The Government Shutdown, and the Invisible Environment

Dear Friend and Reader:

We are now at the end of day 34 of the federal government shutdown. I am taking this too personally. It’s making me nervous. I feel like the character Tweak in a South Park episode from a couple of years ago, who was freaked out over the Korean nuclear missile thing between Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Craig, right, trying to console Tweak, who is having a hard time with the Korean missile situation.

His friend Craig suggests he do something rather than just worry — like bake cupcakes and send them to the Korean leader. So he does, and Kim loves them, and Trump gets mad, and starts insulting and taunting Kim on Twitter, so Korea responds by testing missiles directly over Tweak’s house.

I’m not taking it that personally, but almost. I have Chiron in Pisces on the 10th house cusp and have taken a serious interest in government since Watergate, when I was nine years old. I am finding Trump’s conduct disgusting — beginning with all his bravado about wearing the mantle of the shutdown or whatever he said.

Apart from concerns about flight safety, and border crossings staffed by people worried about grocery money and paying for their kid’s medication, there are two obvious subtexts: one is that the Special Counsel’s investigation is closing in on Trump, and he wants to hobble that office, the FBI and the federal courts. He’s doing this so brazenly and openly that you could actually miss it (which I’ll get into in a moment — it’s what I’m here to write about today).

Trump and his team are being investigated for collaborating with a country that has thousands of nuclear missiles and spy satellites pointed at us, and that every intelligence agency agrees helped steal the 2016 election.

Deconstruction of the Administrative State

As for the second subtext: do you remember when a guy named Stephen Bannon, the former video game venture capitalist / Breitbart editor / White House chief strategist, declared that the weeks-old Trump administration was entering an unending battle for “deconstruction of the administrative state”?

The Onion summed up the government shutdown: “Greatest Country on Earth Can’t Keep the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery Open.”

Well, now they’ve got their way. The administrative state is being dismantled; it is shut down and it is falling apart. That’s what happens when you have Ph.D. scientists or attorneys serving as FBI agents having to resign their jobs so they can support their families. Federal employees are eating out of food banks and community potluck dinners.

Some are selling blood plasma to buy food. I know the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has its problems, but do we want its officials living on credit cards or payday loans?

And as a result, regulatory and enforcement operations of government, which we depend on to make sure that people are not getting onto airplanes with bombs, and that an E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce is addressed, are not coming to work, or working without being paid, which can only go on so long.

I am amazed, astonished and outraged how casually so many people are taking this. I am in some shock that anyone thinks this is a good idea. Even if you think there needs to be a wall between Mexico and the United States, is it worth compromising security at every single airport and port of entry?

To me this seems like a big exercise in “look over there” (south, where all those Mexicans are tossing bags of marijuana over the alligator-infested Rio Grande) while this whole other thing happens here — this whole other very problematic thing, which The Onion summed up as, “Greatest Country In World Unable To Keep William H. Gross Stamp Gallery Open” — times a million.

One last comment before I take a somewhat more objective view of this situation. What we’re seeing here is the work of people who call themselves conservatives.

Members of the aviation industry gathered on Capitol Hill to protest the prolonged shutdown and its effects on the industry. Photo by Kerry Lynch.

If you look up the etymology of the word “conservative,” you find out that its history includes ideas such as “tending to preserve or protect, preservative, having the power to keep whole or safe,” or “disposed to retain and maintain what is established, opposed to innovation and change.”

Generally, the thing being conserved is the power of the government. Conservatives are supposed to want more cops and liberal hippies are supposed to want fewer cops.

Now we have conservatives who have shut down the judiciary, which I have read runs out of money tomorrow. The FBI has set up a food bank for agents in New York City; its mechanics are out of tires, and are cannibalizing old vehicles to fix flats.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 61,000 professional pilots, issued a statement Thursday saying that air travel is becoming increasingly dangerous as resources and employees are stretched to their limits.

This is not the work of “conservatives,” who don’t deserve the meek honor of being addressed as such. It’s the work of traitors and faux-anarchists who have reasons they want to shut the government down, both personal and ideological. Shutting down the government is an act of war. In fact, if we knew a foreign government did it — such as Chinese hackers taking out the federal computer system — most people would be angry and want to retaliate.

Someone astute on MSNBC today asked a question: Were Trump in fact a Russian agent or operative, what would he be doing differently?

“Unperceived and Pervasive Pattern”

I happened to pick up a folder this morning of memorabilia sent to me by the McLuhan family. In it was a copy of an essay called “The Relation of Environment and Anti-Environment” written by Marshall, and that I am sure he touched. It looks about 40 years old and is old-school copied onto yellowing bond paper.

