Did you ever try to figure out how you came to be the person you are now? Perhaps the process starts when you read a particular book that sets off the process of consideration. From there you might delve into your personal history in other ways. Perhaps a photo album or two. Or your Facebook history.
Of course, for most of us, that social media personal history only goes back a few years. That means you’re left with more archaic forms of self-analysis.
As mentioned in this blog before, my personal sense of discovery as a runner began with a 12-minute time trial in 7th-grade gym class. Learning I was indeed the person with the most endurance in the entire 7th grade was revelatory. Then came freshman cross country and making the varsity team. On it went.
But it wasn’t just running that these small achievements revealed. It became an inner character test that helped combat other forms of self-doubt. It also taught a few humbling lessons that serve one well in life.
The world of assholes
I wonder at times if some people have ever paused to think about who they are and how they got there. I’m reading a book right now titled Assholes (a theory). It is a New York Times Best-Seller written by a philosopher named Aaron James.
His theory is that assholes, as a rule, proceed with a sense of personal entitlement and project that onto the world. When you run into an asshole, you’ve simply encountered a person prone to self-absorption.
We’d like to think that the sports of swimming, riding and running are able to wean the asshole out of people. Unfortunately, that is not true. Assholes somehow find a way to be assholes through all kinds of situations. The fact that they are assholes is their entire self-identity. To give up their asshole-ness would be to deconstruct their entire being.
So they’re assholes in the pool who refuse to share a lane. Assholes on the bike who either wheel suck the whole ride or else gutter you when they’re on the front. Assholes on the run are known to one-step you, or increase the pace when everyone else wants to run together. You mutter under your breath, “What an asshole.”
Fortunately, not everyone is an asshole. Yet assholes seem to be everywhere. And, it would be arrogant of me to suggest that I’ve never been an asshole myself. That’s simply not true. I’ve done asshole things in my life plenty of times. In fact I make it a practice to be a bit of a calculating asshole on certain subjects.
For example, when people go barking about their religion when it is clear they have not stopped to think about the adverse impact their brand of faith is having on the lives of others, I’m willing to do some asshole things to point that out. I’ll write or post a piece of satire, for example, that illustrated why their asshole brand of faith is so out of line with what scripture actually says. See, Jesus was a bit of an asshole that way too. So was John the Baptist. And Moses with all those plagues. Big. Asshole. To the Pharoah, at least.
So there are times when life calls on us to be assholes for a good purpose.
But that’s far different from being a terminal asshole who does not know or care what they’re doing to annoy or oppress others. Those are the most common, and most damaging, kinds of assoles.
Because as much as Moses was an asshole, the Pharoah was a far, far bigger asshole by imposing slavery on all those people, and taking away straw from the bricks, and building big-ass pyramids to his own godhood. Asshole City. Real assholes make it a practice to use their asshole skills and always get what they want.
Yes Men and their anti-matter Feminists
People who are “yes men” to assholes are equal in assholeness to actual assholes. Those who enable assholes principally to gain advantage for themselves––even to an incremental level––are automatically assholes themselves.
There is not a Republican candidate this year that does not qualify as some sort of asshole. Trump? Arrogant Asshole. Cruz? Nasty asshole. Bush? Mealy-mouthed asshole. Fiorina? Asshole squared. And so on.
Be honest. The only reason Trump is leading the Republican polls is that all the assholes in America are rooting for one of their own to become President. The math seems about right. It figures that about 30% of the population are total assholes. Three out of 10 people with whom you work tend to be assholes. The same math applies to your church choir or wherever else you go.
On the other end of the spectrum, Democrat Hillary Clinton has actually had to learn how to be an asshole to survive. The woman has put up with more shit than almost anyone on earth. That includes shit from her own husband. I’m sure more than a few women on this earth can relate. So I have admiration for Hillary because she walks that feminist’s edge in which being an asshole is something of a necessity in order to deal with all the male assholes she encounters in this world. But you have to admit she was an absolute boss in knocking Trey Gowdy & company on their asses during those phony Benghazi hearings. There were skid marks on the underwear of everyone at Fox News after that. Those dirty assholes had little else to say.
But there’s always hope in this world that people can change. Why is it that people so often stand by the assholes in their lives?
Even assholes can change
It’s because good people always seek out good qualities in others. They hang in there as friends even if those friends abuse them by acting like assholes.
Some of the biggest assholes in this world, for example, are 7th-grade girls. They treat their friends like crap in vicious popularity wars. Yet their true friends still hang in there through all of that. And with luck, those Mean Girls emerge from their asshole ways and turn into real friends in the end. Sometimes it lasts all the way through high school. But by the time most young women are seniors and their senior guy friends are dating ditzy freshman, they dig up their former frenemies and start hanging out together. Their asshole days are behind them, so to speak.
It is therefore the eternal hope among good people that even assholes can change. Good people hope the better behavior will somehow take hold, catch on, or make it evident that being an asshole is so much more work. After all, you can be humble, modest or caring and still get many of the same things you want in life. You don’t have to be an asshole.
Assholes afraid to change
Only real assholes are afraid to change. For example, without exception all racists are assholes. All forms of bigots are assholes too. All wife abusers and rapists are assholes. Same goes for liars and cheaters too. Assholes.
People who only care about money are assholes. Jesus says so. But people who claim that Jesus was actually a religious fundamentalist and a political conservative who thought that everyone deserves to be rich rich rich are assholes too. It simply isn’t true, and speaking like that on behalf of Jesus makes you a greedy asshole.
In fact it is quite clear that assholes in politics and religion are some of the worst assholes of all. This is especially true when the two are combined into a neat little fascist package that supports racism, bigotry and exploitation. That brand of religion and politics makes God himself out to be an asshole.
But good people understand that God ultimately does not put up with that stuff. Even people shouting his name in public places, claiming to be prophets or representatives of God are humbled and destroyed in the end. If you don’t understand those basic facts, then go read the Bible and actually study what you find there. Uunderstanding that the love of money is the root of all evil certainly clears up a few confusions about this world.
Take some time and figure out from whence you came in these categories, because it’s usually obvious. Some asshole along the way led you astray. It might be a preacher with everything to gain by keeping his or position in life. Or it might even be a bigoted parent who faith is based solely on fear. Parents and brothers and sisters and relatives can be assholes too, you know. Which provides a permanent answer to the proverbial question: “What’s for dinner tonight?”
From whence they came
People become assholes when they cease (or never begin) to develop and understanding from whence they came. They push their past behind them and adopt the attitude that they’ve come this far and deserve whatever benefits their asshole behavior can deliver.
That’s how a formerly modest rider or runner who now demands to lead the group ride or run can turn out to be such an asshole. They don’t care that there are people behind them going through the same struggles they once did. The assholes have forgotten from whence they came.
That fact only heightens their asshole status. Because if you’ve forgotten from whence you came, then you might as well have come from one of the effectively worst places in the universe. And that, friends, is why we call them assholes.