Opinion: The Rotten Few

Maybe you are not guilty of this but I have been known, on several occasions, to dismiss the rotten few because I am a staunch believer in the goodness of the majority. I became conscious of my attitude recently and I am still trying to understand it. An example, if you please, your friend exclaims "Men!"And in response you quickly say, "but they are not all bad." Then she tells you how awful her boyfriend has been treating her, and though you do not know him as well as you know her, you are quick to jump to his defense saying, "they don't know any better," or that "you cannot really blame them. They just don't get it." Why do some of us do this? It is incredibly annoying and unsympathetic. It feels as though we are not even listening, we are just eager to comfort ourselves. Perhaps we act this way because we are tired of hearing awful events and we need to convince ourselves that it is not all bad out there.  Hence we cancel out what seems like an insignificant number of bad people with our belief that the majority of the human race is good and we are, therefore, alright. But what if the majority is neither good nor bad? What if the majority is only waiting to be told what to do? If so, then are we not wrong to make these excuses? Here is the thing, the rotten few matter and their actions should not be dismissed with the excuse that the majority is good because the majority is ruled by the few.

Have you noticed that I am writing in English? Is it not odd that though English is not my first language (it is my third), I think in English? Although I have never been to Britain some say my accent is a little British. How many people do you know who speak English? How many people are English? How many presidents does a country have at one time? How many people can a single man with a wonderful gun shoot under a minute? Is it really the few that make a difference or the many? Good or bad, it is the few that make history. They are the ones who change the world.  It seems to me of late that the majority of us are merely followers––we are sheep. The few are the shepherds. This is why excusing the rotten few is a dengerous automatic response. It ought to be considered in such ways that we can make conscious efforts to prevent them from becoming the action of the majority.

A friend who is "audio reading" a biography on Adolf Hitler, mentioned how Hitler's childhood and youthful ambitions were comparable to some of his own interests when he was growing up. What I think he meant was, how does a boy who aspired to be a great artist and who was very much loved by his mother, grow up into a Jew hating, killing entity? How can someone who is easily moved to tears by classical music, be capable of such evil? Did this evilness exist in him at infancy? How about as a young artist? Was wickedness a seed waiting to germinate? Is it in all of us? I watched a video of a book conference in Japan featuring Alain de Botton and three other authors. De Botton said something worth repeating here. He said though many great artists have had awful childhoods, a difficult childhood or life is not necessarily the recipe for great art. There are, he says, many people who have had difficult lives and remained ordinary people.


My knowledge of Hitler is very limited and was even more so during my conversation with my friend. My reason for not learning of Hitler is, I presume, the same as the reason why I did not want to read Dylann Roof's manifesto. I wanted to dismiss them as mad. But I believe now that people as such must be learned of.  Not having the answers to the questions I felt my friend was asking, I made fun of Hitler instead. The mustache, I wrote to him, is proof that he is mental. One ought not worry about Hitler, I continued, one ought to worry about those who followed him.  But I was disturbed by how lightly I took the matter, how quick I was to dismiss something that I knew so little about. I decided to look up the square mustached man and found the documentary, Hitler: The Rise of Evil on YouTube. Directed by Christian Duguay and written by John Pielmeier and G. Ross Parker, this documentary helped me to see what my friend was trying to point out.  I also learned that there was a reason behind the mustache. There are so many who come into this world, but only a few make their presence known. Only a few are passionate enough to leave their stamp on the world. Only a few are mad enough to want to change the world: for better or for worse. Only a few are able to persuade the majority to follow them. I bet in your high school there were few names that almost everybody knew. I bet, although, your instagram page has a few hundreds of followers you know of other pages with thousands of followers. So when we talk of the powerful, a few is a good description, and when we refer to the wealthy, few is again a term that makes sense.

There is no doubt Adolf Hitler was a great man, there is no doubt Dylann Roof is a courageous man. They both felt the world would be much better if a particular group of people were eradicated and they did what they could to do something about it. That is true passion, strong conviction, and persistence. Of course, they knew there were risks, but they did not let it stop them. They were willing to live what they believed. Are you familiar with any of the  several proverbs on the rotten few? Phrases such as "a bad apple spoils the whole barrel" or "one rotten egg spoils the whole pudding." One or few is enough to cause great catastrophes. If the world is a ladder and we are all climbing, then one person reaches the top and pushes the ladder over, the rest of us fall to our death. It does not matter how many had peacefully climbed before us. One is enough to cause great harm, just as one is enough to cause great good. The few, therefore, should be taken seriously especially when they take for granted the rights of the majority.

This is why the next time we read somewhere that a police officer shot a man for nothing, we should not rush to defend the rest of the NYPD. We should consider what that one police person did to the victim, for it is the issue at hand, not the rest of the NYPD. It is why when our friend comes to us and say "Men!" We ought to say something like, "What do you mean? What happened?" We should consider the pain of those who are suffering, be willing to hear how they feel and why they feel the way they do. Rather than dismiss them so as to preserve our own perspectives of things. It must not be forgotten that it takes only a few to hurt many. If we are not immediately part of those that are being harmed, it means not that  we should stay silent; we are not protected by our silence. For in time the few become the majority. We copy that which is trending. We make norm that which started as singular, and even abnormal.

In telling my friend that it is not Hitler one ought to worry about, but rather those who followed him, I refused to acknowledge that one man was a big problem for humankind. I wanted to focus on his followers because I wanted to shift blame. I wanted  to believe that it is the majority that has power and not the few. If no one followed Hitler, he would not have been able to cause all the harm he did. But that is not the issue, is it? The issue is that Hitler, once a minority in his hate, became a leader of a party which made the swastika its symbol and gained many followers who helped him achieve his dream: a strong desire for killing Jews. If someone had taken Hitler seriously in his early days, perhaps he would never have been able to gain enough momentum as he did in his heydays to take so many innocent and worthy lives.

Who does not like to be a part of the winning side? Even if at times we do not believe in it, many of us succumb to fear and follow in silence. Even the brilliant philosopher, Martin Heidegger was persuaded by Hitler. Why? Perhaps it is because we like to deny the fact that bad nuts are poisonous. Or perhaps it is because when a man decides that he is a leader, and he is convinced of his own truth, he can and does persuade the majority to subscribe to his ideas. He becomes the shepherd and we follow.  For a long time I believed that it is not the few who change the world, that it is the many who do. I refused to accept what was right under my nose. I wanted to dream in a way that excused my own actions. That relieved me of great responsibilities. I wanted to believe that there is absolutely nothing I can do about anything. It is becoming apparent to me that the faith of the world lies in the hands of the very few: both the rotten and the good. To stand with the majority is often nothing less than to follow. Although there is nothing wrong with being a follower, it is important to not be the kind that only waits to see where to go, eager to think what they are asked to think, and happy to say what everyone is already saying. But there are those who only know to think as they are told to think and this is why it is essential to stop the rotten few from the very onset. We do this by not dismissing them, we make them accountable for their actions. We do this by not just following that instagram account because "everyone" follows it.  We pause to ask questions firsts. We do this by stopping to think. We do this by taking the time to see things from different angles, including uncomfortable ones.

-
Jane

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