The Way Forward

Dear Friend and Reader:

Rarely has the Earth felt like such a dangerous place, on the constant brink of crisis and chaos. I don’t know anyone who is not working the edge in some way, trying to keep a grip or make sense of their lives. Many are feeling pushed to one limit or another, and there is the sense of time being vacuumed out of some hidden opening. Over the past week, I’ve heard an unusual number of stories of personal losses (parents, partners), relationships being rearranged and individuals going through changes on the level of what one astrologer said felt like her DNA getting a makeover.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks at the ceremony to mark the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq at the airport in Baghdad, Dec. 15, 2011. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo.

The world is indeed in crisis, and it’s taking us with it — though we have many distractions from noticing, and the excuse that we cannot do anything about it. But let’s take a quick look around. I heard on Thursday that 97 million Americans are at or close to poverty. The euro and numerous European banks are on the brink of default, which if they collapsed would ripple through the United States economy like a tsunami. American and British banks were recapitalized after the meltdown of 2008; the European banks were not, and they are still sitting on tons of bad paper.

It seems like we’re suddenly being confronted by every global crisis at once, as if we’re just discovering they existed. Fukushima and the BP oil spill are still happening — neither crisis is actually under control, they’ve just been ‘forgotten’. I’ve read many reports of new undersea leaks from the BP site, and radioactive water from Fukushima is still flowing into the Pacific Ocean. We still have no real idea how much of that stuff is ending up in our food, but we know we live in a time when it’s more convenient not to check; when most people would rather not know.

One bit of good news is that the Iraq war is ending. Thursday at 1:48 pm Baghdad time, the flag of the American forces was lowered in a symbolic gesture of the nearly nine-year occupation ending. The troops may be coming home, but more than 16,000 contractors will stay there, protecting the United States’ largest embassy. We’re being told we won the war, but Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, made his victory speech Thursday, telling us how fantastic things are going in the new, free Iraq, from the airport in Baghdad. The airport? Not the halls of parliament, or the president’s office?

Why do you think that was? I’m thinking it was the only place they could actually secure, and get him out fast enough so his life would not be in danger. And as for winning: at what cost? Okay — Saddam Hussein is gone. Yet think of the millions of lives lost or displaced; the families shattered; nearly a trillion dollars spent (before interest); and the war being used as a recruitment pretext for jihadists; the occupation leaving Iraq crushed and susceptible to invasion from Iran and Turkey.

George W. Bush delivering his infamous “mission accomplished” speech aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln as it steamed toward San Diego on May 1, 2003. The White House helped create the banner. The war raged on for eight additional years and cost the lives of 4,500 American troops (not counting the epidemic of suicides) and more than 104,000 documented Iraqi civilian deaths (the real number is much higher).

Remember the lies that Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11 incident, the nonexistent yellowcake uranium, Condi Rice promising a mushroom cloud if we didn’t take action?

Remember the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the use of banned weapons in many battles, the entire country, and its population, and our troops, contaminated with depleted uranium and the tens of thousands of troops coming home with brain trauma and PTSD? Coming home to no jobs and struggling families, in many cases with homes under foreclosure.

All of this was done in the name of freedom, of protecting our way of life, of making the world safe for democracy, even as the civil rights of Americans were stripped away in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 incident. And now this very week, Congress is set to pass the most recent National Defense Authorization Act, which Pres. Obama says he will sign. Have you heard about this one? The law that will allow for the indefinite ‘detainment’ of American citizens, on American soil, for the mere suspicion of terrorism or association with terrorist groups?

But wait: what terrorism?

Last week we discussed the pepper spraying of student protesters at U.C. Davis. This chemical weapon has been repeatedly used on Occupy Wall Street protesters in cities across the United States. More than 5,000 Occupy protesters have been arrested for speaking up about an economic issue — the criminal conduct of the banks, and the purchasing of the American political system. It is in this context that the National Defense Authorization Act is rather frightening.

So the government is talking about terrorism but taking action against ordinary activism, and that should make anyone a little nervous. Then Congress and the president want to expand their powers to detain people without charges. As The Guardian put it, “The law, contained in the defense authorization bill that funds the U.S. military, effectively extends the battlefield in the ‘war on terror’ to the U.S. and applies the established principle that combatants in any war are subject to military detention.”

