The Cassandra Complex – the phenomenon from Ancient Greek mythology when one’s valid warnings or concerns are disbelieved by others.
We’re now literally living it.
Despite having endured a crisis so visceral in NYC (or Italy, Wuhan, etc.) 4-5 months ago, and being grateful to have received enough international attention that we even felt hopeful that what we went through wouldn’t be repeated elsewhere, we‘d still end up feeling unheard and ignored.
Because if what truly matters with our early experience and warnings was to save as many lives as possible, but to see instead so many would still get sick, permanently injured, or die unnecessarily around the country right now, we can’t help but now feel frustrated that our efforts couldn’t have a larger impact. That so many more lives may have been saved.
“Canaries in coal mines,” “sacrificial lambs” — they at least serve the purpose that may lead to actions that could save a greater community. If we couldn’t even do that much for ours as the “canary” or “lamb”, could you imagine our devastating sense of helplessness?
My moral injury lies in the agony over the alternative scenario — where if the rest of the country had listened to us and been more prepared, leading to no other surges or death — people would’ve instead blamed NYC for “overreacting,” “shutting down everything unnecessarily,” or that we “did everything wrong and let so many die.”
So which scenario would you rather have?
- Fewer people die and no more COVID surges thanks to your warnings BUT that means you would then get thrown under the bus afterwards, get blamed for your higher death numbers, or that you “overreacted,” etc. then they use that as an excuse to take away funding for healthcare/public health afterwards.
- More people die and many COVID surges because nobody listened to your warnings but “at least you’ll be proven right.”
Now you have an idea of only one of the countless ethical and moral injuries that we wrestle with everyday.
Please don’t forget us when this is all over.