Surviving Contemporary America: A Guide For The Superior Man


This evening I was straddling two lanes at a red light as I had pulled out from a gas station at an intersection without enough space to get cleanly into the left lane. Apparently the driver behind me was incensed by this because when the light turned green, as I went to make my turn he sped around me in order to pull in front of me and continue straight before I could make my left turn. It was a ridiculous and dangerous maneuver but while my first reaction was anger, my second was laughter. What kind of a loser does this?

Earlier in the day I was playing poker when a tight player I had gotten into it with previously hemmed and hawed after I made a bet. He said “I have a big draw” on a very wet board before eventually making a big raise. I immediately threw my hand in the muck and he flipped over one card that was consistent with his story. I told him: “If you really bluffed me, you would have shown both cards. The fact that you showed one proves that you had it”. He insisted that he had bluffed me and thanked me for folding. I told him it was “bad acting Bro” and to “keep your day job”. Ultimately I won the battle because it was so obvious that I was right.

More and more in everyday life I find myself having to deal with idiots. My guess is that I’m not the only one. What’s going on? Alexis De Tocqueville long ago remarked that equality is the defining principle of American life. Everybody is as good as everyone else. Everybody’s opinion is as good as everyone else’s. In The Revolt of the Masses, Jose Ortega y Gasset elaborated on the psychology of this mass man. Without having done any work or in any way understanding the principles behind the functioning of our complex civilization, the mass man feels himself entitled to all of its benefits and anything that anyone else is. In effect, he feels himself to be everyone’s equal simply because he exists, without work or character or effort.

How is one to deal with these mass men? Take the driver who sped ahead of me. I had an impulse to change from turning left in order to follow him and give him a piece of my mind. But that would have been a huge mistake. I’m unlikely to change the mind of an idiot and, further, why would I care to? In addition, this would have diverted me from what I was doing and taken more energy. The key was in being mindful of all of this in the moment and imposing my frame on the situation: “This guy is an idiot. He’s not worth my time.” His frame – the idiot’s frame – does not matter. After all, he is an idiot.

The poker situation was a little different because both of us were sitting at the table and I had the intention to continue playing with him. To keep quiet while maintaining my frame would have ceded social reality to him. Therefore, I needed to put him in his place without escalating the situation. Once I did so, I was able to move on. I didn’t need to escalate the situation because, once again, he is an unworthy idiot. A few words were enough to mostly shut him down – though he continued to tell his neighbors he had bluffed me – and I didn’t need to completely shut him down because I don’t care about him.

To break it down, as the superior man dealing with a mass of morons you must balance your need to handle social reality without escalating situations with idiots. You can’t simply let idiots get away with treating you poorly but you don’t need to bury them either because they are worthless idiots. If you maintain your superior frame, it will help you to say what needs to be said without going too far. The goal is to deal with these idiots without feeling defeated while at the same time moving on to more important things without expending too much energy. It’s a skill much in need today given the seemingly unlimited supply of jackasses.

I believe a similar strategy applies with appropriate modifications for dealing with assholes. The difference between the asshole and the idiot is that the former believes himself to be superior to you. He therefore feels entitled to treat you like nothing compared to him. The philosopher Aaron James has written a whole book on the subject if you’re interested.

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