03 October, 2014

AMERICA AND THE END OF THE SCRIPT OF SLAVERY: 150 YEARS LATER



A hundred and fifty years ago, under the auspices of Abraham Lincoln, the American government abolished slavery.

According to jyotish (this is not your average Sun Sign/newspaper horoscope, people!) astrology, a hundred and fifty years ago, Saturn was exalted in Libra. Rahu, the force of sudden and revolutionary change, was sitting next to Saturn. Saturn is a signifier for government. Rahu is the force that sneaks upwards into the echelons of privilege to disrupt and change the established order.

From November 11, 2011 to November 2, 2014, Saturn is again exalted in Libra. And as 150 years ago, Rahu is next to Saturn from January 2013 to July 12, 2014.

What happened in these months is well known. The Snowden revelations came to light, showing the American government was engaged in mass surveillance of virtually the entire world. The sense of impunity that they were entitled to spy over, and look at people’s private lives, closely approximates what happens in a system of slavery. In the slave-owning world, the master has full rights to the life of the slave. There is no concept of privacy, because the slave belongs to the owner. The US government’s reaction—bafflement and incredulity that people should protest these intrusions—is perhaps a hint to how the script of slavery remains deeply engrained in the psyche of the American elites.

In much the same way, the American government also continued to torture people in Guantanamo and hundreds of “Black Sites” around the world. As with the surveillance, the sense of entitlement (the “right to torture”) is a throwback of slavery—slave-owners had a right to torture their slaves. The Americans, in other words, are merely repeating a cultural script with which they are familiar, and which continues to be repeated over and over, in different formations and manifestations.

Will the changes wrought in these 18 months shift this script and end it for ever?

It is clear that capital is the way in which American elites continue to practice bondage: people’s labor, time, land, resources, and private lives are all commodities to be controlled. The dollar has reigned supreme for almost a century—tied to the sale of oil, and to the transactions of foreign trade as reserve currency, it has been virtually unchallenged. About a decade ago,  the Federal Reserve of America, emboldened by this seemingly permanent state of affairs, started to print 85 billion dollars per month to buoy up the American economy. Nobody was looking. Nobody said: this is untenable. It didn’t appear untenable. The countries of the world were ready to buy the Greenback, at whatever price.

The military-industrial complex, flush with success, went on a trillion dollar spending binge. War after war followed-Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. It looked like a never-ending story of military might and conquest.

The only small flaw in the above story of America’s endless rush towards the future comes from a brake provided by nature. And that is the finite nature of natural resources. Mainly, oil. As oil starts to run out and wind down, the American economy, deeply tied to the lifeblood of that black gold, now has to look elsewhere to continue its vampiristic search for new blood.

The slavery of South Asians in the oil economies of the Gulf, and the money collected from their labor, has gone to engorge and fatten up “Sovereign Wealth Funds”. The Europeans are more than happy to steer this blood money in their real estate and “trophy assets” that rich sheiks are buying up in London and Paris. But like the American economy, this investment in brick and mortar (at the expense of human beings) has its own tragic short-sighted flaw. Europe is sinking economically—not because its not profiting off slavery still (it is) but precisely because of this above mentioned reasons. Life has become easy in Europe—raw materials are sourced with great ease from war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East, and wine and cheese is cheap. Why work when interest of money put in the banks, and the benefits of slavery, are paying for all of your costs?

Debt bondage and contemporary slavery is not limited to Nepalese, Indians and Bangladeshis entrapped in the Middle East, working for employers for decades for no pay. It is also prevalent in America where the mortgage system, and government approved Pyramid Schemes like the subprime loans, legally entrap giant number of citizens of their homes and livelihoods.

What the past eighteen months has brought us is this:
  1. Germany asks for its gold back from the USA: The mythical Fort Knox, a powerful force on people’s imaginations, was under scrutiny. Nobody knew if its fabled reserve of gold still lay in the vaults. Germany decided to ask for its deposits back. Whether it will get it is moot. What is clear is that the Europeans sent a very clear message that the American system of deposit was no longer reliable, or trustworthy.
  2. The Russians pull out 500 billion in US treasuries in March: and as with Germany, the Russians sent a message to the world, in effect saying their trust in the American economy is no longer there
  3. The Chinese, who owned 2 trillion dollars of American debt, suddenly showed much less. About one trillion of this vanished—poof!—without a trace. What happened? Commentators tend to think there were dealings which quietly disposed of this debt in different forms and manifestations. In other words, American debt, which at one point was seen to have future value, no longer does.
  4. The Russians and Chinese are now trading in their own currencies. This is the start of the end of the dollar as reserve currency. Once the dollar is no longer the currency of choice in international trade, the bloated American economy is going to slim down to a more normal size

Back to the timing of astrology: on November 2, 2014, President Obama’s Saturn enters his eighth house. It will stay there for two and a half years. This is known as the astamashani period. The astamashani is one of the darkest periods in Saturn’s rotation around the twelve houses. I tend to think this is the moment when the overheated (and illusory) stocks of Wall Street will collapse, bringing about a readjustment in global finance. And it will definitely be the moment when the torture report comes out. It will also be the moment when all the deep, hidden secrets of the US government come to light, including all of its technological developments geared towards  mass torture and control. Interestingly, many top people working in US agencies that have suddenly come to light—NSA, DARPA, et cetera—are going through something called sade-sati. The sade-sati is when Saturn grinds through seven and a half years of its course of law and justice in a person’s life-cycle. If you’ve been making merry torturing people for the last thirty years, it is now time to pay.

As the world moves towards new forms of energy (the planting of bio-fuels are already causing great distress in Central America, where the US has moved to next to grab land and resources, and from where 80,000 children flee to the US every year), new forms of slavery will manifest. So to imagine that slavery will end from these 18th months of upheavals is optimistic.

What these 18 months did, however, is show the way. Just as 150 years ago, the people in the Northern part of America had to come together in a coalition and agree to fight for the abolition for slavery, the consensus of different countries fighting the economic injustices of the US had to coalesce to a point where everyone is working in co-ordination—even if they were working alone. And that’s precisely what seems to have happened.

It appears to me that increasing number of investors aren’t pulling out their money from the dollar economy because of any advisory BRICS  put out, but because of their own native intelligence: “Lets pull money out from Wall Street and put it in the local stock exchange, because something tells me  our Stock Exchange is going to flourish in the next thirty years.” Perhaps the material gains wouldn’t be as high (but on the other hand, they could be better), but investors seem not to care. It was not the material gains, but the many other forms of capital, and the long-terms gains that would accrue and flourish if they invested in their own country.

This is the zeitgeist. And the changes wrought in these 18 months cannot be undone. The clock has moved on--there cannot be any turning back of the dial. What will emerge are new systems of material exchange, new methods of currency and capital, and new relationships of power. With each of the changes that happened above, a seismic shift has taken place in the world economy, which in its own small way will help to end the systems of contemporary slavery.