Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why ARE People Jerks... A Somewhat More Thoughtful Analysis

OK, so I've calmed down from my rude-snow-blower-neighbor rant of a few days ago. We got another 4 inches or so last night, and this time the dude actually refrained from blowing all of his snow onto my walkway. Don't know if he's suddenly developed a conscious, or perhaps my rant somehow traveled through the troposphere and permeated his psyche.

At any rate, the episode did get me to thinking... Why are people such jerks?

I suppose this is one of those existential questions that never really has a satisfactory answer, but I can't help but think that so much of the jerkliness that we see on display these days really has much more to do with the way we've all been taught to process (or, more accurately, to not process) our emotions in this society, than it does with the specific situations that tend to provoke the jerkly behavior.

I mean it's clear to me that people who act in a callous, entitled, self-righteous manner are usually acting out some emotion that has very little to do with the situation at hand.

I once saw an interview with Dick Cheney- the king of jerkly behavior - or actually, maybe it was Karl Rove... well, 6 one half dozen the other. Anyhow, whichever it was, he was asked what role government should play in people's lives. I can't remember the response in it's entirety, but he said something like "government should get off people's backs." It's too bad I have no idea where I saw this, because I'd love to show the video clip. It wasn't what he said that struck me... getting rid of government regulations, and well, government in general, is a pretty standard conservative talking point. What got me was the emotion behind the statement.

I mean, I'm sure that Mr. Cheney is angry, and I'm sure that the emotion is very real. What I have a hard time believing is that the feeling really has anything to do with government regulations.

Seems much more likely to me that it's just something he's glommed onto because it's easier to express rage about government regulations than it is to deal with whatever's really going on inside of him.

I suppose there's also a corollary to the question: "Why are people jerks?" ...

... and that is: "Why does it bother me?"

I mean, does shoveling a little bit of extra snow really have much of an impact on my life? Um... no.

Does it bring up lots of childhood emotions about my older brother who got away with never doing any chores because he was my mother's favorite, while I felt like the household "Cinderella"? BIG TIME!!

But really, it's sooooo much easier to rant and rave about the fucktard with the snow blower than it is to deal with the anger and hurt left over from my less-than-rosy childhood. (Fucktard is my new favorite word, BTW.)

And I really don't think that this is a problem unique to me, or Dick Cheney, or fucktards with snow blowers. I think we just live in a society that has all sorts of ridiculous rules about what people are and aren't supposed to feel. Unfortunately, our emotions are our emotions, and they don't just go away because they're inconvenient, or uncomfortable, or disapproved of by society.

I mean, when you really look at it, an enormous amount of our collective energy is drained away just trying to avoid things that we don't want to feel. We buy things that we don't need, or really even want, because we're trying to fill up some empty feeling inside.

We run ourselves ragged with work, and household chores, and other forms of irrational perfectionism because we're terrified that if we stop for a moment, all of those "other" feelings will surface and we'll have to deal with them.

Photo by stuant63 on Flickr
We try, and try, and try to attain the perfect body, or clothes, or hairstyle, or house, or husband, or whatever, all in the doomed belief that if we can just get things to "look right" on the outside, somehow we'll magically "feel right" in the inside.

And the truth is... it's all just a big pile of horse puckey! There's just no way to outrun, avoid, overpower or pretend our way out of our feelings. The only way to deal with it all is to really deal with it head on.

I know that's all easier said than done. LORD, do I know it! I mean it's not like I'm some paragon of emotional acceptance and self actualization. But I do think we'd all be a lot better off if we spent a bit more time dealing with what's going on inside of us and less time on things like, say, ranting about fucktards with snow blowers.

Just sayin'...


  1. Yes! Fucktard! I've been preferring douche bag lately myself. And douchey for an adjective.

    Its totally difficult not to let others get you down. There's just too much animosity and anger out there and not enough caring and understanding. Especially on the road. The anger will only continue to get worse as shit continues to hit the fan. As more people loose their jobs, products become more expensive, gas prices rise, and people fail to pay their mortgages. Scary times ahead... think Road Warrior. But then again, I'm a pessimist.

    1. Ha! Well, I fear we are in for a great deal of fan-shit-hitting given the way things seem to be going. Infinite opportunities for being both a douche bag and a fucktard! Wouldn't it be easier if people just took a tiny bit of that energy and channeled it toward something productive? Sigh.

