In Greek mythology, Cassandra was cursed by Apollo. She was given the gift of always being right in her predictions about the future.
Her curse was that nobody would believe her. The story goes back to the Trojan Wars when the Greeks and Trojans were battling against each other. Cassandra, a Trojan, warned her countrymen not to trust the Greeks. “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”
She was ignored. What followed was the arrival of the Trojan horse, an enormous gift from the Greeks. The statue was taken into the walls of Troy. The city was under siege, but the warriors hidden within the hollow horse, opened the gates to the Greek army.
Troy was defeated because it did not take Cassandra’s predictions seriously.
Truth-Tellers are not popular
They seldom are. People prefer to believe their own version of the truth. They prefer to reject whatever doesn’t fit into that view of the world.
These days, it doesn’t help to speak the truth. Nobody wants to hear it. Yet facts don’t go away just because we prefer to give them no credence. That is not just an individual failing, for it is a trait that is being replicated throughout our culture – small scale and large scale.
Politics is driven by that approach, perpetuating untrue narratives that sustain a particular group’s or organization’s grasp on power. But it doesn’t stop there. Every sort of social institution is espousing its own version of truth that distracts people from considering alternative points of view. The rhetoric keeps us from seeing what would make us question what we’re being told, or would make us feel uncomfortable.
We should pay attention to wise counselors and judicious warnings that come our way – especially when it isn’t something that we want to hear. It is foolhardy to think that whatever we think we know about something is a full or accurate picture.
Critical thinking is in short supply, but is something which each of us needs to cultivate within ourselves in order to sort through the deeply-flawed thinking that parades around as true.
Make the effort to become informed about ideas that do not agree with your opinions. Seek out the Cassandras and see if there could be a grain of truth that you need to know. Accept that truth is not cut and dried. But it is most likely to found by engaging the mind and our best judgment. Your grasp of what is true grows more trustworthy with discernment.
For those who are the Cassandras
Take heart. It’s a tough role to play – usually rejected, and often lonely. Victories are few. But the Cassandras in our midst are needed more than ever. There is little comfort in knowing that you will have been right. For that awareness is tarnished by the repeated discovery that nothing you can do or say will prevent the unfortunate outcome.
Despite that, keep trying. Stay engaged, in spite the high personal cost. You are making a difference, even if the short term provides little evidence of that.
Never doubt that you are not alone. There are other Cassandras out in the world, each beating the drum for truths that are out of public favor. Such efforts are crucial, even if thankless. It must be done for there is so much at stake.