Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quo Vadis?

The astrological chart of Italy

I thought I had never known any Italian people until we moved to Canada but then I remembered, omigod, MV Asia! We came back from Japan by ship (this was before jet planes) and for a whole month, we were on the most beautiful passenger-cargo ship I have ever seen, MV Asia. It was Italian, of course ;)

In an age when people actually travelled between countries by passenger ship, the post war Italian ships were the epitome of design. The Lloyd Triestino line had seven specially designed ships that travelled the world. From The Ocean Liner Museum:

"The Italian tradition of luxury and style at sea was never so fully realised as it was with its postwar fleet of liners. Though its fleet had been virtually destroyed by the ravages of war, Lloyd Triestino made a great effort to rise from those ruins, and thus were produced some of the finest, stylish, elegant, graceful and most beautiful vessels to ever sail the oceans of the world.

All this series of ships had typically modern, sculpted Italian lines, which included sharply raked bows, lusciously curved superstructures, tripod masts, streamlined and low funnels, terraced after decks with a pool and lido for both classes and graciously curved cruiser spoon sterns. It was the "Golden Age" of the combi-liner, and the Victoria and her sister Asia were among the most beautiful of their type ever built".

The two most beautiful of them were the MV Victoria and the MV Asia, which regularly travelled the Italy-Hong Kong route. There were about 500 passengers, and the crew, all Italian, so I and my brothers were treated very nicely all over the ship for the whole month it took for us to get back home. And if you have never eaten a meal at sea, or been in a tropical storm, or seen the sun set over some distant horizon, you have not lived.

But pardon my digression into a magical point of my childhood. This is an article about the people of Italy.

Now I confess to having strong feelings about places I have been to and people I have known in lives past. Maybe it is my observation that Italians are just like Pakistanis :) for we are indeed, alike in our love of children and family and food. We are warm and passionate, and what you see is what you get (Just don't mix us up with Indians, please. Sorry :) Maybe it's the kindness I'd received when I was young, or the quality I appreciate the most; the honesty of emotion.

Regardless, I found myself being drawn, once again, to Italy when some Americans, in defending accused murderer Amanda Knox, had to attack a whole country for its perceived shortcomings...Irony abounds.

A while back I was telling all and sundry about an impending clash between right and left wing style governments and that people would peel back from the excesses of both sides and find some balance.

And sure enough, what I said about France and Italy is coming to pass. Sarkozy's turning liberal, almost, and Berlusconi's, out. Their shameful involvement in the war on Libya has a very heavy price that will be shared by their countrymen.

I like to use astrology's language and symbols to describe events that have come and those yet to come, it has an elegance that can't be beat.

I found this analysis written by astrologer Liz Greene in 1999 about Italy's future. The period she covers runs from 1999 to 2009, and describes very well, what might have been.

"The republic of Italy was born in 1946 under the versatile, communicative sign of Gemini. Pluto, as it moves through Sagittarius, presents major challenges to this country's political, financial, and social structures, offering the possibility of a total transformation of outlook with greater stability and the fulfilment of many cherished social ideals. However, it would seem that this potential, because of Pluto's delving quality, can only be achieved if there is greater transparency and openness on the part of both government and people.

Italy's birth chart reflects the double-edged gift of an intense and enormously creative individuality coupled with a propensity to shroud many things from prying eyes. It is this inclination toward secrecy, reflected in many areas of Italian life and government, which may be challenged by Pluto, and old sores and grievances inherited from the past may need to be brought into the open and re-evaluated so that the innate optimism, idealism and generosity expressed by the fine aspect between the Sun and Jupiter in this birth chart can be anchored in positive changes which benefit everyone.

Uranus, also a harbinger of change and progress, is crossing the area of Italy's chart which reflects its past, and this too suggests that many issues - both religious and social - need to be finally confronted and transformed. Italy's Scorpio Moon, hidden away in the area of the chart concerned with ancestral inheritance, suggests that old wounds linger for a long time, and so does the people's mistrust of authority, whether religious or political. The cleansing and inspirational energies of both Pluto and Uranus could provide the possibility for the healing of these wounds.

