“Just a Few Bad Apples”

Short one today.  I had a minor accident this morning.  Long story short, a fairly large glob of hot grease spattered onto my foot (my bare foot) and, well, I am allowed to put a shoe over it so long as I don’t pop the blisters–which is hard to do until the blisters deflate of their own so it’s been one shoe and one stockinged foot all day.  I’ve been a bit distracted.

That aside…

Whenever one complains about misbehavior in the public sector the cry from certain segments goes out “That’s just a few bad apples.  Most are…”

Depending on what precise sector is misbehaving the segments raising that cry may differ, but the cry itself is generally the same.  We can’t blame all of them because of “a few bad apples.”

What these people forget is the origin of the expression about bad apples.

The old aphorism was “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”  And it’s true.

If you have a bad apple snugged in among a bunch of good apples, the microorganisms in the bad one will spread to the previously good apples causing them, in turn, to rot.  And they, in turn will spread the rot to other.  The one bad apple, given time, will spoil the whole batch.

What you need to do is remove the bad apple as soon as it is found to keep the rot from spreading to others.  It needs to be completely removed from all the apples.  You can compost it or feed it to livestock that isn’t bothered by the decay, but it absolutely cannot be allowed to remain among the apples that one intends to remain good.

The application of the metaphor should be obvious.  Far from being an excuse to be dismissed, “a few bad apples” indicates something that needs immediate attention, “apples” that need to be removed immediately and permanently from the “batch”.

When, instead, you get dismissal of the problem as “a few bad apples” and those bad apples remain in the batch that’s not an indication that the problem is too small to merit attention.

It’s an indication that the rot has already spread.

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