  2. I think this is a common theme of your blog -- that we end up making all sorts of crappy decisions for the planet and ourselves because we can't face our real emotional issues, and you're right. Emotional integrity is not a strong point for me, and I fear Kevin gets the brunt of it whenever he unwittingly steps into a land mine of unresolved childhood issues. Things have gotten a better over the years as I've improved my ability to identify why I'm upset (and understand that my behavior has an irrational, emotional basis), but I know I'm sometimes still a jerk.

    1. I fear I am a bit of a broken record on this topic, and I think the reason it's such a common theme for me is that I'm so guilty of the behavior myself. I mean, every time I rant and rave about things that people should do, I'm really talking to myself.

      The thing is, while I recognize that I'm not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination, I've also been able (with a LOT of help from CatMan) to face up to enough of my own stuff to actually reap some of the benefits. And it's not just being less of a jerk (although that's a biggie.) I've also observed that when I try to express an emotion by acting it out, I get totally stuck. I guess some part of me knows that the situation at hand isn't really what I'm upset about, so the upset feelings just linger and never get resolved.

      And I suppose on some level, strong feelings from the past never really "go away," but I don't think that's the goal. The goal is to stop letting them mess up your life in the present. And really... life is SOOOO much better when you stop sabotaging yourself at every turn. I guess this is just my way of shouting it from the proverbial rooftops in the hopes that someone out there might somehow reap some of the rewards too.

  3. I agree with you 100%! Oh and I love fucktard. My boys say that and I can't even get mad because I find it so funny. It's one of my favorite words now too :)

    1. Ha! It just rolls off the tongue so nicely, doesn't it? :~)

  4. It's so hard not to let them get you down. (and by the way, he is a total jerk to bury your door like that!) You do an awesome job of figuring out why you are truly annoyed though. Hopefully the snow will melt sooner than later and you can wait to be annoyed with the hired help again when it's time to blow leaves. Just kidding!

    Your rant totally cracked me up and that FB baby that has been posted and re-posted with a million different sayings? He makes me grin every time!

    1. Ha! Well, I'm sure I can find SOMEBODY to be annoyed with! But actually, I'd be thrilled if they all dumped their leaves on me, since it would save me having to run up and down the alley salvaging bags of them from the garbage... they make wonderful compost! :~)

  5. I know that for me a lot of my anger about how people behave is because I go to great lengths not to inconvenience other people, whereas many of them couldn't give a fart about inconveniencing me (or anyone else). I would LOVE (or maybe I wouldn't, really) to be able to sweep through life doing whatever the hell I liked and damn the consequences to others, but I just can't. So why the hell should they be able to? It simply is not fair.
    Also - you can tell I've mulled this over a time or two, can't you? - there's that nagging doubt left over from childhood that I'm not entitled to be angry. Of course I also know that as an adult I *am*, so I do, but I do it in a petulant, whiny sort of way that automatically puts me in the wrong, even if what I'm cross about is perfectly justified. I'm hoping all this will go away, but no luck so far.

    1. HI cj,

      Thanks so much for commenting.

      "...there's that nagging doubt left over from childhood that I'm not entitled to be angry." Oh man, do I understand that one!

      I spent a huge amount of my childhood being furiously angry, but never being allowed to express it, or being told that I "shouldn't" feel it. I think the result was I ended up with a bunch of anger looking for a home. So, as an adult, I find myself constantly looking for some injustice that will somehow justify the emotion that's already there. Generally, though, the injustice du jour merits about a 1 or 2 on the annoyance scale, but I feel it as a 9 or 10 because suddenly there's a justifiable home for all that other lingering anger.

      But the truth is, of course, that the whole concept of being "justified" in feeling something is ridiculous. I mean, you feel what you feel, and you don't exactly get a choice in the matter. I think the trick is coming to terms with all of that childhood stuff, and actually allowing yourself to be angry about the things you're really angry about so you can respond to the here and now with the emotions that are truly triggered by the here and now, not with the leftovers from childhood.

      If only doing it was as easy as saying it...

  6. Dude, I love fucktard and fuckstick. Such fabulous descriptives!

    I am totally on board with you regarding avoidance behavior. I think that's a huge part of many addictions as well. Running from that unpleasant emotion into the arms of some escape--heroin, booze, shopping, whatevs.

