Billionaires and bravado:
The existential threat inherent in the objectification of the Moon
vol. 1 issue 4
Papers with Opinions
The race is on between an assortment of wealthy men and authoritarian governments like China and Russia to “conquer” the Moon. Yet, while some critical attention has been paid to how billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and others, skirt tax and antitrust laws in order to further their space conquests, there has been no public discussion surrounding the potential dangers to humanity when the Moon is objectified and conquered, despite evidence of the harm such practices have produced terrestrially.
Also absent public debate is whether the Moon should “belong” to any one person or entity. There appears a global de facto acceptance that because there is no current lunar defense to prevent any one nation or rocket ship owner from overtaking the Moon, there is no reason for one group not to take it.
Bezos’s recent sublunar rocket excursion aboard the New Shepard demonstrates his commitment to gradatim ferociter, “one step after another, ferociously”, also the company motto of his space exploration company, Blue Origin. It is well established he sees the Moon as a “step” to be taken in the relentless pursuit of something grander. While his rival billionaire, Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, has his eyes set on making Mars a human outpost in case of terrestrial cataclysm, Bezos believes he can put humans in space pods while moving carbon heavy industry to the Moon. To date, no explicit evidence has been publicly debated as to whether the Moon can withstand this.
Instead, Moon Express billionaire founder Naveen Jain is already well-invested in exploring the fastest way to mine the Moon of its many precious and rare minerals. “Expanding Earth’s economic and social sphere to the Moon is our first step in securing our future,” is Jain’s stated goal, but this sentiment displays a lack of concern for the preservation of the Moon in favor of plundering it. It signals that the same approach to depleting Earth is the same approach we can expect billionaires in space to apply in their race to own the Moon.
This paper argues that first, such linear, acquisitive “step-by-step” thinking perpetuates the Earthly degradation that has come from our objectification, categorization, and rankings of all life on Earth, where in its now fragmented state, what lives or sustains life is more easily conquered, taken, and owned by whoever has the most ability to do so, even if such activity puts the survival of humanity and the Earth into peril through exhaustive consumption. Second, that such an approach is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of humanity’s timeless relationship to the Moon as elegantly explained by the celestial spheres model that eventually paved the way for our current understanding of space.
Without a public examination of how extending into space this divide-and-conquer, rank-and-value approach will exacerbate the fragile state of diversity that supports the whole organism that is Earth, we risk that a small phalanx of men will insert their outsized focus on conquest into the Solar System, potentially upending what is an otherwise already complete physical and spiritual model of our world.
Ultimately, this paper is an argument that humanity risks bringing about its extinction not only through depletion of natural resources, but the depletion of commerce with the Moon through the erasure of its traditional role in our collective, soulful imagination.
WHAT IS KNOWN
In July 2021, we witnessed Jeff Bezos and a small civilian crew aboard the Blue Origin New Shepard, a sub-orbital reusable rocket system, overtly shaped like a sex toy.
This was a test mission of sorts, one in a series of planned steps to begin regular conveyance to the Moon where Bezos also has announced his plans to stage excursions to Mars. It is worth noting the mission also handily demonstrated the ultimate in Amazon package delivery systems – a clear signal to defense contractors of just how reliable his space delivery systems could be in times of weaponry and war.
This is not an insignificant observation. While attention might be focused on the Bezos’s lunar escapades, here at home he and his company AWS, which among many of its services, stores inordinate amounts of data for the defense industry, is currently in a pitched battle to maintain a 10 billion dollar contract with the Pentagon. In the likely event of a future battle over who has the rights to mine the Moon’s precious and rare minerals, something well underway by co-billionaire Naveen Jain, Bezos is poised to deliver the tech services necessary to wage such a war.
Bezos meanwhile, has said that his vision is to turn the Moon into the massive warehouse in the sky, a colonized rock of stuff between what he, since high school, has envisioned as an Earthly “national park” and possibly, in time, a hot Martian one. Whether the Moon is supposed to be an escape from Earth or the other way around, does not seem to have generated much coverage beyond his high school valedictorian speech, in which he described his dreams of creating “space hotels, amusement parks, yachts and colonies for two or three million people orbiting around the earth.”
