In an email exchange with Daniel Ellsberg, I shared my recent acceptance speech for the Pillar award for the work Opednews, it's editors, writers and I have done supporting Whistleblowers. It proposed that whistleblowers are like Prometheus. Dan asked if there were other myths about people who told the truth-- mythic whistleblowers. I went to my go-to expert on mythology, Pamela Jaye Smith, and this was her answer.
Tiresias appears to Odysseus during the nekyia of Odyssey xi, in this watercolor with tempera by the Anglo-Swiss Johann Heinrich FÃ¼ssli, c. 1780-85
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Tiresias appears to Odysseus during the nekyia of Odyssey xi, in this watercolor with tempera by the Anglo-Swiss Johann Heinrich Fussli, c. 1780-85 by Wikipedia
Greek mythology tells of Tiresius, who after seven years under a spell that turned him into a woman, became a man again. Think of him as someone who goes into a system for awhile and takes on that identity -- be it political, military, or business -- and learns how it works from the inside.
On Mount Olympus a debate raged between the gods over whether men or women enjoyed sex more. Jealous queen Hera claimed that her philandering husband Zeus was harassing women, and sometimes even raping them and she wanted him to stop it. Her line of reasoning was that women don't enjoy sex and they were just doing it because he was the king of the gods. We can certainly deduce from this that Hera herself probably didn't enjoy it very much. Zeus's retort was that he rarely had to force anyone and for the most part, the females he had sex with - be they immortal, demi-goddesses, or mortals -- seemed to enjoy it just fine. After all, he was king of the gods.
Up on Mount Olympus the division of those with Hera and those with Zeus crossed genders and jobs. Aphrodite the goddess of romantic love of course sided with Zeus, while the huntress and bachelor girl Artemis sided with Hera. It was definitely a bi-partisan issue. At a deadlock, the gods summoned Tiresius who had experience being both a man and a woman. The powers-that-be are in turmoil with some wanting to hang onto one ideal and others arguing for a different one. Whistle-blowers are seldom summoned to settle the issue, but the situation in which these brave individuals arise is similar as two ways of thinking and acting come into conflict and will affect lots of mortals.
Knowing no matter what he said he'd come to grief, Tiresius took the high road and told the truth. From his experience behind the lines of the sex wars he observed that women actually enjoy sex more than men. Those who have been inside are in the know -- be it Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, or the many others -- and have information that can change perceptions and shake up the system.
Furious Hera struck him blind. It too often ends here, with severe punishment.
Zeus found him later and said, "You were brave enough to tell the truth, and that's rare among mortals as well as immortals. Unfortunately we gods cannot undo what another god has done. Hera took your physical sight, but I gift you with second sight. You will see what others cannot or dare not. You will uncover secrets and see the future." We can hope from this example that more truth-tellers will be positively acknowledged and rewarded not only by those they help but also by some of the controlling powers.Tiresius knew being a second-sight prophet was dangerous as people tend either not to believe you at all or to loathe and detest you for speaking truth. It served Tiresius fairly well, though; he became the famed and honoured Prophet of Thebes and lived to a very old age. Still blind. Still a man. Still telling the truth. Speaking truth to power, bringing light to darkness, daring to do what is right regardless of the initial consequences...the story of Tiresius shows us that sometimes it can actually work out well.