Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A Tale of Two Whistleblowers: Edward Snowden and Julian Assange




Last week I noticed that Eric Francis had written a blog on Edward Snowden, his birth time having recently come to light. I thought well I’d like to write something, but I’m not going to look at Eric’s analysis beforehand. So here goes.

My first impulse is to compare him to that other world-famous whistleblower, Julian Assange. I think I want a term other than whistleblower, because it implies that Snowden and Assange are heroes speaking out against wrongdoing, and I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

You can imagine the essay title: “Are there any circumstances under which it is right to reveal your country’s secrets?” Discuss in 900-1000 words. On my Facebook it is usually less nuanced: Snowden is a hero. No-one calls him a traitor.

Snowden revealed the fact that the US government is engaged in mass surveillance to a much greater degree than was known about. And that he didn’t want to live in such a country, which was why he revealed the info. He didn’t reveal the content of such surveillance.

This was very different to Julian Assange, an Australian who revealed American secrets en masse, and it was all content. What US ambassadors really thought of such and such a leader, details around agents in Afghanistan etc. And when confronted with the possible human consequences of his leaks, newspaper editors were shocked by Assange's coldness. The diplomatic cables: think about it, we may not like the US or Saudi Arabian governments or whatever, but peace is a fragile thing, and they are the governments we have, and to deliberately undermine the basis of communication between those countries seems to me very wrong. And it wasn’t even his own country, what business did he have doing that?

Assange has Sun in Cancer square to Uranus and trine to Moon in Scorpio. He is a cold, intellectual guy, but the wateriness of the chart suggests he is very emotionally driven and probably not very conscious of that either: his ideas about authority and the need to subvert it are rationalisations of a load of unresolved childhood stuff, I suspect. Like the fact that he lived as a child in a cult for a while where there were secrets. Moon in Scorpio. And now he reveals those secrets that the adults have. It may be as simple and as childish as that.

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This split from emotion is classic where Uranus is involved, where we see it in a square to the Sun. It gives genuine idealism, that can also be inhuman in its application.

As you can see, I have a definite view on Julian Assange!

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With Edward Snowden, it is less clear cut. Like Assange, he has Moon in Scorpio, so maybe he had childhood experiences around secrets that fuel him – but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

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But he is also very airy: Sun and Asc in Gemini. Assange has personal Air – Mars and Venus – but his basic nature is Water.

The birth time that Assange gives for himself is 3pm, which gives him Sagittarius Rising. If we go with that, then we have both Assange’s and Snowden’s personal expression – Asc – on what I call the Axis of Truth: Gemini-Sag. Sag tends to be more messianic than Gemini. But that is relative, for both have a Jupiter involvement with their Ascendants. Assange has Neptune-Jupiter conjunct Sag Asc, and Sun square Uranus; Snowden has Sun opposite Neptune and Asc opposite Uranus-Jupiter.

So in both cases not only do we see this ‘Axis of Truth’ but also Uranus – idealism, subversion of authority, breaking the rules; Jupiter gives a religious mission; and Neptune, which is what? We’ll come to that.

Not only is Snowden a double Gemini, but Mercury, the ruler of Gemini, is on his Asc opposite Uranus. I wouldn’t have given him a job in intelligence if I’d seen that Uranus, because Uranus finds it very hard to stay within the accepted rules. I might have given him a job as an agent working abroad, needing to find ingenious methods of spying. But even then, you’d never be quite sure if he was a double or triple agent, due to all that Gemini.

With someone like this, with all that Gemini talent, they can do an organisation a lot of good and then do it a lot of harm in a tricksy way, almost as if they are balancing light and dark, the 2 poles of Gemini.

