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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Assholes - the latest fad

Assholes, they’re everywhere but some places more than others.  That’s according to Aaron James, in his book “Assholes, A Theory.”  I can vouch for that.  Ever been in a line-up in China?  Those guys are assholes.  You’re fifteen minutes in a queue and you’re standing in front of a clerk who’s protected by a plexi-glass participation and these guys are reaching around you shoving their money at the clerk.  Elbows high, you attempt to purchase your train ticket but not before one or two are able to get the clerk to take their money. 

Last year, there’s the line-up to get into the Calgary Legion Hall to see performances by Juno Award nominees and you’ve purchased stupid wrist bands that allow access to any venue after all the people who’ve purchased venue specific tickets get in and of course there isn’t room for you once the people with tickets get in.  So, you’ve been standing in line for about an hour getting to know the people behind you who are hiking the West Coast trail one section at a time which sounds interesting but this is getting to
Legion at Junos - Kind of crowded
seem like an awfully long time and it’s like waiting for the bus in the middle of winter.  It could come any time and then a couple of scantily clad, good-looking, rather inebriated girls start talking to the young people in front of you like they’ve been saving a place in line for them and you learn that more friends are coming and you become discouraged.  Recognizing the discomfort of the young people to whom the girls are talking you realize they don’t know the them at all. You’re on the verge of making a scene (which most Canadians hate) when boyfriends arrive and take the girls away to another venue.  Aaron James claims that assholes are almost exclusively men.  I must respectfully disagree.  Although the assholes are primarily male, the fair sex offers a few of its members to that population.    

Mr. James distinguishes assholes from psychopaths who are far less common and far more dangerous.  Unlike psychopaths, he says that assholes know when they’re breaking social rules or being rude or making cruel accusations because they’re aware of the feelings of others.  They just choose to ignore them basically because it may not be in their self-interest.  Like when a bunch of assholes chant “lock her up” or tweet “you’re better off dead” or hold up signs that read “carbon tax = sodomy.”  (How the one equals the other can only make sense in the most homophobic of contexts.) 

Aaron James
Assholes don’t think they’re bad or know how women or gay men might feel about their accusations.  They know very well.  They just don’t care.  According to Mr. James’ asshole research, the asshole, 1) allows himself to enjoy special advantages and does so systematically. 2) does this out of an entrenched sense of entitlement; and 3) is immunized by his sense of entitlement against the complaints of others.

"When you're a star, they let you do it"
Like when Donald Trump didn’t pay contractors for work completed on his buildings or when he threatens to deport illegal immigrants who make up many of the employees who provide essential services to his hotels.  He’s entitled to exploit their labour because, he’s “smart.”  Or the bankers responsible for the 2008 meltdown who despite their banks receiving billions in bailouts still felt entitled to millions of dollars in bonuses because they deserved it.  Again, because they were smart.  Or contractors who claimed bankruptcy and skedaddled out of town after they took money from families in Slave Lake who’d lost their homes in the fire.  What did they think?  They could have felt badly but more likely, I’m guessing, smart. 

How does one become an asshole?  It can’t be totally bred or inbred because, as Mr. James claims, some cultures are more assholish than others.  Capitalism, he says can devolve in to asshole capitalism when the cooperative people give up cooperating out of despair or the need to survive.  Social institutions that provide services like policing, healthcare, and education aren’t going to survive if people don’t pay their taxes or they only obey the law.  If the government reimburse their employees for services rendered, they’ll either quit of seek compensation in other ways.  Like the Mexican police who extort money for a bogus traffic ticket that must be paid before they’ll return your passport.   

On the spectrum of asshole capitalism in the developed world, Mr. James places Italy on top.  He particularly uses the election of billionaire and asshole, Silvio Berlusconi, to the position of prime minister where he served on and off for nine years.  Back in 1993, the people of Italy believed that his savvy in business could help revitalize the economy.  He was convicted of tax fraud in 2013. He was convicted that same year for paying for sex in abuse of power.  Italians recently voted against giving Prime Minister Matteo Renzi the power to reform their constitution and hopefully end the revolving door of governments in Italy since the Second World War.  This will likely mean that Italy will pull out of the Euro which causing its currency to be devalued and, at least in the short run, a less wealthy Italian population. 

Could the same devolution to asshole capitalism occur in the U.S. with the election of Donald Trump?  I believe Aaron James attempts to answer that question in his recently released “Assholes, A Theory of Donald Trump.”   With Canada, so influenced by U.S. politics and culture, I fear we may be drawn to follow them down the same self-destructive road particularly with the emergency of Ezra Lavant and his rebel media and hateful rants that do little more than advance the interests of other assholes like himself.  In the end, it’s not his supporters or those of Donald Trump who will benefit from their rise to power.  It won't be the displaced middle class who'll finally get its say.  It'll be like the king of the hill games we used to play on piles of snow in elementary where the kingpin assholes emerge at the top of the pile and everyone else is left at the bottom with little more than scrapes and bruises and frustration to show for their efforts.  That is, until, they’ve had enough and use their numbers to gang-up on the assholes.  It’s inevitable but the journey to get there isn’t be fun. 

King of the hill - the never-ending game