What is Cassandra’s curse?
Warnings, Warnings Everywhere: Why We Sometimes Ignore Looming Disasters. After a disaster happens, we want to know, could something have been done to avoid it? Did anyone see this coming?
Many times, the answer is yes. There was a person — or many people — who spotted a looming crisis and tried to warn those in power. So why didn’t the warnings lead to action?
You can think of climate change, the economic consequences of the lockdown, inadequate preparation for the future, the initial stages of the Corona pandemic ( especially the US response), ….
Robert Malthus in 1798 drew attention to the fact that human populations grow exponentially while the growth of the food supply and other resources needed to support a population is linear, and that this would lead to a catastrophe. Malthus believed there were two types of “checks” that in all times and places kept population growth in line with the growth of the food supply: “preventive checks”, and “positive checks”, which lead to premature death such as disease, starvation and war, resulting in a Malthusian catastrophe, that would bring the population to a lower, more sustainable, level.
The Club of Rome report “ Limits to Growth” in 1972 made the same point on the basis of a Mathematical model by Donella H Meadows, Dennis L Meadows, Jorgen Randers and William W. Behrens III, representing a team of 17 researchers. It was also criticised rather than serving as a wake up call.
Around the same time, in the 1970s the famous futurist Alvin Toffler said that “ the illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and re-learn”. Having ignored this, we now have India’s demographic dividend transformed into a demographic catastrophe.
One answer is the Cassandra’s curse? . The Cassandra metaphor (variously labeled the Cassandra “syndrome“, “complex“, “phenomenon“, “predicament“, “dilemma“, “curse“) occurs to one, when one’s valid warnings or concerns are disbelieved by others.
The term originates in Greek mythology. Cassandra was a daughter of Priam, the King of Troy. Struck by her beauty, Apollo provided her with the gift of prophecy, but when Cassandra refused Apollo’s romantic advances, he placed a curse ensuring that nobody would believe her warnings.
Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions.
Link to Wikipedia article: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassandra_(metaphor)
The curse of Karna…. https://mythgyaan.com/three-curses-of-karna-mahabharat/ is a similar construct. His Guru Pharshuram curses Karna that “You will forget all your knowledge when you need it the most”.
There is a similar curse on Nakul and Sahadeva, the youngest of the 5 Pandavas. Like his brother Sahadeva, Nakula could see the future and issue prophecies. However, soon after telling the prophecy, Nakula would completely forget all the visions and predictions, just like a dream. Sahadeva was a great astrologer as his brother Nakula, and he even knew about everything including the Mahabharata battle beforehand. But he was cursed that if he disclosed the events to anyone then his head would split into pieces.
It is a worldview that the world consists of opposite. The famous Physicist Paul Dirac had predicted in 1928 from his famous equation and the existence of electrons, that there should be particles he named positrons. Carl Anderson experimentally observed positrons in 1932. Today Positron Emission Tomography ( PET) is a very important imaging tool for medical diagnostics.
So, if there is a Cassandra’s curse, there is also the “anti-Cassandra” curse: being always believed:
It is well known that Cassandra was cursed so that her prophecies would never be believed. But there exists also an opposite curse affecting charismatic leaders who are always believed by their followers. In the long run, leaders are deluded into believing themselves infallible and the results are often disastrous. We could call that the “anti-Cassandra” curse.
People are easily duped into following charismatic leaders, as it is well known. But, while the psychology of adepts is not so difficult to understand (we all may fall in the trap, at least occasionally), it is less clear what passes in the minds of leaders. Do they really believe that they are as smart and powerful as they present themselves to their followers? Or are they consciously misleading their adepts for personal gains? Of course, both possibilities may be true in different circumstances, but in many cases, the leader is even more deluded than the followers.