And then Moon in Scorpio. Gemini-Scorpio is an even more tricksy combination. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, also has Sun in Gemini and Moon in Scorpio. His Sun is conjunct Venus, and he is enormously popular, with the right joke for every occasion, he clowns around. And he has this darker side which keeps peeping through: Gemini has that anyway, but bring in Scorpio and you have it in spades. There are a string of incidents involving lying and extra-marital affairs and even one in which he appears to condone a violent act. And, I always feel, an element of the nasty right winger who will get the country up and running but who doesn’t really care about people.

So I think it is worth being circumspect around Edward Snowden. He has sacrificed himself – there’s Neptune! – and the understandable response of the authorities he has characterised as what happens when you “speak truth to power.” Snowden is young, he is just coming out of his Saturn Return – and he has certainly created a place in the world for himself, which is very Saturn Return, as well as idealistic Aquarian, the sign on the MC.

But that statement that he is speaking truth to power seems na├»ve and polarised and even a bit self-important. Governments need secrets. Corporations have commercial secrets, which they need to protect. Would it be ‘speaking truth to power’ to reveal them? And the same with governments. They need to be secretive, for example, if they are investigating criminal networks, whether it is bombers (not ‘terrorists’, which is a political term), drug importers, sex traffickers, money launderers, paedophile rings, illegal arms dealers, phishers, the mafia and the assorted cyber-criminals who are now using modern communication methods to advance their activities.

It is the government’s job to keep track of these people. The government is there to protect us from them, and would not be doing its job if it was not engaged in surveillance of this new electronic world that has opened up. If I start sending emails or texts with words like guns or nitroglycerine or child porn in them, I want a computer to pick up on that and pass it on to a person who can investigate further. I hope my government is doing that. Maybe the Edward Snowdens of this world don’t realise that there really are bad people out there, and always have been, who will do us immense harm if the government does not protect us, and that mobile phones and the internet are a way of organising themselves without detection – unless we have mass surveillance of those media.

It’s a choice of how we want to live, really. And it’s not a choice between government invasion of our privacy or a free society. It is a choice between mass computerised government surveillance and an increasingly dangerous society where criminals have much more power than they used to.

OK, so we don’t want our ‘privacy’ compromised. For some people that is much more of an issue than for others, some people won’t eg be on Facebook, not because they have anything to hide but because they don’t want information about themselves being picked up by google and governments.

It’s kind of understandable, especially if you are say more a private Scorpio than a tell-it-all Sagittarius. But remember what it was like even 100 years ago when most people lived in villages and everyone knew everyone’s business and if a crime was committed, there was probably a good chance everyone thought they knew who’d done it. Suffocating. I’d much rather today’s situation, where computers know much of my business and maybe a few people who I don’t actually know have looked through some of my stuff, maybe just because I am unwittingly friends with someone who is in turn unwittingly friends with someone dodgy on Facebook. But at least they won’t be GOSSIPING about me. 


That would be much worse. Living in a village and being GOSSIPED about because my hair is too long and I don’t work 9 to 5, and where I can’t advertise I’m an astrologer because that sad tosser in a skirt (the vicar) controls the local magazine (true) and where I could get suspected of crimes just for being different. (That said, it is also true that gossip is what makes life interesting.)

What Snowden revealed was the fact that much more surveillance of the US (and UK) public was going on than people knew about. I think he has probably done us a favour by doing that. It needs to be out in the open. But his reason for doing it is that he doesn’t want the surveillance to be happening to that extent. Quite possibly, he doesn’t want it to be happening at all, he seems like he could be that kind of idealist. Sun opposite Neptune, Uranus-Jupiter opp Asc. And as a double Gemini, he may change his mind in a few years.

Now let’s take the government’s side for a moment. We liberal, educated types can be anti-government, anti-authority in a way that is unthinking and in a way child-like. The US was even set up on an anti-authority/royalty basis (though they do seem to love William and Kate and don’t like Charles and many seem to have strong views on the succession) to an extent that it is very hard for its leader to actually lead, and where the anti-government feeling runs across the political spectrum in a way that it doesn’t in Britain. And where suspicion breeds suspicion.

