Mars Direct: Our New Micro Environment

Dear Friend and Reader:

Mars has been direct for a little more than a week. This is describing a new phase of astrological life, outside the somewhat contained experience of Mars retrograde from April 17 through June 29.

The Sun as it would appear from Mars, depicted once every 30 Martian days. This is called an analemma, though because it’s on Mars, it’s simulated by artist Dennis Mamanna.

Inner planet retrogrades can feel like bubbles of time. What happens inside the bubble tends to stay there for a while. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we enter the bubble and get a sample of a special sub-environment that’s usually less accessible but opens up like an enchantment.

Mars is retrograde just 10% of the time, for about 72 days out of every two years. It’s like a review and reset for Mars, which you can visualize as soaking in and charging up on the energy of the sign where it stationed direct, which was (and is) Scorpio this time.

Many people were not so enchanted by Mars retrograde, however; it was tense, it seemed to never end, and it went spelunking directly into taboo territory. But I would propose that it was still a helpful investigation for most, even if it was a bit rough. Then it ended.

Yet the feelings, revelations and lessons tend to come out gradually and in a more refined form in the months after the retrograde ends. That’s because Mars has to re-cross the degrees where it was retrograde, which it will do well into August. So we get to live out the process in slow motion — through the direct (rather than retrograde) motion.

Since Mars is such a vital planet (directly representing vitality), and since its themes are so prominent right now, it’s worth keeping the book open. Mars is the planet that represents seeking identity. If Aries is the sign of I Am, then Mars, its ruling planet, is the agent of self-discovery. Remember that Mars (the ruler of Aries) and Ares (the Greek version of Mars), are gods of war. The ancients left us with an association between identity and violence.

Desire in the style of Scorpio. What is better: this, or shooting someone? There is a correct answer to that question, though it’s somewhat naughty.

Mars, however, is in Scorpio right now. It still has its Aries elements, but in Scorpio it seeks identity through sexuality and relationships. That is one option for how one might seek identity without killing people. (It’s also a metaphor for the conflation of sex and aggression.)

Desire, push energy and sexuality in the ‘I want you’ sense of it, are all associated with Mars as a critter of Scorpio. That is where we find Mars now, struggling to choose between these two diverging aspects of its nature.

Remember that sexuality is taboo and violence is not. So the path of least resistance for Mars is to attack someone rather than invite them home, smoke a joint and voluntarily get naked.

At the bottom of all this is the ongoing struggle of finding oneself. And presently we are all infused, dazed and confused with a largely unacknowledged effect of the internet, which is to diffuse identity. This is genuinely destabilizing, and all of society is feeling the effects.

All electric and electronic media, from the telegraph forward, create identity chaos by cultivating tribal identity. The really big development here was radio in the 1930s, which started the process of breaking down individualism and leading our society into a state of what seems like permanent group think. The most glaring example of this was the War of the Worlds incident of October 1938, wherein just about everyone was convinced that Martians were invading the planet, based on a radio drama.

Several generations of media later, the internet allows for near-anonymous, multi-personality existence. It also facilitates the total invasion of privacy, for example, by the NSA and by hackers. However you may look at it, there is no private, personal, individual existence on the internet.

This is one reason why, in my view, we are seeing so much violence in the world right now, whether in reality, in fantasy or in the ‘news’. There is an out-of-control war going on in Syria and Iraq, which we are told repeatedly is a function of the internet. What those who say that tend to think is that young people are hearing about the war and Islamist views via internet and are responding to recruitment propaganda.

What they really mean is the internet has created the perfect conditions for people to be so clueless as to who they are that going to a battle front seems like a workable way to find oneself. I know I declared the Anti Sixties over recently, though this is a hangover of that era. Kids used to hitchhike to San Francisco, wear bright colors, smoke pot, play bongo drums and have sex with different people — to find themselves.

This newspaper cartoon from 1906 predicts that people will be doing their own thing with the telegraph. This illustrates how media have strange effects, in this case, on private relationships.