Selling out our national soul: This photo of an Iraqi prisoner being tortured by American forces (hooded, forced to stand on a box, with electrodes on his hands) was seen by everyone with access to a newspaper or computer. But who exactly objected? To this day, politicians and presidential candidates argue that torture is appropriate and necessary. By what miracle do we think that same treatment of prisoners will not be turned loose on the American people?

Please — read that paragraph a second time. Any American on American soil could be considered an enemy combatant and detained indefinitely, in defiance of every constitutional principle we say we hold dear; the ‘freedom’ for which we supposedly went to war for 10 years. It would be one thing if domestic terrorism were going on all the time, but I only hear about the most ridiculous cases, not enough to justify turning the whole country into Guantanamo Bay. Does this sound a little (or a lot) like the American government declaring war on the American people?

I don’t mean to sound like Alex Jones or like I’m a columnist for Above Top Secret, but being concerned about this is not paranoia. We are watching the American people get sprayed with chemical weapons for exercising their constitutional right to protest, then hearing about how anyone could be presumed a terrorist without a trial.

Now, what exactly is a ‘terrorist’? Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) told The GuardianWednesday, “There are laws on the books now that characterize who might be a terrorist: someone missing fingers on their hands is a suspect, according to the Department of Justice. Someone who has guns, someone who has ammunition that is weatherproofed, someone who has more than seven days of food in their house can be considered a potential terrorist,” Paul said. “If you are suspected because of these activities, do you want the government to have the ability to send you to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention?”

Human Rights Watch said that Obama’s decision to support the law “does enormous damage to the rule of law both in the U.S. and abroad” and that “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.” They are correct: these powers have existed for a long time, beginning under Cheney and Bush. But following a fairly typical historical pattern, Republican presidents break the boundary and then Democratic presidents codify that breach of trust into the status quo.

Speaking of Obama, there is a presidential election next year. Let’s consider the political situation. First, bear in mind that many states have passed laws attempting to restrict voting, including placing nearly impossible to fulfill requirements on the elderly, students and the poor (these types of restrictions always impact Democrats more strongly than Republicans). Districts are being redrawn to get rid of ‘problem’ elected officials or to favor one party or the other — Barney Frank, regarded by many as one of the most progressive people in congress, has had his Massachusetts district taken away by gerrymandering.

Is this what democracy looks like? You have to stand back a little further to tell for sure. Photo: HuffPo.

Just a few more points and I’ll end my pessimistic-seeming rant.

Have you been following the ongoing fight for the Republican presidential candidacy? I have not been giving it the coverage it deserves, but this has been the parade that includes Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain — people who don’t know the voting age, who believe being gay can be cured, who cannot name one Supreme Court decision or the newly appointed justices, who don’t know the date of Election Day and who want to shut down federal agencies they cannot name.

We’ve seen debates where the crowd cheered for executions and applauded the possibility that someone without health insurance might deserve to die. It was like the crowd was hand picked from a pool of people reincarnated directly from ancient Rome.

Some of these candidates displayed ignorance that made Dan Quayle look like Socrates. As The Onion said of former candidate Herman Cain, “Rumors Of Extramarital Affair End Campaign Of Presidential Candidate Who Didn’t Know China Has Nuclear Weapons.” Well, not just an extramarital affair — Cain broke the record for the most revelations of sexual harassment in one week, then it emerged that meanwhile he was having a 13-year affair behind the back of his wife, who we’re supposed to believe holds him as a prince. And that is correct — he could not identify China as one of the world’s nuclear superpowers, and he has no taste for foreign policy.

The reason these candidates don’t seem to stand for anything is because they don’t. The reason they have to make curing gayness an issue is because all of the real issues are too difficult, or will get them in trouble if they mention them. These candidates and anyone who takes them seriously are posturing in the midst of a global crisis, trying either to hold up the status quo that enriches them, or not admitting the collective problem we face. And, it would seem that the Republicans are about to name Newt Gingrich, one of the most corrupt politicians of the past century, who will say whatever he is paid to say, as their presidential candidate.

If the economy is still struggling at the time of the election, or if there is some big shock to the system (such as another round of major banks failing), he could easily be president, despite all the supposed odds against such a thing happening. Frankly, given how little people seem to know and how much they will put up with, nothing would surprise me.

Yesterday the federal government was on the brink of yet another shutdown as senators debated the urgent national issue of mandatory drug tests for the unemployed. Personally, I’d love to run blood work on our esteemed congress and find out what they’ve got going on. It would be frightening.

Which Way From Here?

So what is the way forward?

