Monday, January 7, 2013

On The Origin of Assholes

"Did you say Chanel No. 5?"
In the tireless quest and search for the origin and evolution of The Toxins of Power, this series will deal with yet another difficult subject.

One is likely to hear giggles when the growing scholarship about assholes arises in a normal conversation.

Nevertheless, two books have been published this year which deal with this extremely difficult subject, and in these two books there is helpful academic scholarship, if for no other reason because they concern serious scientific work in the sometimes nebulous subject of "social evolution."

Therefore, in today's post we will refer to those two books in an attempt to tie them into the search for the origin of the toxins of power, where Lord Acton once labored so hard for so long.

Regular readers know that Lord Acton is the person that is probably most famous for the notion that power corrupts, which among other things, means that "something" turns people into assholes, especially when they are exposed to power and are unaware of its morphing tendencies.

That "something" is what we here at Toxins of Power Blog call "the toxins of power."

Okay, so let's get into the aforesaid scholarship about assholes:
He started sketching a theory of assholes, refining his thinking at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, where he spent a year as a fellow in 2009.
He consulted Rousseau ... Hobbes ... Kant ... and more-recent scholarship on psychopaths. He spoke with psychologists, lawyers, and anthropologists, all of whom suggested asshole reading lists. "There are a lot of similar characters studied in other disciplines, like the free rider or the amoralist or the cheater," James says, calling his time at Stanford an "interdisciplinary education in asshole theory."

James argues for a three-part definition of assholes that boils down to this: Assholes act out of a deep-rooted sense of entitlement, a habitual and persistent belief that they deserve special treatment. (Nunberg points out that use of the phrase "sense of entitlement" tracks the spread of "asshole"—both have spiked since the 1970s.) How to distinguish an asshole
from a scumbag, a jerk, a prick, or a schmuck? Assholes are systematic. We all do assholeish things, but only an asshole feels fully justified in always acting like an asshole. As James puts it, "If one is special on one's birthday, the asshole's birthday comes every day."

To put meat on the bones of his theory, James names names. He was loath to do it. "I don't see my job in life being the asshole police," he says. But after a few pages of throat clearing—"We happily admit that any examples are properly controversial ... we stand ready to update and revise"—he walks us through the "teeming asshole ecosystem."
(A Social Offender for Our Times). That should suffice as an introduction, however, it should be said that The Toxins of Power Blog will not stop at the "teeming asshole ecosystem" here on Earth.

No, because traditionally we have framed our searches to consider even the heavens for the source of the toxins of power (see e.g. A Religious Doctrine For Toxins of Power and Is Toxic Power A Cosmic Phenomenon?).

Thus, in this series we will follow the scholars as they examine one asshole after another, especially when they name names:
To put meat on the bones of his theory, James names names ... Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore ... Richard Dawkins, Larry Summers, and Bernard-Henri Lévy ... Dick Cheney ... Ralph Nader ... [Ann Coulter, Karl Rove] There are many species in the asshole kingdom.
(ibid, see also Assholes: a theory). Stay tuned like a piano dear readers, because this new ongoing hypothesis will likely be morphed into a hypothesis of phases.

That is, this hypothesis may show that the first phase of the activation of the toxins of power is related to the advent of asshole characteristics (see Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism).

Yes, the experiment may indeed turn out to be an exercise of noticing the phenomenon that a particular individual in one of the many seats of power is becoming an asshole.

That would be the time to check for the toxins of power in that asshole.

An ode to assholes:


Anonymous said...

My lady told me that Lindsay Graham was an asshole before he decided to become an asshole.

Dredd said...

There is a difference between an anus and an asshole, but it is technical.