Bezos, one of the two richest men in the universe, runs a global command-and-control enterprise, Amazon, Inc., by way of well-documented sketchy and abusive labor practices that have resulted in real harm to employees. His fortune has been amassed within the bounds of a federal government run by legislators who have failed to understand how Bezos’ routinized flouting of antitrust law that has rendered our legislators’ antiquated economic policies irrelevant and primed for further manipulation by a class of lobbyists who now argue that monopolies like Bezos’ are now necessary, “because of threats from China”.
Meanwhile, Bezos routinely pays zero in federal income taxes, while also giving away billions to nonprofits. This scheme effectively allows him to re-route public funds to purchase the good will of organizations and also the public, while decreasing the level of scrutiny he endures, since beneficiaries will be less likely to raise red flags on their benefactor.
For example, after the New Shepard touched down, Bezos pledged do-gooders Van Jones and Jorge Andres , 100 million dollars each, telling them to “spend it however they want”, yet, it is arguable that their gifted money is also our money as tax payers.
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and customer because you guys paid for this,” Bezos also said after touching down.
To which, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D, Mass.) responded, “Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing.”
Another way to frame this is that Bezos is stealing from citizens and cynically spinning his theft into a glittery web of humanitarianism, simultaneously remaking our economy right under the noses of our legislators, which much of his “ferocious” lunar adventure is not being conducted in full view of those who ultimately will face its consequences.
WHAT IS LESS OBVIOUS
While wearing his “lucky boots” and cowboy hat, Bezos penetrated the clear Western desert skies in his Great White Penis , and ultimately across the Kármán Line, ie, the internationally recognized boundary of space.
One obvious allusion of this was that he crossed what sounds like a line of karma. Karma is the Sanskrit word that can be translated to mean “action/consequence.”
[NB: ferociter can also be translated as “arrogant” or alternately, “cruel”.]
Since Bezos crossed the boundary line using our collective resources, with or without our implicit approbation, the author here suggests his karma is our karma.
He is not alone in his desire to cross this line. Putting aside China’s lunar ambitions , as well as those of Russia, I am speaking about the two other tax-avoiding billionaire space age pillagers also attempting to render irrelevant the Kármán Line: Richard Branson who actually beat Bezos by 9 days to sub-orbital space in his Virgin Galactic Unity spaceplane, and Musk who claims he will deliver humans to Mars by 2024 in his SpaceX rockets – branding which mimics the branding of his Tesla cars, versioned S, 3, and X.
[NB: Branson has been called to account for his tax evasion.]
It is important to consider whether men who use stolen at best, or falsely leveraged resources to claim the Moon is what is best for humankind. If Bezos and the others avoid paying for the municipal services that benefit us all, why should we trust they will not colonize the Moon to his and their own ends?
These are the richest people on a planet where money is synonymous with power. Put another way, they already all have Earthly power over us.
But, why assume their power over us in space is inevitable?
While billionaires want to stick their penis toys into the Great Mother Universe as we look on, pondering this in a karmic context might offer a worthy ballast to all their fanfare and fuckery.
WHAT IS FORGOTTEN
In ancient times, before our ability to actively explore the galaxy with high-powered telescopes and interstellar missions, the way we knew the Moon and all the other lights in the sky was to step outside and simply observe them. Eventually, cultures on every continent derived essentially the same schema of the heavens, with various names that all can be translated more or less as “the celestial spheres model”. It does not include trans-Uranian bodies, as these were not yet discovered, but it is yet a complete model of life and how to live it portrayed by the logic of the celestial spheres.
Accordingly, there are nine celestial realms, or spheres, organized geocentrically. Geocentricity is not an artefact of our former ignorance that ours is a heliocentric existence, nor is it suggestive of humanity’s self-centeredness.
Earth is at the center of the model because it is the point of greatest materiality. In other words, the deeper into the spheres, the denser things become.
The ninth and furthest sphere observable with the naked eye is called The Primum Mobile, Latin for “primary motion”. Primary motion is that which, from our perspective here on Earth, causes the sky to appear as through it is wheeling above us here on Earth.
Primary motion carries the Sun from East to West every single day. It is immutable. It is constant.