Whether or not you are personally in sympathy with the kinds of changes now on the horizon, this is one of the countries most powerfully affected by important planetary movements in the next decade, and the potential for positive change and the expression of each individual citizen's creative gifts is enormous"
~Liz Greene, 1999

I looked at the chart as well, and the following is my own interpretation. Yes, Italy exhibits, quite clearly, the dual nature of Gemini. The mercurial creative side, the hidden spiritual nature. Thus, I say there is a higher side to it, and a lower more corrupt side. (Which is also described by its Scorpio nature)

I am writing about Italy today because many years ago, I had a vision about the death of Pope John Paul I and knew that changes in the Catholic Church would be reflected in changes in the country of Italy. I have long thought this dividing line to come would be described as the old Italy vs the new. Some have said there is no such divide, but they are thinking it's all controlled by vested interests that will resist change. I say it's a battle between the Italy of the past, and that yet to come, which is the spiritual awakening which is yet to take place. And I see also, the end of the Catholic Church, and the beginning of a new one, which will also be mirrored by, a new Italy.

It does look like the next two years will lead to a battle between the old and the new Italy. Yes, the potential for positive change is enormous, but so, too, will be the resistance to change. Interesting, that the planet Saturn, which represents restriction, became exact this November 9-10, when the crisis peaked. It will be exact again from late May to August 2012, when there will be another crisis, change, elections or revolution.

The chart for Italy shows mercurial Sun in Gemini, the very deep 12th house Moon and Ascendant in Scorpio, and not that there are secrets, but there are depths to those secrets. When you see Prime Ministers belonging to secret masonic lodge P2 which was responsible for deep corruption, Mafia and Vatican entanglements, assassinations, terrorist bombings, and financial thievery, you know that there are depths indeed.

Yes, with four planets in the 8th house the Italians are a very sensual people. There is also, financial corruption shown in the 8th house placement. With Sun in Gemini they can also be religious, even, spiritual, even if the planet Mercury can make them er, flexible in their beliefs. It is my hope they will be not only rational and analytical in their choices in the time to come, they will also be, spiritual.

And 12th house Moon in Scorpio again? Secret services, spies. Scorpio can be either of the highest spirituality; or, the depths of the gutter. It was Italian agency SISMI that fed the world the fake Niger tapes that led to the Iraq war, the Vatican is reputed to have the finest intelligence agency in the world ( I can see some better, ISI and MI-6) and Propaganda Lodge P2 and Operation Gladio assassinated anti-Mafia judges and set off bombs in train stations.

But what I see the beauty Italy has given the world. For every Pope killed (John Paul I was the most recent) I see the Sistine chapel and Michelangelo's Pieta. There is the Mafia, and there are Ferraris :) There were the ships MV Victoria and Asia.

Some people, who know only how to measure by political or economic yardsticks, are hopeful the new government of Italy will bring about change. Others, of like mind are more pessimistic, saying the old order is too entrenched.

The economist in me says there some strong fundamentals to the Italian economy. People tend to save more than most other European nations so their banks are reasonably stable. They could buy up more of their debt so they are not too dependant on foreign predator banks and speculators. They have a strong industry and work force, and, they have gold.

According to this article Italy has one of the largest gold reserves in the world, and unlike the short-sighted British who sold theirs for $250 per oz or the Germans who store theirs in New York, of all places (!) it is the Italians that refuse to sell theirs, which is very wise. Gold has a power of its own; don't misunderstand when I say it is spiritual. So suffice to say Italy has a strong base, and its last 12 years of misjudgement is not fatal in itself. There will be a long period of readjustment no matter what else takes place. But the future brings much more than what ordinary people can overcome.

