers vs. warriors
There is something to be said for righteous anger in the face of extravagant wrongdoing such as this. As a sign of socio-political vitality and alertness, outrage would be the first response we would expect from a fully awake citizenry. But when we back up from the worldly level and consider the situation transpersonally, we remember that anger, however justified, is only a transitional expression of Mars. While not denying the reality of appropriate rage, the spiritual seeker does not want to stay there.
To use Mars to advance our consciousness, engaged Americans must acknowledge the strong feelings—energizing but uncomfortable—that arise in response to the inhumanities happening on our watch; recognize our aliveness in the feeling of such feelings; and then consider how this force might manifest were it used with heightened awareness. At this level of subtlety we find the warrior.
Astrology has long associated Mars with soldiers. This category includes what we might call the bad soldiers, the so-called “bad apples” who, at Mai Lai and Haditha et al, committed what received wisdom selectively deems atrocities; and the “good soldiers,” whose actions remain safely within the confines of the status quo’s notion of patriotic service. Both categories undermine the sublime potential of Mars.
To raise this planetary function to the level of which it is capable we must dispense with the soldier and bring in the warrior. Each of us has a warrior within us; and each group entity has the capacity to use its soldiers as warriors instead. The warrior is a figure of courage; not a factotum with a gun.
We must demand more of this part of our psyche. For too long Mars has been seen, at best, as a bundle of clumsy, dangerous volatility; and at worst as the cause of terrible harm. Our goal is to liberate the red planet from its stereotype. In our next America in Transition we will consider how the warrior can be coaxed forth from the natal chart, for the times we live in require his presence. Seeing Mars in his true form will give us access to the inborn bravery that allows each of us to do what must be done.
1 Not too long ago (though apparently too long ago to have meaning for many Americans ) the early estimate of fifty billion dollars was scoffed at by the White House. Larry Lindsey, Assistant to the President on Economic Policy, was forced to resign in 2002 after putting the number at an unheard-of 200 billion. Six years later, we hear the war is costing ten billion dollars a month.
2 The embassy in Iraq is the largest in the world. Despite the sound bites one hears from the candidates about troop withdrawal, neither political party is saying a word about the 50,000 to 100,000 Americans who will not go home with the soldiers. These personnel are to be embedded into the infamous Iraqi Interior Ministry. Though their official designation may shift—from “military” to “paramilitary”, or even to the risibly euphemistic label “diplomatic advisers””—Mars by any other name is still Mars.
3 Nothing calls to mind the iconic American battle cry, “No taxation without representation” more than the fact that, despite being repulsed en masse by the idea of torture, American taxpayers are paying for Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Camp Bondesteel in Kosovo and other torture camps around the world whose names and locations remain classified. Though we are compelled by law to pay our taxes, financing these atrocities takes a toll our soul-health. S.T. Bindoff, the British historian, wrote in 1950 that “the extortion of evidence by the infliction of intolerable pain is a barbarism whose recrudescence in our own day has not rendered it less revolting to humane minds, and all who touch it are defiled.”
4 Under the USA’s extended Mars return, stop-loss deployment entered the American lexicon, raising the consciousness of millions of American civilians about the brutal reality of a soldier’s experience. The stop-loss phenomenon expresses the symbolism of the transit like an arrow to the bulls-eye: back-and-forth (Gemini) military action (Mars). Suddenly pushed into the forefront of national discourse was a theme that began with last year’s revelation of the scandalous conditions wounded vets suffer at Walter Reed Hospital (slated for reconstruction by none other than —wait for it—Halliburton). We are now seeing a sudden flurry of studies coming out about the treatment of veterans: one reports that GIs who committed suicide, or tried to, jumped six-fold from 2002 to 2007; another that one in 5 soldiers returning with symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome is never referred by government physicians for further help. (As for Iraqi soldiers wounded in the service of their country, studies are in short supply. These men can’t turn to Iraqi military hospitals: there aren’t any.)
5 It would be shortsighted to lay the current burgeoning fiscal crisis exclusively at the feet of the Bush crowd. Under Bill Clinton, Greenspan and then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin got rid of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which was designed to prevent the kind of rampant speculation that led to Great Depression. Deregulation was all the rage in the ‘90s and became accepted in more and more industries. (Ed. note: read more on Glass-Steagall here.)