Where do you stand on the Rotten-meter?

You know the saying “you’re the apple of my eye”, meaning cherished above all? And you probably know the phrase “he’s rotten to the core”, meaning entirely bad? Those are the two extremes:

Spectrum of behavior depicted using a (very) rotten apple on the left all the way to a delightful red delicious on the right

They indicate the two extremes of possible human behavior that we have outlined using two quotes:

Quotes, on top of the rotten apple, the Joseph Conrad quote “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” On top of the red delicious apple, Anne Frank's quote “Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

In our discussion of funny return stories, Janis brought up a great question: how much do the extremes of human behavior effect society as a whole. The emphasis, probably because the return stories portray the less noble of our behaviors, was on the negative behavior. It is rare that we are (always) in either extreme. Where do we land?

Image of two howling wolves facing opposite directions

An old (Cherokee, I believe) story tells of a grandfather telling his grandson about an epic battle that wages inside him, a battle between two wolves:

  • One wolf is evil: angry, corrupt, immoral, greedy, jealous, envious, resentful
  • One wolf is good: cheerful, kind, ethical, empathetic, helpful, moral, generous

The son asks his grandfather which wolf wins the battle. And the grandfather answers: “the one you feed.”

Janis’s question made me think: how much of our society is impacted by the two extremes? As I thought about policies at work, and laws in our culture, a lot of them address controlling the behavior of the evil wolf, often to the detriment of others. Processes one must follow at work to attempt to ensure that the careless, thoughtless employees do the right thing, and mostly help annoy the careful, thoughtful employees. Return policies may be another example.

What are your thoughts? How profound is the impact of the “few bad apples” on society? How about the “apples of our eye”? And are there more of one or the other?

Interesting Trivia: what group of 6 reside at all times in the Tower of London?

Answer to last post’s trivia: the nose and the ears never stop growing. Three big gold stars go to Janis and Jim for answering “ears” and to Erica for getting “nose” 🙂

35 thoughts on “Where do you stand on the Rotten-meter?

    1. I really like how you said that: it IS our decision. Even if we choose not to decide, we’re still making a choice. It is in our hands.

      And the gold star goes to you! There’s a superstition that says that “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it”!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. You and me both 🙂 I simply love the question you bring up: Why are we so fond of myths, of legends, of fables, of folk tales, and if stories in general? I’m going to have to put my thinking cap on! What do you think is the reason?

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I love mythology from different cultures. Those stories stay with me and pop up at the strangest times 🙂

      And we haven’t (YET!) celebrated our first anniversary of the Endless Weekend. Work stories are all to fresh in our minds, though now, strangely they’re much more amusing than when we were living through them day in and day out 😉

      You earned the gold star fair and square! ⭐

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The Tower of London has ravens. 6 of them maybe?

    I think there are good people out there, but I find that the less good people make the most noise so they get the attention. I like the saying: the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but is the first to be replaced. I’ll happily chair the committee tasked with replacing all squeaky wheels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Firstly, I am not happy that my ears will continue to grow but had accepted the nose phenomenon. Hmm. It is a pity our hearing appears to go the opposite way as we age!
      Now to the serious part of your post which addresses the two kinds or even two sides of people and society – the yin and yang. Perhaps we are all capable of evil in small or larger ways, given the right circumstances and thus need a punitive threat to deter us from letting the wolf gain hold? I hope we are all capable of good, with a few exceptions. Your question makes me think of all the expense and trouble we go to contain folks who do the wrong thing – ie the prison system, and compare that with a few token pats on the back, (in the way of public awards, or celebrity status etc) when something positive or good is done.
      Does this stem from a primitive physiological mechanism in us, that has driven society this way? Our brains are geared to pay more attention to threats – ie. bad news stories than they do to the good news stories, in order to ensure our survival, so are policies to address recalcitrants, a reflection of primitive fears driven by ancient survival mechanisms?

      @Ally Bean – I have heard the squeaky wheel proverb before but not the second part – I like that there is an element of karma in it. Thanks for educating me!.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Lol, I like that distinction between the size of the size of ears (and nose) and the way both our hearing and sense of smell goes the opposite direction. I didn’t see that until you mentioned it!

        You bring up two GREAT questions:
        (1) given that we both agree that (most!) humans are capable of good and evil, is it the feeding of the wolves within us that dictates our actions, or is it the punitive threats that do?
        (2) Given that are brains have evolved as a survival mechanism to pay more attention to the bad than to the good, are we “doomed” to always be that way?