But maybe the US government has some good reasons for engaging in domestic surveillance to the extent that it is, and some good reasons for not telling the public. Had any of us considered that?

And the reason is this: the mass surveillance necessary within the world of modern electronic communications has run ahead of the public’s willingness to accept such surveillance. So what should a government do? It is an urgent matter, for immense harm can and will be done in a short time by the various groups of people mentioned above. In the case of the US and UK governments, as Snowden revealed, they have gone ahead and engaged anyway with the sort of surveillance they thought was necessary. And I am grateful to them for that, I trust them because they have done that. This is the point at which I know I will lose quite a few subscriptions to my blog, but I know I can’t afford to think in those terms.




Of course, there will be abuses. The surveillance is happening anyway, it is here to stay, and the job of ordinary people is to press for it to be well regulated. In this sense Snowden has done us a favour (in the UK as well). Because the government felt it had to keep quiet about it, it meant the surveillance couldn’t be properly regulated. Even with good regulation, there will be abuses, even major systemic ones. The surveillance in a way is police work, and we know how corrupt police forces can get, and how you keep needing investigations which if we’re lucky have some sort of independence. But that doesn’t mean you do away with the police force, and I think it’s the same with surveillance.

As for the US bugging the EU and other countries, well I think they’re all at it, and it’s a case of all’s fair in love and war. First we heard it was the nasty Chinese stealing US commercial secrets, then we found out the US were themselves bugging the Chinese and EU, next thing we know it will be EU governments bugging the US and the Chinese and whoever else they can. This is a side issue, it’s international relations as usual. I don't think Snowden had the right to reveal what his government was up to in this respect.

And I also think he had no right to reveal the domestic surveillance, even though it may have done his country a favour. Or may not, who knows. I think if your government is out and out destructive like say a Nazi regime, then there is a case for that sort of betrayal. But America is in no way like that.

Governments are not just composed of idiots. Things happen for reasons, sometimes, frequently, idiotic things, particularly when the politicians are in charge. And issues are not clear cut. What Snowden did was a deep and serious matter. How many people did he consult before he did what he did? We don’t know of any. He has Sun-Mars conjunct in the 1st House, he acts on his own. With Moon in Scorpio, he certainly feels deeply. But does he think deeply? Not necessarily as a Gemini. In fact, he could be brilliant at rationalising his actions to suit what he feels, and with Neptune opposite his Sun, he may believe it. The Moon in Scorpio may be running the show, as indicated by tr Node passing over it right now.

If Snowden is allowed to reveal the secrets he’s not happy about, then surely everyone else has the right to reveal the secrets they are not happy about.

I can understand he doesn’t want that sort of mass electronic surveillance going on. But it’s not the one-sided issue he seems to present it as. There are good reasons for it, and we will all have our own viewpoint.

I think this is my big issue with him: what makes him think he has the right to take on his own a decision that affects all of us?

Maybe, though, there is a kind of fate at work. Gemini is the sign of facts (as opposed to their significance, which is Sagittarius). Snowden has Sun conjunct North Node in Gemini. There is something fated here around facts and information, that involves the collective (opposite Neptune.)

And the North Node is involved again by transit: it is about to conjoin his natal Moon in Scorpio. A time of reckoning around secrets, a theme of betrayal. And his Solar Return for last year has an applying t-square of Moon in Cancer, Uranus and Pluto. A betrayal (Pluto) of his homeland (Moon in Cancer). The astrology doesn’t tell us whether the betrayal is justified or not, we have to make those judgements ourselves.

I think it is hard with natal Sun opposite Neptune to know yourself without a broadened sense of who you are, maybe through an imaginative vocation, or maybe it is redemption through being a sacrifice to the collective. On a purely personal level, what Snowden has done is also part of his path of self-knowledge. An outer planet takes years, decades to start to understand. I feel there was a fated element to what Snowden did, like the collective needed someone to let it know what was going on. But I think it will take a long time for him to understand fully why he did what he did, and he may at times regret it.