I know, we’re in a pretty serious situation. I’ve read a bit of science fiction, and I have to say of the confluence of conditions we face — from the overcrowding of the planet, the prevailing state of ethical vertigo, the environmental and economic crisis, rampant debt, fraudulent business and political leadership, a political system wholly owned by the wealthy, the rise of a police state, half of all people getting cancer, many, many people suffering from depression and alienation — and a mass media that laughs at the problems — damn, this is on par with the most dystopian scenarios I’ve ever read.

Cover of Hyperion by Dan Simmons.

True, in Hyperion, the hegemony crashes a small back hole into the Earth, intentionally destroying the planet because it favors their business interests. I am still haunted by Dan Simmons’ visions of ‘replica worlds’ that are like ghost-town clones of what once was our beautiful planet. I guess it could be worse. But we’re not living in a fictional scenario. We are living on a planet and in a society spinning out of control, that we are leaving to our children, and their children.

A lot of people are wondering what we can do about this, or at least wondering what is going to happen. We always tend to look outside ourselves for the solutions; that’s a big part of the problem. We’re told over and over again that we don’t matter, and we better play the game. One problem is that game no longer works — not when someone goes to college or grad school, accumulates vast education debt and then cannot get a job. Speaking for a moment to Americans — the whole purpose of the American experiment was to get away from the old system of kings, lords and serfs. If you haven’t read the Declaration of Independence, take 15 minutes and give it a look. Remember that the “long train of abuses” was fresh in the minds of the founders when they adopted the Bill of Rights.

The solution has got to start with you focusing your awareness and your energy — even if you think that doesn’t make a difference to the big picture. I recognize that being alive in a time like this is scary, and it can seem hopeless, especially when you have so many other concerns. The thing is, it actually is hopeless — and hope is not the answer. You may need to give yourself a reason to care. That reason may be your children. It may be realizing how close you are to becoming one of the 97 million Americans, or the equivalent in other countries — or you may already be there and you know it can get worse. Those are deeply personal reasons to care that still don’t get you above the teacup’s edge to see that we need a collective solution to a collective problem.

The point is, there will be no progress without a lot of individuals focusing and working together. What gets in the way of our own awareness is specifically denial and ignorance, both of which are voluntary states. And those are the very states of mind that got us into this mess. I could make a long, depressing list of things that people did not care about when it mattered, including stolen presidential elections, fraudulent wars and the biggest bank heist in the history of the world (the 2008 ‘meltdown’ which was really a draining of what remained in the federal treasury by the super rich). If you voted for the Cheney/Bush ticket in 2004, have you apologized to anyone?

New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has earned his billions through the distribution of news, but he has arrested dozens of working journalists trying to cover the Occupy movement. Many of these reporters were accredited by the New York City Police, representing organizations such as The New York Post and the Associated Press. Here Mayor Bloomberg visits Zuccotti Park before uprooting that demonstration. Image via the gothamist and DJ Unicorn Thunderhearts.

Maybe the concept of civil liberties doesn’t matter to you — or perhaps it won’t until one night you go out for milk and end up in a police car for being out past curfew.

Let’s phrase the question this way: What would you be willing to do, if you knew your awareness and participation mattered? Let’s assume that particular best-case scenario. What would you offer? What would you be willing to give up, to create something better for everyone else?

Let’s put it another way. What if you were to set aside all of your excuses for not getting involved, or being informed? Then what would you do?

The purpose of my writing, and I assume the purpose of your reading, is to see the affairs of the world in a way that is deeply personal, and where the framework is in essence spiritual. The lowest common denominator of all these seemingly separate problems is a spiritual issue: what they all have in common involves a lot of individuals cut off from source, who create a situation where the easiest way to get out of pain seems to be to cut off some more. Apply the concept ‘cut off’ any way you like.

Even if the whole spiritual thing doesn’t work for you, I suggest you consider the psychological impact of suppressing the grief, or even the mere awareness, at what you’re witnessing. Not participating and not speaking up are specifically ways of denying the problem. Taking this on the micro-level, one question I would ask you is, when you’re confronted by injustice and you don’t say anything, how do you feel? And when you encounter something that’s wrong and you speak up, how do you feel in that case? Early attempts to challenge authority can be met with a psychological backlash — usually arriving in the form of guilt. We are indeed taught to expect punishment when we challenge those who supposedly hold power over us.

