Moving from “Me” to “We”
In an earlier article, I referred to Pluto in Libra as the Jan Brady Generation: the quiet, well-intentioned middle child sandwiched between two attention-grabbing siblings who often felt overlooked or out-right ignored. In this analogy, the role of Marsha is played by the slightly older Pluto in Virgo generation, who made their mark on the world as an up-and-coming bunch of slackers who didn’t even merit a proper generational moniker, and were thus dismissed as Generation X. The role of Cindy is played by the younger Pluto in Scorpio generation, who have been branded as a bunch of overly coddled brats and labeled as Millennials. So, in the conventional model of generations, where Millennials are thought to follow immediately after Generation X, there is no middle child here. There is no Jan Brady! She doesn’t even exist. No wonder she has a complex.
The eldest of this “invisible” generation were lumped in with their GenX elder siblings while the youngest have been identified as first-wave Millennials. In the traditional model, the year 1981 has been historically used as the dividing line between GenX (1965–1981) and Millennials (1982–2000). Here demographers had sought a clear line of demarcation that also conformed with their proscribed model. But in recent years, there’s been an admission that something was off with this distinction, and the emergence of a microgeneration—dubbed Xennials—has been recently recognized as a distinct cohort born between 1977–1983.
By virtue of applying our astrological model, we can now give this pivotal and important generation the due respect and attention it deserves. Because this Xennial microgeneration is in fact the Pluto in Libra generation (born 1972–1984) and they represent a critical juncture within the cyclical unfolding of the zodiac: they are the vanguards of the inflection point on the continuum of human development that engenders the necessary move from “Me” to “We.”
Within the elegant symmetry of the zodiac, its 12 signs can be divided in half by the horizon line, with the first six signs (Aries through Virgo) positioned below the horizon, and the second six signs (Libra through Pisces) positioned above the horizon. The qualities and characteristics represented by the signs below the horizon tend to be more inwardly focused on the Self, while those above the horizon tend to be more outwardly focused on the Other. The sign Libra sits at the fulcrum point of the transition between self and other.
In the previous article on the Pluto in Virgo generation, we identified Virgo as a “transitional archetype.” It initiates this transition from the inward-focused process of self-development that unfolded during the Aries through Leo phase, and prepares the individual (and the collective) to move into Libra, the first “above the horizon” archetype, representing a shift in focus from self to other. Thus Libra is the first and primary archetype of relationship.
Combining Libra’s emphasis on relationships with Pluto’s transformational power, we get a generation with the power to transform relationships. As we proceed to identify this previously overlooked generation and their collective movement through life and its phases (via Pluto’s aspects), we will see the emergence of a generational identity that has had a subtle but powerful impact on the evolution of the nature of relationships within our culture. Among other things, we’ll be able to identify the more recent phenomenon of “marriage equality” as being at the heart of this generation’s collective soul purpose.
Collective Soul Purpose
Let’s recall what we’ve already established about Pluto as a generational planet:
Pluto in any sign represents our collective soul purpose: a mostly unconscious process that leads us—as a generation—to compulsively and habitually approach certain aspects of life in a similar way, as described by the sign Pluto was transiting when we were all born. This gives us our generational signature—a constellation of qualities that we possess and share with our cohorts that seem distinct from those who came before and after us. It represents the karmic issues we are trying to work out together over the course of our lives (and perhaps many lifetimes). It provokes in each of us as individuals the need to grow, change and evolve. And our individual efforts, harnessed as a collective force, in turn effects some necessary changes in society and imparts some valuable contribution to the continued evolution of our culture.
So what is the “constellation of qualities” that characterize the Pluto in the Libra generation? This is a collective of souls who have incarnated together to learn collective lessons of relationship, with special emphasis on notions of equality, fairness, balance and social justice. They are seeking to harmonize themselves with others, by developing the fine art of listening, by balancing the need to give and receive, and by learning to participate in partnerships as equals.
As always, when considering Pluto, we have to take into account its “all or nothing” tendencies. So for Pluto in Libra, this group will be all or nothing about relationships, either totally accepting or totally rejecting the notions of fairness, equality and social justice. Particularly relevant here are the two sides to Libra’s symbolic scales—they can easily tip in either direction.
Peaceful, Easy Feeling
The first-wave of the Pluto in Libra generation was born in 1972. Unlike the times of radical change and upheaval into which their Pluto in Virgo GenX predecessors were born, these souls incarnated during a time when the culture was turning away from an obsessive focus on the woes of the world and the strident urge to fix its many social ills, to an emphasis on exploring the nature and value of relating to others in more meaningful ways. The parents of these young souls—many young Pluto in Leo Baby Boomers themselves— were trading in their radical 1960’s identities and seeking to settle into a more personally-connected and relationship-oriented phase of life and began to start families with the best of intentions.
