Postcapitalism by Paul Mason

Most people would agree that capitalism is not working too well these days – to put it very mildly! Author Paul Mason takes us on a journey from the origins of modern capitalism through to the current crisis we are in. At the end he offers some possible solutions in great detail, some of them based on underlying social trends that are already emerging.

Paul Mason

The first half of the book is heavy going in places, although readers more at home with economic theory might have a different view. I found myself struggling to take in the detailed analysis of the likes of Kondratieff, Schumpeter and the relevance of Marx. Gradually the author ties the theory in with where we are now and what may be ahead. Mason suggests that we are at the point of “The exhaustion of capitalism’s 250 year old tendency to create new markets where old ones die out”. The length of several cycles, such as the one just mentioned which corresponds to a complete cycle of Pluto, was interesting to me as an astrologer. Amongst other interconnected topics, the effects of automation in factories and the how neoliberal capitalism dealt with the 2008 financial crash are explored. Most neoliberal capitalist countries are now left with ridiculous unsustainable debts.

The emergence of the information economy and the networked individual are seen as crucial to the postcapitalist future. “A networked lifestyle and consciousness, at odds with hierarchies of capitalism”. The implications of this are examined in the last few chapters, covering climate change, the population explosion and just about every other major problem you can think of. A basic income is suggested. Many of the ideas will be familiar to those who have read the likes of Andrew Simms of the new economics foundation. The reader is left feeling that there may be some hope for the future.

Arrival – a film about astrology?

The film Arrival appeared on mainstream cinema screens towards the end of last year and has been widely acclaimed as the best science fiction film for many years. It has been both a critical and commercial success. Although there are perhaps one or two clichés near the beginning, Arrival is far more sophisticated than the average film about aliens visiting Earth. There is an unusual depth and intelligence throughout, as themes of love, grief, memory and the passing of time are explored. What does it mean to be human, what is our purpose? The film is nicely paced, the award-winning music is suitably haunting, there is often a sense of magical wonder. Leading actress Amy Adams is outstanding.

Directed by Dennis Villeneuve, Arrival is an adaptation of a 1998 short story Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang. Amongst many other things, it explores the idea that language determines thought and perception. The concept of linguistic relativity has been linked to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, first published in 1940 by linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Philosophers such as Wittgenstein (“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”) have explored similar territory. I had never come across Chiang before but one review had this to say about him:- “If there is a single recurrent theme in Ted Chiang’s work, it’s the attempt to square the circle between human fantasies of belief, and the perceived certainties of a rational, scientific worldview. There’s a strong sense in Chiang’s work that he sees conflicts of faith v reason, or freedom v determinism, as illusionary. That if we can simply see clearly enough, all conflicts give way to harmony. Chiang’s rigour and logic take him to a point of mysticism.” (1.)

After a brief but important introduction, the film begins in the style of many other science fiction films about aliens landing on Earth. The spaceships hover in twelve locations around the world and there is worldwide panic as humanity wonders what to do next. Some strange sounds are recorded at the spaceship that has arrived in Montana and the American government calls on linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to lead an investigative team. “You approach language like a mathematician”, Ian says to Louise at one point.

To the accompaniment of a drone that would not be out of place in a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony, Louise and her crew make their way down a tunnel in the nearest alien spaceship. This begins a series of attempts to communicate with the Heptapods, as the aliens become known. They are more interested in visual communication rather than sound.

IdentifyingLogograms

In Arrival, each logogram is divided into 12 sections, just like an astrological horoscope. As a person learns the alien language, their perception and experience of time is altered.

For astrologers, this is where it starts to get really interesting. In reference to the twelve spaceships, we have already been told that the twelve fit together to form a whole. The aliens now gradually begin to communicate by drawing a series of circular puffs of smoke in mid-air, each of them containing specific visual blobs that carry highly complex information. These circular patterns bear a striking resemblance to horoscopes, both visually and in their function. The alien language of the Heptapods is nonlinear, with no beginning or end – the whole of a particular sentence or idea is communicated at once, not in a progressive order. The past, the present and the future are presented as one.

Louise and her team set about examining the meaning of the circles, as do investigative teams in other countries. Problems emerge when different conclusions are drawn about exact interpretations of one particular message. Does it mean “Give technology now” or “Use weapon now” and is this a threat of some kind? This leads to a global crisis point and the final scenes of the film, when it becomes clear that Louise’s perception of time and reality has become altered by learning “The Universal Language”.

Researching on the internet, I have not been able to find any acknowledgement of astrological knowledge in relation to the film or the original story. It has been suggested that the alien circles may have been inspired by a Zen calligraphic symbol. Presumably, the number of striking similarities to astrology must therefore be a co-incidence. A visual language based around circles and symbols, a language that communicates complex information and changes our perception of time, a language which when learnt can change our experience of what it means to be human in the world. That certainly sounds familiar to serious astrologers! See this excellent film and draw your own conclusions, or lack of them.

