By: Christopher Rockwell
Dissecting the anatomy of an asshole…..
“It aint the heart of a creature that is bound in the way that God has set for it. You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it.”
– Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
I met a monster today. A real one. The authentic brand is not foolish enough to walk around announcing their presence. He1 doesn’t have gnarled teeth, horns, or have a tail. There are never any ski masks, pegs protruding from each side of the forehead, or dark capes to tip you off. No, the real demons that walk the Earth look a whole lot like you and me. Lucifer is cunning. He never saunters around with his trident. He knows it is much easier to meddle, to collude, and compromise when you fit right in, when those around you are not suspicious. Monsters are the same. Many of them wear khakis, straight front as is the style of the day, nondescript button downs, plain brown shoes, matching belt, sunglasses, and with a set of earbuds in. They do not stick out like a sore thumb, as they are masters of hiding in plain sight.
I met a monster, and it seemed innocent enough at first. In fact he sauntered over to where my family and I were enjoying a relaxing day at the beach, and he had with him his one-year-old son. Any parent will attest to the fact that these sorts of encounters happen everyday. The kids want to play together, the parents follow and observe and eventually get to chatting. The majority of time this type of situation goes swimmingly. Friends can even be attained due to the forced engagement. But other times things can go very, very wrong.
We got to talking. He was a Pediatrician, a word that suggests trust and a fact that seemed to solidify his good intentions, allowing for us to open the proverbial door to our sun-soaked domain. All seemed right as rain until my one-year-old daughter wouldn’t share her bucket and shovel with his son2. In no time at all the conversation’s tone had changed changed. Soon, the Pediatrician offered his unsolicited view, that my daughter was in her “anal retentive” stage and it was suggested that she might never grow out of it. Then, there were mentions of “au pair’s” and endless Summer vacations that his type were capable of enjoying, but my family and I could never attain. We were being spoken to like children and then it got worse – at one point he apologized for some of his comments explaining he didn’t mean anything by them, which allowed us to forgive him, and blame ourselves (I knew he couldn’t have meant all those things, I knew I was misunderstanding him!), which shockingly opened the door for more berating and insensitivity – until we simply had to leave.
It’s a surreal experience, when you meet a monster. As someone who has for years tried to see the world full of more good than evil, I leave my guard down. I try to look at every interaction with a fellow sentient being as an opportunity, rather than a potentially troubling situation. Thus, when I come upon someone who is the embodiment of pure evil, it takes me a minute to realize what I have stumbled upon. The first off-putting comment makes me question myself (Did I hear that right? No, he couldn’t have said that.), as does the second (I must be misunderstanding what is being said?). But eventually it hits you like a punch to the face….Wait, It isn’t me – this guy is an asshole!
What is disheartening about these types of encounters is that too many of them can damage a person. Living your life with your guard up against the malevolent forces of the world can prevent you from experiencing all the good that surrounds. You begin to shun away from rendezvous’ with humanity just to avoid the truly awful ones. The fact of the matter is it is a damn shame that the more meetings you have with the monsters of the world, the more your faith in humanity disintegrates. We certainly shouldn’t give them that power – but that’s the point: We don’t give them anything….they take it!
Furthermore, it is unfair that we are wired somewhat to react with a measure of hostility to these situations – thus bringing us down to the level of the asshole somewhat unconsciously. We are born with survival instincts, fight or flight reflexes, that boil to the surface in these encounters. When danger, or simple deception or guile, is detected it is viewed upon as a possible threat and makes us feel and act a certain way. Like I said, a certain power is given to the monster, and so much is taken from us.
Every moment since I stumbled upon this man who represents all that is wrong in the world, I can’t help but wonder what causes someone to act this way3. How is it that this person has such a disconnect to the situation? How do they fail to recognize the equal moral status of others? How is it possible to openly revel in an entrenched sense of entitlement? How does someone go on and on without realizing for one moment that the interest, and feelings, of the other parties in the conversation actually matter?
Of course obliviousness is a crucial factor here, but how is it possible to be a part of a society of people for so long and still be so naïve? I am, for the record, dismissing any sort of psychopathic behavior –as crazy is as crazy does. What I am discussing here is those that seem to imply through their selfish actions that the “rules” of everyday society do not apply to them. That the unspoken rules of etiquette that have evolved with man’s physical makeup just do not apply.
It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that a human being could look at another human being only to decide, whether consciously or unconsciously, that they are not worthy of consideration. That leaves the rest of us in a unique position – we are not simply fighting against a simple injustice or for our rightful place in line – we are fighting to simply be recognized and respected as people. A fight we shouldn’t have to embark upon in the first place – but one that is forced upon us by those that place themselves on a pedestal above others.
It all comes back to power. It must. It takes a certain right of power, of handed down entitlement, to have the sort of narcissism to be cruel. At some point those with power simply stop thinking about things from other’s points of view – because they just don’t care about it. It is a sickening thought, but one that is prevalent.
I won’t further stereotypes that would paint rich people as assholes in congregate. I know too many that are kind – but I can’t dismiss that the monster’s arrogance that forced my family to abruptly end our beach day was somewhat fueled by his perceived status in society. It is easy to find research that people in elevated social positions were less likely to feel compassion or distress over another person’s suffering, but that alone cannot be the reason for such a lack of tact. As pointed out, I know too many that lay on the side of the good that are set for life – so what gives this monster the right?
Maybe he had it tough as a kid? Maybe he has it tough now and highlights the things he has going for him? Maybe his father was a prick and the apple didn’t fall far – thus he was somehow trained to be this way? Maybe he doesn’t have the will to overcome the possible high testosterone levels and other genetic traits that predispose people to being assholes? Maybe it’s a cultural thing? Maybe sometimes people are just assholes?
I know it is up to me to learn how to cope with the assholes of the world, an imperative skill to master to attain a happy life. Yet, it seems so unfair that I have to further my resolve and master the art of patience when the asshole can just stroll about doing whatever they like, at the expense of all they meet. That, I have to center myself, and forgive these uncaring folk. But so it goes – the world will always have assholes, it will always be full of monsters. They cover the world like weeds, and share a disdain for everything but themselves. I just wish they were labeled better. I wish they were easier to see coming your way. But that could lead us down the slippery slope of pre-judging (All people with tails and horns are assholes – that sort of thing.) – an option I choose to leave off the table. Still, I wish they didn’t find a way to hide their damn horns so impressively. You see, the thing about horns is they can be sawed off….thus concealing the monster.
- Or she, of course. But in this case the monster was a male. [↩]
- She is 1 remember, meaning she has lived on Earth just about 365 days. [↩]
- Another unavoidable side-effect with a monster such as this as you are forced to think about the encounter, to try to reason it out, wasting countless moments of your life on those unworthy. [↩]