Author Aaron James asks in his book, Assholes: A Theory, "What is it to be an asshole?" and goes on to explain that "a person counts as an asshole when, and only when, he systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people." In other words, an asshole is most concerned with what he or she deserves, what is fair to him or her, and what he or she has a right to without caring what others deserve, what is fair to others, or what others have the right to. It's all about the asshole, and lately it seems like the world is churning out more and more of these self-centered, self-absorbed rude people. In the last three weeks I have dealt with so many assholes I had to run away to my parents' house just for some peace and quiet, but unfortunately some assholes still have my phone number and were able to find me.
I should turn off my phone on vacation, I really should, but the Cowboy usually calls with updates about my pets.
Meanwhile, in the real world, I deal with asshole patrons who have the nerve to complain about free services; politicians in general, and those who argue that I'm not doing my job, never bothered by the fact that they can't seem to do theirs either; and broads who stick their noses into my dating life and try to convince the man I'm currently dating that I'm no good for him, like it is any of their business or even has any effect on their lives whatsoever. There are more, but these are the highlights. It seems like every time I turn around there is another asshole squawking at me with some perceived slight, complaint, or opinion that I really care nothing about.
I generally handle assholes in the same manner as dogs handle them. Dogs have four responses to threats or stimuli - fight, flight, avoidance, or surrender. Healthy, emotionally balanced dogs like my Tess will choose avoidance when threatened by something she doesn't like. For example, she has been accosted a few times by canine assholes at the dog park, and her first response is to give the offender a wide berth. She is not a fearful dog so she doesn't run away, and while she will engage in a fight with no problem, she is not an aggressive dog so she won't pick fights unless some asshole dog gets too pushy. There was a pug at the dog park once who fixated so hard on mounting Tess that he followed her all over the park, trying to crawl on her back whenever he thought he had the opportunity. Tess wove in and out of the pack of dogs, trotting calmly away whenever he got too close and never allowing him too near her. He wouldn't give up, however, so she finally spun around, snarled and showed her teeth, and put him into the ground without hurting him. That got the message across. There is a lesson to be learned here. If one is an asshole, then maybe one shouldn't project one's assholery on someone who is four times bigger.
I try the avoidance thing first as well. My main desire in life is to be left alone. I just want to live my life, do my job, hang out with my dog, maybe find a husband, have fun with my friends, all without the hassle of some asshole mucking it all up. But I've noticed lately the assholes in life just won't allow this. They have to get involved and muck stuff up. It's like their mission in life. So, like the dog, I start with avoidance or flight. I just don't make myself available to assholes. I'm cordial and civil when cornered - I have had more than one asshole tell me, "I wish we were better friends!" and my response to that is always a tight smile and a "Of course. Have a nice day!" The whole time I'm being cordial and civil I'm subtly or not so subtly inching away to the moment when I can tuck tail and bolt. I'm nonconfrontational. I totally own that. It's one of my faults. I leave people alone so I require the same courtesy in return. Maybe part of the problem is I'm just not curious or nosy enough to stick my nose in other people's affairs, and this is their way of getting to know me by forcing me to deal with them. I don't get why. Believe me, I'm not that amazing. Sometimes I feel like that poor dog: the one that's cowering behind it's owner while some overbearing person calls to it in a loud, squeaky voice trying to get it to come over and "see them." Incidentally this was the wife of one of my brother's friends. Every time she came over, she'd squawk and squeal at my mother's German shepherd, Flag, begging him to come see her and the poor dog was so scared shitless he'd hide behind me. One time he left a puddle on the floor.
I, like Tess, rarely get to the fight stage, mostly because I won't win a physical fight and I'm too anxious to engage in a full-blown screaming match. When I do get mad enough I usually explode and leave a rubble of hurt feelings and destroyed relationships in my wake. I get my point across, but I also get a reputation of being a ginormous bitch. Tess has gotten that reputation too. She tolerates dog asshole behavior with avoidance only so long before she loses patience, acts like a dog, and disciplines the offender. Then I get yelled at with "Your dog is mean!" because she put some mutt in the ground. No, your dog is just an asshole.
That's Tess and me. We're nice until we get pushed too far. Then it's, "Let's get the bastards!" And then of course we're the assholes. I can own my bad behavior. Other people can't seem to do the same.