    Yet I also think that sometimes my hating of savagery simply has to do with the fact that I was raised in the Midwest, where kindness is a required norm. You can actually lose your job for being rude where I'm from, whereas out in LA, nobody gives a shit. It's a cultural thing, the want of kindness. Or so me thinks.

    I also think there are times when people simply are fucktards and it ain't about our past hurts. I mean, yeah, me getting pissed off 'cuz Sookie is something that people know about? Kind of silly to care about that. And yeah, I had a shitty childhood (who didn't?), but I don't think that fuels my rage over corporations abusing workers or our apathy and fiscal sponsorship of it. I think some shit is simply wrong and if we stopped aching over our own pains and took a minute to look outside of ourselves, we'd all be up in arms. Or maybe not. Maybe we would remain apathetic? I wonder.

    1. Hmmm... well you totally lost me with the Sookie part... Google says it's something about vampires?!? help?

      Anyhow, I think there are times when it's perfectly reasonable to get pissed off. Like, for example when the supreme court decides that corporations are uber humans who get to have dominion over us all. I think the trick is figuring out which things are real assaults, and which are just pushing a button that was installed long ago.

    2. BTW - In terms of different cultural ideas about politeness... when I went to school in upstate NY, everybody made a big deal about the "school tradition" of saying "hello" when you pass someone walking along one of the campus paths. I guess people from NYC thought this was a very odd thing, so it must be something unique to this school and cooked up by the university. My general response was huh? I couldn't imagine passing a stranger on a path anywhere, and NOT saying hello!

  7. Sorry! ha! Snookie! Or whatever that bronzed creature is on the TV on that Jersey Shore show. Apparently I shouldn't get too irritated over folks knowing about her, 'cuz I can't even get her name right.

    Dude, yes! Say hello to people! I get that out here in Long Beach, but lordy lordy, it's so strange in other areas of LA & Orange Counties. No eye contact, etc. Just weird. But, um, yeah, people from NYC always think politeness is freaky. :P ha! ha! I KID NEW YORKERS I KID (not really).

    1. Jersey Shore show? I think the fact that I live under a cabbage leaf may be showing...

  8. Hi, how are you? Just been reading on topics about jerks. It is apparent that there are more and more of them in this selfish, cold world we live in today. There’s so much anger around that is caused by these jerks who cannot even grasp basic social etiquette that should be taught from the home.

    It is disheartening that the society has stooped to this level. Also, there are a number of ‘bottroffs’ around (bottroff is a slang-term for a person who is naturally angry all the time, and is a jerk towards others who does not deserve it) who adds to the problem here, and it makes calm people tensed about this.

    There are those who still practice social etiquette. Without them, this world would be more of a down-rotten place to live in. Many thanks towards you lovely people.

  9. Hey there - I love your blog. Your pics are too funny! And I love the way that they emphasize your writing.

    I've been thinking a lot about this topic lately. I've recently left a job where the people were unbelievably awful. The behavior of both the adults and the children at my daughter's school are equally as unbelievable. I could go on with other examples, but I am left asking ????? *why* ????? I cannot make sense of it.

    Your post has helped a lot. I will remember Uncle Dick when I have to deal with such people. Also, I'm reading a book titled.... are ya ready for it... Is the American Dream Killing You, and the author said our society has become so based on money that we don't see others as neighbors anymore but rather competitors. (I wish I had a snap of the baby with the fist right now....) If we see others not as friends, neighbors, or just plain human beings but rather as folks are standing in between me and what I want, well, no wonder folks are so rude. It seemed to make sense to me.

    Thanks for you post!

    1. Awww... thanks for such a sweet comment! To tell the truth, sometimes I think blogging is really just a big excuse for me to waste lots of hours scouring the interwebs in search of silly graphics.

      I can totally sympathize with people acting like idiots for no particular reason. I spent 16 years working at a folk music school - peace, love, and all that good stuff... hard to think of a situation more suited to people getting along. Did they? Nope! The politics of that place were incredible! It all led me to the conclusion that people will fight over ANYTHING.

      Anyhow, thanks for your comment and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I may have to see if I can find that book at the library - sounds like a good read... or at least one that would reinforce the beliefs I already have! :-)


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