Popular question: Why do people have to be assholes?
Already the discourse is wanting due to the term's ambiguity, as well as from preconceived notions about the term. I cannot dismiss that the word is loaded, however, I can critique how exactly it is loaded. And if you think the word is not loaded, that the meaning of asshole is blatantly obvious therefore unnecessary to investigate, then I challenge you to briefly suspend your assessment long enough to permit another perspective. After all, challenging "obvious" perspectives has been the basis of most technological, social, and philosophical enlightenment, so there is only something to gain from hearing how the meaning of the term asshole may be different than popularly attributed.
To keep this simple, this whole conversation pertains to a competition between an us group and a them group. More specifically, the us group are those who abide by society's conventional standards and customs, and the them group (assholes) are those who abide by their own set of rules, customs, and standards.
Since not all humans want to conform (some outright cannot) to social standards and customs, never will 100% of the human population abide by them. Not everyone finds solace in a herd; this is a lost truth. What this shows is that assholes are not aberrations, yet thinking, feeling people in their own right. That they are part of the natural human order. It is the next part of the discourse where the topic becomes hotly debated, though.
Is there virtue in being an asshole?
First off, assholes are not the only types of people whom do not conform well to social standards and customs. There are many different types, and it is here I will briefly call upon geeks and nerds for the purpose of giving context to this discussion of anti-sociality. Geeks and nerds do not fit in well because they lack social tact and often develop obsessions for vocations that are slightly off (or wholly off) from what are deemed socially valuable or productive. Further, geeks and nerds are passive, both in nature and practice. This is why it is easy to marginalize them, though also why it can be extremely effective to vet them for socially productive activities, so long as they are fed the right incentive. Since they are passive, they can more easily be corralled, indoctrinated, and directed as if they are some wind-up toy. I am not insulting or denigrating them. It is just that due to their passive nature, geeks and nerds often have trouble standing up to existent power structures, because their primary concern is manipulating and ascending technical or methodical systems, not manipulating and ascending social systems or structures.
This brings assholes back into the picture. Assholes are distant cousins of geeks and nerds because they are off-center, though are active. They see and openly communicate the discrepancy between themselves and the socially imposed standards and customs. Due to their inclination to be active rather than passive, assholes cannot easily be pushed around, unlike geeks and nerds.
I know what you may be thinking. "Assholes are just bullies." Well, no. Bullies are power-based. They sniff out weakness and move toward it to either obtain some kind of resource as easily as possible, or use what they overpower as yet another coffer to hide their own inadequacies. Assholes do not prey upon weakness because they are more focused and centered upon operating according to their own core thoughts, values, and beliefs, rather than against the us-based social group. Assholes are not rebels, they are merely people who are willing to stand toe-to-toe with convention if the convention impedes or imposes upon them.
Does this make assholes right all the time? Not even close. If it is one premise I want to be abundantly, ridiculously, redundantly clear on it is that just because one is an asshole, does not make them a truth-teller. It simply means they will venture to have their own thoughts and boldly present them to the world, without the requisite approval of the social body in power. Assholes thus can have tremendous social value, not only because they strive for indigenous thoughts, but if they are wrong they have the fortitude to admit it. For this reason, they are not anarchists. (Talk about teachers of humility.) Remember, assholes do not require social approval, so admitting to the social body when they are wrong is not a problem. Society's approval is not required in the first place!
It may sound odd, but living like an asshole is actually a practice of determining and strengthening one's character. It is not an adventure in seeing how many waves one can create (that would be a bully), but is a lifestyle calibrated upon the self. For this reason, assholes become labelled assholes as a byproduct of the effects they genuinely cause. Bullies, on the other hand, deliberately choose to be bullies because they seek power over others. An asshole is simply an orientation to command one's life according to what they are bold enough to discover and communicate as an individual. Facing their own faults. This causes a social rub because they do not defer to social power mechanisms or traditions.
Is a society of assholes possible? That is a different discussion, but a worthy one to have, considering it sheds light on how modern us-groups (civilized societies) have a particular distaste for raw individuality, conflict, and strength of character.
Click the RSS FEED button below to receive notification of new essays.