This brilliant photo illustrates how environment — what is invisible and pervasive — becomes anti-environment, what is seen as something unusual. Nobody really notices bar codes. But you would definitely notice one were it exhibited in a museum. Photo is called “Ne Vous Laissez Pas Seduire” (do not be seduced) by Chiara Marra.

I’ve been speaking about this on Planet Waves FM lately, in a slightly different context, which I will come to. What McLuhan means by anti-environment is something with an awakening effect calling attention to any “unperceived and pervasive pattern.”

To McLuhan, art is what stimulates awareness, and what helps us notice what we missed; an artist is someone working “in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time.”

As such, they call attention to the environment and function as anti-environment influences — which means they raise awareness.

There’s another way to have an anti-environment effect, which is when something goes wrong. You might not notice how much you depend on the internet until it goes out. You might not notice electricity till it goes out. You might not notice air until the oxygen is running out, or the room becomes oppressively hot and humid.

The government is a kind of environment. It’s usually taken for granted, or treated with derision, but people tend to have relatively little contact with it. Unless you run a meat packing plant and the Department of Agriculture comes and inspects, your involvement with the government is usually limited to filing income tax returns, going to the DMV and paying parking tickets.

Suddenly we are hearing about what the government really is: a lot of people who do jobs, many of them useful, and some of them vitally important. Most people don’t think about air traffic controllers when the airplane they’re on is sitting on the runway; they are thinking about when the coffee cart is going to come by.

But is it art? No, it’s a serving tray. But maybe it was art first, I don’t know. McLuhan suggested all you need to do to make something into art is put a frame around it, which sets it off as anti-environment. Then, after a while, art is put on a tray, and becomes environment. When I clicked, I thought I was going to be taken to the notes for an art history class.

You may not think about the economics of a national park, but today you might be thinking about the little bed and breakfast or café that is supported by visitors to Yosemite.

Now, the environment of the government is being revealed by the anti-environment of the shutdown. This is having the effect of making people appreciate the government as a helpful and necessary thing.

Trump, and the senate’s majority turtle Mitch McConnell, and their minions, are the artists. They are artists in the sense that Laurie Anderson once joked about, that terrorists are the only artists left because they’re the only people who can get our attention: what we are witnessing is a form of terrorism.

It’s also a false flag attack in the true sense of the word: the cutting off of salaries and of services is being blamed on Mexicans, who we have to stop from “attacking” the southern border with their applications for political asylum.

For a long time, we in the United States have let the government run wild. There was a brief moment of involvement and awakening precipitated by the Watergate affair. Transparency laws were put in place. For a while, there was an infusion of new energy, and more idealistic people moved into government roles, wanting to make a change. The anti-environment of Watergate opened up new potential. Then, that kind of corruption scandal became commonplace, and became part of what we think of as normal and usual.

The whole Trump experience has surpassed anything vaguely rational, and has functioned as one prolonged state of anti-environment, raising awareness that is starting to result in a modicum of political change (such as in the House of Representatives). There is more going on here than one politician and his “base,” as it’s called. The problem is that once something is anti-environment long enough, it disappears into the environment. Its shock value wears off. Then something more extreme must be done to get everyone’s attention. With Saturn approaching Pluto, we need to be conscious of this.

The anti-environment influence, from an astrological standpoint, is the Pluto return of the United States. This is what we’re witnessing the early peak of. Remember that during the first weeks of the shutdown, there was a solar eclipse in Capricorn right at the Saturn-Pluto midpoint, getting things started. I will take up this subject on Sunday’s edition of Planet Waves FM.