This is the sadness of being able to see the future. On the one hand you see signs of what lies ahead. On the other hand you know it might be too late. You try to warn friends and the people you love, but what happens then depends on the choices they make.

The answer, for the people of Italy and the world is that political and economic change will not be enough. All we ever get is the semblance of change, without anything real.

Unless there is real spiritual change, things will get much worse, sorry.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo

The Nobel Committee Flunked Again

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 is to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society"

As always in the sorry history of the awards, the story is not who won, but, who didn't. Please understand that my comments are not directed at these women laureates who have done wonderful work in their respective spheres of Liberia and Yemen. They are being honored as symbols of a larger group of women who gather around the world to ask for peace. But at the same time, it is those who were ignored, and why, that is the real story.

One could also say the award has been politicised, with President Obama's undeserved win in 2009, Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu being nominated 21 times, and each time, shamefully passed over, and many other deserving groups ignored for inexplicable reasons.

For the last two years, the Argentinian Grandmothers of the Plaza De Mayo have been nominated for their work, and each time, passed over.

"The Argentine human rights group the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The group started in 1977 when mothers who lost children under Argentina’s military dictatorship gathered to trade stories and provide support. That meeting later spawned the first of scores of demonstrations and actions against Argentina’s military leaders.

The Grandmothers’ president, Estela Carlotto, was joined at a news conference Wednesday by the Spanish judge Baltasar Garz√≥n and Chilean senator Isabel Allende.

Estela Carlotto: "What we have done we did over time with perseverance, creativity, persistence, stubbornness, and the great love that we have for the two generations that we are looking for. And we didn’t realize that this could grow in such a way."

They did, indeed grow in such a way, and it is important to honor and tell their story, and all other women around the world who have done such work for peace. That some are ignored because they do not fit a safe mold, or they shame us for our complicity in crimes done against humanity, only requires that we tell their stories again and again, till people listen.

And, speaking of why I titled this post "The Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo" instead of Grandmothers, it is because they were the original group. In the 70's the Argentinian military dictatorship killed tens of thousands of activists and stole their children to be raised by rich Argentinians. Then it was their mothers, the grandmothers, who gathered every week to demand the return of their grandchildren. This is the story of all the mothers of Argentina that aroused the conscience of their countrymen and eventual defeat of the military government.


"First we will kill all the subversives; then we will kill their collaborators; then…their sympathizers. Then…those who remain indifferent; and finally we will kill the timid. General Iberico Saint-Jean, governor of Buenos Aires (1977)

Here I can do with you whatever I want because I am the lord of life and death. Colonel Roberto Roualdes, First Command, Army Corps

On October 23, 1975, at the Eleventh Conference of Latin American Armies in Montevideo, Uruguay, journalists asked Lieutenant General, Jorge Rafael Videla, commander in chief of the Argentine military forces, about the fight against subversion. "In order to guarantee the security of the state," General Videla replied, "all the necessary people will die." And when asked to define a subversive, he answered, "Anyone who opposes the Argentine way of life."

Among the relatives of the disappeared a group of mothers emerged, galvanized by a woman in her fifties, Azucena Villaflor de DeVincenti, whose son and daughter-in-law had been abducted. Azucena had worked in a factory as a young woman, but after her marriage she devoted herself completely to her family. Her energy and charisma became sources of inspiration for the other mothers. They started meeting in her home to draft petitions, gather information, and plant the, seeds of their future organization. It was Azucena's idea to go to the Plaza de Mayo and to ask for an audience with President Videla to find answers to their questions about the disappearances.

On April 30, 1977, fourteen mothers gathered at the Plaza de Mayo, ; traditionally the heart of Argentine civic life. By meeting there, the Mothers placed themselves in the public eye in a desperate attempt to bring attention to their families' plight. Labeled Las Locas de Plaza de Mayo {the crazies of the Plaza de Mayo), they broke the conspiracy of silence that had permeated the country and found a way to channel their despair and frustration into action. After that day, they and Argentina would never be the same.