One thing that the Occupy movement has taught us is that when there is any resistance against the machine, it can strike back with brutal force, and reveal its true nature — you know, the nature of the beast. We actually keep seeing this happen. That is scary, and fear is both a psychological problem and a spiritual problem. How you perceive the world is how you perceive yourself. In order to perceive yourself as capable of healing, growth and expressing your potential, you would have to project the same properties onto the world, unless of course you plan to join the cannibalistic feast.

So if you have any plans for creating a better life for yourself, if that’s really going to be true, it’s going to involve creating a better world for everyone. Not fixing your life or fixing the world — rather, creating the next phase of existence. As the astrology of 2012 fully engages, and pushes the crises we’re seeing to a new level, it’s also going to push your potential to a new level. And you may find yourself walking a balance where you feel you don’t know the outcome.

There is a way forward. It’s going to be different for everyone but what works for each of us will have something in common with what works for everyone else. That’s the point of contact; how to tell what is real from what is not.

Eric Francis

Friday, Dec. 16, 2011. Weekly Horoscope #885. | Eric’s Zodiac Sign Descriptions

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You know better than to believe what is not true. And this week you may have seen the results of not honoring the obvious. This may have involved something about yourself, or the way a culturally-rooted belief influenced one particular course of action. There is still time, however, to correct your course and make sure that your beliefs align with what you know to be true. One problem with ‘free will’ is that it grants us the ability to make believe. In our moment of history, when so much is on the line, when so much of our growth depends upon maintaining integrity and when time is moving so fast, lying to oneself is extremely dangerous. The question is, what exactly would get in the way of accepting the truth about what you know? I don’t suggest you consider this as a philosophical matter. It is an entirely practical one.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You may be experiencing a magnifying effect of your shadow material: fear, guilt, anger, jealousy or conflict. It’s as if something came out of hiding and then stepped directly under a microscope. Look to the distant past for the origins of these emotions. What you’re feeling is the toxic residue left over from hiding your best attributes from your early caregivers. One result was resentment, and when that resentment turns on itself, the product is guilt. Here is the catch: Jungian psychologists warn that if we don’t deal with our shadow material, we project it into our relationships, where it manifests as conflict and can do substantial damage. ‘Dealing with’ means understanding the causes and implications of what you’re feeling, taking ownership of the situation and processing the issues consciously. If you’ve been in long-term conflict and have not understood why, the next few weeks present you with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to heal some deep issues.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Your relationships never seem to stand still. Yet the property of motion comes mostly from you, as you’re definitely not the type to stay still for long. You might want to turn the perspective around and imagine what it’s like for someone more stable and consistent than you are to experience your various fluctuations, changes of mind and changes of direction. This is a matter of perspective. At the moment, the constellation of your life is aligned in such a way that is allowing you to switch points of view and actually see yourself from the viewpoint of the other person. This is different from — and better than — having your life ‘mirrored’ in someone else, which presents a view that is backwards (a mirror image). What you can see now is more like a photograph: a direct view of yourself through another person’s eyes.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Last weekend’s total lunar eclipse in the most sensitive angle of your chart brought a shakeup, and a necessary one. What came out in the wash revealed something you deeply need to know about yourself; in particular, the ways in which you’re divided against yourself but struggle to see that fact. Inner divisions and compartmentalizing your personality are challenging and can be dangerous, but they are all the more so when they’re unconscious. One result can be the not-so-proverbial ‘war against yourself’ that so many wage for so long. Pay attention to what emerged over the weekend and for the subsequent few days. This contains everything you need to point you to the heart of the matter. Whatever that was, knowing about it is only part of the solution. You’ll need to reconcile its origins and ultimately reconcile with yourself. Just remember: you cannot split your character. Make up your mind about who you are.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Once a long time ago, a pissed-off reader wrote to me and reminded me that “all Leos aren’t artists, you know.” What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that the art angle of your chart is powered by Sagittarius, one of the most cosmic signs and indeed concepts in all of Western thought. There is a signal coming through night and day, and that signal says take creative risks, which will take you many places you never even dreamed of. You might translate that to a lot of freewheeling fun or, more likely, a source of energy that you use to work diligently no matter what you’re doing. On a bad day or during a troubled lifetime, that same property can come off as detached and arrogant, but the reason you’re unlikely to fall for that is simply because of how boring it gets. Anyway, your current charts tell me that you’re starting to get the message that your life must be lived as a creative adventure, and this is as close to God as we can get — which is pretty darn close.