With love from Tweak,

Planet Waves Weekly Horoscope for Jan. 24, 2019 (#1234) | By Victoria Emory

Aries (March 20-April 19) — The courage to create requires making friends with your vulnerable underbelly. If you can do that, a power surge of creative potential is available. The question is, to what extent does your confidence depend on approval from others versus from your own inner being? To quote don Juan, “The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.” Your quest for achievement in The World is furthered through a bit of vision questing over the next few days. When you’re right with your spirit, life becomes more than a commercial venture and a hell of a lot more satisfying. You’ve got a will fierce enough to work through whatever limitations you may be straining against, and those who can help you implement it are closer than you may realize. A teacher is available, perhaps internally, inviting you on an educational journey of some kind; a wise offer to accept. Breaking up your routine somehow will help that along, even if it’s a walk in the park or reading a book you’ve had in the back of your mind, but neglected. To use The Force right now, follow that trail.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Take a look at how fear and desire factor in to your experience. If an oppressive or depressive sensation lurks in the shadows, it could relate to something you want but think you can’t have. Identifying the essence of a frustrated desire helps disentangle the symbol, the object, from what you actually seek. What’s the feeling you want, the quality? Real opportunities to attain whatever that may be exist, and you’re poised to enter a phase of your life in which limiting patterns will shake loose. Intimacy is a component here, connecting from the soul, emotionally as well as physically. Remember to remember your dreams. This is easier when you value the precious resources available through this often-neglected portal — especially true for you at the moment. It’s fair to say you’re enrolled in a master class of spiritual development, a program that will intensify over the next couple of years. The formidable power to pursue goals you’ve dreamt of is among the rewards.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Traffic at the intersection of Friends and Finances might have been intense recently, or that drama may have played out nearby, at the corner of Sexual and Platonic. Don’t let whatever noise resulted throw you off your game. Opportunities to make some excellent connections can be found over the next few days, so please don’t be shy. If a friend has spoken about introducing you to someone, give them a call; this pertains to both personal and professional interests. Whatever cards you’re holding along these lines, now’s the time to play them if you’ve hesitated to reach out to someone. Fertile conditions in the social sphere could help further important goals that are ripe for your attention. If writing is involved, or if travel is possible for you, dust off those ambitions. Your voice can carry further over the coming weeks, and find its way to those who want to hear it. It may be cold and gray outside, but this is not the time to shut yourself away. The warmth of your fellow creatures casts an especially empowering glow at the moment.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Trust has its rewards. One of them is the power to negotiate in ways that actually support your needs. ‘Strength through vulnerability’ requires trusting your primary relationship, the one you have with yourself, enough to honestly express what’s going on with you. Remember that a fortress is also a prison. If demands from all quarters have felt overwhelming, if ambitions feel somehow stymied by those to whom you’ve made commitments or who look to you for support, dare to open up about it a little. See what happens. You’re sensitive enough to know how to relate with compassion to the stress that others are struggling with. This approach will help summon what you require. If you need an assistant, or a job, or could use some guidance (who couldn’t?), the next few days are rich with opportunities in that regard. Don’t assume that wise counsel comes exclusively from those you consider higher-ups or authorities. Mentors come in surprising packages sometimes, and now might be one of them.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — An axiom to contemplate: “Play is the answer to how anything new comes about.” Here’s another: “Distance is a great goddess.” Psychologist Jean Piaget gave us the first, the second I heard at a retreat in the Joshua Tree desert. Last weekend’s lunar eclipse concluded a stressful 18-month cycle for you in which relationship issues of one kind or another played a starring role. Demands, duties and just taking care of yourself may have felt exhausting. It’s been an intense week out of an overwhelming year and a half, but you can get a bit of your groove back over the next few days if you plug in to a high-octane recharge that’s currently available. You know who your fans are, what your party looks like, what essential nutrient your spirit needs to shine. Make a play date. Get the paints out, or the instrument, or whatever creative outlet feels right. If you can’t schedule a terrestrial journey, explore some new terrain of the educational or spiritual variety. This is soul food for you right now; get it while it’s hot.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — It’s time to come home. Your inner sanctuary and base of operations, where your roots draw nourishment from the earth so that your branches can bear fruit — deserves an upgrade. A drive to make fundamental changes may have welled up with some urgency lately. Right now, personal transformation and your literal living space seem directly related. Despite concerns connected to the values of those close to you, perhaps in the form of hard currency, this year family may be more supportive than you think. Tread gently in matters related to mutual financial interests for a couple of weeks, knowing a window of opportunity is open for constructive steps toward creating greater security. Home is an energetic as well as physical location, and if you’ve fallen behind in the self-care department, tend to it. Last weekend’s eclipse may have felt destabilizing, but it’s important right now to re-establish healthy routines. Needs for deep intimacy or for intense, transcendent sexual experience may also have surfaced recently, and run headlong into a frustrating buzz-kill. It’s okay. Savor the power flowing through those channels and remember that desire creates.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Say it. Write it. Deliver da letter. Indigenous lore holds that stories roam the land searching for the correct storyteller. Messages require a messenger, and right now one seems to be tapping you on the shoulder. The world wants to hear from you. You’re in a yearlong cycle in which your voice must be honored, your thoughts expressed; and at the moment that’s getting green lights all over the place. Even if no specific writing projects come to mind, this is the time to reach out to others and communicate. A vivifying surge can spark life back into relationships that have languished, leaving you inspired and energized. If you’ve wanted some advice, or have meant to get back to someone, pick up the phone or get together; both of you will be richer for it. It’s cold in the Northern Hemisphere, but there’s good medicine in getting out and about. If you do have creative ambitions in the writing department, The Force is with you. In the words of Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than to bear an untold story inside you.”

