And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.
- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
After a long retrograde sojourn Mars stationed or came to a standstill in Scorpio from mid-June to mid-July, making a long and agitated inconjunct aspect with the Uranus-Eris conjunction before turning direct and moving forward again. This resulted in a spate of global incidents including the massacres in Orlando & Texas in the US, Nice in France and Munich in Germany, as well as a governmental coup in Turkey. This series of events illustrates the energy of unpredictability, chaos and discord represented by the planetary archetypes.
Mars has been gathering speed through July and will come out from behind the shadow of its retrograde movement to enter new territory on August 22nd, leaving the landscape of the dark psyche behind. We are beginning to feel a rapid forward movement and this will continue to increase as Mars enters the fiery sign of Sagittarius on August 3rd. Along with the sun’s yearly transition through the fire sign Leo, symbol of the enthroned king, themes of fanatical leadership will emerge as the US presidential election circus amps up in tandem with the steady erosion of constitutional rights that continue to roll out unimpeded by social debate. Be prepared for a growing number of ‘good guys’ speaking out about injustices in tones of egoistic righteousness that sound scarily like the enemies of truth they are calling to account.
It’s hard to know how to begin to deconstruct the issue of leadership. We live in a world in which few raise an eyebrow to leaders who regularly hurl accusations at unspecified, unsubstantiated and clearly manufactured enemies. The by-now familiar leadership strategy of inciting terror, hatred and violence towards a common enemy in order to fuel a fire they themselves started in order to pursue covert self-interested agendas is a sleight-of-hand technique that distracts the populace from the real threat at home. The wolf tucked up in grandma’s bed.
Recently-resigned UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s misguided arrogance was exposed when he engineered a referendum about UK’s membership to the European Union, certain that the British populace would choose to remain. When the people reacted with all the fear and hostility they had been indoctrinated with in the lead-up to the vote, Cameron was left without a contingency plan and immediately jumped ship like a cowardly captain, leaving the mess to someone less jaded to contend with.
On Friday 22nd July Assange hit us with another big Wikileaks dump straight from the Clinton inbox containing the dirty strategies designed to erase Bernie Sanders from the election campaign as well as detailed spreadsheets of Democratic Party donors and the bang they expect to get for their buck. After distancing herself from the dirty politicking, Hillary gave ‘longtime friend’ and besmirched Democratic National Committee Chairperson Deborah Wasserman Schultz a special role in her campaign.
You can tell a lot about a leader from the culture he or she creates through their leadership. Culture is made in the likeness of its leaders. Whether it’s an organization, a school or a nation, a quick inventory will reveal the true state of play trickling down from the top. Most of us have had experiences working for organisations with poor leadership that create toxic environments where no-one feels respected, valued or heard. Many of us have been to schools with weak principals where bullies run amok. When it comes to nations leadership operates on a much larger scale but the endgame is the same. The most covert, nepotistic, unsafe and inequitable nations are run by dictators. Some of those nations profess to be democracies but you only have to lift a corner of the rug to see the crooked machinations grinding away beneath.
Like a skillful conspiracy plot, present-day politics is so labyrinthine it’s virtually impossible to find its true heart. If we take the recent Turkish coup as an example, serious investigators are still speculating about what really happened. Did President Erdogan stage his own coup in order to salve his office of factional enemies? Is he really a dictator in the making as the US media has been implying? Or as the growing evidence suggests, was he apprised of the coup in advance using it as an opportunity to clean the house of the real dictator, CIA/NATO-backed Turkish billionaire fundamentalist Gulen whose cronies are said to have infiltrated the military, the police and the justice system?
Unchecked by anything resembling ethics or accountability and with a media consortium trumpeting the official line, global powerbrokers are engineering a social milieu of compliant sheep. In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, an allegory about a farmyard of animals who revolt against their human master, the self-appointed pig leaders amend their seven commandments over and over until the tenets of democracy are reversed and no-one remembers what they said in the first place. Sounds familiar, right? These days barely anyone seems to remember what the official storyline was yesterday let alone last month or last year. The only long view taken by leaders is the war of attrition perpetrated on a dispirited public whose morale has been ground down by non-stop bullshit.
