Being an asshole feels good, until it doesn’t.
When someone earns a blistering ass chewing, paying him feels good.
You get to let all that righteous fury loose — feel the rush of battle, drawing blood for Virtue.
Yeah, sometimes a fella needs to call bullshit on himself.
I’m going to dance around a bit, but trust me, it all comes to a singular point.
Remember the Schwarzenegger movie called The Last Action Hero? The movie exemplifies meta art, art that comments on itself. Meta art is often considered tacky. Last Action Hero is almost forced into meta though, because the movie is about the movie as a living place, a real universe, which invariably conflicts with our real universe when one of us (paradoxically an actor in a movie) enters that world.
The actors in their story are unable to see what they are doing from an objective point of view, but the young hero from our world, who enters theirs, calls out the bullshit right and left. He knows he’s in a fake world that has everyone in it duped.
If you know how I think, you know that jazzes the shit out of me.
Done well, meta art can provide comedic insights and extraordinary depth to a story.
Done poorly, it boots the reader or viewer out of suspended disbelief, makes him or her squirm for a minute as a thought sequence fires:
“What the fuck? I don’t care what the writer thinks! I want the story!”
To understand what comes next, please detour for 3 minutes and watch the video. You’ll probably laugh a lot. (If the use of GD and JC bothers you, steel yourself, or skip it.)
This is Lt Dekker, or me, yesterday, chewing Host Gator’s ass for having CharacterCues.com down for two days and not appearing to take the matter as seriously as I did… after having the exact same thing happen two months ago, with promises that it was fixed forever.
I was in the right. But I made a total Lt Dekker of myself — right up to the point of apoplectic syllable slamming mumbo jumbo.
You probably noticed that it’s hard to take an explosively angry person seriously. Even if what they are screaming is rational, screaming generally isn’t. It’s good for survival stuff. A grizzly chews my leg, I’ll yell and see if it helps. It might, because yelling communicates violence, no matter the words.
When a human body becomes a vassal of rage, no matter what information the person tries to include in his speech, all he gets across is the threat of violence. Deep down, every one of us knows that’s where it leads, and that’s why we curb it.
The only things most people can think to do when confronted by fear-inducing rage is retreat, obfuscate, or engage battle. (These call center people are trained to rely on horse shit lines about how much they care, and rarely think of doing what I learned to do at Schwab, sometimes, when feeling punchy and fun: “Sir, I understand you are angry, but I now own your problem. I’m the one who is going to solve it for you, hell or high water. Tell me what I need to know so I can crush some heads on your behalf.”
Believe it or not, an angry asshole has a hard time remaining an angry asshole to the only teammate who can win the game for him.
Alas, no one at Host Gator I spoke with used language anything like that. The manager actually told me, (paraphrase) right after saying how important my problem was to him, that he already sent an email to someone about it and he needed to get me off the phone so he could handle other problems.
Exactly what I needed to hear…
But regardless the subjective provocations, I’m the one who made the world an uglier place.
I found myself this morning with wet eyes, realizing all the negativity I unleashed on two people whose jobs put them in the line of my fire. They could have behaved much better. They could have been straight with me, if they’d been punchy and fun enough to ignore the training that tells them to lie to people to try to make them feel better. But they did what they did and I did what I did.
I think Host Gator, and most companies that have call centers, use them the same way some rogue polities use human shields. No one in his right mind would drop a bomb on a school, or a place of worship, or anyplace people gather who are not participants in the evil he targets. Collateral damage bothers the hell out of good people. That’s why a lot of big players hide their dirty business behind a wall of people who can only be attacked unfairly. That’s a dick move on their part, and why I do business with small companies if at all possible.
The efficiency of the bottom line is more important to a suit in a corner office than all the noise from assholes like me, demanding they do what they said they would do. The only way the noise matters is after there’s been so much ignored, consumers no longer do business with, or trust, the company. Then they change their name.
(Conversely, the small business owner knows that all the “assholes” demanding they do what they said they would do are their CUSTOMERS who KEEP THEM IN BUSINESS, and they don’t shout at you if you treat them with respect and honor their minds and agency.)
Once a company decides it’s all about the numbers, woe the person who gives them any business. You become the number.
“Efficiency” means: Who has time to deal with all those people we’re pissing off by building our company on the latest manipulation techniques developed by behavior scientists who study how to get people to make bad decisions?