Today it’s appealing to head into battle, be it in the makebelieve Islamic ‘Caliphate’ (global state) or on the streets of the United States.

That might be through participating in gang violence (group activity), planning or actually doing a mass shooting (acting on a group), and even claiming that you’re acting on behalf of Al Qaeda, ISIS and Hezbollah all at the same time (hey, a group of groups).

That is what I would call an identity crisis. Many who do not directly participate easily get drawn into the drama via the extended nervous system of the internet and television, which are another form of group identity as we all see the same thing over and over, then tweet about it.

On the war front, violent incidents over the past few weeks are among the worst in the history of the 25-year conflict in Iraq and surrounding areas.

Bear in mind that things got really nasty after the United States and the U.K. toppled Saddam Hussein, the leader of Iraq, eliminating one of the most important roots of identity for a country, especially a dictatorship: its all-powerful leader. This happned right as the internet was taking hold as a popular medium.

The police, too, are seeking identity; as of today, American cops have killed 505 people in 2016, as reported on today’s edition of Democracy Now (The Washington Post cites 508). A disproportionate number of these people are African Americans and other racial minorities, which is in turn spurring a response in the form of Black Lives Matter and other movements. Violence being committed against people is forcing them to commit to who they are.

Philando Castile.

In Falcon Heights, Minnesota, Wednesday, Philando Castile, 32, was shot dead in his car while reaching for his driver’s license, in front of his partner and child. And on Tuesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police shot and killed Alton Sterling, 37, while pinning him down to the ground as he pleaded for his life.

We might well ask why there is not more public outrage at this. It’s been going on and on, seemingly without end. The two kinds of domestic violence we hear about on a regular basis are mass shootings by apparent civilians, and shootings of people of color by the police.

They might seem unrelated, though they — and the pro-gun movement — are all features of the same environment, as is domestic violence, the third pole in the tripod.

This is not happening because there are so many guns. The issue is why there are so many guns, and why so many people want them so much, which is the product of a mentality that cannot be explained merely by availability and paranoia. One of the core messages of the gun is “I am someone important,” or rather, “I am someone.”

You might say that the war and murder of people of color is about racism — which is nothing more than inflamed, entrenched sickness related to identity. This includes personal identity and tribal identity, which in the case of racism is established on the basis of who one is not.

Disgusting as this can be, we live in a society that seems to only respect violence and murder. (As Noam Chomsky said in The Culture of Terrorism, if you want to impress Congress, tell them how many people you’ve killed.) There’s a prurient excitement about these events, which totally seize consciousness each for days on end. It’s as if killing is not just acceptable, it’s admirable — and I think the reason is that it touches some deep-seated need to know who we are. It touches that need, of course, without doing much to satisfy it, so the cycle continues.

My uncle Anthony Mazza from Brooklyn, who died many years ago, was a gun-toting, Confederate flag NRA type who said he wanted to join the KKK. His wife, my aunt Joan (who is somewhat more literate), explained to him that they didn’t accept Sicilians or Catholics. (Maybe they’ve become more progressive since then.)

Alton Sterling.

The problem we face is that violence feels good. You might not think it does, but for many people it satiates a vacuum of self. That’s why so many people are obsessed by Walking Dead and other action films where hundreds of people die or get blown up. And it’s why death is such a dependable seller as a news item.

Then there are the less exciting forms of killing, such as risk assessment. The most banal form of murder is no less effective. If war is the extension of diplomacy, then murder is the natural extension of business. Every bite of food you eat comes from a business, and most of them are industrial scale.

Existing law allows chemical manufacturers to murder one person per million per chemical. We accept this as the cost of living, partly because it’s necessary to eat, and partly because we know that most food has to come from these big corporations.

We might figure one in a million gives us a pretty good chance of surviving, but not with tens of thousands of chemicals on the market — and with nobody studying the enhanced killing power of exposure to multiple toxins.