The next sphere, the eighth, is the starry sky, called The Firmament. The majority of us can no longer see it thanks to its majesty being obliterated by light pollution.
The next seven spheres are those belonging to the celestial bodies, in order of how far they appear from our vantage point on Earth: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon.
From Earth, Saturn is also colloquially known as “Seventh Heaven”, a reference to that planet being the most distant wandering light (planet is Greek for “wanderer”) visible to the naked eye. As such, Saturn is also traditionally associated with Father Time – the planet’s synodic journey takes about 30 years, divided into four segments of 7 years each, which all of recorded history seems to suggest reliably equals chapters in events occurring with each generation.
Jupiter’s size and brightness is traditionally equated with bounty. Mars’s redness equates with what inflames or burns within us. The Sun was revered as the Source of light and life. Venus is the pinker version of sweet goodness, the harmony we seek in our lives. Mercury, so quick to spin, is associated with thought and inspiration, with messages.
Next is the Moon, cool and reflective, constant in its changing faces, it is equated with water, and that which comforts. Together the Moon and Sun are seen to dance, rhythmically and predictably through the stream of primary motion.
The Sun defines the ecliptic in the sky through which all the other heavenly bodies travel. It gives us life. It is the source of our growth; its face does not change, unless there is an eclipse. The Sun moves through what the Greeks called the Twelve Places in the sky daily, also known as the Zodiac.
The Moon’s faces do change, however.
Because Earth tilts on its axis, the Moon’s path appears slightly higher, slightly lower, its latitude changing in relationship to the tilt. Over the course of a year, this up and down circular motion is perceived as serpentine, as the Moon wends its way through the Twelve Places in about 29 and a half days’ time, reminiscent of Saturn’s own travels.
The Moon’s ever-changing faces are 8 in number, four quarters each with two distinct phases that wax or wane according to how much light from the Sun the Moon can reflect without Earth coming between the two.
WHAT MUST BE REMEMBERED
The Moon has no light of its own. It is a mirror for what happens between us and the Sun, our source of light and life. The Moon is therefore the point of our world’s collective reflection, just as our minds are the points of reflection of our individual selves. It is in our minds that we reflect upon the “matters” of our lives in the celestial spheres model. The relationship between the Moon and the Sun is the macroscopic of our microscopic minds and selves, and thus, “as above, so below”.
The Moon reflects on the matters here on Earth, including humans. We are made of matter.
In this way, traditional Hindu philosophy holds that the Moon is where our consciousness, represented by the light of the Sun, is “slivered”. It is the lunar sphere through which the intelligence that powers the primary motion, that is to say, God and Goddess in all their names and iterations, enter into our sphere of Earth. I cite the Hindu philosophy specifically, but this is merely one deeply codified version of multitudes of moon lore the world over.
Irrefutably, the sub-lunar realm consists of Fire, Earth, Water, and Air with primary qualities that are hot, dry, cold, and wet; these are the irrefutable qualities of our earthly existence.
We are at the center of the most material expression, the point of the greatest materiality, of the Solar System. All that is between the Earth and Moon is perpetually in a state of becoming and decaying. What is wet will in time become dry, that which is cold will become hot, and so forth. It is the Moon that encircles all that comes to pass and then passes away. It sanctifies All That Is, and that which is powered by the Sun, for infinity.
How we interact and utilize all that is available to us on Earth, is limited only by our imagination as it interacts with the laws of physics. In other words, our capacity to reflect the light of our minds that sources our imaginations and its capacity for either creativity or destruction.
Who and what we are elementally, as viewed within the celestial spheres model, our fire/courage and passion, our earth/law and structure, our water/compassion, our air/inspiration – can be transmuted, is the lesson. It can reflect back to us truths about what is possible, and what is not.
Who and what we are can be silvered, for the sake of teaching us, it can be taught through time and interplay with Source. The Sun and the Moon are larger reflections of us and our relationships to ourselves and one another.
This is why Indian philosophy, to name but one, considers the Moon the gateway to our karma, or put simply, the giver of the law of cause and effect; Saturn, emphasizing generational time, is the law’s enforcer. The Moon symbolically holds the annals of our progress, the teacher of our times, and the reminder of our ephemeral nature, constant in its inconstancy. If we’re wise enough to engage with that mirror, it offers us a window into our souls.