I would like to know his personal history. Why the need to sacrifice himself (Sun opposite Neptune)? Were there secrets in his childhood (Moon in Scorpio)? It is like a Myth has hold of him that he is living out, and maybe the Fates ordained that. After all, he also has Uranus opposite Asc and Sun trine Saturn-Pluto: a lot of collective influence on his chart.

And, rather amazingly, a collective yod with Chiron in the 12th at the apex, Saturn-Pluto and Neptune at the base. Chiron is another planet of sacrifice and scapegoatery, and it's in the collective 12th House. Mars passed over his Chiron a week before the leaks were published on 6th June, showing the significance of this yod. Before that, the Sun passed over his Chiron on 20th May, the date he fled to Hong Kong.

In the near future, Saturn will cross his Moon. This will be his personal adjustment to his new circumstances, particularly home (Moon). Scorpio/Saturn could describe prison, or that very Scorpionic country to which he has just applied for asylum, Russia. The North Node has yet to cross his Moon, so there is more to unfold in this story of the revelation of national secrets.

It is interesting trying to analyse the chart of someone whose destiny has become so irrevocably tied up with the collective. He is not eg a politician who has the choice to step out of that. I don’t think an analysis is possible without considering that collective dimension, which is so much like Fate. He will never have the free will which we in the West like to think we have, but which is so dependent on material security.

In a way it’s not as if he has done something terrible. He just said what a lot of us probably suspected anyway, but now we know it. It is, at the same time, one of the biggest intelligence leaks in history, and I don’t think one individual has the right to do that to his country. On the other hand, as I said, maybe the collective wanted it and that was the way it had to happen. His Asc-Desc axis lines up along the US Asc-Desc axis.

 I’m left with a feeling of ambivalence in a way that I didn’t feel with Julian Assange. But then Snowden is a double Gemini with Mercury Rising. The trickster rules his Sun and Asc. Mercury has this way of tricking us into a deeper awareness, of causing secrets to be revealed, and maybe in that sense Snowden is a tool of the gods, and his personal destiny is not that relevant.

Snowden is also of our times in the sense that Pluto in Capricorn has the straightforward meaning of government (Capricorn) secrets (Pluto), and with Uranus currently in square to it, this exposure is kind of inevitable – it is a collective awakening (Uranus) to the shadow side (Pluto) of government (Capricorn). And Snowden’s 2012-13 SR Moon hard-aspects this collective movement.

But shadow side doesn’t mean ‘wrong’. It just means not acceptable to consciousness as it now is. It therefore means that what Snowden has done is part of the collective coming to terms with this aspect of what the government does on its behalf.

The type of betrayal of secrets that occurred with Snowden and Assange is new (Uranus in Aries): it is not about betraying one country to another, it is about betraying governments to the public, letting the people in on what is done on their behalf, in a way making the public more responsible (Capricorn) for what is done in its name.

The US particularly seems both idealistic about its form of government, yet deeply suspicious of the actual governments that idealism produces. Astrologically, this is described by natal Sun in Cancer in square to Saturn in Libra, which the Pluto-Uranus square is starting to hard-aspect. This is the wider context in which Snowden’s – and Assange’s – actions need to be seen. It may not be about the US government ceasing to do what governments have always done, but of the people realising that and finding a way of coming to terms with it.

12 comments:

gawd_almighty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gawd_almighty said...


