Prophets and prognosticators of social, political, and economic trends are often shunned, outcast, mocked, or outright punished. Even when their predictions come true during their own lifetime, they are rarely acknowledged or compensated for the abuse and mistreatment meted out to them throughout their “years in the desert”. In stark contradistinction, the originators of scientific theories attain fame and a slew of pecuniary rewards once their theories prevail.
This disparity is because people are invested – both emotionally and materially – in prevailing social, economic, and political trends, fashions, and assets. The Establishment rely for their survival on inertia, and on the blindness, ignorance, and acquiescence of the masses. True prophets and successful prognosticators tend to “rock the boat” and undermine this edifice of wealth and privilege. They constitute a present and immediate danger. Social ostracism is the most effective weapon against them. Persecution may follow if it proves insufficient.
But, there are deeper reasons for the resentment and consequent maltreatment of true prophets and successful prognosticators.
First, by straying outside the “official line” and by predicting (and thus promoting) change, they prove themselves unable to conform to extant social mores, edicts, values, and etiquette. This overt non-conformism renders them solitary, idiosyncratic, and eccentric. They are not – and cannot be – team-players.
A good case can be made that human progress is dependent on the ability to work in teams. Disruptive, asocial, schizoid, narcissistic, or antisocial individuals threaten not only the society on the fringes of which they operate, but also the very survival of its members. Hence the almost instinctual aversion most people have towards the maverick, the pioneer, the innovator, and the successful prognosticator.
Second, as far as society goes, the very fulfillment of prophecies, predictions, and prognoses is humiliating and constitutes a major narcissistic injury. The prophet or analyst or prognosticator is in the position to gloat and to say: “I told you so!”. Predictions come true and prophecies vindicated are reminders of the obtuseness, inanity, shortsightedness, and sheer stupidity of the masses and their leaders, who refused to listen to the repeated warnings of the prophet or prognosticator.
It is a lose-lose situation. If he gets it wrong, the prophet or prognosticator is subject to scorn and opprobrium. If he get it right, he become a source of constant embarrassment. His very willingness to go on a limb and stick his neck out renders him an oddity, best-avoided, or even best-suppressed.