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Slouching Toward Bethlehem

"We all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future and we are all mortal." –John F. Kennedy

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity."

The preceding is the first stanza from W.B. Yeat's apocalyptic The Second Coming. Written in the first part of this century, it is all too appropriate now.

Our "Environmental" President, Mr. Bush, has by his apathy nearly sabotaged the Earth Summit. Only when he made it perfectly clear he would not be party to any "deals" did he agree to attend. He has approached what could potentially be a critical beginning to real change with longstanding indifference. "The best lack all conviction." More concerned with voter approval than real leadership, he has sold out our future for his own popularity.

For eons, humanity has exploited nature in the mistaken belief that the fabric of earth, air and water was so vast, so enduring, no real harm could be done. As this century draws to a close, we are destroying ecosystems and proliferating ourselves at breakneck speeds. In effect, we are creating our own apocalypse.

In astrology, Gemini is known as the first air sign and is affiliated with the realms of language, communication, education and literature. The condition of our air is of grave importance. We can fair pretty well without other basic needs, but take away that air, and our lives are over. We have taken that precious commodity for granted far too long. Increased incidents of asthma, bronchitis, allergies and other respiratory ailments are merely symptoms of the problem. Since the 1960s, ground-level ozone has increased by more than 60% in the United States and Europe. In some countries, contemporary transportation rivals agriculture as a consumer of the land. Equally disturbing are the consequences of high levels of carbon monoxide intake from vehicle emissions. As a result, our hearts must pump more blood to supply the oxygen needed by our tissues. Additionally, the trace toxic chemicals emitted in the exhaust fumes have been directly linked to lung damage.

Ernesto Sabato, an Argentinian writer, put it this way: "Man is the only animal to have created his own environment. Ironically, he is also the only one to have thus created his own means of self-destruction."

I see a parallel between the gradual erosion of our once healthy environment and that of our language. Through the media, pop culture has succeeded in altering our very speech. I was recently visiting the home of an acquaintance. Heavy metal "music" threatened to quell any attempts at conversation. Sensing my discomfiture, she inquired as to what type of music I preferred. I mentioned that I loved classical, to which she queried, "What is that?" I imagine she expected me to make allusions to "rap" (perish the thought) or something equally mindless. In retrospect, I probably should have foregone an explanation.

In the public, I have noticed with increasing dismay, the appalling lack of ability to communicate with any kind of skill. In fact, one who is well-spoken is often the target of derision. Our culture actually endorses poor speech. Our language has become as polluted as our environment.

Values are easy targets of the advertising media—a media that has actually shaped many present-day social standards. Ads dictate what is socially acceptable, what is sexy, what has value. Our popular literature seems equally bereft of virtue. There is a plethora of novels with themes of graphic sex, horror and violence. A combination of the latter almost guarantees a bestseller. Have we lost our powers of discernment?

Carl Sagan, a leading exponent of the environmental movement, states: "We understand that what is regarded as sacred is more likely to be treated with care and respect. Our planetary home should be so regarded. Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred.…" [Editor's note: Dr. Sagan is also a critic of astrology even though he has never studied the subject—scientifically—in depth.]

What then must we do? I maintain it is time for true heroism—the sacrificing of one's own comfort and security for the enduring security of all, present and future. We mustn't allow the apathy and deceit of our political leaders to discourage us. And it is a time for activism, from the quiet letter writer to the most vocal "extremist."

In closing, I shudder to think what visionary Yeats would think about the present state of affairs. He was, in life, an avid student of metaphysics as well as a brilliant poet. Perhaps the last two lines of his portentous The Second Coming would suffice:

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?"

© 1992 and 2018 by Nancy de la Vierra. All rights reserved.

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