  1. “Ted Chiang, the science fiction genius behind Arrival”, The Guardian, 11th November, 2016.

The original version of the above article appeared in the March/April 2017 of The Astrological Journal, the flagship bimonthly magazine of the Astrological Association.

Opinion poll

number-seven

Sanctuary Group new developments – also falling to pieces

sanctuaryAt the end of January 2017, the Sanctuary Housing facebook page posted an advert for a short story competition they were running. This was the first reply:-

Declan Toman “Once upon a time, there was a housing association who built a new development in Wood Green, North London in late 2014 (Artizan Court).

The housing association advertised it as a secure, gated development, and sold the leasehold flats at up to £450,000.

However, Sanctuary Housing clearly had no intention of ever servicing the building, repairing any faults or taking any responsibility for their subcontractors.

None of the external doors or gates lock, and Sanctuary have shown nothing but complete ineptitude and incompetence in arranging their repair. Each time they blame their subcontractors, but seem to have no intention of enforcing the service level targets they have with these contractors. Residents receive nothing but a barrage of excuses in a saga going on years.

Sanctuary wilfully ignored a serious leak in the building for months which has caused the stairwell walls to crumble and mould. Sanctuary seem unwilling to repair this damage, instead letting it get worse. This has been going on for a year.

The standard Sanctuary social media reply....

The standard Sanctuary social media reply….

...which tries to make it look as though Sanctuary actually care

…..which tries to make it look as though Sanctuary actually care. Utterly useless.

The lift doesn’t work, leaving my post-cesarean wife housebound whilst I am at work as she is unable to carry a pram down the stairs. The bike shed was vandalised because the gates don’t lock, leaving all bicycles vulnerable to theft (many have been stolen). Sanctuary are unwilling to discuss the poor design, or repair the damage. This is a car free development, so bikes are very important to residents.

Sanctuary’s complete and utter incompetence and disorganisation has made living in the development an absolute nightmare. They’ve treated residents with complete disdain. They’ve consistently promised things they haven’t delivered on, and clearly have no intention of ever rectifying any of the issues. They’ve repeatedly increased the service charges, without any improvement in the service.

And this is where this story ends. There will be many more chapters I’m sure. The issues within Sanctuary appear endemic and I don’t foresee an end to this particular tale.

But Sanctuary will live happily ever after, even if their residents are suffering.”

sanctuarynewbuild

“Leading housing and care provider”, as we can see here.

Sanctuary continue to expand their empire, recently announcing £90 million  of funding from the HCA to develop 2,265 affordable homes across England over the next five years. Peter Martin, Sanctuary group director, said: “We are delighted to be developing these much needed new homes in Worcestershire. Our work in the area forms part of our wider national development plans to build 30,000 homes in England and Scotland by 2026 and help increase housing across the country.”

Very nice, but as John Harris recently pointed out in The Guardian, what is the point of building all these new homes if they’re not fit to live in?

All to be expected from a registered charity that makes £40-50 million every year?

sanctuarygroup

The Aquarian and Uranian nature of progressive rock

Aquarius

Aquarius

As both a fan and musician, I have had more than a passing interest in progressive rock (prog rock or prog) for the last forty years. As an astrologer for the last thirty years, I noticed some time ago that Aquarian and Uranian themes are very common in the charts of many progressive rock musicians and that the whole musical genre is essentially Aquarian-Uranian in nature. From the often original and experimental nature of the music, to the eccentric musicians themselves, to the frequently intellectual lyrics in search of the truth. Not all Aquarian and Uranian musicians are prog rockers and not all progressive rock musicians have Aquarius or Uranus strong in their charts but the link is there.

Progressive rock gradually evolved out of the late 1960s, beginning with the more experimental sides of the likes of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys and others. “Progressive” and “experimental” are of course words that are frequently associated with the astrological symbolism of Aquarius and its ruling planet Uranus, both being concerned with challenging existing conventions and exploring new territory. It has been suggested that Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) by The Beatles was the first progressive rock album and it certainly has many features that have come to be recognised as prog rock trademarks. There is an overall concept, a Progrockcolourful album cover – a piece of art in itself – and an extraordinarily wide range of musical and lyrical influences. Others have suggested that In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969) by King Crimson was the beginning of progressive rock. By the 1970s and the likes of Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes having established themselves, progressive rock had emerged as a subgenre in its own right. The term “prog”, sometimes used in a jokey or derogatory sense, appeared much later.

