The Cassandra Conundrum


“Have I missed the mark, or, like true archer, do I strike my quarry? Or am I prophet of lies, a babbler from door to door?” Cassandra, Agamemnon 1194

Greek mythology’s Cassandra is among its most fascinating characters. Alternately concubine, seductress, victim and madwoman, her overarching legacy was that of a summarily ignored seer. She foresaw doom, but was doomed to be dismissed whenever she sounded the alarm. It seems Apollo granted Cassandra both the gift of prophecy and the curse of disregard.

The Muse has growing empathy for Cassandra on this New Year’s Eve. This is because I see the future as half-empty, but I’m loath to speak of it, lest I be branded a hopeless cynic.

I am not a “the end is near” kind of a guy. I thought about it, but I couldn’t fit “the forces of globalization will imperil us all without a more enlightened and compassionate foreign doctrine” on a cardboard sign.

Therein lies my conundrum: suffer in silence or invite debate upon a thousand theories of doom for which I offer no antidote. Wildly complex issues don’t lend themselves to rifle-shot solutions.

Yet at least Cassandra earned a hardy “I told you so” regarding her warning about that big wooden horse (albeit a small consolation given Troy was sacked and she ended up raped and murdered). So in her memory, the Muse shall break his silence and explain why I believe us to be on the road to ruin.

And that road begins with a worldwide failure of the principle institutions that guide and govern us: politics and religion.

Take a gander around the globe. The leader of the free world, Mr. Bush, seems to think all solutions can be found on a bumper sticker. China, the world’s most populous nation, is led by an antiquated regime desperate to hang onto power and fueled by paranoia. Russia’s Mr. Putin is looking more and more like the Soviet Union’s Mr. Kruschev. The Monarchies of the Middle East suckle the teat of the West even as their subjects grow murderously angry at both.

It’s not unreasonable to suggest that the world leader who made the greatest contribution to peace this year was Yassar Arafat–and his grand accomplishment was dying.

On the spiritual front, things seem just as bleak. It seems Christianity has contracted a case of terminal distraction, whether it is its obsession with sexuality or the Fox News-fueled feud over whether to show our spirit by saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” For its part, the lack of a forceful renunciation of terror from the true leaders of Islam is unconscionable and a silence that’s sure to perpetuate the savagery.

We face an unprecedented matrix of problems and peril, a latticework in which an ill-timed spark in one cell could quickly become a conflagration that consumes them all. Will it be a global depression, human or ecological catastrophe, World War III–who’s to know? But know this: there are simply too many things going awry and too little being done about it to ignore the reality.

The good ship Earth is rudderless and as I look about the deck I don’t see a single leader or institution leading us anywhere but into the rapids.

It is my profound hope that 2005 will bring with it a change of course. I really don’t want to be an “end is near” kind of guy.

Perhaps the unfolding tragedy of the Christmas tsunami will result in the realization that nations need each other–that there’s only one true superpower on this planet and it is Mother Earth. There’ll be elections in Palestine and Iraq in January, perhaps they’ll go well and create positive momentum in those festering nations. There’s a wee bit of hope the Kyoto treaty will get kick-started in ‘05 and maybe we can get on top of nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.

As we say goodbye to 2004, we should wish for these things and I’ll leave you with this thought.

The hue of our politics should not dictate the color our reason and our ideology should not limit our imagination. And regardless of the nature of our God, let us find the God in our nature.

Have a hopeful New Year.


The Muse

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