Neither is it shocking with so many random carcinogens floating around; just the background levels of dioxin raise the floor on chemical deaths to more like one person in 1,000 or even one in 100. That should not be shocking with nearly half of all people getting cancer sometime in their lifetimes.

This is why there is such resistance by industry to GMO labeling. No matter how safe they say it is, you can be sure it’s orders of magnitude more dangerous. Yet there’s not much of an on-the-ground movement to demand that labeling. We seem to willingly accept that some among us will be murdered by glyphosate in their nacho chips.

Yet I would contend that people with a stronger identity are more likely to be driven to take care of themselves, and to eat real food.

My sincere Uncle Anthony in the 1960s. He was Sicilian Catholic born in Brooklyn but wanted to join the KKK. He didn’t get how funny that was. He moved to Tennessee and lived in a trailer.

Part of being anonymized is eating generic, factory-processed food, and that food is indeed deadly. As Morgan Spurlock demonstrated in Supersize Me, eating at McDonald’s is a violent attack on your body. And that’s fine, if you don’t identify with your body. Of course, as soon as someone gets sick, body identity is suddenly thrust upon them.

I was curious about this conflation of identity meltdown and violence, so I called up someone who has written a lot about it: Eric McLuhan.

“Violence results from somebody ripping off an identity, recovering one, or establishing one. These are the three main provocations for violence,” he said. “This would apply at any level, personal or group. In a group you have a feud or a war. A feud is always about identity.”

He continued: “Identity is getting weakened daily by the new technologies. There’s nothing on which to base a private identity anymore, except a group. Group identities are weak and fragile and very subject to insult. A guy with a strong private identity can take a lot of kicking around. But you insult a group and you start a war, whether it’s a feud or something like ISIS.”

In an email a little while back, he continued:

“Private identity depends entirely on a culture of detachment and objectivity. Without detachment, everybody is always completely involved in and with everybody else: no privacy. Privacy makes sense ONLY in the context of a society composed of private individuals.

“The private individual has private thoughts and private ambitions. Such people are considered to be a mortal threat to any group society — or any group for that matter — and must be ostracized. Tribes often go to the extent of not just expelling the offender but killing him or her.

Not a rock concert, but rather zombies and guys with guns from the wildly popular AMC program Walking Dead. They don’t walk for long.

“The ‘group man’ does not have an inner life: everything has to be ‘out there’ as a matter of course; nothing can be hidden or withheld.”

Of course, Mars in Scorpio wants to keep its privacy. It wants to keep its secrets, or share them with one other person. It’s in a long discussion with Uranus and Eris in Aries — the very image of individual identity exploding into group environment.

If you go within, you might be able to feel just where that tipping point is, and claim some of yourself back. You have the tools you need; you’re self-aware enough. You merely need to turn that awareness on; or, said another way, to remember who you were before the internet.


Short Monthly Horoscope for July 2016, #1107 | by Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You can now work out a mutually agreeable plan in an intimate relationship. When you look back on this development, you will see that the missing ingredient was being honest about what you want. You knew all along; this was a matter of admitting it to yourself. True enough, it involved subject matter that’s not easy to discuss even with oneself; but you seem to have figured out that you really need to be more open. This story is not over; you’re learning something that will set the tone of the next couple of years, so remember to use what you know.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Recent events have taught you a lot about empathy. It was a process, which you might think of as learning to be a compassionate witness to the process another person is going through. The key here is being helpful without getting so involved that you lose your independence. It’s easy to overcompensate and keep too much personal space, which doesn’t really help relationships. You now know how to find a balance. There is an easy formula: all expressions of care begin with self-care, and overflow from there. Then you have plenty of love, patience and food to go around.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Your financial life has a tendency to run in extreme cycles, more than those of most other people you know. If you know how to ride the waves, you can do well for yourself. Your solar chart indicates that this is a moment of relative abundance. This is a great time to get into the habit of stashing away money and other important resources. Just the fact of doing so will have a stabilizing effect; not just on your finances but on your self-esteem, and wealth attracts wealth. Society teaches us a big drama about running on empty. Running on abundance suits you much better.

