Archive for category Christmas

Twinkle, twinkle

The star of Bethlehem is the defining cosmic symbol of the birth of Christianity. The star that attracted the three Magi to travel for several months to bear witness to the birth of the Messiah. The one who would be king of the Jews. This of course made the three magi themselves also an essential part of the birth of Christianity and yet we never hear of them again in the books of the New Testament..

We read in the bible they visited the Court of King Herod on their journey and were instructed to report back to him when they had found this royal baby. We read that after the Magi witnessed the birth they returned to Persia by a different route to avoid Herod; and we read that Herod then issued orders for all Jewish males under the age of two to be slaughtered to ensure the death of this potential threat to his line.

We also read that Mary and Joseph were warned of the threat and departed urgently with their new born for Egypt; and that when Herod died two years later, the family returned to Judea. But after that we read very little about Yeshua (subsequently amended to Ioasus by Greek scholars and later Romanised/Anglicised to Jesus). The only reference during his first thirty years of his life was a time that the family went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. We read from the bible that Yeshua, at age twelve, astounded the Hebrew scholars with his knowledge of scripture; but then we know nothing again of Yeshua’s young adult life until he publicly began his ministry with his baptism at age thirty, quite a mature man by the standard of the day.

He was baptised by John, the son of his mother’s cousin although we also know nothing of their relationship prior to that point. We have no idea where he gained the knowledge that he impressed the scholars with, or where and how he spent the subsequent eighteen years preparing for his mission to gather “the lost sheep of Israel”. His mission appeared directed against the religious hierarchy of Judea who had ‘turned God’s house into a den of thieves’.

What was the wandering star that caused the Magi to set off around 6bc (minor errors in creating the modern Gregorian calendar have demonstrated that the birth of Jesus would not have been at the beginning of 1ad as we assume. King Herod the great, who is also central to the nativity story, is recorded to have died in 4bc.

Computers today enable us to actually back-trace the location of planets and even comets two thousand years ago. An obvious first point to check is whether the star of Bethlehem was Halley’s comet on its regular circuit. But that passed through earth’s sky in 12bc, at least 5 years before the birth. Apart from which, in ancient times, comets were considered forerunners of catastrophe, not the joyful birth of a saviour.

Of interest, the original Aramaic text of the Magi’s explanation is that they had seen Yeshua’ star “in heliacal rising.” This means a star that appears immediately prior to sunrise. The most significant planetary observation is the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn which make an exceptionally bright ‘star’. This alignment randomly appears in different constellations each time but when it occurs in the constellation of Pisces it is recognised as the Star of David.

It was Johannes Kepler, the father of modern astronomy, who had studied the writings of a medieval Jewish scholar, Rabbi Abarbonel, and discovered the significance to the Jewish people of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which together shine like a superstar, in the constellation of Pisces. This alignment was regarded as the ‘star of David’. Kepler also calculated that during 6-7 bc this alignment of Jupiter and Saturn made the rare appearance in Pisces and was in fact a triple conjunction, occurring three times in the period. This has been confirmed by modern computer-generated calculations as occurring in 6bc on May 22, October 8 and December 2 with the heliacal rising of Jupiter in the dawn sky. This is a very plausible source of the legend that a king to restore the line of David would be signalled by this ‘star of David’ appearing. With such a favourable birth star in Jewish beliefs, Yeshua was well worth a lifetime of training by the leaders of Persia to become a future leader of Judea and Israel.

So the Magi were literally looking for the Jewish baby boy born under the star of David. This would certainly spark the interest of Magi given such a rare conjunction and even more so spark the alarm of the current King of Judea, Herod. Triple conjunctions are rare, the next after 6bc was 786ad, and the next after that in 1583. A triple conjunction in Pisces, the Star of David, is even more rare. It should also be noted that this time was also when the vernal equinox was moving from the age of Aries into the age of Pisces, the fish. This is notable with the significance of the symbol of the fish in Christianity. The last 2,000 years with the vernal equinox in Pisces has certainly been the age of Christianity. The Spring equinox is now changing to the age of Aquarius.

