If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake.
— Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Dear Planet Waves Reader:
Conservatism is all the rage. I guess it has been for a while. I’m usually late picking up on trends; I finally joined the New York State Conservative Party a few weeks ago, with a plan to reform the organization from within.
I got out of politics in the mid-1980s (when I was an aspiring campaign writer) because in that role, one of your daily tasks is to lie to the public. I got sick of having to make false statements of various kinds. For example, to get your candidate elected, it’s generally necessary to tell the public what they want to hear, or what gets them to vote the way you want, rather than what your candidate actually stands for.
The financial statements created by the campaigns I worked for were routinely exercises in covering up spending 10 times more than you said you did, and if you didn’t do that, there was no way to compete. All the candidates knew this and it was like we all tacitly agreed to the alternate set of on-the-ground rules.
But now that I’ve found my identity as a conservative, I feel like I can finally tell the truth. One thing that’s always confused me is the word conservative. It sounds a lot like conserve, which means “to protect from loss or harm; preserve,” or “to use carefully or sparingly, avoiding waste.”
My fellow conservatives seem to do a lot of bombing other countries, which is hardly protecting them from harm. They’re busy-bodies wondering who everyone sleeps with, and spendthrifts who literally ship truckloads of money into war zones, which then goes unaccounted for. I always thought the thing that made you a conservative was that you had a tight accounting system. It meant recognizing the value of a dollar, and respecting an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.
And we all know that conservative public officials don’t waste the taxpayers’ money. Spending $1 million a year per soldier in Afghanistan makes the bonuses of Wall Street execs look like a bargain. And we’re doing what? Intervening in the affairs of a foreign country?
Why do people put up with this?
I got my answer one morning this week. I was up early and flipped on the tube. I was treated to one of those endless call-in programs on C-Span that was only open to Republicans and members of the Teabag Party. This is the program to watch if you’re sick of hearing from the pundits; instead you get all the people the pundits have so meticulously misinformed.
In one call after the next, it was the onslaught of the clueless. There were people commenting on immigration who sounded like they’ve never personally crossed an international border. There were old people calling for cutting Social Security benefits in half — as if they’re not low enough already.People went on and on about entitlements, without noting that companies such as Bank of America and General Electric pay zero corporate taxes and get plenty in corporate welfare.
Candidates pandering to this constituency are promising to eliminate the minimum wage, take away health care, give the Social Security fund to Wall Street. The Teabag Party is running 81 candidates who are committed to criminalizing abortion even in the case of rape and incest: 71 candidates for the House, seven for the Senate and three for governor of different states. And women voters are leaning Republican this year. They are being manipulated by hundreds of millions of dollars worth of anonymous attack advertising, allowed by a new Supreme Court decision called Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. I don’t understand this. Lots of conservatives are Christians, and Jesus said we should take care of the poor. And as for those ads, why would you conceal your identity unless you have something to hide?
After I listened to these callers for an hour, Sal Russo came on as a guest. He’s the ‘chief strategist’ of the Tea Party Express, a political action committee that funnels money into the campaigns of Teabag candidates. Mr. Russo got his start shining the shoes of Ronald Reagan, who looks like a bleeding heart liberal these days — he raised taxes dozens of times, granted amnesty to illegal immigrants and did quite a bit of deficit spending. Russo rambled on for an hour about how the (Democrat-controlled) government is over-regulating business and therefore creating the recession. All we need to do is get rid of these pesky regulations and the recession will disappear, he said (about 14 times). There used to be an expression for this — putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.
We need a new plan. We need to put the conserve back into conservative. The following is my proposed platform.
Plan for the New American Decade
1. Conserve the natural environment. There are a lot of planets as nice as the Earth, but we can’t get to any of them at the moment. So we may as well take care of the one we have, if only to make it a more pleasant place. Teddy Roosevelt loved bird sanctuaries and saw the sense in creating them. That’s true conservatism.
2. Conserve resources in all forms. That includes everything from energy to trees to money to effort, and focus them where we really want and truly need. We can cut plenty of waste out of government spending and we can start in our homes.
3. Generally, advocating a more modest way of life. There’s a difference between abundance and needless overindulgence. This is not about denying ourselves anything other than the privilege of waste. Why waste, when you can put the resources into something constructive? Gluttony is not a value. Cultured people enjoy what they have, and grow their lives consciously and within their means.