 

 

SevenFourUnusual and quirky (Aquarius) time signatures and unconventional song structures are often a feature of progressive rock. Rather than conforming to the more typical 4/4 rock and pop beat, artists such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree often use alternatives such as 7/4 or 13/8. Pink Floyd’s Money on Dark Side Of The Moon and Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill are examples of using a 7/4 time signature. Aquarian progrock often breaks the musical rules in all sorts of ways – the traditional verse and chorus structures are frequently avoided in favour of extended instrumental sections or other alternatives. Unpredictability is the name of the day, although critics have observed that this can seem musically pretentious, sometimes appearing to sound different for the sake of being different. Such criticism is of course unlikely to bother a musician with several planets in Aquarius or a strong Uranus in their birth chart, who will follow their own path, regardless.

Dave Gilmour, Sun square Uranus

Dave Gilmour, Sun square Uranus

A quick look at the astrological charts of famous progressive rock musicians confirms the prominence of either Aquarius or many close aspects between Uranus and the personal planets. Guitarist Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd was born a Pisces Sun with a square to Uranus. In a 2014 interview promoting Floyd’s The Endless River album, producer Youth gave a perfect Sun-Uranus description when  commenting on his experience of working with Gilmour:- “It’s funny with David, you think he’s going to be one way and then he goes completely the other. He’s unpredictable like that, and that’s good” (1). Keyboard player Rick Wakeman of Yes has Moon and Jupiter in Aquarius, flautist and singer Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (a brilliant eccentric if ever there was one!) has Mars conjunct Uranus in 10th house. The extraordinarily gifted and uniquely intelligent guitarist Robert Fripp (King Crimson) was born with a close Venus conjunct Uranus trine Jupiter and another multi-talented guitarist and musician Steve Hillage (originally with the eccentric and sometimes brilliant Gong) was born with a close Mars conjunct Uranus at the apex of a Cardinal T-square. Kate Bush, who made her spectacular live comeback in 2014, has pretty much transcended all genres but the strong prog leanings are there. She has a natal Sun-Uranus conjunction and almost certainly, depending on the time of birth, Moon in Aquarius.

 

Peter Gabriel's Aquarian birth chart

Peter Gabriel’s Aquarian birth chart

At their 1970s peak, Genesis were one of the most interesting and innovative progressive rock bands. A very English group of musicians making clever and eccentric (Aquarius/Uranus) music, fronted by Peter Gabriel’s clever and eccentric theatrical performances.  Although Genesis became more commercially successful after Phil Collins took over as singer, most prog fans consider that the more interesting and original ideas (Aquarius/Uranus) started to run out after first Gabriel and then Steve Hackett left the band. Both Hackett and Gabriel have natal Sun, Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius, being born one day apart on 12th February 1950 and 13th February 1950 respectively. The Aquarian urge for freedom and independence would have played its part in them branching out to pursue extremely successful solo careers, each achieving substantial international recognition for their artistic brilliance across a number of musical genres.

Peter Gabriel - Sun, Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius

Gabriel – Sun, Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius

With his Aquarian Sun and other 7th house Aquarian planets on display to the public, Peter Gabriel is the living embodiment of the most highly evolved Air sign. A major feature of Gabriel’s birth chart (2) is a powerful close opposition between Pluto in Leo on the Ascendant and Jupiter in Aquarius on the Descendant. Gabriel has achieved huge recognition and success as both a Pluto in Leo rock musician and a Jupiter in Aquarius visionary humanitarian. The tension between these two is mediated by a gifted and magical conjunction between Mars and Neptune in Libra, a perfect combination for a socially conscious artist and musician. He has often been years ahead of his time (Aquarius), from his founding of the Womad festival, to his support for world music through his record label and recording studio, to his involvement with one of the first music download services, OD2. Receiving the Prog God award at the annual Progressive Music Awards in London, September 2014 from comedian and prog fan Bill Bailey (there’s a fair bit of Aquarius in his chart too), Gabriel said:- “Despite prog probably being the most derided musical genre of all time there were – as today – a lot of extraordinary musicians trying to break down the barriers to reject the rules of music… We didn’t always get it right, but when it did work we could move people and get some magic happening.” (3)

 

Steve Hogarth and Fish - Mars in Aquarius

Steve Hogarth and Fish – Mars in Aquarius

Mainstream progressive rock was carried into the 1980s by Marillion, who are still going strong today. Both the original Marillion singer Fish and new boy Steve Hogarth (who has actually been with the band since 1990) have a prominent Mars in Aquarius. It has often been said that guitarist Steve Rothery is Marillion’s greatest musical asset, and Rothery was born with an almost exactly stationary Uranus in Leo. (Astrologer Stephen Arroyo recently observed that due to the use of computers, the importance of natal stationary planets is now often over-looked (4), something that contemporary astrologers might want to bear in mind.) Marillion were years ahead of everyone (Aquarius) when they famously first used crowdfunding to raise money for an American tour in 1997. As with many newer and lesser known 21st century prog acts, the Aquarian internet has continued to be essential to the band, enabling them to build a worldwide fanbase whilst remaining largely independent (Aquarius) of the music industry.