The 9/11 global media extravaganza obliterated all hope of clear thinking and created a first-world leadership so brazen it has done away with any pretensions of story consistency. Before the demise of logic there was a script supervisor in charge of continuity who ensured the official story made sense. Now there is an emphasis on further refining the propaganda toolkit with the goal of performing a full-frontal collective lobotomy - a project which has met with considerable success. Inundated with meaningless mantras that sow seeds of fear in the collective mind we have been told black is white and up is down so often we have come to believe it is so.
I do have a very clear memory, though, of George Bush’s State of the Union address in 2002 some months after 9/11 when he pitched the ‘axis of evil’ spin for the first time. He opened with this divisive bit of humbug:
The civilized world is facing unprecedented dangers…
The civilized world he was referring to was America – an empire with a grubby reputation for eliminating grass roots democratic movements in order to install puppet dictators who comply with US corporate interests. I remember thinking, ‘who’s swallowing this shit?’ I looked for signs that the world was seeing what I was seeing – a deranged buffoon suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome - but apparently the world was taking George W. seriously.
Fourteen years on and the bullshit continues unhindered by any confrontation with truth or perspective. In relation to Obama’s response to the Bastille Day massacre in Nice last week, here’s just a small soupçon of the dross he peddles daily:
Overnight in Nice we witnessed another tragic and appalling attack on the freedom and the peace that we cherish.
The massacre in Nice was indeed tragic and appalling, but Obama aligning himself with the principles of freedom and peace, a man whose administration continues to wage unnecessary and unwanted wars in the Middle East, a man whose administration set a governmental record for amassing a higher body count in Iraq than the Bush administration – seriously? Is anyone anywhere swallowing any part of this hollow expression of good faith?
So what happens when leaders can’t be trusted to tell the truth? Here’s a brief anatomy of social breakdown by non-stop bullshit:
In the absence of truth trust breaks down.
In the absence of trust connection breaks down.
In the absence of connection we become isolated.
When we are isolated we become afraid.
When we are afraid we react with violence or compliance.
When we are violent or compliant we believe we have no personal power.
When we believe we have no personal power we hand it over to someone we believe to be more powerful than we are.
When we hand our power over to someone else our lives are no longer our own.
When our lives are not our own we are enslaved.
This analysis by no means factors in the tactics of violence and coercion used by those in power across the globe to quash dissenting voices and erode people’s right to live empowered, safe, valued, respected and harmonious lives. But it is the program used to obtain compliance in a prison system - the self-same program of enslavement George Orwell outlined in his prophetic novel 1984.
My years working as a theatre maker in the prison system taught me that prison inmates, whose numbers far exceed those of the officers employed to manage them, pose a real danger if they believe they can overpower their captors. This imbalance is dealt with using fear, humiliation, secrecy and arbitrary rules – a set of tactics designed to make prisoners compliant. Demoralized by endless waiting, stripped of dignity and rights and uncertain of what’s coming next, prisoners quickly learn to toe the line. If you’ve ever been questioned at customs and border control you’ll know what I’m talking about. Truth, transparency, reliability and respect are the enemies of covert social institutions.
If we are to combat this descent into compliance we need to believe that we have the power to say no, the power to speak out and the power to make our own decisions. The courage to take a position on what you believe to be right- even if it means standing alone - is the distinguishing quality of a good leader. In her book The Four-Fold Way, Angeles Arrien equates leadership with the archetype of the warrior. In her view a leader is someone who:
· extends honour and respect
· sets limits and boundaries
· aligns words with actions
· extends responsibility into structure and function in an empowering way
I challenge you to find a political leader who personifies any of these qualities or even demonstrates an interest in fostering them. It’s important to retract our support for leaders who perpetrate abuses of power or who fail to live up to the qualities of good leadership. But in my mind the cultivation of the true leader begins with the self. We must learn to respect ourselves; to develop discipline and commitment; to act with integrity; and to become responsible grown-ups with a remit to empower others. We need to role model the very qualities we expect from a good leader.
If we refuse the call to self-responsibility we will merely install a new despot to replace the old. The challenge is to make the inner journey and do the work of clearing out all that is dark and despotic within. Only then can we begin to make a better world, a world made over in our own likeness.