So what then became of the three Magi? The Magi were the astronomer-priests from Persia, adherents of the religion founded by a Persian astrologer/ philosopher named Zarathustra.  It seems peculiar that three foreigners who followed the religion of Zarathustra, an opposing religion to Judaism, would be summoned by the Jewish God, Yahweh to witness the birth of Yeshua for no other reason than to bring gifts and then depart. But yet  the Bible speaks no more of them. There is a reference in an excerpt from a medieval saints calendar printed in Cologne which read, “Having undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospel, the three wise men met at Sewa (Sebaste in Armenia) in A.D. 54 to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Thereupon, after the celebration of Mass, they died: St. Melchior on Jan. 1, aged 116; St. Balthasar on Jan. 6, aged 112; and St. Caspar on Jan. 11, aged 109.” The Roman Martyrology also lists these dates as the Magi’s respective feast days.

So did the Magi play a real part in the mission of Yeshua throughout his life? Did they continue a role in his education after his birth and the family’s return from Egypt? Did Yeshua live with them in Persia to prepare for his mission? And did they see his mission as purely spiritual to bring Zoroastrianism to Israel or as the cosmically anointed inheritor of the kingship of David to restore the sovereignty of Israel as a defence against Rome?

Rome was a serious enemy to Persian Empire and Judea was right on their western border; it was earlier ruled by Persia before Alexander the Great conquered them. So it was certainly in the Persians’ political interest to have an allied, independent Judea between them and Rome. Whatever you think of this theory, clearly the Roman governor of the time and his Jewish religious puppets took the possibility seriously.

It raises the question about just how much influence the Persian magi had on the politics of Judea and whether they were continually working towards the eventual 66AD great uprising of religious zealots in Galilee and Judea when the Romans were actually finally driven out of the region. If so it was a short-lived victory as Rome returned with a vengeance in 70AD and the Jews were driven from the land which was given to the Philistines.

Incidentally the next great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be in November/ December 2020. I can’t wait, but this one will be in Capricorn, not Pisces so don’t expect a descendant of David to appear in Israel.

That is earth on the left of the sun with Mars behind us. Top of picture the giants Saturn and Jupiter (father and son in Greek mythology) one behind the other in direct line with the sun, forming a superstar.

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Look…no hands

happy-dustmenA garbage collection truck came down our street today. One guy driving and three fit, healthy men running behind, hoisting bins up to the truck then back to the kerb. A wave and bit of a smile as they did so. It’s Christmas week, I must put a little something in an envelope for them for a bit of Christmas cheer. Oh no! wait…..that was five years ago. Almost a lifetime ago. mechanical-armToday there was only one man driving the truck from which protruded a mechanical arm hoisting the bins off the kerb. And we all know that even the driver’s job will be gone in the next five years as driverless vehicles become a reality.

So what happened to that happy, energetic team of busy workers? Are they lying by themselves on their couch? Eking out their unemployment benefit to the detriment of their family’s well being? Getting less and less healthy and spending more and more time getting medical support? Getting more and more depressed as they cannot fulfil the dreams that they promised their children on the day they were born? And with helplessness comes frustration; and with frustration comes anger; and with anger comes violence. And with violence come the political platitudes from the opposition side of the House, regardless of which parties they are any particular year: “Someone needs to do something.” But the only something they ever do is shuffle countless millions of dollars between the various ambulances at the bottom of the cliff, depending on which way the political wind is blowing on any particular budget year.

We could blame the employer for putting profits ahead of people, but deep down we know that they live in a viciously competitive free market country. If they don’t take advantage of the mechanical / digital technology that they buy from overseas manufactures in order to collect refuse as cheap as their competitor, then they will simply go out of business. Then there won’t even be a job for them, their office staff and the mechanics.

Ironically, it was the fourth Labour Government that introduced deregulation and created this rampant, free market, dog-eat-dog system to New Zealand. Between 1935 and 1984, successive New Zealand governments had fiercely protected our businesses and their labour force from the competitive attacks of foreign companies. That included 20 years of Labour rule and 29 years of National rule. Not even the National Party tyrant, Muldoon, would bring in marketplace deregulation. But, under Labour’s Lange/ Douglas government, our workers became fully exposed to the competitive aggression of overseas suppliers who employed millions of low paid workers, women and  children working in horrific conditions, just so we could get lots and lots of cheap stuff. Overflowing trundlers were dragged around the Warehouse, the Warehouse where everyone gets more bargains in a year than they need for a lifetime. And once the genie was out of the bottle……. Well the next phase was that even the Warehouse, the Warehouse were not cheap enough as technology showed these overseas suppliers that they can bypass the local retailer and sell direct online. And if the duty/ gst portion of the purchase price is under $60, then the overseas supplier doesn’t even have to pay that. So then the young guy who lost his job and who started to shop online to make ends meet, suddenly finds his missus loses her job at the Warehouse.