How we choose to interact with the elements of existence will determine the shape of our lives, the outcomes of our activities. The Moon gives us commerce with ourselves and the world around us.
What we’ve chosen to do with this karmic equation is instead try to uncouple it from its inherent logic. We line it up with profit at its head, shaving off, ignoring, even destroying whatever does not align with the attempt to constantly funnel the power of this natural cycle up toward the head, which is always capital, from capitalis, Latin for “of the head”.
This author asks, how is it possible to view the outlines of the current space derby as anything different than the colonization of our continent by the Spanish, the Dutch, the English, the French? We even still refer to it as “colonization” of the Moon.
When Europeans, all descendants of the Holy Roman Empire, implemented their step-by-step colonization of this land, they first encountered people here whose relationships to the resources they sought did not mirror their own.
Their solution was to defile and exterminate it. One way this was done was to systematically strip the Earth-based wisdom from the indigenous cultures.
Before the colonization of this continent, the Moon was integral to indigenous people’s views both as to the sanctity of life and the science of living it. Indigenous people understood how to read the moon to aid in hunting, fishing, farming, traveling, and procreation. They also understood themselves to be in relationship to the Moon, and the Sun, and the rest of the heavens. Within these traditions, it is common to see references to Father Sun, Mother Moon, and all Earthly creatures as one’s brothers and sisters.
The newly arrived colonizers declared the land they now walked upon as that of their respective monarch or trading company, similar to Bezos, Jain, and even the US’s Apollo missions.
If the first people fought back, the newcomers killed them or put them on “reservations”. The colonizers took the children away from their parents and sent them to “Indian” schools where they were taught that their ways of seeing the world, including how they marked time by the Sun and Moon, was not only wrong, but shameful. They were taught to consider only the authority above them, and that relating to the world cyclically was primitive and dirty.
Shame has proven a powerful way to convince people to relinquish power. When a person – or culture – is told their version of how the world works is wrong and must be replaced with the stories that serve another’s agenda, over time, the repetition of these stories paves the way for the justification of whatever else serves the new agenda, including murder or genocide. This author is aware these are potential human activities, and not attributable only to one section of the human race, although it is notable that almost such acts have been perpetrated by groups of men who lust for power without challenge. The current systematic extermination and “re-education” of the Islamic Uighurs in China typifies this.
This can extend beyond cultural “myths” into what are said to be cultural “facts”. Often, what is considered “evidence-based” is simply a body of data that meets end points devised to achieve certain aims. This means that inherently, the end points are arbitrary, even if it is possible first to “prove” one’s theory, although, too often, as many academics lament, it is confoundingly difficult for others to replicate the proof of another’s theory.
What is far more reliable are observational data such as that of primary motion, ie, which is obvious. No one can successfully argue that the Sun does not come up in the East nor sets in the West. Science has helped us understand how this is so, but the why of the matter is left open to interpretation, something the celestial sphere model supports, since with its unfailingly nonjudgement of “other”, it is impossible to co-opt this model as dogma for either science or religion.
It is far easier to prosecute whoever does not adhere to our self-serving conclusions, and to belittle what we have determined is their ignorance. And if they are ignorant, they have less worth. If they are less worthy, they are expendable. Perfect fodder, human or otherwise, for the steppingstones upon which we might ferociously march toward progress.
They make excellent steppingstones in the linear march toward ferocious progress.
WHAT MUST BE UNCOVERED
Similarly, when we strip the natural world – Earth – of the meanings assigned to it in the legion stories that define and knit together various cultures, it is easier to harvest nature (and people) for parts, without considering what is lost to the whole.
Despite the attention Bezos is paying toward conserving the Earth, which has been denuded of her indigenous cultural meanings through this top-down reductive approach, his actions belie that his plan is to similarly inflict the Moon.
Put directly: the same process of degradation that has “shattered” Earth now threatens the Moon, begging the question: Then what?