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You know how to play the long game. Part of that entails pacing yourself so you don’t sacrifice health for the sake of duty, especially when the hours you’re putting in have included some pretty frustrating encounters. If that resonates, take a look at how your thought patterns may mirror recent tensions with others. Your mind’s a busy place these days — physical exertion of some kind would do wonders to calm that storm. If current efforts have been devoted toward work that isn’t as fulfilling as what you envision, if you’re feeling resentful, blow off a little steam rather than letting it simmer. Right now you’re building the base of your pyramid. Material needs are the foundation, and this year the wind is at your back, in terms of creating essential security. In fact, the next couple days are rich with potential in that regard. This is an excellent time to schedule presentations, apply for a job, or direct your formidable powers toward expanding resources.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — “I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it / The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.” Walt Whitman is your spirit animal right now. If you need permission or inspiration to take advantage of the potentially thrilling electric current available to you at the moment, read Song of Myself. You’re in a cycle of self-discovery and liberation from outgrown concepts, with a green light to express and celebrate your unique gifts. If you’ve experienced a bit of tension recently between the need to let your freak flag fly and issues related to material security, that should be resolving. “There is a time for penance and a time for partridge,” said Teresa of Avila (your fellow fire sign and philosopher). This looks like more of a partridge moment — that is, a time for pleasure or ‘the good life’. Centaurs are known for both wisdom and lusty passions, and the sage and the beast in you can harmonize in some revitalizing ways these days. Don’t go overboard, obviously, but it’s important to savor the jewel-like moments that life offers, and I hope you’ll find a way to ride the wave that’s cresting now. Creative endeavors of all sorts, sporting activities and romantic encounters would be especially fulfilling.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Where you live is more than a physical location. Your deepest, secret self and private past feed directly into what your energetic ‘home’ entails. Recently you may have felt some intense stirrings on a less than fully conscious level; fears and anger that might seem irrational on the surface. Frustration and annoyances related to pressures you’ve been under maybe had something to do with your actual living space, as well. That immediate storm is dissipating. You may be more inwardly focused than usual for a couple of weeks; don’t strain against it. You can recharge your psychic batteries in ways that will directly serve your quest in the world. A generous well of wisdom and support is available to you on the subtle planes this year. Draw from it. Especially right now, you have opportunities to access intuitive intelligence that can inspire strategies to obtain what you’re striving for. Lines of communication are wide open from an inner (and possibly outer) teacher and guide, and deliberate actions to quiet your mind serve as acts of power this week. Make a point of remembering your dreams. Extend the invitation. Ask and you shall receive, but that does require asking.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Your solar year started off with a bang; a dramatic conclusion of an 18-month cycle in which your identity and how it relates to that of others has been tested and forced to evolve, in some overwhelming and challenging ways. Reverberations of the recent eclipse are still intense, but a new cycle has begun and right now it’s all about you. What you value, what you want to communicate, what initiatives you want to set in motion — who you really want to be. Use this time to re-boot, re-charge and re-focus. You know how to focus; you’re an expert. Make this a priority even amidst demands on your time that might feel frantic lately. Some furious activity, mentally and physically, might be distracting, but take a look at your long-range aspirations. The next few days are an excellent time to reach out to allies who may be able to assist you in furthering goals you’ve been dreaming about. It’s the perfect re-set for your year, so take advantage of some the good juju available as we speak. You might find collaborators just when you need them.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You’ve got an expansive vision for how you want to show up in the world. It’s imperative that you trust this vision and work towards it this year. Especially right now: with focused effort, the next few days may well bring evidence of some sort of reward. The recent eclipse brings to a close a cycle in which your evolutionary work has brought you face to face with matters of self-esteem, subconscious fears or wounding patterns — some of the darkest recesses of your psyche seem to have undergone a cleansing. Now you’re positioning yourself to bring your true powers to the fore, to manifest evidence of your creative genius for the world to see, in one form or another. Recent frustrations between your aspirations for the future and how you value yourself are dissipating. Let that be as dust in the wind — you know what you’re capable of. Use the next couple of days wisely; that wisdom involves disciplined effort combined with faith in yourself. This blend is a restorative brew to drink in deeply.

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