The Mothers' marches became a weekly event, taking place every Thursday at 3:30 P.M. Forced to walk because of the regime's orders prohibiting public gatherings, they would walk slowly for half an hour. When the police tried to intimidate them and make them leave, they resisted and affirmed their right to demonstrate on behalf of their disappeared children.

Slowly their numbers started to grow, and they began wearing white handkerchiefs and carrying pictures of their missing children. The women asked their husbands not to join them in their weekly gatherings, afraid that the presence of the men would make the situation worse.

Maria Adela Antokoletz remembers: "We endured pushing, insults, attacks by the army, our clothes were ripped, detentions. But the men, they would not have been able to stand such things without reacting, there would have been incidents; they would have been arrested for disrupting the public order and, most likely, we would not have seen them ever again."

The minister of the interior, General Albano Harguindeguy, finally agreed to meet with three of the mothers. He tried to convince them that their children had left the country of their own free will, and warned them to stop their demonstrations. It was the first time that a high-ranking official had received the relatives. But the Mothers responded that they would continue their marches until they knew with certainty of their children's fate.

Placing advertisements in newspapers to publicize the names of the disappeared was one of the Mothers' main outreach activities. The newspapers requested hefty fees for these ads and demanded the certified addresses of ten of the signers, addresses that they subsequently gave to the police.

On December 8, 1977, at a meeting held in the Church of Santa Cruz to raise money for an ad, an ESMA Task Force broke in and kidnapped nine people. Among them was Sister Alice Domon, a French nun who had worked with peasants in some of the poorest regions of Argentina and who was a supporter of the Mothers. In Buenos Aires, Sister Domon had taught catechism to children with Down's syndrome, the son of General Videla among them.

Another supporter of the group was kidnapped from his home. And two days later-on December 10, Human Rights Day-Azucena Villaflor de DeVincenti and Leonie Duquet {another French nun) were abducted and joined the ranks of the disappeared. Survivors from the ESMA testified to having seen these twelve people at the camp, where they were brutally tortured.

The kidnapping of the two French nuns would eventually become a rallying point of international protest, which continues to this day. The government, which tried to blame the Montoneros for the kidnapping, showed pictures of the nuns under a fake Montonero sign. Sister Domon was forced to write a letter stating that she was in the "hands of an armed group" opposed to the government. In fact, Lieutenant Alfredo Astiz, a twenty-six-year-old sailor, had infiltrated the Mothers group, claiming to be the brother of a disappeared. Blue-eyed, young, and innocent looking, he had gained the trust of Azucena and Sister Domon.

Showing up at the gathering at the Santa Cruz church, Astiz alerted the ESMA Task Force as the meeting was drawing to an end. Azucena's disappearance failed to deter the group. "It was a hard time for us, but we weren't broken. They thought there was only one Azucena, but there wasn't just one. There were hundreds of us," said Aida de Suarez, one of the Mothers. Azucena herself, in a premonitory mood a few days before her abduction, had said: "If something happens to me, you continue. Do not forget it.

Thanks to their determination, courage, and intelligence, the Mothers began to attract international recognition and to receive support from governments and organizations concerned about human rights. Foreign journalists often covered their weekly marches; and on the occasion of the World Cup soccer championship in Buenos Aires in 1978, they focused on the Mothers, providing them with instant inter- national exposure.

The Mothers became the moral conscience of the country and gained a space in the political arena, challenging the notion of women as powerless and subservient to family and state.

Among the Mothers' weekly gatherings at the Plaza de Mayo were also women whose grandchildren were missing. In October 1977 twelve mothers established the Association of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and organized around one specific demand: that the children who had been kidnapped as a method of political repression be returned to their legitimate families. The Association grew quickly as dozens of grandmothers joined the group.

