Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Philosopher Aaron James discusses the phenomenon of the asshole—a person with an entrenched sense of entitlement and feeling of superiority—and gives us, the more cooperative members of society, some hints at identifying and dealing with those who routinely inconvenience us while rarely giving us a second thought.
Has American culture with its emphasis on individualism produced an upsurge in assholes? James would argue that it certainly hasn’t helped. The “dampening effects” of family, religion, and a societal emphasis on working toward the collective good seem to be waning. The “Cable News Asshole” fans the flames of discord to create smokescreens of division (where none may actually exist) so that other assholes may flourish. A most telling example comes from the “Delusional Asshole Banker” who after taking billions of dollars in bail-out money due to his reckless behavior asks what his bonus will be. He then argues that the government bailed him out because he is “smart” and worthy of special treatment. Assholes in political office reinforce this dysfunctional mindset through legislation which rewards future asshole behaviors.
James cautions that no amount of discourse will change an asshole’s narcissistic outlook, so convinced he is of his moral superiority. At best, cooperative people can publicly state their objections concerning the asshole’s boorish behaviors to encourage their fellow sufferers that they aren’t alone in feeling incensed/slighted and hope for the best. Assholes: A Theory is the definitive survival guide for life in the twenty-first century.
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