        I have to think that over! What do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think it is a primeval instinct that we can learn to eradicate with education and development of self awareness. This I think would vary very much between individuals and given the right circumstances, educated individuals could revert to feeding the wolves if their preservation dictated it. Think of the German population during the Naziist regime.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Freud wrote “Men are not gentle creatures, who want to be loved, who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. As a result, their neighbor is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Homo homini lupus. [Man to man is a wolf.]”

            Freud didn’t seem to think survival was required for men’s “nastiness” to emerge and govern men’s actions. The (constant? 🙃) wars that humanity has been embroiled in since our earliest days certainly support his point of view.

            Is that what you were thinking?

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          2. Wow – Freud really had a dark view of humanity! Can this be something he thought of as more prevalent in males as opposed to females, who tend to be more empathic, more on the gentle side? Although there are female abusers just as there are male. I have a suspicion that there is secondary layer and cause, to self-preservation and survival-initiating aggressiveness. But does it come back to survival, in an oblique way? If men seek to exploit or torture, because of jealousy, retribution, dislike, annoyance, difference, they are still acting in a competitive way. Dog eat dog in simplistic terms. It also displays little compassion and empathy, something that distinguishes us from much of the animal world. It is intense actions without consideration of the plight of others. To tie this back to the original topic, those punitive threats and policies are perhaps what encourages or train us to consider and think of others, not by empathy or compassion, but by use of deterrents. The beast clearly need to be reined in. An interesting article: https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a28718/why-men-love-war/
            “War is a brutal, deadly game, but a game, the best there is. And men love games. You can come back from war broken in mind or body, or not come back at all. But if you come back whole you bring with you the knowledge that you have explored regions of your soul that in most men will always remain uncharted…. No sport I had ever played brought me to such deep awareness of my physical and emotional limits.” And then there is this: “The love of war stems from the union, deep in the core of our being between sex and destruction, beauty and horror, love and death. War may be the only way in which most men touch the mythic domains in our soul. It is, for men, at some terrible level, the closest thing to what childbirth is for women: the initiation into the power of life and death. It is like lifting off the corner of the universe and looking at what’s underneath. To see war is to see into the dark heart of things, that no-man’s-land between life and death, or even beyond.”
            It seems that Freud was right for that article’s author.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Thank you for the thoughtful response! You bring up two intriguing points:

            (1) does the difference in how “rotten apple”-like we are more likely for one gender or another? What do you think?

            (2) does the “rotten apple”ness stem from a survival instinct? The Milgram Experiment seems to show that with relatively soft (all verbal) prods, most ordinary people (extremely quickly) administer pretty harsh penalties. Obedience, or just the “going along”, of the ordinary people seems to be sufficient to explain pretty drastic behavior?

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          4. If we assume Freud is on the right path in understanding this behaviour, I think it is definitely more prevalent in males. They tend to be more competitive and sport has replaced physical fighting and oneupmanship in modern day. I think of how ‘macho’ it is to follow football or soccer?
            To your second point – I think it originates from a survival instinct but is inappropriate in today’s society. Biologically we have such a strong urge to procreate which is to do with our species survival. In turn, the success of us procreating depends on the ability of men to attract and mate with other females.
            We do seem to have the capacity for evil – but of course this will vary from person to person. Some people will always refuse to participate – those with higher moral ethics and values don’t you think? I don’t know much of the Milford experiment but suspect trust comes into this also? It’s a sad fact that often these folks die for their cause, in the event of armed conflict.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. These are such fascinating points you bring up!

            The question of whether gender is the differentiator is certainly interesting. There (unfortunately) certainly is no shortage of examples of immense cruelty by women, from Elizabeth Bathory to Ilse Koch. I’m not sure how that translates beyond examples, definitely an intriguing question.

            The Milgram Experiment investigated obedience: how obedient men are to small verbal prompts from “authority figures.” The men who participated in the experiment received a few $s to “help” (that’s what they were told) the experimenter (who was the authority figure) administer punishment to a person who they thought was the subject of the experiment. The punishment was in the form of increasingly severe electric shocks. Everyone except the men administering the electric shocks was part of the real experiment, so no electric shocks were actually administered, but the men who were paid to administer them did not know that, and the recipients faked the symptoms of those increasingly severe shocks.

            The results were shocking (pun intended 🙂 ). More than half of the participants administered ALL the electric shocks (or thought they did), including ones that caused the recipients to be in severe distress. All that was required to get that obedience were simple verbal cues from the “authority figure”.

            The experiment participants were under no significant obligation — they were not forced to continue with the experiment, they could always return the handful of dollars and leave (as some suggested they would do), etc. Certainly there was no survival element to get many seemingly ordinary men to administer so much pain to others. Makes one wonder?