During the dictatorship, nine human rights organizations were active throughout Argentina. Some of the groups-such as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared for Political Reasons-were started by relatives of the disappeared who were pressing the government for information about their family members. Others-Like the League for the Rights of Man, the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH), and the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS)- collected and reported evidence of human rights violations and did a considerable amount of legal work.

Religious human rights groups also arose, such as the Peace and Justice Service {SERPAJ), the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights {MEDH), and the Jewish Movement for Human Rights {Movimiento Judfo por los Derechos Humanos). These last groups, respectively, incorporated members of the Catholic clergy who were critical of the church hierarchy, Protestant ministers, and Jews. All of the organizations were committed to a broad vision of social justice, and each responded to different pressures and particular histories of the community from which it emerged. They often helped each other and formed various alliances in response to the regime's multiple abuses"

Mothers who represented a moral conscience, a force strong enough to change the world. What a powerful symbol, and what we need to honor today. Be it the women in black, who gather around the world. Women in Israel, who ask forgiveness for those children killed on the Palestinian side as they forgive those who killed their children. Cindy Sheehan, one woman who asked why her son had been killed in Iraq, and camped outside President Bush and Obama's summer homes to protest against war. That people in the US did not support her is their shame.

And it is a shame that we only focus on human rights abuses and oppression in some countries but not our own. For that reason, I honor the Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo. They call for peace and healing, for all of us.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Joy of Writing

Just let the words come to you

There was an interesting discussion on the subject of Amanda Knox's ability as a writer, and some were er, unkind. It seems there may be a bidding war for her prison diary though that might just be her PR agent spreading a rumour :)

Some compared her unfavourably to the French prodigy Francoise Sagan, whose first novel, Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) was written when she was seventeen. Others thought her stream of consciousness style compared unfavourably with Beckett and Joyce. And others (in another forum) thought we were just frustrated writers become critics :)

But my interest in the subject comes from a different place. Is writing a declining art? Where is the next great book? What do I tell future generations of writers when it appears that TV, the Internet, and the Twitterization of the young and the navel-gazing of the Baby Boomers has made a vast desert of the field of literature?

Yes, I consider myself a writer, and hope the art of writing never dies out. I also hope no one is ever discouraged from writing (whether they are writing only because of celebrity or notoriety ;) since we all learn from the act of writing.

Some think the Akkadian epic of Gilgamesh is the first written work of literature, from around 2150 BCE. Me, I say we have written since pre-historic times, going back at least to the cave paintings of Chauvet and Lascaux in France. I see religious symbology, but also the history of a people there.

Me, I am only glad I didn't take Literature at University but the road that led to healing and spirituality. It wasn't me, and I thought right away the course would tell me what the formula for writing was, and I'd become a hack.

Yes, I did meet Joseph Campbell in Japan. Yes, I missed meeting Shirley MacLaine; her daughter went to my school the year after I left, and I mention her only in the context of saying, dang! she wrote about past life recall way after I did :)

And yes, I had a choice, go to New York in 1975 and become a published writer (I know I would have been) or go to London and everything I have become since then was because of making, the right choice (albeit a painful one :)

Because London was where I remembered the rest of my past lives, and wrote The Way of Atlan, and got married, and had a child that led to many more things.

I want to tell writers that it helps to love reading, and my mom taught me that by reading comic books to me. (That led to me reading Bonjour Tristesse, Anna Karenina, and Lady Chatterley's Lover when I was 13, booyah!) So of course I became editor of my school paper at 14 and wrote lots, so I suggest that you, too, write lots.

I also suggest you learn the rules of grammar and practice basic sentence construction as much as possible. You can always discard the rules when inspired, of course, but only after you've built the foundations. I never mind the avant-garde, as long as I get what you're saying.

Yes, indeed, genius is like a spiritual lottery, but there is no substitute for hard work. Genius tends to be unrecognized, but hard work brings the bread home.

So why do some get published, and others, not? Is it worth it to make a career of writing? No, of course not! You do it because you love it, and if others love it as well, that is only gravy.

