Anne Applebaum: Fixed Ideas in a Mutable World

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum is one of the many works you can find written since 2016 that analyzes why those in the more free countries on earth are drawn to authoritarian figures. As with many things in earth life, one man’s authoritarian is another’s savior.

And that for me is what underlies all analyses done of this subject – saviors. As earthlings are born, they are generally provided stories of how they and their cultures were created. Most involve a savior in a secular or religious form. Since most saviors are not in sentient form, it’s no surprise to me that we seek a more corporeal form during our time on earth. It’s kind of like preferring currency over bitcoin. Bitcoin may be real, but holding a $50 bill in your hand feels much different.

And like most works on the subject of recent authoritarianism, I enjoy the unique perspective that Applebaum brings. Unlike other works, however, hers focuses on individuals. The running theme, to me, is that her friends were once on the side of freedom but have “changed” and supported authoritarianism.

While I agree with her premise that in changing times people seek simple stories and a nostalgic return to the past (that may or may not have existed), I also see in her narrative a certain aspect of human nature – people seeking identity in the trends that surround them. Philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand is very appealing because she called this out – if a person doesn’t establish his or her own philosophy and value system, he or she will pick up what’s around by default. While values can change during a lifetime, most of us believe in what our cultures taught without a deeper dive into whether we really, truly believe in that cultural interpretation.

While reading Twilight of Democracy I kept feeling that while Applebaum has true, deep concerns about society, she also feels a great deal of sadness in lost friendships.

Anne Applebaum

As expected, Applebaum’s chart has a lot of fixed signs. Astrology has four elements (fire, earth, air and water) and three modes (cardinal, fixed and mutable). The four elements times three modes equal the 12 signs.

Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) initiate action and tend to be bossy. Fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius) are steady and strong and often become leaders. Mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces) are flexible and adaptable but not consistent.

An astrological history of United States presidents shows that traditionally we liked fixed signs. Fixed, just as it sounds, can stay the course on whatever motivates it. In earth (Taurus), there is drive to earn and accumulate assets. In fire (Leo), there is fixation on self and expression making this the actor of the zodiac. In water (Scorpio), there is fixation on emotions and intimate relationships. In air (Aquarius), the fixation is on ideas, especially ideas of social order, technology and innovation.

Humans tend to like the consistency of fixed signs – you said you would do this and you did. You showed up. You kept your promise.

Applebaum has five of the ten “planets” in astrology in fixed signs – sun and Mercury in Leo, moon opposite in Aquarius, Jupiter in Taurus and Neptune in Scorpio. The rest of her chart is in mutable signs. So unless she has a cardinal sign rising, that is a missing mode.

Sun opposite moon (when exact is your astronomical full moon) means the active and reactive responses are at odds. Leo is lovers and Aquarius is friends so Applebaum writing about parties and events shows the social side of this aspect. This aspect tends to make friends into lovers then want to return to friendship, which isn’t easy for everyone.

It’s the Aquarius moon, I believe, which is experiencing the disappointment in former friends’ intellectual morphing from proponents of freedom to supporters of polarizing politics. Aquarius is fixed idea so when Applebaum says she believes in something, it’s more firmly established while others may be going with the flow, enjoying the energy of the times or simply having stimulating conversation.

Journalism is astrologically ruled by Mercury (which rules Gemini). By nature, journalism is a short-term seeking of facts. Although we accuse our journalists of fake news, consider if you were, say reporting on the 45th US president, the “fact” might be one day he says “up” and the next day on the same subject he says “down.” The fact is that each statement was made and that they are contradictory.  A “fact” can report someone’s lie.

Gemini and journalism are the messengers. Taking the facts (and non-facts) and making meaning belongs in the realm of the opposite sign – Sagittarius. Gemini is the journalist; Sagittarius the philosopher.

Applebaum has Mars and Venus – the planets of assertiveness and romance/pleasure – in Gemini. She loves the journalist type with agile mind, incessant curiosity and ability to communicate. For her Aquarius moon, Gemini makes a trine and nothing is better than a late-night conversation about a unique subject. The love of foreign and unique people is also a quality of air signs.

Yet air also seeks identity and identity is not solid like body is. And while Applebaum may feel her friends have “changed,” I suspect they feel the same about her with that Mars/Venus aspect. Also, a party is a party. What one says at a party to relate (and seduce) and what one does with her or her vote or money are entirely different motivations.

My own experience of this is that while young we may tend to be more liberal (but not always of course). But as we age and have children (and houses and jobs), we tend to become more conservative because we have people and lifestyles to protect and as we age we naturally become less competitive as energy wanes (but not always of course).

Gemini is the eternal youth and Applebaum has some of that too. Aquarius is idealist and Leo is proud so there is a lot of energy and identity around worldview. With Mars/Venus in Gemini and Uranus/Pluto in Virgo, the intellect is quite strong and detailed. Applebaum may not be seeing past the ideals of her companions and maybe hasn’t understood that some have fixed-sign attachment to ideas and some simply like the outfits (like the revolutionary beret).

Natal Saturn in Pisces indicates that for Applebaum it is difficult to get a true emotional connection to others – it’s just a difficult bridge to cross. Words can convey emotion but are not the emotions themselves.

Transiting Saturn is currently in Aquarius and in 2023 will move into Pisces. In Aquarius, Saturn is conjunct the moon. In Pisces, it will conjunct natal Saturn for the second Saturn return (times of maturity and acceptance of mortality).

These two aspects create additional distance in friendships both intellectual (Aquarius) and emotional (Pisces). Saturn moved into Aquarius just as social distancing began. For Applebaum, the distance occurring now with many friends will mostly likely be permanent. Yet were they ever truly friends?

In April 2023 when Applebaum has her second Saturn return, she will mostly likely understand that those showing up to the barbeque with amusing stories may not be the same ones that show up in hard times with a bowl of soup.

About ohioastrology

I'm just another soul trying to make sense of the world. As I've grown, so has my understanding of astrology. I'd like to communicate that astrology is not occult and not fortune-telling but that it is a fluid, creative description of the life we choose to live.
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