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The Book of the Week is “Warnings, Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes” by Richard A. Clarke and R.P. Eddy, published in 2017. The authors explored the concept of “sentinel intelligence” which means that certain members of humanity have a sixth sense for future dangerous occurrences. The one who issues a warning in connection therewith, is called a “Cassandra.” The Initial Occurrence Syndrome means humans find difficulty in acknowledging that an extremely improbable event could happen, simply because it has never happened before.
The authors recounted various instances in which Cassandras spoke up prior to horrible events. A few of the events they described should not count in the annals of Cassandra-warnings; wars, for instance. There are going to be needless deaths and ruined lives in any and all wars. Predicting what is going to happen when tensions are rising in the hotspots of the world is not rocket science. Those who see them are not Cassandras. People like them are basically Nostradamus. He got famous in the 1500’s for “predicting” all kinds of catastrophes that are inevitably going to happen to human beings, such as wars, pestilence and natural disasters, over the course of centuries.
Also, the authors failed to define “catastrophes” referred to in their book’s title. They might want to refine their description of Cassandra events. The difference between Nostradamus’ and Cassandra’s premonitions is in the specificity: Cassandras identify one individual and/or entities around whom or which one specialized scandal is brewing, or describe signals around which, say, a natural disaster, financial crash or pandemic is coming, within a relatively short time frame (i.e., a Jeffrey Epstein or a Chernobyl).
One good example the authors provided, was the Bernard Madoff scandal. Madoff was a specific criminal– a power broker who harmed a significant number of people in a community. The circumstances were not a general, ongoing situation like welfare fraud or insider trading.
However, the situation still all boils down to how one defines “catastrophe.” There were various Cassandras who claimed to know the different events associated with Donald Trump that have actually come to pass. If one defines his getting elected in 2016 for instance as a catastrophe because the community harmed was the entire United States, then yes, its qualifies as a Cassandra event.
Anyway, the authors explained how a Cassandra in the securities industry helped forward the women’s movement. She issued a warning before a financial crash. She garnered kudos when she turned out to be correct. At the book’s writing, though, another female Cassandra issued a warning in the field of public health. Of course, a white male made a sexist remark about her appearance in an ad hominem attack. That’s how critics seek to discredit female Cassandras.
In another of the authors’ Cassandra cases, in July 2004, the federal U.S. agency FEMA (which provides disaster assistance) and the Army Corps of Engineers held a severe-storm-drill in the New Orleans area, but didn’t take it too seriously. Insufficient funding was provided to make specific plans regarding evacuation-transportation for people who were unable or unwilling to heed the evacuation order.
Nevertheless, the Coast Guard and (federal agency) Wildlife and Fisheries did. At the end of August 2005, they were somewhat prepared when Hurricane Katrina actually hit Louisiana. But hilarity did not ensue. Many needless deaths and ruined lives did, as the aforesaid New Orleans residents couldn’t be evacuated. Of course, the exacerbated disaster aftermath was caused by honest ineptitude, profiteering and opportunism rather than malicious intent. Beforehand, there were a few Cassandras who tried to tell others that a “Katrina” was on the way.
The reason Cassandras aren’t listened to, is that they tend to be gadflies in their organizations. There are: clashing egos, jealousy, and inter-agency rivalries. Cassandras are outspoken, and their mouths get them in trouble. They begin their careers as idealists, and usually end up disillusioned, frustrated, cynical and emotionally burned out. They embarrass powerful and/or monied groups whose support they need to keep their jobs.
Read the book to learn about many more Cassandra events, and the authors’ suggestions for encouraging Cassandras to come forward (Hint: one idea is to revive the White House group from the Reagan Era that evaluated foreign policy threats– but expand it, to take other kinds of disaster-preparedness measures).