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Several times a year, your charts get active with the same message: understand the past like your life depends on it. Understand your family history and how it shaped you. Explore how events that happened decades or centuries ago can influence your life in this moment, right now. You’re in one of those moments, but the truth is you’re being taken back a lot further than centuries, as a window opens on your deepest sense of your origins. Remember that Adam and Eve are a cover story. It’s not that we believe they actually existed in fig-leaf form, but rather that the cover-up sufficiently obscures our search for the truth as to render it invisible. Your search for your origins is burning hot right now, and you can actually bring your awareness to a spot where you can accurately view the past. Face in the direction of the greatest mystery and focus your eyes — you will see.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — A veil seems to have lifted, leading you into a new realm of possibility. Whether this manifests as life plans (it may well), the true gift is a connection to a deeper sense of belonging. My sense is that you’ve had some salient experiences that have put you into contact with the part of yourself that is at home everywhere. You may have faced an abyss, however briefly, where everything you believed turned out not to be true. That, in turn, created an interval of space for something much deeper and more beautiful to enter your mind. Over the past few days this has started to evolve from a defined event to something that is gradually taking hold in your thinking and your sense of faith in yourself — as you express that faith in the most ordinary ways. You are alive at the right time, and on the right planet.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — One thing you need to know is that Mars, the planet traditionally associated with your sign (that is, your ruling planet, in traditional astrology) is gradually slowing to a stop in Virgo. It’s about to be retrograde, a product of the fact that both the Earth and Mars are in orbit around the Sun. Over the next few months I will have much to say about this, but for now, I suggest two things. One is focus on your most important goals, as though that matters. To do that you must know what those goals are. Second, when you do focus, notice how people respond. No need to assume — pay attention to what they say, how they treat you and then notice how you respond to that. No need to take any of this too seriously; just pay attention and take notes. Your observations of the current moment will be extremely valuable in the months to come.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Even the most seasoned travelers exercise a bit of caution when traveling in places they’ve visited many times. It’s always interesting to return someplace that made a profound impression on you and see how it’s changed since you were last there. Don’t let your familiarity with the territory you’re now in lure you into dropping your awareness and self-care. While you’re not in alien territory and certainly not hostile, the operative fact is that your environment is moving, transforming and gradually revealing its secrets. T.S. Eliot got it right when he said, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” That takes both vigilance and perceiving the world from the space of a beginner’s mind. Let this extend to the most routine activities and well-trodden paths that you travel. There is something new about everything right now, because you are looking from a new point of view.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You’ve been introspective lately, it seems; many recent events have led you to stand back and take in the situation, focus on your immediate needs and work out some of the ways you need to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Be aware that with the approach of the solstice, you’re going to be called rather suddenly into expressive mode. Don’t rush this process. The days that surround Dec. 21 can have the sensation of the whole cosmos slowing to a halt, pausing and turning around. That cosmos is your life. So go through the steps in the cycle consciously; right now the introspective phase is approaching the end, and not only is there no need to rush this process, you would be well advised to take it one day at a time, pacing yourself gently. Appropriate moments of awakening and then of taking action will be obvious.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You are proceeding in the world with new confidence, renewed faith in life and some kind of visionary goal. The sky really is the limit, so I suggest you aim for a good cruising altitude and a destination where you truly want to arrive. I am not saying this casually; I mean run through your goals, and consider your most cherished, significant and meaningful ones. Remember what you’ve always wanted to do, but never did — check in and see if that is still valid, and if it’s not, tune into the ones that get you excited now — and that you think you’d still want to be doing in ten years. Yes, the world will still exist, and I suggest you neither fall for the doom and gloom that is currently going around like candy on Halloween, nor for any form of optimism that does not depend on intelligence, competence and faith.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — A hot fire is burning inside you, and you’re right on the verge of expressing yourself. But first, stoke and tend the flames till they are burning perfectly. This will come through various acts of faith in yourself, faith in what you have learned most of all, and inner reflection. As a Pisces, the first place the fire burns is in your imagination. That means in what you envision, in images; tune into your seeing power. This will come naturally over the next few days, and evolve into steady devotion over the next few weeks. Above all, focus on healing. Rather than doing specific things society uses to define that word, focus everything you do on this one purpose. Move through the world as if you know exactly what you must do, with the confidence that comes from inner listening. Consider yourself one of those whose role is to protect the world and its people, and as such, stand strong in your own protection.

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