Francis Dunnery, Sun trine Uranus

Francis Dunnery – an astrologer with Sun trine Uranus

 

No piece on astrology and prog would be complete without a mention of Francis Dunnery, who is himself an accomplished astrologer. The inspired ex-It Bites and ex-Robert Plant guitarist and songwriter has a close Sun-Uranus aspect and Saturn in Aquarius. Appropriately, he runs his own label called Aquarian Nation.

Although progressive rock has always survived and thrived underground, it was uncool for many years. Since Radiohead’s OK Computer in the late 1990s, prog rock’s influence has become increasingly acceptable in the mainstream again – prog is no longer quite such a dirty word!

Notes

  1. “The Making of The Endless River”, Prog magazine, October 2014, p.44.
  2. Peter Gabriel, born 4.30 pm, 13th February 1950, Woking, England. Time of birth is from memory, according to astro.com databank.
  3. “Peter Gabriel honoured at Prog music awards”, BBC News website, 12th September 2014.
  4. “Experiments and Experience with Astrology: Reflections on Methods and Meaning”, Stephen Arroyo, CRCS Publications, November 2013.

This article was originally written for a book on the astrology of music, due to be published by Flare Publications, UK.

National anti-fracking rally

nofrackdemo

Massive national anti-fracking rally coming up in Manchester on 12th November. Following on from David Cameron’s government “going all out for shale” (which includes bribes to local communities affected by fracking), Theresa May has continued the support for fracking by recently overruling Lancashire County Council and going against massive local protest. Even New Scientist magazine is now wondering why the government continues to go down this road. Banned in many countries, incompatible with climate change targets (why invest in inappropriate infrastructure and jobs that will only last a few years at most?), no guarantee that it will save the public any money, environmental risks. Nothing has changed since the 2013 protests in Balcombe, which convinced me that fracking will never take off in this country. The massive lorries alone are a nightmare! The government apparently wants a fight on this one, it looks like they will get it. The farce continues. More info on the event at frackfreelancashire.org

climatechange

morecontrolfrack

Newcrosshealthcare employee review – £50 fine for being ill?

 

Mostly good, too corporate. A very “mixed” four years.

newcrossWhen I first joined, the Brighton branch was run by a very good manager. For the likes of me (healthcare assistant and support worker, on and off for twenty years, including a great deal of agency experience) and qualified RGNs, there was plenty of work available (mostly in care homes) and we were very well supported. After the manager suddenly left, things went slowly downhill. They’ve recently closed the Brighton branch, running any remaining business from Eastbourne.

Pros and cons

Holiday pay is included in the hourly rate. Pay is not bad but they pull a bit of a fast one by including “holiday pay” in the hourly rates. It may look as though you are being paid more than other care agencies – often around £8.00 for day shifts (below a real living wage), more for nights and weekends – it’s actually about the same or slightly less than other agencies.

Variable management. At least at the branch where I was. One stand-in manager was extremely insensitive during an annual staff review and I made my feelings clear to her and to the regional manager at the time. Newcross can be overly corporate, the word care in Newcrosshealthcare is sometimes overlooked – I had to stand up to them a few times.

newcross2The £50 fine “cancellation fee”, including if you are ill! What on earth are they on about!? It may discourage people from phoning in sick last minute but it really upsets and undermines staff. Fortunately, I’m in good health so this outrageous policy only affected me a couple of times. On more than one occasion, I worked with Newcross staff who had come into work with stinking flu in a care home, rather than go through the hassle of the £50 cancellation process i.e. getting a refund after a doctor’s note.

The call centre in Devon is sometimes at odds with the local branch. At one stage I put in a complaint about an incredibly rude and unprofessional call worker. At other times I would ring in to register my availability (Newcross tend to be a bit obsessed with this) and would later find out that it hadn’t been put on the system. On the whole though, most staff were doing a good job, some were lovely people.

Continually recruiting new staff when there aren’t enough shifts for existing staff. Newcross regularly sent me enthusiastic text messages, reminding me how I can earn a bonus for recommending people to work locally. Fair enough if there was plenty of work to go round but this was often far from the case!

newcrosstwitterMostly good but too corporate. Newcross sometimes seem a bit too concerned with their self-described corporate mission “to dominate the market”, rather than respecting their staff at all levels. Despite that, thank you to them for helping me pay the bills for the last four years, I made some good friends and enjoyed much of the work particularly the many regular homes and clients. I know from experience that some agencies are worse. I’m now at a smaller, more local agency which is generally a bit more human.

A shortened version of the above has been posted on indeed.co.uk, the job website.