But for the souls incarnating during this peaceful, easy era, the emphasis on relating and harmonious living represents a deep, unconscious security need, and the seeking, attaining and promoting of such “relational equity’ represents the collective soul purpose which they have come into this world together to offer as their contribution to society. By their very nature, they tend to be a very agreeable bunch, working quietly and patiently towards a world where everyone can get along. This might explain why they have come of age and entered into adulthood as a nearly invisible microgeneration, having only recently been recognized as possibly existing at all.
Like A Virgin
One thing they do share with the Pluto in Virgo generation that came before and the Pluto in Scorpio generation that came after them, is the experience of growing up fast. Because they were born during the time in Pluto’s 248-year orbit when it moves much faster as it approaches the Sun (perihelion), they collectively experience life phase shifts at much earlier ages than previous generations.
Case in point, when Pluto entered Scorpio in 1983, the first-wave Pluto in Libra cohorts encountered their semi-sextile phase at age 11. Considering that many of their Pluto in Leo parents were age 19 when they encountered their semi-sextile phase, we can begin to appreciate the rapid acceleration taking place here. These kids haven’t even hit puberty yet and they are being challenged by their Pluto transit to grow up fast. And as we’ve discussed, the semi-sextile aspect is often difficult to integrate, representing as it does the quality of a “building potential” whose energy isn’t easily accessible, but requires “conscious effort” to be realized.
This would have presented these young Pluto in Libra souls with an early challenge in life, one they were perhaps under equipped to face. As a generation with a deep unconscious security need to relate, they were experiencing the characteristics of Pluto in Scorpio—with its archetypal impulse toward sexual expression and experimentation—and thus were necessarily sexualized at a very early age. If you thought the Pluto in Virgo GenX kids grew up fast, consider that many of these Pluto in Libra kids were experimenting with sex in their preteens.
They were simultaneously learning the lessons of power dynamics (Pluto in Scorpio) quite young as well, absorbing the notion that sex eqauls power, and witnessing a world where everyone seemed to be out for themselves during the “Me” generation of the 1980’s. Surely this was at odds with their innate orientation to “We” and likely created a generational cognitive dissonance that they would collectively internalize as underdeveloped teenagers. We might predict that many in this cohort would subsequently spend years in therapy as adults trying to work through these complex power dynamics encountered at such an early age. But such is the destiny of these souls to learn these lessons.
This generation was not afforded much time to linger in youth. In 1995, when Pluto moved into Sagittarius, the first-wave Pluto in Libra cohorts encountered their sextile phase at age 23. With its qualities of ease and harmony, Pluto’s sextile aspect offered these young adults a much needed opportunity to assimilate themselves into the adult world they were now prematurely entering. The tone and mood of expansion, growth and exploration that characterized the Pluto in Sagittarius period (1995–2008) gave the Pluto in Libra generation some breathing room to explore their options, to refine their personal philosophies, to travel abroad and seek out deeper truths. This mutually reinforced their deep security needs to connect, to relate, and to understand themselves through their relationship to others and to the world at large.
It’s also interesting to note that this was the first generation to come of age in the era of online dating— as would befit the Pluto in Libra archetype. When the 1998 feature film You’ve Got Mail was released, the oldest of this generation was 26. In the script, the characters portrayed by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meet in an “over 30” chatroom, thus making them Pluto in Virgo types—a generation that was a bit late to the game and needed to overcome the stigma of online dating. But for the Pluto in Libra generation that followed, there was no such stigma to overcome. This would be a natural extension of their digital world.
You’ve Got Mail explored the new phenomenon of online dating, and no one loves a good Rom-Com more than the Pluto in Libra folks.
The year 2000 witnessed the launch of eHarmony, becoming one of the first and most successful websites dedicated to online dating. The way people would meet, relate and date was about to be transformed, and the Pluto in Libra generation was on the front lines of this revolution in relationships. They also found themselves on the leading edge of another game-changing phenomenon: social media.
The Social Network
Between 2003–2004, the internet exploded with the introduction of social media sites like tribe.net, and Tom Anderson instantly became the first online friend to millions on MySpace. When Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004, an entire generation of people began interacting in a new, digitally-mediated universe. It’s no coincidence that the “relationship” generation came of age during this transformative period, a time when the notion of how we relate to one another began to shift dramatically and irreversibly. We could argue that the Pluto in Libra generation was simply destined to occupy this critical juncture in history.
By the end of the Pluto in Sagittarius period (1995–2008), social media sites like Facebook and Twitter would become ubiquitously integrated into the fabric of our society. The global and expansive qualities of Pluto in Sagittarius had been fully realized. By then, even the Pluto in Leo Baby Boomers had active Facebook accounts. It was no longer the exclusive domain of the youth generation, it was a culture-wide force, one with which—more than a decade later—we are still grappling to reckon.
