Thursday, November 2, 2017

From Zealotry to Austerity

I was in New York City a couple of days ago, when Sayfullo Saipov, a young Uzbek man, drove his truck into a group of random people, mostly Argentine bikers enjoying a school reunion.  In one of the world’s most international cities, he could have hit practically anyone. 

I wasn’t near the scene of the crime, but I could feel the mood of the city shift from the cool alertness typical of New Yorkers, to shock, and then to sadness, anger and determination.  I read it on the faces of people walking by, and especially those on bikes. 

I don’t have Saipov’s birthdata, but his age is given as 29, so he was probably born in 1988, when Saturn and Uranus were traveling together, mostly in the fire sign Sagittarius.  Saturn is the planet of respectability and structure, while Uranus is about change and rebellion, so it’s not an easy pairing. There’s a tension between the desire to establish oneself solidly in society, and the equal urge to break out and do things your own way. 

Sometime in the last year, Saipov had his Saturn return, that time when a person assesses his life, and tries to figure out if he’s on the right path.  At this point, he was looking for a larger meaning, and there were people there to convince him that his God would be pleased by some random bloodshed.  Human sacrifice has a long history, after all. 

Saturn is currently in Sagittarius -  a passionate fire sign, associated with religious and political zealotry.  It’s the expansive sign of gods and heroes.  It’s about action inspired by a greater faith.  When Saturn – the planet of responsibility -  is in Sagittarius, then to act heroically is considered a basic requirement, the price you pay for your ticket here on earth.  

Many brave people have had Saturn in this sign.  This includes some of the most dynamic freedom fighters of our times – Emma Goldman, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Paul Robeson, Eartha Kitt, Cesar Chavez, Mary Daly, Martina Navratilova, and Ellen Degeneres.  And Osama bin Laden was also born with Saturn in Sagittarius, and so was Yasser Arafat. So it doesn’t really say which side of which struggle you’re on.  Just that you believe in something greater, and are willing to throw yourself into the fight.    

Just nine days after Saturn entered this sign in 2015, more than two thousand people died during a stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  These were pilgrims, people who just wanted to fulfill a religious duty, and they didn’t intend to be the human sacrifices of the day.   But Saturn doesn’t give anything without charging heavily for it, although the price is not usually one’s life. 

During Saturn’s time in Sagittarius, we’ve had a great many terrorist attacks and suicide bombings.  They’ve happened at a peace rally in Ankara, an airport in Istanbul, a concert in Manchester, a street in Mogadishu, a gay nightclub in Orlando, a promenade in Nice, and throughout Paris – and many more in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. People have given up their lives for that burst of glory, and to us, it looks meaningless, because nobody was saved, nobody was rescued, nothing changed for the better.  But for the perpetrators, it was a last-minute lunge for a glory that they couldn’t find elsewhere. 

November is Saturn’s last month in Sagittarius, and then it will move on to the practical earth sign Capricorn.  Capricorn is the sign of the survivor.  It’s an ambitious, goal-oriented sign, so it’s purposeful -  but each step is measured, careful, and pragmatic.  It tends to be cynical, rather than hopeful.  There is no rushing ahead.  There are no frills, and nothing is wasted.  Old things are reused, and that includes old traditions and principles – and because of that, Capricorn tends to be formal, respectable, and well-established.

Does this mean that things won’t change as quickly while Saturn is in Capricorn?  They are more likely to reel backwards a bit.  For example, Saturn was in Capricorn when Carrie Nation started her crusade against alcohol.  She had the sun in Sagittarius, so she was personally very zealous, but her mission was essentially a negative one.  We can expect some backtracking to a more socially conservative time, although since Saturn will only be here two and a half years, I don’t think the gay community will lose too much of the progress we’ve made - hopefully. 

Saturn was also in Capricorn when the first Texas oil gusher was discovered, leading to a huge economic shift.  Oil, as the decomposed bodies of marine animals, is both very old and very useful, and so it’s connected to efficient Capricorn.  But Capricorn is also about building blocks, so perhaps alternate energy forms will become more practical, codified, and formalized while Saturn is here.  

Capricorn is business-oriented, and there are a lot of savvy people who recognize the potential of future-oriented businesses, and who will do well.  But there will also be even more people who cling to the businesses of the past, such as coal-mining, and I expect we’ll see quite a bit of suffering around that.  Profiteers will try to hang on to their profits, while workers try to hang on to their livelihoods, and both will go down slowly, like frogs boiling in a pot.     

Saturn was in Capricorn during the first years of Great Depression, 1929 to 1932.  Unemployment reached millions in the US and Europe, and in Germany, the Nazi Party took hold.  They promised both survival and a return to a glorious past, much like Trump’s message today.  But it was also during this time that Gandhi began to practice civil disobedience, the Vietnamese Communist Party was established, and the NAACP started its anti-lynching campaign.  So there were some that saw survival as a group effort, requiring structure and organization.  And these efforts, though very strenuously opposed, eventually bore fruit.       

I’m not a specialist in economics by any means, and it’s true that there isn’t a major overturn every time that Saturn enters Capricorn.  There have been times when the things hummed along economically, and the sign has just shown itself in a more conservative, conformist social atmosphere.  However, there is often a chilling contrast when a planet moves from rambunctious, enthusiastic Sagittarius into lean, hungry Capricorn.  In 2008, we saw the economy take a sudden hit when Pluto moved from Sagittarius to Capricorn. 

Capricorn is also a sign of wisdom, because it’s connected to age and experience.  The best manifestation of Saturn in Capricorn would be a populace who is no longer fooled by the falsities of the ruling class – such as “tax reform” that mainly benefits the rich.  And if things do get bad, the best manifestation would be a return to survival skills of the past, and to a simpler but more satisfying way of living.  We’ve already seen this trend under Pluto in Capricorn.   

And do I think Saturn in Capricorn will bring down Donald Trump?  Yes, probably.  It’s a humbling sign.  But do I think that will do a whole lot of good?  No, not really.  At least not immediately.  I think it will take another six or seven years before we have a truly progressive political agenda. 

And will the spate of suicidal zealots slow down while Saturn is in Capricorn?  Zealotry is more conducive to violence than despair, it’s true, but some people will still throw away their lives and the lives of random others.  In a world of deprivation, a world of climate change refugees, some people will die just to spare their families another mouth to feed.   

All we can do is stick together, and keep working out solutions to the many practical problems that are part of our existence here.  We can work for a world in which there are many ways to find meaning.  This means small steps, not big glorious gestures.  But Saturn in Capricorn is all about small steps.  Our mission is to survive, to learn from our elders, and to keep ourselves pointed towards the future.