David Lange certainly tried to reign in the beast he had unleashed, but it was too little too late. As political commentator Colin James wrote in his paper to the Stout Research Centre, Victoria University in 2004, “in late 1988 Richard Prebble and Sir Roger Douglas departed in high drama. But by then there was no way back: Lange was stranded in the hard glare of market economics and efficiency and his titular leadership died there in 1989.

The competitive marketplace took us into a state of manic consumerism. The masses demanded more and more cheap stuff like it was an addiction. The business people found it was cheaper to build robots than pay even the lowest paid humans. Read my words: current trends predict that, in China, 77% of jobs will be lost to automation within 20 years. And so today I saw what, twenty years ago I could never have imagined; one man in the cab of a truck operating a mechanical arm to collect household refuse. A social cancer was created by that fourth Labour Government, a cancer that targeted the very workers that the Labour Party  was established to protect.

Dog eat dog. It’s New Zealand Jim, but not as we knew it.

It happened in the USA as well. Now they have what they refer to as the “Rust-Belt States”. Do you think the inhabitants of those states don’t want revenge on the global free market? Just watch that Reality Pawn Shop show based in Detroit; it’s the most depressing show on TV. Do you think they can’t take revenge? They just voted in Donald Trump! And that was working people turning their backs on the Democrats and voting Republican. The equivalent of our working people voting National. They voted Trump because, although a billionaire capitalist republican, he promised he would protect America from the outside world. It was the rust belt states that saw Trump elected. Do you think they care if he was lying? They do not! Do they care that his election may bring the whole country down to the level of their sorry state? They do not. They have nothing more to lose!!!! It was how the French peasants felt when they rolled the guillotine out. It happened in Europe and its happening now in the new industrial zones throughout Asia. Mass unemployment is coming to a town square near you. Man the guillotines.

I am a believer that there is no point complaining without actually proposing a solution. Howling to the moon is a waste of energy. I am no economist (only got a C in Economics 101, might have been a C-) but even blind Freddy can see that, at government level,  we do need to protect our people from the cyber takeover. That we as a community need to go cold turkey 0n our rampant consumerism and think: lower volume, better quality; less reliance on machine-made and more balance for hand-made. And I think we need to change the tax regime to achieve this: balance less tax income from businesses with less tax expenditure on social welfare.

This is how I think it could work: currently payroll cost is a normal business expense that gets deducted from revenue before tax is paid. So effectively 28% of the wage bill is subsidised by taxation. But if, say 35% of the employee wage bill (non-managerial and staff unrelated to the employer) was deducted from their tax bill, then employers would be financially encouraged to employ more people at the hands-on end of their business and pay them a reasonable wage; particularly if, on the other side of the ledger, robot-workers were heavily taxed at customs. For government, more employment saves unemployment benefits; creates healthier lifestyles; increases social interaction; reduces demand on health services; people with busy lives create fewer social problems/ costs , including law enforcement.

That’s all ‘back of an envelope’ accounting so needs a bit of refinement, but I hope it’s enough to get the people in positions of elected social responsibility coming up with more and better ideas. Protecting our local industries from foreign aggression on one hand and ensuring meaningful work and fair wages for our people on the other, so that the disenfranchised in our community can once again contribute to our economy, earn their own money, provide for their families and restore their dignity. Full, sustainable employment should be the catch cry for the 2017 election year.

At government level we still have the opportunity of finding a peaceful solution with both major parties in effectively an embrace in centre ring. But history has shown, and countries in crisis around the world still show, ours is a fragile peace. It won’t take too many more families living in the powerless, stressed and violent conditions they are in today, before what happens in the homes today happens in the streets tomorrow.

And since it just doesn’t feel right giving a bit of Christmas cheer to a mechanical arm, why not drop a gift off at Women’s Refuge? There is never any more frustration-turned-anger than at this time of year when men are supposed to be able to give their children the best family Christmas ever. So there will be vulnerable and unloved women and children sheltering there over Christmas who really need a random act of kindness from the community.

 

 

 

 

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