4. Respect separation of church and state. Conservatives follow the Constitution, and this provision is in the First Amendment. It’s extremely liberal of politicians to ignore this important boundary. Conservatives don’t impose their religious values onto other people. Quakers, one of the most conservative religions, does not allow its members to proselytize. We started as a Protestant nation. Every person has his or her own relationship to God and nobody has a right to impose theirs on anyone else
5. Respect for individual rights, including privacy and free speech. The United States is based on keeping private things private: including our personal papers and private property. That’s what the law says. In the United States, citizens are sovereigns, not subjects of the crown. A smaller, less invasive government stays out of your private life. It does not have time, resources or authority to monitor every single pregnancy. Family planning is a family matter. Then, as citizens, we mind our own business. What your neighbor does in the privacy of his or her home is none of your business, unless it directly impacts your life in some way.
6. Non-interventionist military policy. We need to take care of our own country before we conquer or ‘help’ any other country. That might translate to shorter, more efficient wars — or no wars at all. The purpose of the military is to defend our nation, not to randomly attack other countries, or worse, to steal their resources. We have more than enough here in magnificent North America.
7. Audit the Federal Reserve. A conservative knows how much money he or she has; the checkbook balances at the end of the month. Your money is your power, and we need to audit the ‘federal’ bank so we know how much money we have. Of course when we do this, someone will have to explain the quarter-quadrillion-dollar hole in the books. We might want to ask an astrophysicist familiar with dark matter to be part of the audit team. Maintaining the treasury is a public trust, and those who violated this trust need to be exposed and put on trial.
8. Offer sex education to students — consistent with science. Or, said another way, offer complete science education to students, including scientific knowledge on the environment, resource conservation, and sex education. Family planning is essential to having functional families. Young people have a right to know about how their bodies work, and need to have information so that they can take care of one another.
9. Speaking of education, it’s money well spent. We need to invest in the future, and an effective, economical way to do that is to support education. Parents should have a diversity of options for educational philosophies available: different kinds of schools to suit different values and ideas about life. Public higher education needs to go back to majority funding by the state, remembering its primary mission, which is access to all citizens; this in turn will create a prosperous, functioning economy. We have to stop this whole business of student loans and go back to grants.
10. Redeploy military resources to peacetime civilian duties, like planting trees, helping in disaster zones and civil works projects. Put soldiers to work teaching inner city kids to read, fix cars and work computers.
11. Conservatism advocates a more natural way of life, like that of our great grandparents: stuff like gardening, home canning, respect for the land and other basics. Conservatism implies a measure of self-sufficiency, as well as taking care of your neighbors.
12. Help for those in need. The purpose of a society is to take care of all its members. Why bother otherwise? We are a nation based on abundance, and there is plenty to go around, especially if we’re talking about food, shelter, clothing and health care. Many of my fellow conservatives these days say they read the Bible. Remember this part? “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”
13. Respect Life. That means not encouraging or compelling killing, and creating a culture of respect for the mystery of existence. Build a memorial in Washington and in every state capitol to the many people who committed no crime and who were given the death penalty.
14. Tell the truth. Stop believing lies.
Yours & truly,
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, October 29, 2010, #837 – BY ERIC FRANCIS
You are what you believe — a fact that may be incredibly annoying to anyone who doesn’t really understand how to change their beliefs. Here we get to a question that is fairly troubling to those whose rational mind is the only thing in charge: to what extent do we create our reality, and to what extent are we subject to reality? Obviously the answer is somewhere between these two polarities. It would be difficult to argue that we don’t have significant influence over our lives, if you’ve heard the stories of the people who get where they get by choosing. Then there are the examples of people who seem to be absolute victims of their circumstances. The real question is, where do you fit into this equation? The second question is, what influence do you have over the lives of the people closest to you? Would they say they thrive in the presence of your influence, or would they say they are subject to your influence? Check in with the people closest to you, and ask them for some feedback — you will learn a lot.