Nice article, on a subject that has endless ramifications. And ramble I shall. I think you are right to focus on the personal, psychological motivation behind the two men's actions. Whatever Julian Assange did, and the reasons he gave for doing it, it all seems to be outweighed by the satisfaction he now exudes at being permanently at the centre of the world's rolling news coverage. He clearly enjoys fame, and the inconvenience of being holed up in an embassy in London is probably a relatively small price to pay. Edward Snowden, however, as you say, is a more principled kettle of fish, and I too would love to know more about his younger life, to find out whether – with that Sun opposite Neptune – he ever idealised someone, a parent, probably, to such a ridiculous extent that he was inevitably disappointed, and brutally let down. Perhaps subsequently wreaking some kind of vengeance on his ex-idol. Did he do the same with his job in the NSA? Did he start out by thinking that he was going to help his great country thwart terrorist plots and save hundreds of human lives, only to find out that he was given the job of listening in on perfectly normal people who had apparently done nothing wrong? And as you say, this time his vengeance also included a kind of Neptunian self-immolation, which he could actually have the fun of watching himself.
And why has the US carried out such an intensive surveillance regime? You could say that the country has shown definite paranoid tendencies ever since the Second World War, and I suppose that as the technology kept developing, there was simply no reason to stop snooping – if you adhere to the traditional patriotic propaganda and believe that your country is permanently under threat from dark forces, then there’s your justification. Perhaps Snowden felt pushed to act when all this became clear to him – that spying had become almost a vice among the US secret services; it was addictive, though little of it did any good to humanity at large. The big problem for the US is that another aspect of its propaganda is that it purports to be the friend and upholder of the free world, but it has come as a shock to the free world that we are also being treated like suspects of something or other. Personally, I think that yes, governments should carry out surveillance for the good of their people, but the nosing should not be allowed to become unlimited and indiscriminate, as it has done. This event will also be important for all of us as 21st-century individuals, as it will contribute to the ongoing Pluto-square-Uranus worldwide debate on state power vs. individual freedom. If that is all Snowden’s actions succeed in doing – in opening minds and making people think about what they want and don't want their leaders to be/do – then he has already achieved a great deal.

clarelhdm said...

I'll probably think about this more and write in more detail, but off the top of my head, I certainly do not share your conviction that governments are basically benign and have the good of the people at heart. Particularly in the US, (but certainly also in Australia where I live), if you scrape a bit deeper than the mainstream press, it is clear that the government is dominated by vested interests with a lot of power. Of course it is not all bad, but I wouldn't want to be part of a minority group in the US, or poor or unemployed. The rift between the poor and the rich is ever widening, and those who have money and power are certain to use every means possible to maintain the status-quo. An analysis of the war on 'terrorism', the reasons for going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the business interests involved who made millions (contracts signed, sealed and delivered before the war was even declared), hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties (who are referred to as 'collatoral damage' and apparently don't count due to the colour of their skin and their strange cultural practices)- all reveal a power structure that has its own best interests at heart, not those of its citizens. I think it is important to question where technology is taking us, and whether we want to go there...or do we keep dropping atomic bombs because we can, and then think about whether this is the kind of world we want after the fact? Same with the inundation of technology, we need to be conscious about its effects, and choose wisely. It is not unusual that when power gets out of control, brave people will make huge sacrifices to expose these excesses. When confronted with a moral dilemma all the best any of us can do is weigh the evidence and the consequences and make a choice. Sometimes, yes, one person has to stand up and make a choice which has collective consequences, because we are in fact a community of individuals who should weigh up all of their individual decisions, even though we vest some of our control to governments who are supposed to administer the necessities of our lives. So often, they are in fact doing far far more than we ever asked. oops....looks like i wrote a lot off the top of my head :-)

Anonymous said...

As usual, your article is very didactic. This is mundane astrology, at its best. I would never take your writings as an expression of any political view or tendency in particular. You are just doing your thing. Concerning possible reasons our outcomes, it is to be seen. It is what it is! Passionate political views ... not my thing. I was born in 1948. Seen too much. Thanks again for sharing. I read your blog always. Glad you and others are out there.

Anonymous said...

Pluto (power, secrecy) in Capricorn (government) square Uranus (revolution) in Aries (the individual), in a nutshell. I remember relating what I had read about this most talked about square back in 2005-6 and getting blank stares and even laughs. Now those people regard me as some kind of prophet. Always have a good astrologer handy.

gawd_almighty said...