I see the heart chakra as the seat of the creative soul. We live our art, be it music, sculpture, writing or any of a number of arts, and offer it freely. The heart chakra is also the seat of healing, and great art, heals. That is how we know it, regardless of what some might say. You see a great painting, and you feel whole, and good. If the art makes you think, that is great, but it is how it makes you feel that is the judge.

And if you never get published, that's OK. That too is a lottery, and even published writers struggle to pay the rent. You could always self-publish, of course.

I don't mean to denigrate the book industry. They need all the help they can get, and I appreciate the thousands of books I have to carry every time I move (note to self: enough smileys)

But you now have the option of putting up a blog, publishing on the Internet, and, self-publishing. When I quit my government job I cashed my entire pension, and plunked down $25,000 to have Man From Atlan printed. Set up my own imprint, a stained glass artist designed the cover, a computer designer did the fonts and films, an old fashioned print firm did the actual typesetting, printing and bookbinding. Which is the hard way, and now, it's much easier, because with print on demand you can get 10, or 100 printed even, no sweat. Or you can make a PDF file and post it on your site, or use Google Docs or E-Books. Up to you, go for it. As for me, I printed 5000 copies, sold 3000, made $60,000, and have 2000 copies left in my garage I would like to sell. Trust me, that's hard work, and it was worth it. I only want to publish more books.

I have a lot of respect for the work professional editors do. No writer can fail to get better with the support of a dedicated editor who works to make your writing the best it can be. You of course need her or his feedback, and they can be mentor, teacher, friend, and, ruthless cutter of every extraneous thought and embellishment you may have thought to attache to the hull of your craft.

But the good ones pretty much all work for the publishing houses, that can only print a few books a year. I wish they'd do a lot more translations of foreign work, there are amazing writers out there! and it would only benefit us all to learn from them, but also, to find our own voice.

Some years ago a Swedish literateur said the Nobel Prize for literature was undeserved by Americans, and his European condescension literally dripped from his fangs, but then of course the last few years have been reserved for Scandinavian poets I Have Never Heard Of, and we can of course never have too much Scandinavian irony and French wordplay. One has only to say Sartre! Camus! Gide! to think Literature!

Well, sorry, but I think Americans need only to read more, from far and abroad, Latin American to Bengali to Australian aboriginal writers. They need to travel more. They need to experience life, and not just their drug trips. They need to read their own canon, and take a few courses.

If they re-learned the art of penmanship that alone could make them better writers, I promise you. (I type, still very slowly, and make more grammatical and spelling errors than when I wrote my first book at 24, all in longhand)

Learn to rewrite, and speak your words out loud. Does it read right? Get a literary agent. Keep trying. Don't let rejection slips get you down. Don't try to be the next Big Thing or the next Kurt Vonnegut or whoever, be a writer of yourself. You are a unique soul, with a unique voice. If even one person appreciates you, then your work is validated.

So learn to appreciate 'criticism'. Some of which might even be valid, mind you. When I published Man From Atlan a few critics, men and women, panned it unmercifully for sexism or found the sexual violence in it unsettling. (They missed the part about regret, and karma, but their feelings were valid, and I understand that my work, unsettles) But it was reviewed, and sold in a lot of bookstores in Toronto and New York, and I was on television, and a lot of people recognized me in the street and told me how much the book had changed their lives. It certainly changed mine. The critic I remember the most is a judge, who also was a director of the Manly P. Hall Foundation, who said "I can not believe this book was written by a twenty-four year old man. The writing is too sophisticated to accept as such". Gee thank you, I thought it was raw and very rough, so this was the nicest thing ever said.

Writing is a gift we share with others. It is a craft for which we hope to get paid but even that is so we can keep on writing. It is a flow of energy that began when I was very young, and I offer my work to people to accept or not. All we want is feedback.

May you always know the joy of writing.