Photo by Andy Spearing under Creative Commons.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You have every reason to feel good about yourself. Leave behind any recent challenges that may have had you working too hard to tap into the pleasure, creativity or contact that you need. If you orient your life on these core human experiences, you’ll find it much easier to reach for the great accomplishments you know you’re capable of. Success at this stage of your life has nothing to do with ambition. Rather, it’s about full appreciation of your own humanity, coupled with understanding that any job worth doing is worth doing well. Happiness is success; everything else is window dressing.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Your best ideas are going to come out of the blue, as if your inner genius is a kitten ambushing your head from behind the couch. Therefore, pay attention, and do that thing where you sleep next to a notebook and pencil, or ask your friends to write things down while you’re driving. There is energy behind your thoughts right now, and you will come up with solutions to problems that could turn out to be valuable, useful things. It doesn’t matter whether you feel creative; the fact is that you are, in some eminently practical forms. Put that gift to use.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Make room for some chaos in your life. It’s true that you love order and organization, but sometimes it works against you. Pick a room, a table, or some part of your living or working area where you allow a storm to brew. Then work in that space without any need to clean up, allowing things to become and evolve in their own organic way. This is a fermentation tank for your future goals, desires and plans. In every great success there is a measure of odd chance, the unpredictable and the unusual. Hold the space open, in a direct invitation to both new vision and opportunity.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — This is a moment of bold achievement for you, though remember that your real goal is to take care of people. Whatever you do, and whatever you aspire to, consider how important that value is to you. More than being about graciousness, you recognize this as central to your philosophy of existence. It will help considerably if you surround yourself with others who share this approach to life. You can also do some teaching, both in words and by example. You may not recognize how well respected you are, so keep in mind that what you say and what you do are powerful examples to others.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Mars has been retrograde in your sign for months, and it changed direction in late June. This has taken you on a journey deep into your emotions, including direct encounters with fear, desire, passion and memories you haven’t recalled in ages. You now know what you’re made of, and what you want. You don’t need to argue with yourself about these things; you merely need to accept what is true about you, and live from that place. Self-acceptance is a journey without a final destination, though as you travel this path you will discover others who accept you without hesitation.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You will lay many anxieties to rest this month, as you discover that your fears were all in your imagination. Once you let go of this kind of resistance, you’ll discover how much more energy you have. Eventually you’ll reach the point where your flow of love and creativity leaves no room for worry or self-doubt, which is how you’re likely to imagine yourself as an enlightened being. This is a rare form of confidence, deeply rooted in your soul. The more you focus on what you love about life, the more you will discover where your true strength lies.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You may discover that this is a rich month for relationships, so much that you will want to keep your options open. Many feel that when you’re doing that, there’s only so close you can allow yourself to get to other people. You might consider taking the opposite approach, where you stay open and embracing of anyone who strikes your fancy, with no hesitation. You certainly have a little something extra going on. These people are drawn to something, and that something is you. Being open to receiving is one of the great lessons of your life, great being another word for excellent.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Take some space for yourself this month, as in space and time to get to know yourself again. Plenty has changed, and you’ve been through a lot in recent seasons of your life, and it’s time to reassess. It’s true that you could find plenty to keep you busy. The angle of your solar chart that’s getting all the action is the one that covers ‘work and wellbeing’. Emphasize the wellbeing, minimize the work, and you’ll be stunned how much you get done with how little effort. Rest, recreation and repair are the keys to efficiency. This will serve you well.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You’re embarking on the summer when you discover your true talent as an artist, as a lover and — most of all — as someone who trusts yourself as these things. Pisces is the sign that’s designed for pleasure, though it’s easy to get distracted from that because you place such a high value on serving others. Yet it’s clear that you need an extended opportunity to soak in the beauty to which you are so sensitive. No matter how busy you may be tempted to be, indulge in what you know are the finer things in life. The result will be flowering into a new phase of your life.

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