The Exploding Asshole
I was going to title this ‘In defense of the asshole’, but then I thought to myself, do the jerks of the world need a hero of Justice? Your guess is as good as mine. It turns out caping for Assholes is bad for business. The business where we pretend we’re all good people with no faults.
I like to know what people think of me sometimes. Call it mild narcissism, self-indulgence, or whatever. I find it exciting to explore the vacuum of perception and subjectivity between the self and other selves. I like to explore that space between how I view myself and how I appear to other people.
Growing up, I used to wonder how people got into romantic relationships. As much of a mystery as it was to me, I never got into one. And when I finally did, my lack of adequate emotional intelligence killed it before I knew what had happened.
Also, I wrote amateurish poems for sport as a teenager. I called it creativity at the time, but now I realize that something more interesting was happening. I expressed my emotions solely through writing. I wager this is how a good number of people get into the arts. It begins as a purely intuitive exercise. Funny how I sometimes had to simulate some good ol’ ennui before I could get any writing done at all.
For the most part, I like to think that I am as rational as my confirmation bias and grasp of the facts will allow. I routinely suspect emotion-laden-reasoning because it does no favors as per objectivity. On a good day, I think before I feel. I like to keep a certain internal peace. I am a classic introvert. I enjoy being in the background. I can narrate how I feel most of the time, and with a clarity of mind that amuses me sometimes. I have a cold appreciation for facts and logic. I hate when people take heuristic shortcuts when the longer route would do more net good. I prefer working with computers and abstract concepts to human beings. I hate phone calls (text me). I do not especially like socializing. This makes me appear mechanical to most people.
I sometimes turn out to be a jerk without meaning to. Call it an occupational hazard. Does this somewhat describe you? Are you the unintentional asshole? Do you get told you lack empathy? Do you then promise to do better, even though in your mind of minds, you do not especially give a fuck?
Well, being cold and rational does not mean you get to be an indiscriminate asshole.
My pretentious rationality is often punctuated by short periods of fever pitch emotional outbursts, much like the peak of a sine wave.
You never feel these pesky emotional outbursts sneaking up on you till you’re about ready to erupt. You lash out at anybody and anything unfortunate enough to be caught in your path. Being the robot that you are, you might try to rationalize your feelings, but that never quite works out as planned.
Calm rationality will fail you sometimes, after all you’re only human.
People refer to this as catharsis. Sometimes your catharsis will hurt people. This is how you lose friends and alienate people. Personally, I find trying to anticipate and control catharsis is almost impossible. All objectivity flies out the window and the only thing that makes sense is lashing out. Because somehow, you know deep down, the only way you will go back to being your rational self is if you explode first.
As a person who deals with pangs of guilt anytime I invariably hurt the people closest to me, I devised a few personal tools to help. Most of the time, I willfully seclude myself while I work out my issues, so that I do not transfer aggression. I set this rule where I never speak while angry. Nothing good ever happens when you speak in anger. I always make sure to project and see things from the other perspectives, no matter how stupid it seems to me at first. I also devised a way to let myself feel and be more open. This doesn’t always work but hey, I am only human.
Showing emotions should not be a sign of weakness.
Clearly I do not have all the answers, but in channeling my inner Steven Pinker, I am going to talk about a couple of hacks you could devise to help improve your relations with other members of the human race. It requires consistent practice.
First thing is to avoid the iterative nature of gradualism. See, no one is born an asshole (except psychopaths). We tilt towards assholery one decision at a time. You didn’t take a quantum leap from innocence to the present jerk that you are now.
Avoid the moralization gap like a plague. In simple terms, the moralization gap is a web of innocuous ways by which we reduce the severity of the damage we do to others. We moralize and rationalize our way out of the matter by never letting go of the higher moral ground. We say they deserved it anyway, and insist on our innocence when it is clear that we have hurt this person. Instead of taking responsibility, we resort to derogation and distance ourselves from the matter.
We unintentional assholes are especially adept at this tactic. We refuse to acknowledge when we cause harm, erecting mental cascades that shield us from taking responsibility.
We need to understand context, nuance, and tact. Know when to speak, how to speak and when not to speak.
There is a wide gulf between intentions and action. I surmise that there are three base components to every message:
- The message itself
- The conduit (which is unfortunately you in this case)
If humans were perfectly rational beings, the conduit would be of minimal importance. And all that matters would be the message itself. But we are not perfectly rational beings, and for most of us, the conduit is inextricably linked with the message. Understanding this basic rule of communication is a prerequisite for being a model member of society.
In conclusion, we should try to have a little positive empathy. Though human relationships are often fraught with many pointless rules, we cannot survive without cooperation. Features of our cognitive psychology like reciprocal altruism go a long way in establishing informal rules, which act as the basis of shared myths like family and friendship, which in turn lays the foundations of human society.
Yes, one instance of your selfishness could be event that spirals into the end society as we know it. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’re right. But seriously, don’t be that guy. Do better.