Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Basics

“I’m worried about the big march in Venezuela today.  I hope it doesn’t turn violent.”

My wife, sitting on the edge of the bed, reached down to tie her shoes.  This is the interlude when we check in with each other – after her morning shower, after I make the bed, before she drives off to work, before I make myself breakfast and start writing.  We talk about our dreams, our plans, the world, anything we’re thinking about.  Often she’s thinking about Venezuela, her homeland. 

“When does the march begin?” I asked. 

“It’s already begun.” She told me that people have been coming into Caracas for days, including tribal leaders from the Amazon who led a ritual this morning.  She paused to send me links to a bunch of newspapers and websites - El País, El Tiempo, BBC Mundo.  I read that they’re calling this event The Taking of Caracas, and that they’re expecting a million people in the streets.    

I tell her, “It’s a powerful day today, with a solar eclipse.  That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be peaceful.  But it does mean something important is beginning.”

The highway from the airport – a highway that my wife used to travel every day to go to work, a steep but beautiful highway with a view of the Caribbean sea to the north – is now taken over with tanks and anti-riot equipment. Demonstrators are coming in on buses, although sometimes these buses are held up by police roadblocks.  It’s safer to be riding in the buses of people recruited by the government for a counter-demonstration.  Opposition leaders have been jailed, or moved from house arrest to prison.  

They are saying that the march will be peaceful.  They’re marching for a referendum which could revoke the powers of the president, something that’s allowed in the constitution.  But the government is drawing parallels between today’s march and the rally in 2002 that turned into a coup, temporarily ousting Hugo Chávez.  Earlier this week, all TV stations were obligated to show a documentary about that event, entitled “Keys to a Massacre”. 

The march’s goals seem fairly abstract.  The referendum is being held up by the government’s electoral body, and once it's allowed to proceed, the signatures of  20% of the voting population will be collected, and this will force a new vote.  But the basic issues are not abstract.  Food has shifted from a basic human need to a challenging struggle, involving being in the right place at the right time, standing in line for hours, managing not to get robbed, and still getting ripped off in the end by monstrous inflation.   

And this eclipse in Virgo is all about the basics – nutrition, health, daily life.  It’s about the little things which, day by day, become the foundation of the future.  What kind of future is built on fear, anger and scarcity?  A solid foundation comes from children with strong bones, the free time to learn new things, and the good will that comes from a full stomach. 

So we are at a crossroads.  Which future are we engaged in building?  There is an eclipse at the new moon today, and another eclipse at the full moon on September 16.  Both of these engage the Virgo/Pisces axis, the tension between small details and larger visions.  The Virgo side boils down to:  how do we make it work?  How do we organize our society so that it gives us the basics that we need?  The Pisces side is about empathy, compassion, and spiritual awareness, the softening agents that encourage us to work for the common good. 

In addition, Mercury is retrograde for most of the month, until September 22.  So the focus is on reclaiming.  There may be many important inventions that haven’t yet been developed, and that will play a crucial part in our future.  But there are many more methods and techniques that we already know about, things we don’t use because there’s no profit involved.  We need to reclaim these basic skills.  We need both Virgoan skills – how can we do it better? – and Piscean skills – how do we connect to each other and create one shared, peaceful earth? 

In addition, Jupiter changes signs in September, something that only happens once a year.  The Jupiter sign points to social preoccupations, and gives a particular direction to collective improvements.  For the past year, Jupiter’s been in Virgo.  What have we seen during this time?  For one thing, and for the first time, all nations agreed to reduce climate emissions at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Will the commitments made there be enough to save us as a species?  Maybe, maybe not.  But Virgo is all about small steps.  At least we’re trying to figure out a sustainable way to live on this planet. 

This month – on September 9 – Jupiter is entering Libra, a much more abstract sign.  At its best, it’s the sign of equality, peace and partnership, and we can hope for new peace initiatives and a stronger commitment to justice. 

But while Libra is a sign that fosters cooperation, it can also give a tendency to try to be all things to all people.  Libra gives the ability to see both sides of any equation, and this can give a gift for compromise and diplomacy, but it can also mean endless debate and argument.  You can see this with Donald Trump, who has Jupiter in Libra, and is skilled at playing different factions against each other.

Is it good for Trump that Jupiter is entering the sign it occupied when he was born?  I have to say yes.  Does this mean he’ll win?  I certainly hope not!  I have to note that Bill Clinton has Jupiter in Libra, and it was in this sign when he won the presidency.  But I’m not despairing.  Hopefully it just means that the election and its aftermath will make Trump richer than ever, and that will count as a win in his book. 

What will Jupiter in Libra mean for the opposition in Venezuela?   This sign tends towards balance between opposing social elements, so it won’t necessarily mean an immediate victory.  However, we can look to Venezuela in 1945.  Then, under Jupiter in Libra, there was a coup by Acción Democrática, a party that was still operating in Venezuela when I lived there fifty years later.  So sometimes the balance shifts. 

The eclipses of September do signal a change. For those living in the most unbalanced places in the world, this shift could just be a matter of a million people congregating in the street, giving weight to their basic human need for sustenance.  We humans been coming together to help each other eat for millennium;  it’s something we do.  But when we obstruct each other’s access to food, something has to give.