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.

Farmageddon – The True Cost of Cheap Meat

farmageddonjpegFor anyone who has not cottoned on to how much harm is being done (to animals, people and the planet) by current methods of food production, I highly recommend this book. The authors demand that we reconsider how we are raising animals for meat and ask many other serious questions about our methods of agriculture and eating patterns across the world. For anyone who has already studied the issues here, there may not be much that is new.

A wide range of different types of damage caused by modern farming techniques are examined in great detail. The scarcity of bees, the massive overuse of antibiotics in farm animals (“Roughly half of all antibiotics produced in the world go to food animals”), the use of cereals and grains as animal feed instead of for direct human consumption (“A third of the world’s cereal harvest is used for animals. If it went directly to human’s instead, it would feed about 3 billion people”) the problems in modern fish-farming such as sea lice and waste (“A fifth of the world’s fish is effectively being wasted feeding other fish”) and so on.

Author Philip Lymbery

Author Philip Lymbery

Industrial agriculture is yet another example of how placing corporate profits before people and the environment is, in the long-term, self-destructive madness. The authors finish with the importance of consumer power and a call for more compassionate and realistic solutions as the way forward. Reduce and recycle food waste, take animals out of the factory sheds and restore them to the land, eat less meat, buy organic and free-range. Farming – a return to the old ways of mixed farming with plants and animals on the same farm. Use natural manure to fertilize crops, doing away with the giant pits of excrement found on mega-farms.

Many people still want to believe that pigs and cows and sheep and chickens all live on Old MacDonald’s farm, happily chomping away at grass in the fields or pecking in the farmyard, despite all the evidence that’s now available to the contrary. This book is a powerful, comprehensive and balanced wake-up call that doesn’t preach and it doesn’t say that we should all be vegan or even vegetarian. Time for us all to open our eyes a bit.

Review of “Whose Dream Are You Living?”

Thanks to Joe Bridge of the Real Music Club for this nice album review:-

“Tim Burness is back at the RMC on February 27th and with his seventh album, Whose Dream Are You Living? a work he has been patiently and lovingly crafting for the best part of five years. His previous album Vision On (2007) received strong notices, recognition and international reviews, so Tim had a lot to live up to with its follow up, released in November last year and available via https://timburness.bandcamp.com/

LiveBurnessOpening track Onwards and Upwards starts off with Gregg McKella’s swirling synths and electro beats before the real drums (Fudge Smith: ex Pendragon and Steve Hackett) kick in and drive the song forward, carrying the positive message of the song’s lyrics along with it.

Slowing down with Grass is Greener, this song seems to catch a man at some sort of crossroads contemplating a change in life, with Tim’s wit particularly enjoyable on lines such as “I know that some British folk like to hang out in Turkey, if I get myself out there I might feel slightly more perky. I heard things are quieter in Belgium, unfortunately there is not much that rhymes with Belgium” and “the grass is greener over there, at least I’ve still got most of my hair”!

The album continues to alternate between tempos as Monty Oxymoron (Damned, Sumerian Kyngs) starts up Set Your Spirit Free, another positive-thinking song “release the energy and set your spirit free” before the ambient sounds of Round and Round bring things down into a mellow hypnotic trance with its repetitive acoustic riff and minimal vocal lines punctuating the soundscape.

Moving on with something a bit different, Smith’s thumping percussive beats and Tim’s fiery bursts of guitar create an aggressive atmosphere to colour the assertive lyric of The Messenger, an atmosphere that builds before being punctured by a cough and a completely unexpected (should I have put a spoiler alert in?!) middle section, all Oompah band and megaphone! Another track that takes the album into different territory is the aptly titled Unlike Any Other, which is largely instrumental bar some sparse spoken lines, and carries with it a kind of modern noirish nightmare feel with its theramin-like sounds eerily playing over the stop-start rhythm.

After that midway detour, A Space for Our Love to Grow brings us back to the vibe set by the opening four tracks – a typically spacious, synthesised sound with a yearning chorus. There are again some little musical twists to keep things interesting, such as the nice acoustic / keys outro that just acts as a nice release to the emotion of the main body of the song.

Politics infiltrates the album on Stop Them. Tim’s anti-corporate, anti-capitalist protest is powerful in its passion but done with a light enough touch to not beat you over the head with its message. The music is subtle with vocals to the fore, bringing full attention to the lyrics.

After the relatively heavy Stop Them comes a song with a sprinkling of humour, playing on its name check of Doctor Who in its first line, with repeated use of Dalek-sounding voices. Otherwise What’s Going On In Your Head is one of those Ronseal songs, doing exactly what it says on the tin!