Gradually the pieces are coming into place. You may not see it that way, or not yet. At this stage you may see your problems more vividly than the solutions or answers to the problems. This would be a good time to formulate your idea of what the issues are. The concepts and the language that you use will determine how and whether you’re able to reach some resolution, and go to the next level — the one that you want so dearly, and which seems so tantalizingly close. One theme of this phase of your life is about being ‘lost in your relationships’. Another way to consider that issue is what happens to your identity when you’re in relationship. This means in a relationship or more accurately in relationship to anything or anyone. What you bring into the situation is what you have when you get there. Many people try to find themselves through partnership. This may work. Human encounters are powerful mirrors, they are learning experiences and they can be beautiful. Yet if you find yourself getting lost, remember that the place to find the compass is within.
You’re getting closer to understanding a health issue that may be troubling you. What stands out about Gemini is the extent to which your emotional reality influences your overall health. This tends to be true of the mentally-oriented air signs, though at the moment there is considerable activity in your house of health, healing and wellbeing, Scorpio. Suddenly, however, there seems to be a revelation taking place. You may not like it; you may not be fond of the feeling or feel like you have any control at all — but you do have a source of feedback. Listen to your own responses, and sense closely what is in your environment. In particular, try to get a handle on any conflict you’re experiencing with anyone else, and see how far back you can trace that sensation. This will give you clues as to the nature of the inner conflict you’ve been struggling with, often silently. Look to external issues or situations as reflections of something going on inside. Certainly, there are a few of those around and one may be getting in your face. If you see this from the inside out, you’ll be able to go deeper in your quest for actual, helpful information about how to unravel a problem and speed your healing process.
How do you know what you want? Well, it would be impossible not to have that information, unless you somehow concealed it from yourself. A good place to start would be to ask yourself and then listen honestly for your response. Heck, you could say anything. You might even find out you want something that’s naughty even though you thought you were an adult and you’re supposed to be able to want anything you want. Whether you get it is another question, but let’s keep cause and effect in order — desire before results. Borrowing a bit from Abraham, it may help if you don’t worry about how it’s going to happen. Skip over the details and the supposed logistics; skip over how anyone else might feel. Focus on your desire and notice your responses. Ask yourself the question a few times and see if you can go deeper into an honest space. You have the opportunity to let go of the inner blocks to receiving what you want. And you have a lot of extra energy that you can pour into the sensation of pleasure and the freedom of receiving.
What most people call faith is rooted in the emotions. All the convincing in the world is nothing compared to feeling in alignment with yourself or with the cosmos around you. You’re in a particularly focused moment wherein you can tap that feeling on a particularly deep level. What is interesting is that you have access to the inner sensation of worldly success. This may be disguised as a question, but whatever — it’s very nearly Halloween. You have some kind of achievement brewing around inside you, something you’re creating and cultivating, and this is connected to some of your highest aspirations for your life on the planet this time around. Yet at the moment you have this added bit of data, which is contact with the truth that success, however you define it, comes from the inside out. There is little in your charts to argue that you will go out tomorrow and conquer the world. Yet there is plenty to say that as you understand who you are and how that relates to your objective, you will understand the true nature of success.
It will help you if you make contact with your anger, and keep listening. We have a block in our society on this particular branch of emotion, as if being angry makes us a bad person. You can start with suspending that judgment, so you have access to the full spectrum of your feelings. From there it will be fairly easy to tap into an inner sensation that has done an excellent job of eluding words and even awareness. It is worth mentioning that the avoidance of anger is not something that exists randomly; its most commonplace cause is the fear that if we express anger at our parents, we will get cast out of the nest. So the clarity of childhood perception is suppressed by the cult of the family, which has undue power over the life of a small person. A number of times and places this year I have referenced your father or what came down to you from his side of the family. As the weeks and months go by, you have increasingly direct access to whatever is at the root of this matter, and the more clarity and self-honesty you allow the easier it will be to be free and move on.
There is a side to you that only comes out in the deepest, most intimate personal bonds, and only at certain times. Now, though, you have an unusual kind of direct access to your inner nature that does not require the inspiration of anyone else, or contact with them. This is good news, because shorn of commitment to or involvement with another being — even if for a moment — you can reach a deeper level of contact with yourself. Something is waiting for you there. This something will grant a sense of completion, at the same time it will help you understand what you seek in other people. One gift that is awaiting you is distinguishing the difference between a want and a need. This is a deeply personal matter, and one that often owes its resolution to a level of maturity. But I can offer one thought, which is that if something is a true need, you can fulfill it yourself. If something is a desire, it’s often nice to share that with others.