At a time when there is much public discussion about the ascendancy of evidence-based science, counterpoised with the political clamor to “save the soul of America”, even if lessons already learned about the West’s systematic division and defilement of indigenous, holistic cultures have yet to be fully incorporated into our policymaking, without extending this dialogue to lunar exploits, and beyond, any practical wisdom about these subjects will be lost, and humanity will likely perpetuate ranked inequality, perhaps at an accelerated rate, once the Moon – our collective perception of the natural world’s markers of time and senescence – is altered by those who succeed in conquering it first through objectifying it, and second by obliterating any significant recognition of the Moon’s inherent value in sustaining meaningful life on Earth because the “evidence-base” for this role cannot be quantified, even if qualitatively it is rich.
Our national journalistic focus, and thus our national myth-making of what is happening, has been on the space race’s winners and losers, not upon the implications of fully losing control over how we as humans on Earth define the terms of our relationship to the Moon and all that it symbolizes.
Why are we not engaged in a thorough public inquiry into whether the billionaires like Bezos plan to continue skirting legislation and making up their own rules to run the Moon, or if Bezos, for example, foresees ways other than handing over our money to his favorite charities? Does he favor the democratic process, or does he envision the steady march of gradatim ferociter will be the way life on the Moon takes and holds its shape?
WHAT MUST BE EMPHASIZED
America’s relationship with the Moon is devoid of the kind of poetry found implicit to the celestial spheres model. Largely, this is because as the most extreme expression of the historical West, we are committed to the science and reductive reasoning that locks our colonial hierarchical thinking in place.
Our entrainment on capital means we are always taught to look up, to what is above us and covet it. No matter our station in life, we are taught it is inferior.
Since poetry is a vehicle for exploring the space in between us and another, any poetic longings for the Moon are largely subverted by our conditioning to place it underneath our ego’s control.
Our relationship with the Moon is not devoid of excitement, however. Whenever we have explored the spaces in between us and the Moon, we’ve filled them with stepping and leaping forward for mankind. But where is the evidence our current race for the Moon is informed by current Earthly cultural expectations of leaping forward for humankind?
Is the Moon’s fated to include Bezos’s plans for a future industrial park, presumably with the same levels of pollution as here on Earth, or is it to become his other stated vision of a national park? If a park is “national”, it falls under the federal jurisdiction of a specific nation. Which nation does Bezos envision overseeing Earth as a national park? Has anyone asked him?
Notwithstanding, it would seem that what’s been purchased to date is neither an industrial nor a recreational park, but more akin to the scenario depicted in Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, where the ethos of American neo-conservativism is literal lunacy.
Heinlein’s Moon is a place of individualism in the extreme, a place where when Earth-based men try to impose laws on the mostly male lunar colony, they are met with a revolt staged by under-sexed infidels who insist they have the right to impose their moral code as they see fit since they are the ones on the moon, and not the men back on Earth.
The allusions to the American Revolution are clear. As well, it perhaps foreshadows a sort of bespoke American Revolution for billionaires who now seek to claim the Moon.
Where we lack poetry, we insert objectification. It is natural that we must objectify whatever is in our path if we are to step ferociously toward what we are striving to conquer. Yet, objectification makes something meaningless. When something has no meaning, no value, it is disposable.
What is a harsh mistress but a woman with whom you are attempting to organize something illicit, but who won’t give you your way? That is why she must be taken. There is no room for negotiation, no room for relationship. The Moon is a thing, an object, for the taking. So are women in too much of our culture. So are animals which we now drive to extinction on a daily basis. So is water, which we now trade on futures. So is clean air, which much of the world’s population cannot breathe without ailment.
Such is our world stepped upon, ferociously, and in secrecy, and without scrutiny, without exception.
As we have developed the sciences allowing us to see far beyond these celestial realms, as well as more deeply into the invisible realms here on earth, rather than couple this knowledge with what our souls know by nature, aka “common sense”, we’ve “othered” it, insisting that soul and science be separated, ranking what is known by soul and our senses as inferior to our modern standard of empiricism.
Because with light pollution we’ve obliterated our natural relationship to the night skies, and built too densely upon our daytime horizons, we’ve dulled our instinctual perceptions of primary motion, and so also our internal sense of belonging to the world literally around us. It has perhaps been what has made it easier to apportion other: other people onto “reservations” and “territories”, other creatures onto preserves.