For dealing with dogs, Cesar Millan uses the exercise, discipline, and affection model. Generally when someone calls the Dog Whisperer for help with a dog, it's because the dog has become unmanageable or, to put it indelicately, an asshole. Tess was a serious asshole when first I got her. She was out of control, had no discipline and absolutely no respect for any authority, and all with a sense of entitlement to her alpha personality without having earned the right to be leader of the pack. I used Cesar's suggestions on her and it took three hour walks every day, discipline, and for the first few months very limited affection. I rarely patted her or snuggled with her, though I did play with her a lot. It took time, but she is the best dog now, and I have often wondered if we used Cesar's program on assholes, would it have the same affect? People these days are crazy. They don't get enough exercise, they don't eat healthy, no one has any boundaries, mental illness runs amok, and people are cranky, crabby, pissy, and moody. When my dog gets like that I walk her. I walk the hell out of her. She gets exercise, she eats a high quality diet of protein and nutrients, she has rules and boundaries (she has to let me through doors first, she's not allowed on the furniture), and she gets plenty of love and doggie pops whenever she's a good girl which is most of the time. If people got as much exercise as dogs should get, they would probably be less crabby. First of all they would be so exhausted they wouldn't have the energy to behave like assholes. Second, they'd feel better physically which in turn would improve their mental and emotional health.
Next is the discipline. There are clearly no consequences for being an asshole. If there were, we'd have a lot less of them. I'm as much a part of the problem rather than the solution with my avoidance technique. We as a society cater far too much to assholes. Assholes get rewarded for their assholery - case in point: Simon Cowell, Kanye West, the Kardashians, and most if not all politicians. Act like an asshole, get your own TV show or elected as public official so you can make decisions that benefit you about everyone else's lives. This would never fly in the dog world. If a dog continues to disrespect other dogs it gets its clock cleaned, put in the ground with a row of teeth around it's throat. If a wolf behaved like that, his packmates would eat him. Imagine if every time someone behaved like an asshole society took a rolled up newspaper across their nose or rear end. I have never taken a rolled up newspaper to Tess as she never needed it. A poke to the flank or a jerk of the leash is all she needs (okay, there were a few moments in the beginning when I sat on her head), but I think a rolled up newspaper or even a two-by-four would drive the message home a bit more thoroughly when dealing with assholes. James states that an asshole is beyond moral correction and therefore asshole management is difficult. I say a well-placed two-by-four might just do the trick, but unfortunately we can't go around clubbing people up the side of the head right and left. We might like to, but we can't. Therefore other means of discipline are necessary. For example, stop voting assholes into positions of power. And as soon as a reality TV star behaves like a jackass, pull the show and stop lavishing attention on said asshole. Or better yet, just cancel all reality TV. It's just a bunch of assholes sitting around talking about how smart they are and how important their lives are while simultaneously proving the opposite.
This is also part of the problem. We almost revere our assholes. Assholery brings ratings because not only do we as a society tolerate assholes, we encourage them for entertainment value. Rewarding assholes - or giving them affection - is just causing a larger epidemic of assholery and bad behavior. We have it backwards. We exercise, discipline, and love on our dogs. We reward assholes, hoping they will magically become decent members of society and then allow them to sit on their considerable lazy asses and run their big mouths. And we love our assholes. It's the old adage of women loving assholes. For some reason every time some jerk behaves like an asshole women flock around him and he gets laid more. What the fuck is that all about? Then we as women complain that there are no good men left, they are all assholes. Well, yes. They have no incentive to behave better if we just jump into bed with them every time they act like assholes.
Individually we have little choice in asshole management. We are not the well-oiled machine of a wolf pack so we cannot merely force assholes out of the pack (or eat them). We can either avoid, beat the shit out of them, or surrender to their asshole ways (and then go back to avoiding). My idealistic preferred method of asshole management is the two-by-four, but my realistic one is mostly avoidance and sometimes surrender or resignation, depending on how much power the asshole has. What we should do is solve the world's energy crisis by throwing every asshole on a treadmill and forcing them to power their countries by running until they drop. They'll learn a thing or two about that inflated sense of entitlement right quick. They can each have a dog for company as there are more than enough to go around and those poor dogs are in desperate need of exercise themselves. Assholes should also have to shovel all the shit of homeless, abandoned animals after their turn on the treadmill is over for the day. Then and only then are they allowed food, water, and a place to sleep. If they do well on the treadmill they can sleep with their dog partners for warmth. That's only if the dog is willing to share its bed with some asshole, since dogs generally avoid assholes.
We could really learn something from dogs and their society.
Unfortunately in our infinite ability as a species to destroy everything, I think we are slowly turning our dogs into assholes too. Just watch an episode of The Dog Whisperer. That's why Cesar Millan still has a job. Therefore we turn to Aaron James once again who says we must keep faith and hope that society will improve. If not we are all in danger of going to the dogs, and not in a good way.