The other day, some pundit on radio said, “Rathgeber’s frankness about the PMO has opened Pandora’s box.”
Brent Rathgeber, MP for Edmonton-St. Albert, recently left the Conservative caucus to sit as an Independent. He said he refuses to act as a “cheerleader” for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). So far, there’s been no stampede of others fleeing the governing party, but the idea of opening Pandora’s box is intriguing.
According to Greek myth, Pandora was the first human woman.
Prometheus, a Titan, made man “in the image of the gods.” Then, concerned for man’s well-being, he lit his torch “at the chariot of the Sun, and brought down fire to man” (Bullfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable).
This action didn’t go over too well with the gods. An angry Zeus chained Prometheus to a pillar in the Caucasian Mountains and sent an eagle to tear at his liver every day. Since Prometheus was immortal, his liver always healed.
So Zeus came up with another plan. He ordered Hephaestus to fashion a woman from the soil of the earth. This woman, Pandora, was supposed to use her feminine charms to bring misery to humanity. Other gods also got into the act. Apollo gave Pandora beauty, and Hermes gave her cunning.
Then, Hermes brought the woman to Prometheus’s brother, Epimetheus, who had been warned to reject all gifts sent by Zeus. But Pandora was so beautiful, Epimetheus instantly forgot the warning and took her for his wife.
And so the misery of mankind began.
We have several different versions of Pandora’s “box.” One tells us it was a “jar” that Epimetheus kept in his house. Another version calls the box “a large earthenware pot.” Yet another has it that when Pandora was sent to earth, she carried along a box containing blessings from all the gods.
In this final version, all the good blessings escape when Pandora opens the box. In the other two accounts, she opens the box and every evil and plague flies out and to afflict mankind.
All versions agree on one thing: Pandora isn’t supposed to open the container. Out of curiosity, she does so anyway. Also in every telling of this myth, Hope remains at the bottom of the jar or box.
The name, Pandora, comes from two Greek words, pan (all) and doron (gift). Prometheus means “forethought,” and Epimetheus means “afterthought.”
Today, when we speak of “opening Pandora’s box,” we mean that a host of problems have been let loose. Oxford says, “Pandora’s box is a term for a process that generates many complicated problems as the result of unwise interference.”
Cassell suggests that “to open Pandora’s box” is probably more often heard in English today than any other classical reference. It has been around since 1888.
Whether or not Rathgeber has set loose a multitude of problems for the prime minister is not yet known although, so far, rumblings from the back bench have been fairly muted.
We’ll have to wait and see if Pandora’s box has indeed been opened.