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          6. I did read up about it and had seen clips of it on TV in documentaries. I do think that situation involved an element of trust – trusting that this was in the ultimate welfare of science that might eventually help someone. Having said that, perhaps the German nation trusted Hitler with their nation, and couldn’t believe he wouldn’t do the righ thing by their country. Whilst trust seems involved in why people commit evil or overlook others performing it, it is far from an excuse to be an accomplice to these kinds of horrors.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. I love how these questions make me think: thank you! There’s definitely an intriguing relationship here, between trust and obedience. We can trust someone, but not obey them. And there are situations where we obey someone we do not trust. So it makes me ponder, what is the relationship between them?

            GREAT question—I’m pondering on it myself! 🧐

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          8. One would almost think it should be, no? But as I think to how Dilbert obeys the pointy haired manager’s idiotic and doomed directives, there’s no trust there, there is obedience (https://dilbert.com/strip/1999-10-02 for a chuckle :)).

            Yes, that’s a cartoon, but tell me you haven’t had a manager that resembled the pointy hair one in actions if not in looks 🙂

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    2. What you’re saying is very intriguing: there are cultures that have a similar saying, like “the baby that cries the loudest gets the milk”, and some cultures that go a different way with “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” Is the difference cultural? It’s also fascinating to me what the origin of the saying is, and what it could indicate. Is it a cry for attention by the less good? Shouldn’t they pay heed to another old saying “it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”… You know I’m going to be mulling that over, thank you so much for bringing it up! And that ending is new to me, and is also interesting! Have you seen that committee in action?

      You are absolutely right about the ravens! ⭐ I just recently learned that, and that they have a dedicated Ravenmaster to take care of them. It’s a raven’s life? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My guess is that for some people the need to be noticed is stronger than the need to be considered wise. That’s why some people don’t care if they’re considered rotten, because it got them attention which is all they care about. I’d guess that personality type can be found in some form in all cultures, regardless of social mores.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. For which I will summon Lincoln’s “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.” 😁

          It is interesting to consider which characteristics exist across cultures and which ones are cultural centric. Can it help open our eyes a little in the nature vs. nurture debate?

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Endless Weekend, I am behind on commenting this week since I was privileged to attend the miracle of the birth of my Grandson two days ago. A flurry of activity around here.

    I also do not really believe in Extremes. I think a great deal of behaviour is on a continuum. I love the wolf story!

    Speaking about “apples of our eye,” my opening sentence helps describe what is good in my corner of the world. Very grateful! I do believe the good outweighs the few bad apples.

    Thank you for the shout out to my “win.” I did Google the group of 6, so I will not answer this week. I will let someone else with a mind full of trivia respond.

    An interesting and thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. First things first: CONGRATULATIONS!!! That is fantastic news! What is his name? Is he your first grandson? I can’t imagine the excitement that miracle brings about!

      Thank you very much for your feedback, I found that question thought-provoking myself! I agree: human behavior is on the spectrum between the two extremes, and it changes based on the circumstances… Even the most evil human might like puppies? 🙂 And you bring up a great question about the good outweighing the bad. Where would doing nothing (which most people do) rank on the spectrum?

      And I am impressed with your trivia knowledge, I thought I loved trivia, clearly I found kindred spirits! ⭐

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the shout-out and the gold star… I’m feeling almost famous 🙂 My husband and I had some further discussion about the societal costs of bad behavior. Just think, if everyone were honest, we wouldn’t have to buy locks for our doors, insurance would be much cheaper (for example, while we still would need coverage for car accidents, it wouldn’t need to cover theft or accidents caused by distracted driving), cyber crime wouldn’t be a thing so we wouldn’t need all those passwords, and companies, governments, and organizations really would be working for the benefit of all (imagine that!). It really is a shame that the few bad apples can have such an influence over us all. I will continue to focus on the good, and keep an eye out for the bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whoa! That is an EXTREMELY compelling point: how many of our industries and professions exist only because of the “rotten apple” in us? Like you said, the locksmiths. Certainly the anti-virus industry. The security industry as a whole? What tremendous resources we spend to keep the (few) rotten apples in check. You are right, even those few have such a tremendous influence over us.

      It begs the question: are there any industries that only exist because of the shiny red delicious apples in us?

      And your question did provoke these reflections and contemplation in me: thank you for that (and for being a fellow trivia lover! 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s a great and pretty ENORMOUS revelation: yes, we have cases built around the goodness in humanity, but we have entire professions, industries, etc. built to control the “rotten apples.”

          It’s making me wonder: does that imply that civilization evolved to govern or regulate those “rotten apples”?

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