We live in what I have come to term “the culture of nihilism”. It is a culture characterized by self absorption, selfishness, lack of concern for others, incivility, rudeness and nastiness. Nietzsche prophesied it almost 150 years ago and his vision has been almost perfectly realized in contemporary America. In addition to mass producing morons (see “Surviving Contemporary America: A Guide For The Superior Man”, September 9), the culture of nihilism also mass produces assholes. How does one deal with an asshole?
As with morons, you have to strike the right balance in your reaction. You must find a middle ground between acquiescence and over reaction. When you acquiesce i.e. let the asshole get away with his treatment of you, not only do you lose self respect but you encourage the asshole to continue in his asshole ways. On the other hand, if you overreact, you end up getting entangled in a miserable situation with a worthless asshole. You end up spending way more time and energy than the asshole is worth. What you want to do is uphold your self respect, put the asshole in his place and move on with your life.
Let me give you an example. A couple of years ago I was working out at my gym. Another member was using the set of dumbbells I needed. I waited for him to put them back but after five minutes or so I decided to ask him if I could borrow them for a set. When I completed my set, I returned the dumbbells but when he finished his set he kicked one of them in my direction and it rolled up next to me. Obviously I was furious. But I couldn’t immediately think of how to handle the situation. Luckily, as I was leaving the locker room after my workout, I bumped into him as he was leaving the shower area. I looked him in the eye and said: “Was it a problem for you when I borrowed the dumbbells?” I had caught him off guard and he said “No” to which I replied “That’s good”. Then I walked away and never had a problem with him again.
For more on defining assholes, the different types of assholes, managing assholes and the cultural production of assholes, see the philosopher Aaron James’s Assholes: A Theory.