2021 began with a bang, thanks to the alignment of Mars-Uranus-Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto. The last four years have felt like a car chase along a cliff with no guardrails with a madman at the wheel. On January 6th, it felt like maybe we were finally driving off the cliff. But, in an action-movie-style deus ex machina moment of grace, the “good guy” (from my perspective at least) pushed the madman out of the car and took the wheel. The Jupiter-Uranus square (December 2020 — March 2021) brought the satisfaction of experiencing happy resolution after a crescendo of nail-biting drama. Jupiter-Uranus can give us a certain feeling of optimism in spite of the general overall gloom and tension of our time. We can also see this planetary aspect at work in the Icarus-like inflation of Trump and his followers, who really thought this was their moment and gave it their best, but ended up flapping about, limp and squeaky, and falling to the floor like a deflating balloon.
The Saturn-Pluto conjunction (early 2018 — late 2021) will fade out over the next year, and hopefully, after experiencing all of the struggle and division it brings, we will come away from it stronger, clearer, and wiser. The Uranus-Pluto square (mid 2007- early 2021) brought social upheaval, activating both the radical left and the reactionary right. Under this conjunction, we experienced a massive power struggle, as marginalized groups sought to claim their own share of power and those in power doubled-down on their positions. The net result of Uranus-Pluto is real social progress and the scars to show for the effort.
Many, including me, lament the irrationality and the loss of civility in our time. But I also realize that in some ways, these have been a necessary medicine — part of the witches’ brew of transformation. I am glad that we have a grown-up at the wheel again. I am glad that Trump and his minions failed in their coup attempt. It is not that Trump supporters don’t have some legitimate, albeit misguided, points. The idea that the system is corrupt, that the powerful “elites” have only their own interests at heart, and that ordinary people tend to get screwed by business-as-usual politics is not wrong. What is wrong is the idea that your grievances give you a right to hate and harm others; or the idea that you can just choose to believe any old nonsense that backs up your ideology; or the idea that Trump somehow cares about ordinary people and has their interests at heart. Trump and others like him know how to exploit our wounds — how to make them really hurt, so that we can really hate. If we can wean ourselves from our binkies-of-hate, rather than entertain ideologies or conspiracy theories that claim to tell us who the real enemies are, then we are less vulnerable to manipulation by Trump or by any other “elite”. The first enemy is always within, and it is an enemy you cannot kill. We have to try to make friends with the inner enemy, or at least come to terms.
Among other things, Trumpism reflects the shadow of liberalism. I grew up in the 90s believing that all the important battles had already been fought and that the good guys had won: racism was bad, tolerance was good, non-violence was the answer, science would liberate us from superstition, etc. But this was too easy and simplistic. We are, after all, notoriously bad at living up to our ideals. When the disparity between ideals and instinct gets too wide, it is only a matter of time before some cataclysm occurs to rebalance the relationship. Along came Uranus-Pluto, and then Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto, and that shift began. We’ve seen, for instance, that racism didn’t go away when we all decided to agree that it was bad. It just went underground and suckled at the teat of resentment, to emerge again when the moment was right. We’ve seen, too, that liberals can be as intolerant and bloodthirsty as the meanest conservatives. We’ve also seen how a rejection of outdated religious beliefs can turn into a fundamentalist “belief” in science. The gift of these Pluto aspects is that they might transform us at the instinctual level. We can only say we have transformed when we no longer instinctively fear those who are different from us or do not instinctively seek shelter in a comforting ideology. Or at the very least, when we can observe these instincts and emotions without letting them grab the wheel, we can act in better alignment with our ideals.
The struggle is now entering a new phase, as Saturn and Uranus close in on their square, and the Pluto aspects fade. The Saturn-Uranus square (early 2020 — early 2023) will be the star for the next couple of years, highlighting issues of freedom and restriction, the new and the old, liberal and conservative. I find this aspect to be oxymoronic: the Soviet Union was born under such an aspect and epitomized a negative expression as a repressively revolutionary state. The insurrectionists at the capital were “right wing anarchists” fighting what they saw as a “liberal establishment”. Although the coup attempt failed and many are now experiencing a feeling of relief, we have not seen the end of the culture wars.
Saturn-Uranus is a restless, jagged aspect. One question it will force us to consider is, “what does freedom mean to me?” Another might be, “what price am I willing to pay for freedom?” Or, “what am I willing to sacrifice/ how long am I willing to wait for freedom?” We are all like artists sitting before a blank canvas, and the canvas is our future. Every decision we make to do something is the choice to reject everything else. To paraphrase Nietzsche, we had best get comfortable with the process of saying the big “No” so that we can say the big “Yes”. Otherwise, we will always be equivocating, always putting out fires, always distracted, always roped into one or another narrative that someone else has written.