I've been dragging my feet, procrastinating, avoiding sitting down to write. My subject matter troubles me. New Orleans, along with many other Gulf Coast communities, has been devastated.
Luckily, I don't charge myself with that strange modern journalistic duty of play-acting emotional neutrality (or, worse, conveying an authentic numbness) when discussing such truly terrible circumstances. I needn't pretend to be impartial or stoic. I needn't pretend all catastrophic events are equal to me. I love New Orleans, and I'm sick to know one of my favorite places in the world is gone, at least as I knew it.
New Orleans is fantastic, but let's be honest it's always thumbed its nose at mainstream puritanism, serving as a rather defiantly impolite (or downright scary!) shadow-side to how contemporary America prefers to see itself. New Orleans is a city that drinks and drinks, pedestrians holding their 'go-cups' and motorists heading for the drive-thru daiquiris. The cuisine is so deliciously decadent, you hear your artery walls harden with that fatty-deposit aftertaste as you eat. Dead bodies reside in above-ground crypts, not hidden from sight, while their disembodied souls spook the town as ghosts and goblins, as the polymorphously perverse living beings, men and women, remove their clothes for anyone offering a strand of cheap plastic beads. The witches devilishly cackle in the back.
New Orleans is one of those places where visitors grant themselves the leeway to behave as they never would at homefreer, wilder, dirtierand then, when they return to their proper and correct lives, act as if none of it ever happened.
And oh yeah, there's lots of poor people and black people, too.
New Orleans, as I've just described it, conjures the astrological Pluto, god of the underworld. Pluto embodies those scary psychological urges within all of us, the ones many have a hard time consciously accepting in themselves. The lust. The envy. The force to dominate or submit. The drive to shove mortally unhealthy food down our gullets 'til we puke, and then to do it again. To get shit-faced and smoke and fuck. To flirt with death, as we fear it. We seduce it. We invite it to our bedroom, then beat it senseless. Our blood boiling so hot, we just know we could kill someone that is, if someone doesn't kill us first. And in case we're civilized enough to suppress those barbarous compulsions in our own behaviors, evidence of their existence is everywherein the nasty gonzo porn, the big-budget shoot-em-ups, the news of suicide bombers and serial killers and environmental toxicity, the lifeless bodies and their spectral remnants.
For the United States, race and class hang just over and under and to the side of our national consciousness. Like Pluto waiting in the shadows for the right time to unleash the destructively ugly truth, racism and poverty always threaten to soil the whitewashed image of America, dare they bust through the Lohan-and-Hilton-ridden veneer. In our unprecedented prosperity, we can afford to export freedom (in the form of cargo pants, customer service call centers and armored fighting vehicles), yet somehow cannot spare a dime to feed and care for our own people. We parrot the 'nation-of-immigrants'/'melting-pot' line, while unimpeded access to good jobs and good housing and good schoolsnot to mention the basic right to voteremains a fiction for certain groups of people of certain backgrounds from certain neighborhoods.
Then Hurricane Katrina hits, and this cover is breached along with the levees, drowning us with glaring reality. The victims being shown on TV are Americanspoor and mostly black Americans who didn't evacuate because they had nowhere to go and no resources to take them there, and who still, a week later, wait for food and drinkable water, if not outright rescue from waterlogged shacks. By the way, this catastrophe zone we can't stop watching isn't in Haiti or some faraway African township, as we might imagine since we've never seen such images of ourselves before. It's here. It's us.
The astrology too perfectly illustrates the significance of what's happened. On the day Katrina landed in New Orleans, transiting Uranus was exactly conjunct to Pluto in the natal chart of the city (first incorporated: Feb 17 1805) at 8 degrees Pisces. This, incidentally, happens only once every 84 years or so.
Transiting force Uranus brings sudden dramatic shocks, abrupt departures from the prior status quo that promises enlightenment in the midst of chaos because everything's been so irreparably broken wide open that there's no possible retreat into former normalcy. Uranus's current position in Pisces (2003-2011) adds particular poignancy, considering its rulership of both the water supply and of oil and gas. Back in early 2004, in describing Uranus's entry into Pisces, I mentioned, 'I wouldn't be surprised if one or more major accidents or disasters affect significant water, oil or gas supplies.' Eerie how Katrina's wrath has affected the availability of both water (ironically, of course, as there's 'water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink') and gasoline (which has skyrocketed above $3 a gallon in many places).
And when the Uranus-powered storm plugged right into New Orleans's natal Pluto, it pushed all the shadow stuff up from beneath the surface. As disturbing as it is, there's hardly a more vivid visual representation of Pluto's rising than the sinking streets of New Orleans turned to a river of mucky squalid death, sewage and corpses a floating invitation for disease and more mucky squalid death, hungry dark-skinned marauders roaming the flooded city, looting and raping, fighting for survival or vindication or some convoluted combination of the two. Uranus hit the Pluto spot, and it all came up the city's dark matter, which corresponds to a matching core inside every of us. Secretly, we all rage at injustice, and instinctively await our opportunity to even the score. We all lust. We all shit. We all die.
Hurricane Katrina and the mess that is New Orleans will not go away any time soon, even once they start to clear the carnage and pump out the noxious water. The pathetic government response to saving its own people has exposed the ugly underbelly of this country's treatment of its poor and its black. Looking at the astrology, transiting rabble-rouser Uranus also triggers the United States' natal chart, forming a jolting consciousness-raising square to its natal Uranus. This is big astrological news for the deep emotional character of the country, and you haven't heard the last of it.