There comes a point in our growth process where we realize we contain our opposite. Just like every cop is a criminal and all the sinners are saints, as Mick Jagger put it, though I’m speaking here in terms of sex and gender. Fifty years ago if someone mentioned a man getting in touch with his inner feminine or a woman getting in touch with her inner masculine, they might have been offered the same treatment as someone who said they were abducted by aliens. How fast the subtle elements of consciousness can change, to the point where even vaguely sensitive people have a clue what you’re talking about if you say that kind of thing. This is a particularly rich moment of connecting with whatever your gender opposite is. You may feel like you’re allowing a ‘different aspect of your nature’ to percolate up to awareness, which is a good start. Allow for some subtlety, such as the woman who says maybe making contact with the woman who says yes; the man who wants others to submit to him, making contact with the man who surrenders to himself.
Mars returns to your sign today for the first time in a couple of years, and this energy is a point of activation and action. Your astrology this year has chronicled a maze-like journey over, through and around various obstacles. These have been worldly and psychological; they have at times delayed you and at other times offered you an exciting puzzle to solve. You’ve had the good sense not to take out your battering ram, but with Mars now in your sign, some friendly assertiveness is in order. You can be pushier than you’ve allowed yourself to be, though I will say this: do it with love. Mars in your sign can come in several shades of arrogant, and that is not going to help you. What you want is to be direct about your goals, and to use politics before you use force. Politics means a combination of strategy, negotiation and compromise — never straying from your central and primary goal. And, with Mr. Ares himself (a/k/a Mars) having arrived, you now can have plenty of clarity about what that is.
Keep your focus on food. I’ll remind you a couple of more times before the year is out. The adjustments to your diet you make now will have sticking power. You know what you need to do; you know what is and is not food (and if you’re in doubt, it’s probably on the ‘is not’ list). If you know you have a food sensitivity, make sure you cut that out of your diet first. There is only so far you can go avoiding things, however. Fairly soon into the process you must define what food is, and then get some and start eating it. I recognize this is an enormous issue in the lives of busy people, particularly with kids and especially if there is a budgetary restriction involved. Those kinds of obstacles can be worked out with planning. The thing to remember is that it’s worth it. You will live better and most likely longer if you eat the right food. This is a lifelong habit, and the sooner you cultivate it the better. With Ceres and Pluto together in your sign, this is an excellent opportunity to take some significant evolutionary steps.
Chiron and Neptune are drawing to their closest conjunction till 2094. It’s not a perfect alignment — that was earlier in the year — but it’s close enough to help you resolve many layers of self-doubt. If you’ve been living in a fog for, oh, the past 10 years or so, this is the moment you can see the light, or see it a bit more clearly than you have so far. It’s getting easier, this I’m sure you noticed. If we use crossing the ocean as a metaphor, it’s no longer day after day of wide-open sea that barely changes. You’re now hugging the coast, exploring new territory and, it seems, looking for a harbor where you can get off and step onto dry land. Here are a couple of thoughts to consider: you don’t have to stay anywhere you arrive. For as long as you want, you can visit places and see what the culture is like. You also need to be reminded every day to have fun — to allow the child aspect of yourself to come out and play. I’m reminding you today; you can remind yourself tomorrow.
Up in the Leo horoscope I was describing the emotional component of faith. I suggest you check that out because it applies equally to you; the central idea is that faith is something we feel rather than something we think. The extra element for Pisces is remembering your longterm vision. You’ve explored this enough, and tested your theories sufficiently, to have some sense of what it is. As Mars crosses the achievement angle of your chart, you can focus your energy and the resolve to make some significant strides toward making that vision real. But the key is feeling good, so that you can stay in alignment with yourself. The other 11 signs of the zodiac have more wiggle room on this one. You’re someone who is deeply and instantly influenced by your emotional state. How you experience the world is a direct function of your innermost emotions. Yes, this is true for everyone but what I am saying is that it’s particularly true for the deeply sensitive nature of Pisces. So focus on feeling good and what is actually possible will seem obvious.