That they use behavior science like that is a fact. I’ve hit the theme from different angles in my books, mostly trying to point out that rotten people use good people’s virtue against them. Good people have rules of engagement, places their morality will never allow them to go. Bad people know that, so they screw people right to the edge.
I think that’s why it felt good in the moment to give in to rage. In that moment, I got to say, Fuck the rules that prevent you evildoers from hearing the truth.
That jazzes me too, because rules are generally created by rule makers, who are generally people who prefer I live their way over mine, and are willing to use their power to try to force me to. Yeah, we covered that. Fuck those people.
Except… yet… oh shit, here we go. Every time I point at evil people, three fingers point back. (And my thumb kind of points off to the side. Evil lurks over there too, apparently.)
In People of the Lie, M Scott Peck defines an evil person as an excessively selfish person, such that the negative consequences of his action falling on other people doesn’t matter, so long as he is engaged in getting what he wants.
Notice, by that definition, how profoundly evil my behavior yesterday was. I dropped rage bombs on two people who went to work to support themselves and the people they care about.
I like the definition of evil as excessively selfish, although I also think there’s an element missing, a spiritual darkness that goes beyond selfishness. Because I felt that and liked it, too. I don’t mind admitting it because I only write to honest people, and you know damn well how good it feels to flirt with darkness when people are fucking with you.
Here’s another random association that fits right in: What did Christ say about the mote in my neighbor’s eye?
Take the plank out of mine, first.
The plank in my eye was my righteousness. The virtue I was upholding. Fighting to take care of my family. Blah Blah. I actually thought about the speech Frank gives in Integrity, calling out his boss and demanding his boss call out his boss, and backstop him, all the way up the chain of command. I actually said something as retarded as this: “I’m not yelling at you. You’re a good person, I’m sure. I’m yelling at you so you yell at your boss! And if you won’t, PUT HIM ON THE LINE.”
Truth is, I was mad, and there was no way in hell I was going to let a big company lie to me, again.
That’s the plank in my eye: Other people’s lies justify me being an asshole.
The capital-T Truth?
I wasn’t yelling at a company, but people, and not the right ones, and even the right ones would have been unimpressed.
And this morning I thought about Lt Dekker, again.
I thought of him because Dad and I watch one episode of one show most nights. We’ve been through Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and The Americans, and now we are delighting ourselves with The Wire.
I’ve seen them all a couple times but watching with Dad is fun.
Anyhow, The Wire has a couple authority figures like Lt Dekker. They’re always yelling. My first thought when I realized this a few days ago is that there’s no reason, really, for a writer to use an angry, belligerent asshole to carry the scene forward unless he’s trying to create tension or enhance some comedic element, as both The Wire and Last Action Hero repeatedly do.
In both shows, the scenes could have been carried forward by a leader who knew how to use praise and encouragement, but that wouldn’t make butts squirm in seats or fart laughter.
I could have solved my problem yesterday without the anger. And the shit of it is, I spent 5 years getting yelled at by people just like me when I worked at Schwab. People pissed Schwab did something, so the first non-computer to answer the phone gets an ear full.
A side note: I yell at computers that answer phones, too, and I will not feel bad about it. I refuse to be civil with a computer (because it’s another way the prick in the corner office thinks he’s helping his shareholders, by cutting costs. Hey dipshit: hire people to do people jobs. By enslaving yourself to tech, you are attempting to enslave all of us. People are waking up. Knock it the fuck off.)
I will not pretend Artificial Intelligence is intelligence. I will not afford it the civility due a mind. It is programming, and unless the programming is done by deity, it’s a nothing but a marionette dancing the will of the human intelligence behind it.
Yeah, that prick.
Anyhow, the point:
When I was in the field artillery, sometimes we used a marker to write foul messages on our HE (high explosive) rounds.
Yesterday I fired two HE rounds, and wrote “I’M IN THE RIGHT, SO I GET TO BE AN ASSHOLE TO PEOPLE”
Yesterday I led the charge to bring to fruition the hateful, angry, misguided, and selfish world I loathe.
I unleashed the animal when I should have unleashed the love. How else do we ever get there? Jesus tells us to remove the motes from our eyes because no one else can do it for us. All the evil (selfishness) out there is in here too, and embracing it — even in the guise of virtue — only brings the wrong world into being.