Further to my previous post, a bit of revealing backstory - I just read that Snowden's father was a US coastguard (hero!) who divorced Edward's mother in 2001 (bastard!). There's your letdown. I have also read that 9/11 apparently hit Snowden hard at the emotional level - the psychological projection between the attacks and his collapsing family, in the same year, was inevitable, I imagine.

Magic Dragon said...

As usual, great reflections and insights. I agree with other posters that your blog is not a political one and that you are thinking and bringing to the surface what is under the event considered.

There is an issue here though. Governments have the duty to keep their country safe, even from its citizens! That said, there has to be a principel for governments act according to the General Good" and not on behalf of its own interests or of the powers behind governments. You said: "it is about betraying governments to the public," No so much so, but to bring about a gap in legislation and transparency. A government should be clear and work under the law and the public should know what government is doing and how its actions are regulated and responsibilities settled. Thenm they can do their stuff. The problem is the government not only keep secrets from its people (US, GB, etc.), but even lied about it giving a false sense of security and a false impression of: we are the good guys looking after you, so don't question us" Wrong. They are responsible to the people and they need to operate clearly and transparently under the law given by the people.
(There, my idealist Aquarius rising!)
Cheers,
Nic

matt said...

Not normally one for a good conspiracy story - but your triple agent image and all that double Gemini made me think...

Snowden has let out the US' dirty little secret in a way with a benign President that in post-Cold war era has done very little real damage...

With Snowden being taken under the wing of Wikileaks legal team & being touted to every anti-US country in his appeal for asylum appeal isnt he perfectly set-up as a sleeper from the US secret service? Or have I been reading too much John Le Carre again.. :D

Anonymous said...

Love the way you do astrology and explain events. I never miss a column on your blog.

Just wondering why it is that we see the sacrifice in Snowden and much less in Assange.
Could that be because he has Jupiter/Neptune on his Sagittarius ascendant, giving him an ego, and Snowden has Mercury in 12th house, making him unconscious of what he was doing when he talked to the media at first ? He has Jupiter/Uranus in 6th opposite his natal Mercury and Neptune in 7th (sacrificed by other people / the world) ?
In both cases Jupiter is involved.

mimi

Twilight said...

I know your very interesting and knowledgeable post is basically about the astrology of these issues and these two guys, not the politics - but, outside of the astrology, I get a definite feeling of overall acceptance of the situation from it - that we should be understanding of our poor besieged governments trying their best to make sure we are kept safe. If that were all it amounted to, I might agree, but there's more, much more, especially in Snowden's case.

See Robert Scheer 's article
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/americas_new_cold_war_why_the_allies_side_with_snowden_20130701/


......As a New York Times account Sunday suggests, “A close reading of Mr. Snowden’s documents shows the extent to which the eavesdropping agency now has two new roles: It is a data cruncher, with an appetite to sweep up, and hold for years, a staggering variety of information. And it is an intelligence force armed with cyber weapons, assigned not just to monitor foreign computers but also, if necessary, to attack.”

A surveillance power run amok? The latest disclosures from Snowden’s leaks published in the German magazine Der Spiegel on Sunday turn out to have nothing to do with national security and everything to do with a compulsive and unseemly snooping not only into the lives of ordinary citizens throughout the world but also into the diplomatic correspondence, including trade and other negotiating strategies, of some of our closest allies........ -


There's probably even more to it than that too!

Dharmaruci said...

I think that's why Snowden has done us all a favour, in that the surveillance needs to be regulated, and won't be if it's done secretly. As for the way the US is snooping on foreigners, I think they're all at it. The Chinese snooping is costing a vast amount in trade secrets.

Debbie Rutter said...

Both protagonists bore me rigid but your summary is utterly fascinating and calm and wise. As always. 'don't know how you do it. 'just glad you do!