Without any knowledge or understanding of the inherent karmic meanings of materiality, we default to viewing life linearly. We abdicate our power to reflect, to learn, to evolve, to actually progress, which is what living life cyclically ironically instructs us on how to do.
We have less respect for the scientific tradition of observation – over many moons and many cycles of time, marked by planets – and so we forget that we are always involved in that motion, that we are elementally and eternally connected.
It is this author’s belief that this is why we feel existentially bereft: it is harder to derive purpose and meaning when life has no connections and no space for feedback, only the perception of narrow channels through which we are pushed automatically, not inspired to explore.
But that does not mean Nature’s wisdom as told to us through the Sun and the Moon and all the other spheres is not ongoing. Primary motion remains.
Science is the study of how things work – but there are many models, and all can be made to work, so which one is true? The one that achieves what you wish to give meaning. That is why those scientists who claim science’s superiority to metaphorical language are unimpressive in their disregard. They are in pursuit of a reason to justify their grip on the question mark. Scientists thirst for meaning, or else why pursue their proofs? Yet, as the linear progress they vaunt has shown, their myths one day will be disproven. Perhaps though, it is that their myths will only be less elastic, less relevant, but not less true.
Has the discovery of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto rendered the inherent logic of the celestial spheres model moot? No. It has added richness: Uranus spinning sideways on its axis, so unexpected compared to the other celestial orbs, discovered at the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, signifies the disruption of technology; Neptune and its rich ocean blue appearance, the power to wash over us or wash us out, and to possibly submerge and hold in secret whatever technology is up to; and Pluto, still being observed since no one living has ever witnessed its full synod, discovered as it was during the rise of Nazism in Europe, typically equates with extremism.
The poetry that sustains our science is there whether or not we recognize or wish to admit it exists. The Moon never fails to show us cause and effect.
And so, how could we not turn the Moon into a failed state, if we don’t consider and honor the cyclical nature of the Moon and her role in teaching us that what goes around comes around? When it does, we are always given the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of that matter. We assign the meaning to the materiality of which we are inextricably a part.
Believing otherwise is the same folly that prompts the hollow insistence by our political leaders that science will save us, but we must reclaim our soul. Why do we allow them to dodge what they really mean when we say the words “science” and “soul”?
It would be stupid to assume the billionaires and the despots will not reach the Moon. They will, and sooner than later. But it is also stupid for us to forfeit our right to claim it along with them.
It is dangerous for us to only read or hear what the powerful men want us to hear, as told to us by parties with vested interests other than ours. Doing so risks them creating the myths and meanings of the Moon for us, just as the colonizers of this continent did centuries ago, decimating the original peoples and the very land we all must live upon.
Whatever the billionaires’ ultimate course, the rest of us can have a different relationship with the Moon than theirs. We can remember to observe and learn from her. Doing so will protect our minds and imaginations from being colonized with what the conquerors tell us the Moon should mean. It will return to us and preserve the power to invest in a relationship with the Moon that has informed our souls for millennia.
Such awareness is the only way to improve the chances that policymaking about any future settlements on the Moon or elsewhere do not serve only the aims of the conquerors, especially as more becomes known about what lies beyond the Primum Mobile.
Most critically, as it is conceivable that an extension of the depletion of resources and systematic inequality beyond the sublunar sphere will hasten the end of humanity, or greatly change its course, whether on Earth or in space, without an integrated view of how the balance of soul and science is what sustains human life, humans will eventually exhaust the supplies of that which sustains them, whether on Earth or the Moon, and life will more easily be viewed as meaningless, and so not worth the effort to maintain.
UPDATE: Less than a week after this paper was written, Bezos announced that “going to space changed his view of nature”, and so he will focus on conservation efforts here at “home”. Far from diminishing this paper’s significance, it enhances it, since, as this paper argues, the doubling down of attempting to control outcomes through a top-down capitalistic approach is not what is called for if Earth is to survive. What is necessary is a thorough shift in how humans enter into relationship with the natural world that pre-exists us.