Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

A very difficult situation will require you to make a hard decision.  This is often said when you have to choose the lesser of two evils.  You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t and either way you are in a big mess and things probably won’t work out good for you.  In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus must pass between Charybdis, a treacherous whirlpool, and Scylla, a horrid man-eating, cliff-dwelling monster.  This adage used to refer to a dilemma, or more specifically a situation offering at least two possibilities, in which neither of which is acceptable.  Hard choices, containing unpleasant or unacceptable options becomes a vicious circle, which only makes the situation worse.

Morton’s fork is a type of false dilemma in which contradictory observations lead to the same conclusion.  In this situation a character is presented two alternatives, A and B.  If the character chooses A, then something bad happens.  If they choose B, a similar or identical bad thing happens, but for a different reason.  John Morton was a tax collector under Henry VII, and he reasoned that it was difficult to try and collect taxes from peasants that lived in hovels, but anyone who was living extravagantly or frugally could afford to pay high taxes.  Back in these times, many well-off people tried to weasel their way out of paying, making up all types of excuses for not paying taxes, mostly saying that they did not having any money to do so. Morton’s fork is a neat argument for collecting taxes from everyone, as the rich were told that they could afford to contribute, and the poor were accused of being less forthcoming and accused of concealing their wealth.  This basically worked out as saying, “Heads, I win, Tails, you lose.”

Written for Linda G. Hill Life in progress One-Liner Wednesday – March 28 prompt.

5 thoughts on “Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  1. I’ll keep Morton’s fork in mind. It kind of reminds me of a devil’s fork. Although I heard their names before this is the first time I realized who they were: “Charybdis, a treacherous whirlpool, and Scylla, a horrid man-eating, cliff-dwelling monster” Thanks.

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