In 2008, as Pluto changed signs from Sagittarius to Capricorn, the first-wave Pluto in Libra cohorts—now age 36—would encounter their next phase in life as dictated by Pluto’s square aspect. Unlike the ease and harmony of the previous sextile, the square is a challenging aspect that signals a crisis of action. A tension is created that demands a release of energy. For the Pluto in Libra generation, their crisis phase would exactly coincide with the global financial crisis that nearly crippled the world economy, and whose effects continue to linger to this day.
The current Pluto in Capricorn era (2008–2024) has proved to be a wake-up call for every generation alive during this period, and has affected each generation at each stage in life in various ways. If we consider that the majority of Pluto in Leo Baby Boomers were either at or approaching retirement age when the crisis hit, the devastating effect it had on the stock market (and thus their life-long nest egg) was a major blow to many of this generation. When the crisis hit in 2008, both my Pluto in Leo parents had just turned age 60, and within a two-month period, they lost nearly half the value of their entire life’s savings, which was tied up in various 401k’s and IRA mutual funds. Like many average Americans, they were not financially savvy enough to move their money fast enough, and they suffered heavy losses as a result.
For my own Pluto in Virgo generation, the crisis was hitting us during our prime earning years of midlife, dealing yet another humiliating blow from a society that seemed determined to thwart our every earnest effort. Many of us had just recently attained the financial wherewithal to become first time homeowners, so many of the Americans who suddenly found themselves “under water” in variable rate and subprime mortgages belong to this cohort. A lot of newly unemployed fortysomethings were forced to declare bankruptcy—not exactly the promise of the American Dream.
For the Pluto in Libra generation, they were just gaining their footing in adulthood when the crisis hit, but in some ways they were perhaps better positioned to handle the financial setbacks. With the oldest of this generation age 36 and the youngest age 25, they were still relatively new to the workforce and occupying mostly entry-level and lower management positions. The eldest were indeed poised to make the transition to higher management levels, and so may have suffered similar setbacks as their Pluto in Virgo predecessors, but the youngest likely possessed the ability to remain flexible and adapt to a contracting jobs market. But no generation would escape this crisis unscathed.
Despite the setbacks brought on by the financial crisis of 2008, life went on. And for the Pluto in Libra cohort, they were entering a new phase in life in which they would start to gain the requisite social power that would allow them to put their own unique generational stamp on society. And not unsurprisingly, they would rally around a distinctly Libra cause: marriage equality. Of course the genesis of the gay rights movement and efforts at marriage equality date back to the 1970’s—the very era into which this generation was born and the very ethos with which they were imprinted. But it wasn’t until this Pluto in Libra generation—with the leverage of its increasing social and political power—gained enough influence within society to press the issue of marriage equality into the forefront of the collective conscience. By virtue of this increased pressure and awareness—and fueled by a new social media network that amplified the discourse—the US Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marraige in 2015.
At this point in their life cycle, this has perhaps been their crowning generational achievement. This is in no way a denial of the decades of tireless and unrelenting work put in by previous generations. They undoubtedly paved the way on the issue. But it shows how the power of a generation—with their ability to unify and focus their energies around a shared value—can move the needle in a culture in very profound and effective ways. The collective soul purpose of the Pluto in Libra generation to explore issues of equality and social justice has clearly been on display in contemporary society. And as evidenced by more recent trends, marriage equality may have been just the beginning, as some of the other core Pluto in Libra values seem to be entering the current cultural conversation.
Social Justice Warriors — A Delicate Balancing Act
Thus far, the year 2020 has proven to be pivotal in many ways. The twin catastrophes of the coronavirus pandemic and the political upheaval stemming from the killing of George Floyd have captured the very soul of our nation. An increasingly polarized political climate only seems to add fuel to the fire, as what is expected to be a highly contested and bitterly contentious presidential election looms large on the near horizon. This polarization has been further compounded by the sudden emergence of a new class of social justice warriors, coupled with the massive solidarity forming behind the Black Lives Matter movement, calls to defund the police and the rapid rise of “cancel culture.” Tenuous times indeed, all tinged with quintessentially Pluto in Libra values.
In the previous article on the Pluto in Virgo generation, we briefly examined the current political phenomenon that has given us a seemingly “lesser of two evils” choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden—two aging septuagenarians from the Pluto in Leo generation who seem hellbent on holding onto their collective political power (though arguably past their prime). Given what we’ve learned about the Pluto in Leo archetype, with its penchant for pride, self-assertiveness and strident leadership, this should come as no surprise. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first Pluto in Virgo president, but that generation’s symbolic hold on power was short-lived. They have been swiftly demoted to the point where they now have only the two vice-presidential candidates representing their collective interests (as personified by Mike Pence and Kamala Harris).
