To this tumultuous planet that humanity currently calls home, the sun and the moon have stayed remarkably loyal. Bright spheres of stability give at least some order to our world, reliably illuminating our repeated mistakes
2000 BC – 1500 AD
Locating coherence between the cosmic order and earth-bound activity was the beating heart of ancient Maya cosmovision. They understood that we humans, while consciously floating through perceived time and space, are part of a much wider flow of interconnected entities that move within an integrated universe.
Birth, growth, decay and death; this life cycle repeats itself in every crevice of our world. From bacteria to corn cobs, humans to fireflies, we are all subject to this predetermined fate of existence. The ancient Maya celebrated this shared transience and within it they saw a common cosmic essence.
They associated these earth-bound cycles to the circular celestial movements that their astronomers would trace across the skies. Moons, planets and stars looping around the universe reflected, in their eyes, patterns of cosmic growth and decay that simultaneously pushed and pulled all interconnected universal beings into certain motions.
Maya cosmovision predicts that the beginnings and ends of cosmic cycles trigger instability, transition and dramatic upheaval down on earth. In 2012, an infamous 5,000 year calendar cycle came to an end and a new count began. Every 52 years, the Mayan calendar also forecasts a smaller cosmic shift and the possibility of renewal on planet earth.
I am personally skeptical as to how far my Aquarius moon shapes my selfhood or whether Jupiter’s regression guides my behaviour.
I do know, however, that my menstrual cycle is synchronised with the moon’s cycle, and lunar forces also push and pull on the earth’s tides. I also know, indisputably, that circular rhythms are beating all around us; days and nights, seasons, harvests and rainfall. Breath, photosynthesis, digestion, sleep. Politics?
In early 60s, the tides in the United States of America had turned. The order was fading, the battle was raging and the times they were a-changing, or so sang a young Bob Dylan. His anthemic protest song captured not only a zeitgeist, but a shift in societal consciousness. He elevated a new generation of hopeful rebels with the melodic promise that the first will be last and the last will be first, and as the crowd sang along they believed it was possible.
The same year, the same promise from a different pen was published in English for the first time. Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth was a radical exploration into the consciousness of people subjected to centuries of colonial violence. The book guided liberation struggles around the world, encouraging the oppressed to move together and cultivate a common consciousness that served their humanity.
Also in 1963, Martin Luther King had a dream and it illuminated the world. Students began to mobilise against the Vietnam War. Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique and the seeds of second-wave feminism started to sprout.
Consciousness was expanding. People were coming together en masse, charged by love and anger, and together they questioned, prodded, fought, marched and sang, and with communal strength they began to shake the rigid foundations of capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy.
Under the summer sun in a Glastonbury field, Kate Tempest could feel things changing once again [see above link]. Strangers wept and held each other as she stood on stage and constructed an alternative world for the crowd, a world defined by love and empathy, a world creeping closer and closer towards our open arms.
A few weeks before, a socialist Labour Party had shaken the British establishment by winning the largest increase in vote share since 1945. Their strong stance against privatisation, austerity and inequality had resonated profoundly with people crushed by decades of neoliberalism. People, it seemed, were hungry for change… again.
The revolutionaries of the 1960s had been defeated and a new form of old power began to tear through humanity, trampling on hopes for an emancipated world. Neoliberalism reinvigorated the capitalist class, legitimising the continued exploitation of people and land for private profit, as well as sprinkling new forms of suffering upon humanity – anxieties, depression, isolation and detachment.
Politicians declared that there was no alternative to this callous social order, so the hippies put on suits and cut their hair and embraced the bland joys of the material world.
Now, fifty years on, as a Maya calendar round completes full circle, this social order is in flux once again. Neoliberalism has failed us. We are frustrated and tired, our souls have been beaten.
Kate Tempest diagnosed this pain on that summer’s day, but also, more importantly, just as Bob Dylan had done 54 years before, she spoke with a renewed sense of hope that reflected a growing belief in the possibility of change. None of this bullshit was written in stone, she told us. A new world is ours to make.
12th December 2019
Chile, the testing ground for neoliberalism, and many other Latin American countries, have exploded over the past month, with disaffected citizens putting their bodies in front of police rifles to demand a complete upheaval to a broken system.
For better or worse, British radical politics have been scraped off the streets and spat into the arena of party politics. Corbynism is a rare force, an unforeseen phenomenon with the potential to rupture the smug domination of the 1%.
We are actually very lucky. On Thursday, we will be handed a piece of paper, ink, and a stark choice; penning an X for a regenerative government, a government that will help our society learn to love again, or penning an X for the old, vicious political order with a populist facelift.
We are writing the future now. Together, we can close this rotten cycle with poetic justice, with the hubris of the ruling class provoking their downfall. We may not be offered such opportunity for another 52 years, and by then our crumbling earth may be too ravaged to save.