Closing out the album is Cynical World, a track that gives the album a sense of closure and of wrapping things up with the repeated vocal refrain “Our love goes on” sung over Monty Oxymoron’s distinctive backing vocals and some clean, emotive lead guitar work. Tim Burness has produced a mature and engaging work, full of hope, positivity and deep soul searching, always giving something for the mind to think over whether they be the personal, spiritual or political lyrics within, the trippy soundscapes, or the intricate musical twists and turns along the way. Five years of hard graft and personal investment well spent!”

The Gods of Change by Howard Sasportas

TheGodsOfChangeThe late Howard Sasportas packed a huge amount of high quality astrological and psychological information into this intelligent, clear and accessible book  It was a constant companion for many years, both for my work as a professional astrologer and in following my own transits of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. It is a classic cookbook on the outer planets, covering their transits to each planet and through each house.

The first section, “The Collaboration with the Inevitable”, is an excellent summary of how astrology can be used as a tool for understanding ongoing personal transformation, helping to turn perceived crises into opportunities. Sasportas then moves on to look in great detail and depth at the transits of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto to each planet in the natal chart. A very large number of case histories are dotted throughout the transit interpretations, with a wide range of examples of how each planetary combination can show up in daily life. These possible events are considered in the context of the psychological development of the individual, Sasportas drawing on his extensive knowledge of many fields of psychology, mythology and spirituality.

HowardSas

Much of the astrological material here is similar to other classic late twentieth century transit books such as those by Robert Hand, Betty Lundsted or Stephen Arroyo (who Sasportas acknowledges), but Sasportas masterfully integrated a huge number of additional psychological and spiritual insights from many sources. Over 25 years later, The Gods Of Change is still a wise, compassionate and substantial contribution to modern astrology.

 

Planets In Transit by Robert Hand

PlanetsInTransitI picked up a cheap second-hand copy of this classic 20th century text recently, my old heavily-used copy having fallen to pieces several years ago. Although most people relatively new to astrology now learn astrological basics from the internet, this book still remains one of the modern classics that no contemporary astrologer can afford to be without. Just about every serious astrologer I’ve ever met has got a copy of this on his or her shelf. For most of the book, Robert Hand explores the meaning of every possible combination of planets in transit to each other, this being one of the most commonly used techniques of astrological prediction. In addition to the planets, the ascendant and midheaven are also included but astrologers using Chiron will have to look elsewhere. The introductory chapters about the interpretation and timing of transits are well worth a read, and these are followed by a case study of Nixon and the Watergate scandals in the early 1970s. Then its on to a chapter for each planet and the transits it makes to all the others. RobertHandcolourHand’s interpretations are full of psychological insights, but the nature of specific events that may occur are also covered. For the first few years I had this book I tended to focus on the more obvious long-term transits of the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) but eventually I became just as intrigued by the uncanny accuracy of the “insignificant” daily or even hourly transits of the Sun, the Moon and Mercury. The smallest and the largest life cycles have their part to play. Buy this book and prove or disprove predictive astrology for yourself. A massive contribution to modern astrology, thank you Robert.

Cancel The Apocalypse by Andrew Simms

CancelTheApocalypseMore economic growth! It will solve everything! Or will it? In this book of relentless and exceptionally thorough analysis, Andrew Simms of the new economics foundation (nef) carefully exposes the many weaknesses of an economic system committed to growth at all costs. Perhaps more importantly, he is equally masterful at presenting the many practical alternatives that could help us (and maybe will have to help us) out of the mess we are in.

Certain basics are questioned in the opening chapters. The measurement of GDP only shows the quantity of economic growth, it says nothing about the quality. Is it really okay that banks literally create 97 per cent of the money in existence, simply by loaning it out? What is going on in advanced economies that leads to so much unhappiness for so many? Simms continually questions the whole value system, using countless quotes and examples from everyday life, history, science, politics around the world and just about everything else. Chapter 9 is particularly powerful as he rips into the advertising industry.

AndrewSimmsOne of the recurring major themes is the need to re-connect with our environment, with each other and with ourselves. “I believe that the way ahead – and I am fully aware that this involves inviting the scorn of that same culture – is to fall back in love with the world, and each other”. Andrew Simms presents us with suggestions for the way forward, many of which have already been tried and tested in different cultures at different times. Revitalizing local economies through co-operatives, shortening the working week, a move away from the doctrine of neoliberalism as taught in universities. “An obvious forward step is to shift the balance of corporate ownership and governance away from the domination of the shareholder model.” Towards the end of the book there are some very interesting observations and comments about China’s economic development. There is a clear, human and refreshingly sane voice, throughout this intense book. Nice one Andrew.