I have a Canadian Indian friend who visits us once or twice a year, and he’s an accomplished story-teller, teacher and ceremonial leader. He’s in his mid-sixties, and he tells me that when he’s back home on the reservation, he’s not considered to be an elder. That’s reserved for the people in their 80s or 90s, who are considered to be the ones with the real wisdom.
This obviously contrasts hugely with attitudes in our modern, western society, where the oldest people are hardly taken seriously at all. If there’s a political crisis, for example, one or two old politicians may be wheeled out to make a comment, but what they say doesn’t carry much weight. Rightly so, I think, in the case of some of them, like Margaret Thatcher, who became even more opinionated (if that were possible) and closed down as she got older. But when some others comment, like Dennis Healey or Michael Heseltine, you feel that here is someone talking who has the benefit of a lifetime of experience, has seen it all before, and is therefore worth listening to, even though they still get quite partisan when it comes to their own party. And I think this applies generally to old people. Some remain foolish, and some have stuff that’s really worth listening to.
With this sort of perspective, someone like Barack Obama, the US Presidential contender, is just a kid, and why are people taking him seriously? Sure, he may be a good guy with some sense and judgement, but he’s only in his mid-forties, there’s so much important stuff that he can’t know yet. However bright you are, there’s no substitute for having lived the full cycle of life. Obama may be better than some others, but he will make mistakes that an older person with sense and experience wouldn’t make. If Bill Clinton had been a bit older, he might have exercised a bit more judgement over Monica Lewinsky (I don’t think he did anything morally wrong there, it was just bad judgement). And Tony Blair might not have rushed headlong behind George Bush into Iraq: Harold Wilson in the 1960s avoided getting Britain involved in Vietnam, despite US pressure.
Both Churchill and Roosevelt are remembered as great leaders, and neither of them reached that position until they were in their sixties. Churchill was elected at a time of need, and it’s as though people instinctively knew that it was time for a real leader (despite his well-known flaws). The same happened in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. The leadership of the army was riddled with in-fighting and ineptitude. But when Russia was in real danger, they promptly appointed Kutuzov, an old general who had been cast aside, but who everyone knew had the maturity and disinterest to succeed, which he did. His two greatest weapons (according to Tolstoy, at any rate) were time and patience. He could often achieve more by doing nothing than by engaging, and maybe defeating, the enemy. But he had nothing to prove by his age.
THE PEOPLE WE ELECT AS LEADERS HAVE EVERYTHING TO PROVE, AND THEY SHOULD WORKING OUT THIS NATURAL IMPULSE SOMEPLACE ELSE.
It’s all about Saturn and the sign he rules, Capricorn. The gifts of Saturn are not those of the brilliant youth, which is Leo, or the God-given talents of Neptune, but the wisdom that comes with age and experience: where anything we know is because we have earned the right to that knowledge, we have lived through it, we have made mistakes and learned from them. The first Saturn cycle takes us through childhood and the early experiences of adulthood. The second Saturn cycle takes us from the ages of 29 to 58, and it is only then that we will have experienced the full cycle of adulthood; it is only then, at the earliest, that we can possibly have the experience to take on a task as onerous as guiding a whole nation.
Attitudes towards old people have started to change in the last few years, if only because they have had to. We are living longer, there are more old people, we can’t afford to give them pensions ad infinitum, and so people are starting to have to work until they are older – in the UK, at any rate, but the same issue is arising throughout the West. Employment law is starting to change so that you can’t discriminate against old people. In my local supermarket checkout, there’s a lot more old people working at the tills than there used to be.
In the UK last month, three ageing actors - Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole, were all nominated for awards. This was unusual, and seemed to me to be significant, particularly as it was occurring under the current Saturn-Neptune opposition: illusions (Neptune) around the worth (Saturn) of old (Saturn) actors (Neptune) are dissolving (Neptune). Even James Bond was up for an award in the person of Daniel Craig, who is not young.
Pluto’s transit through Capricorn, which starts next year will, I expect, continue the trend. I think you get a foretaste of a transit well before it ‘officially’ starts, so we have both Saturn-Neptune and Pluto almost in Capricorn reflecting this change of attitude. And to a large extent it's brought about by the economic necessity (Capricorn) of bringing older people (Capricorn) back into the marketplace (Capricorn), resulting in a transformed (Pluto) appreciation of their worth and earned authority (Capricorn).
How far the change will go is impossible to say. Pluto in Capricorn will bring about an upheaval in our attitudes to authority, which can go either way: it can also mean rebellion. Along with a change in attitude to earned authority, one might expect a healthy disillusion with false authority, with charismatic politicians (OK, a bit of charisma is necessary), such as Ronald Reagan, who was a fake grandfather to his nation, and what is worse, everyone knew it, and still they elected him. During his time in office, Neptune entered Capricorn: Neptune-fake; Capricorn-grandfather. We might also expect to see disillusion with instant, talentless celebrities who are treated as role models.
Pluto in Capricorn may also change our attitudes to government itself(Capricorn). What I have particularly in mind is the Bush-Blair-Iraq fiasco. It has been such a huge blunder, and went against the advice of so many experienced people, that it will at least make a lot of people think “How did this happen?”, and at best will lead to formal enquiries about how we govern ourselves. “How did we, the American people, with all our power and foreign policy experience, allow such a fool to lead us?” In the UK, it was the lies that have caused the biggest breach. This new insistence on truth from politicians is a Pluto in Sagittarius issue, but dealing with it will happen mainly under Pluto in Capricorn.