Home > 2011 Posts, About Dave > The Lesser Weevil

The Lesser Weevil

One of the best scenes in my favorite Russell Crowe movie, Master and Commander, stars two bugs.

In a story set during the Napoleonic Wars, a half-dozen Royal Navy officers have just finished dessert at the Captain’s table during a long voyage. Conversation has been about a hard choice. The Ship’s Surgeon is incensed by the result. After a pause, the Captain plucks two wriggling weevils from the bread pudding and puts them on his own plate. Turning to the surgeon, who’s on his first voyage, the Captain asks, “Stephen, which would you choose?”

After some indignation at the sudden change of topic and a bit of incredulous hesitation, the surprised doctor examines the creatures, finally pointing to the bigger bug. All the other officers suddenly burst out laughing. The physician is confused. Placing his hand on his friend’s shoulder, the Captain says, “No, Stephen. In the service, one must always choose the lesser weevil.”

And in life as well. More often than not.

In politics, for example. All politicians are hypocrites. But which one is less so? And how often? Is hypocrisy the politician’s rule or is it an exception? When one politician’s hypocrisy is more frequent and about more issues than another’s, at least I know who not to support, regardless of how sugary or noble the words.

In the media, for example. Bias is always there, but which alleged news purveyor spews up the same message more of the time, regardless of the particular story? Who spreads their loaded words more evenly, and who concentrates them in only one direction? Who shows at least two sides to a topic more often, not just left and far left, or right and far right? And who lies most often about the behavior of others?

Who’s a robot or ‘true believer’ and who thinks about things more of the time? Who spins and rationalizes away bad behavior and who faces facts more often on more topics? And, most telling for me, who reviles those who disagree as a rule and who does it as an exception?

The answer to this particular question is my personal Occam’s Razor, i.e. the simplest test for who is blowing poisonous smoke and who is more likely to deal with what’s really going on.

Listen to TV news for two segments (no, not John Stewart), or surf the internet news for fifteen minutes (no, not The Onion) and keep a rough tally in your mind.

Choosing the lesser weevil works like a charm.

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