There, without the grace of God, went I.
Here’s another great scene: “Cersei’s Walk of Atonement.”
In Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister walks the streets in her birthday suit as people hurl shit and rotten tomatoes at her, chanting “Shame.”
Calling bullshit on yourself sux, so I’ll close with this: after calling yourself out for being bad, call yourself out for being good, because that’s what urges you the other direction.
That’s the key.
Honesty combined with self awareness can only conclude you are a marvelous human, capable of love, built to learn, and your good is powerful beyond imagination. Take a shower. Clean off the shit and tomatoes. Someday we’re going to all get it right, and our species will be as beautiful as it was intended.
Until then, we are all best when learning, worst when we think we know.
Here’s George RR Martin (Game of Thrones author) discussing Cersei’s walk:
4 responses to “Being an asshole feels good”
Damn Brother, I hope you feel better….now breathe, in, out, breathe.
You went deep there Clayton and I was diggin’ it.
Now forgive yourself. Your a good person, with redeeming qualities. I’d be willing to bet that they’re already over it and it sounds like you made an impression if nothing else. And forget the anything else.
Time to rack em!!
Dang, another Sunday Devotional ….and I’m pickin’ up what this church is layin’ down.
During my jail sentence in “Corporate World”, I learned that the asshole screamin’ and slammin’ the table was usually the weakest fu*ker in the room. Take him out and you look like a super-hero to the minions who cower in fear.
Conversely, it’s the guy who sits there calmly and says little that scared the crap outta me. He’s got it under control and knows it. Watch him…see where he’s headed…and consider going there too !!!
I’m coming to my point on the “Flowchart of Corporate Customer Support”.
I’ve been successfully trying a different approach. I stay calm, keep repeating that “This situation must be successfully rectified.”, including up to cancelling service and/or blocking payment.
It seems to send them down a different scripted “Do-Loop” where I usually get a positive resolution.
WARNING: One must be fully committed to following through on any stated threat. It’s surprising how many of the things that we think that we can’t live without, we actually can.
Baer’s minimalist lifestyle is an advanced form of “Tune In, Turn On, and Drop Out”.
Besides, leaning a bit to the self-righteous side, am I going to allow some corporate demon to cause me to smudge my soul ?
I’ll cancel and switch providers. Corporations know that the toughest customer to get is the one that they lost because he’s got to admit that he was wrong in leaving them.
Anyway, it may be a bit detrimental in the long run but I sure do feel better about my virtue and character.
Besides, at the end of the day, isn’t the most generous of deeds actually self-serving in some sort of “virtue signaling” way ?
Thanks for giving me a forum to air out my pretentious views on life.
You keep writin’ and I’ll keep readin’ !!!
I have seen, in film, the ultimate light of humanity. A person so thoughtful and kind that he invites the same from others and they gladly join in. I happened to watch it again last night with my wife and it still had a powerful effect on me. As some people may know I was a soldier and have been in conflicts and war. I have seen some horrible things and I have done some horrible things. I sometimes wonder how I even live with myself. One thing that has taken me by surprise in my older age though is how I can now be brought to tears from observing or participating in love and compassion. Don’t get me wrong…I still yell at scam calls, politicians on television and cars screaming down my county road. Just yesterday, thinking the caller was a recording, I screamed what color are your socks bitch or did they not program your ass to have an answer for that! It usually invokes silence, followed by a click, and I am gratified that I stymied the programmed scam. Once in a while though….a human voice on the other end will be there and either startled or pissed will reply back at me. It doesn’t really matter what they say because either way I feel a little sorry for what I said. The movie and book are both titled Little Lord Fauntleroy. The book was written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and was published in 1886. It is, at 125 pages, a quick read but one I really enjoyed. My favorite version of the movie is from 1936 and stars Freddie Bartholomew, a young Mickey Rooney and a beautiful Dolores Costello as his mother. actually all the actors do a very good job. Many may see me as a real pantywaist after reading this but….I don’t care. This story can teach you things about spreading love and happiness….the kind that Clayton describes in “Being an Asshole Feels Good”. It’s a lot easier to be an asshole than a caring human being. I have already perfected being an asshole…now for the real and worthwhile job of trying to be a decent human being!
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