For the Pluto in Libra generation, they have yet to help elect one of their own as president. In fact, it wasn’t until the recent 2020 Democatic Primary that the first candidates from this cohort launched official campaigns, with Julián Castro, Andrew Yang, Tusi Gabbard and Pete Buttigieg becoming the first Pluto in Libra presidential candidates. Of course the cohort has become increasingly well-represented in the US Congress and in state houses across the country. In fact, they have been steadily rising into positions of power across all institutions, not just in politics, but in government more broadly, as well as in academia and the corporate world.
As such, we can begin to detect some classic Pluto in Libra values percolating up through these institutions in recent years. For one, there’s been a palpable shift from the notion of equal opportunity—a long-held value in this country—to equal outcome, a relatively new concept emerging mostly from the political left, which makes the somewhat controversial claim that everyone should be treated the same, and tends to disregard or ignore such variables as talent, ability, work ethic and so on. This has caused a knee-jerk reaction from many on the political right, and sparked a fierce debate about how we define equality in our society.
The other big social issue that has been rather forcefully injected into our contemporary cultural conversation is the notion of identity politics. Here we see evidence of the emergence of the collective will power of yet another generation—Pluto in Scorpio (1983–1995)—to whom we shall turn our attention to in the next article. These first-wave Pluto in Scorpio cohorts (i.e. Millennials) make up the rank and file of the emergent social justice movement, but they are, for the most part, being led (and empowered) by the permissive attitudes and liberal values of their Pluto in Libra elders.
As always, we need to make caveats when leveling such broad generalizations across an entire generation. Not everyone born with Pluto in Libra can be characterized to share these liberal values. Recalling the “all or nothing” quality of the Pluto archetype, we must acknowledge that many from this cohort will choose to rebel against these same values, instead choosing to cling to a more conservative interpretation of justice for all. In fact, Libra is a much less liberal archetype than is traditionally recognized. Despite being ruled by Venus and representing typically feminine aesthetic values, Libra can also present a conservative side to its nature, seeking a more balanced and measured perspective.
And this brings us to a key concept for this generation—that of balance. Another misconception about the Libra archetype is that it is inherently balanced. Its symbol is the scales after all. But in that visual representation those scales are never equally balanced—they are always portrayed tipping in one direction or the other. The truth is that the Libra archetype represents the process of seeking balance, not some perpetually homeostatic state. And in this process, those possessed by the Libra archetype often become quite unbalanced, swing too far in one direction or the other. It’s one reason why issues of drug abuse, alcoholism, eating disorders and other addictive or obsessive behaviors are often associated with Libra: they can be extreme, they can go too far. And so it seems that at this stage in their collective development—having been recently invigorated by the power dynamic of their square aspect, with its concomitant increase in social and political power—that the Pluto in Libra generation is in danger of tipping the scales too far in one direction.
Recalling the Jan Brady metaphor with which we started this article, we can see how this “middle child” generation is caught up in an unfolding American family drama. On the one hand, they are being pulled forward by their younger Pluto in Scorpio siblings, who have their own power-obsessed agenda and—sensing the opportunity to seize the day—are compelled to step on the gas pedal in order to overthrow an existing social order they see as unfair and outmoded. On the other hand, you have the older siblings, the more conservative and somewhat road-weary Pluto in Virgo generation, who are feeling the need to put their collective foot on the brakes, fearing that things are moving much too fast and without a thorough and rational analysis of the potential consequences. Meanwhile, the Pluto in Leo parents are willing to stand by and let the kids fight it out among themselves, as long as—at the end of the day—they get to maintain their dubious authority over this increasingly dysfunctional American family.
It’s hard to look at our current social situation and not recognize that we—as a nation—are standing at some sort of historic crossroads. The old world is dying, and a new world is in the process of being born. We are in a cultural gestation period, collectively working on the blueprint of what’s next, arguing about whose plans are right, who should lead, who should follow and who should get the hell out of the way. Like all family feuds, there’s a potential for bitter conflict, displaced emotions and disturbing violence. The burden of responsibility often falls on the one level-headed member of the family to step in and avoid escalation and misunderstanding, negotiate a compromise and work to restore a sense of balance and harmony.
From our astrological perspective, we can discern that the collective of souls who have chosen to incarnate together under the Pluto in Libra archetype have the opportunity to play the role of the great mediators during this critical time in history. As a generation, when at their best and aligned with their highest calling, they are the natural negotiators of the zodiac. Their collective skill set is currently in high demand. Will they rise to the occasion and help restore a much needed sense of balance, or will they tip the scales in one direction or the other, well-intentioned but unwittingly dragging the nation into a chaotic disequilibrium? The future of the great American experiment may well depend on their collective instincts. Choose wisely, little sisters!