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being an asshole is relative and subjective  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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I was just reading in another thread about how important it is to get rid of somebody who is an asshole.  The funny thing is: can anybody point at somebody and say "asshole" without being an asshole?  In other words, would a perfectly pleasant person ever call anybody an asshole?

I suspect that John Wilkes Booth thought Abraham Lincoln was an asshole.

I suspect there was a long line of people that thought Gandhi was an asshole.  Same goes for Martin Luther King Jr.

If some of the greatest folks we've ever known were qualified assholes, then does that suggest that we need assholes? 

I can tell you that thousands of people have made it clear to me that they think I'm an asshole.  And I am totally cool with that.  If I lived my life in a way to avoid being called an asshole by nimrods then I would accomplish very little that is of interest to me. 

I tend to keep the company of people that think I'm cool - and not an asshole.

When we talk about community, I do think it is important to recognize who is making community life sucky.  But let's also keep in mind that when things are less than smooth ... that when surrounded by assholes, the real asshole is yourself. 

Frankly, I completely embrace living large and expecting that 90% or more of the population would consider me an asshole.  The idea of living my life under the yoke of "do as I say or I will call you an asshole" is preposterous to me.




 
George Lafayette
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It has been the experience of our group that getting rid of assholes rarely achieves its desired objective. Seems like there is one in every group, and when you get rid of one, another emerges.  I know, it seems counter-intuitive, but I've seen it happen too.

The thing that is indisputable is that in every group there is someone who is the biggest asshole. And if you get rid of them, then you are one closer to being the biggest asshole.

I'd also like to point out that one of the great strengths of a group is that you have all the different abilities and talents. So if you have an asshole in your group, you might find that they can be very useful in dealing with .... the cable company. Or the DMV. We had one person who was a genius at dealing with bureaucrats, although most of us couldn't stand to spend much time with that person.  Given the opportunity I've seen lots of people 'find their niche' in a community - the place where their unique ability can be best used for the group.

If you get a chance, watch 'L'auberge espagnole' a French comedy about a group of students living together in an apartment in Barcelona. You will see how the character who is clearly the biggest asshole in the entire film also is, for a few minutes, one of the biggest heroes.   To me, that is life in an IC - if you wait long enough, everyone gets to be a hero, at least for a little while.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Depends on exactly what you mean by asshole. I would have no compunction whatever in ousting a thief or abusive person, and I emphatically deny that that makes me an asshole!

If you're talking about behavior that some (or many) find obnoxious, then I think it depends on the view that the obnoxious person takes of her/himself. If, like Paul, the person can admit the impact s/he can have on other people, and is willing to moderate it to some extent, that's one thing - a total inability to admit that other people's feelings might have some basis in fact - well, I tend to think that such a person is not a good community prospect.
 
paul wheaton
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You will see how the character who is clearly the biggest asshole in the entire film also is, for a few minutes, one of the biggest heroes.


Excellent point!
 
paul wheaton
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jacque g wrote:
Depends on exactly what you mean by asshole


I think my point is that "asshole" is subjective and relative.  Basically, anybody that points to another and says "asshole", then the person being pointed at is an asshole.

And, I suggest, that the person doing the pointing is also an asshole. 

Some assholes might be worse than others. 

I have another point to suggest:  most assholes are born from nasty people demanding that a person do as they say.  And when do-er does not do as they are told, then the nasty person points and says "asshole".  It is in this case that I entirely relish being an asshole.  If asshole means that I am not the personal bitch of others, then I embrace the role of "asshole".

 
jacque greenleaf
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"Some assholes might be worse than others. "

Oh, this is definitely true. Some people, you just roll your eyes, and groan when necessary, but accept that into every life, an asshole must fall sooner or later.

Others, well - it would be nice to have an extra planet handy.
 
                                  
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Opinions are like assholes. Everybody's got one and everyone thinks everyone else's stinks."

pretty fitting i thought!
 
Fred Winsol
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from my limited experience with community living:

One one side there needs to be a 'governing board' preferably more than one person to brainstorm + be sounding boards; that do the heavy lifting.
On the other side there should be NO 'democracy' of consensus, cuz some people (could be a majority) are just plain ignorant on issues. sound familiar?

Leaving the big decisions of community living to a consensus type 'vote' is a sure-fire way to end community living!  AND,  the initial vision/mission,  planning + developing MUST be done be a core brain-trust and not voted on by every (nice + well-intentioned) yahoo involved.
 
Brice Moss
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paul wheaton wrote:

I tend to keep the company of people that think I'm cool - and not an asshole.




so does that mean that if I think you're an asshole but I'm allright with that we can't hang out?, cause I kinda like the sort of asshole you are
 
George Lafayette
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winsol3 wrote:
from my limited experience with community living: <snip>
On the other side there should be NO 'democracy' of consensus, cuz some people (could be a majority) are just plain ignorant on issues. sound familiar?

Leaving the big decisions of community living to a consensus type 'vote' is a sure-fire way to end community living!  <snip>

I'd like to mention - as a data point - that the group I live in has been using consensus for 42 years [our system is called "the one no vote."]  And we certainly have a broad cross section of ability, education, talent & social skills - in fact sometimes we've been known to say that if we can do it, anyone can.
 
Tyler Ludens
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AlchemistGeorge wrote:
the group I live in has been using consensus for 42 years


An intentional community lasting 42 years should get more well-known, as some people don't believe there are any successful examples of intentional communities except maybe the Amish. 

 
                                
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Hello all,

This is my first post so hopefully it is relevant. I run an unrelated online forum and view it as a community. It is not the same as an ecovillage but in some ways, managing personalities can be more challenging because the internet as a medium does not afford the same benefits of in-person communications such as inflections in speech, body language, etc. Nevertheless, I apply the same lessons I've learned with my online group in real life situations.

Our community relies heavily on referrals to determine the 'quality' of it's members. It is a private group. Anyone who joins must be referred by an existing member and that member is obligated to inform the potential member of the requirements of the community, namely to contribute and be involved and having a true desire to be part of the group. That essentially weeds out 99% of the bad apples.

How the community functions is determined by the group as a whole. There are no rules, except that actual physical threats of violence equates to expulsion. Everything else is fair game. Members are free to say whatever they want to whomever they want. The flip side is that other members can do the same.  This lack of rules creates a self-regulating nature. The community finds its own balance. Previously, we had moderators and we had rules. I've found that generally speaking, people hate it when they are told what they can and cannot do. They hate it even more when some person tells them they can't do something. It causes animosity which leads to 'sides' being formed. I have seen it happen in numerous online forums and witnessed personal relationships (other people's) self-destruct because of it. So in some sense, I truly feel that what I've experienced online can be applied in real life.

I've also learned that any community, regardless of how informal and casual, requires a leader that is respected, preferably someone with a soft hand. I also believe that respect is afforded to everybody and is revoked when they show that that they do not deserve it- in other words, it does not have to be 'earned'. Requiring that someone needs to 'earn' respect assumes a position of superiority and is counter-intuitive to what a community is, IMO.

As to being an asshole and viewing others as assholes...well that is an even longer discussion. I will say that what is often interpreted as being an asshole is a person who thinks he/she is right but who also wants other people to agree that he/she is right. Just wanting to be right simply means that you think your opinion matters- and there's nothing wrong with that.
 
                                
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paul wheaton wrote:
 If I lived my life in a way to avoid being called an asshole by nimrods then I would accomplish very little that is of interest to me. 

I tend to keep the company of people that think I'm cool - and not an asshole.



I have finally found a home! 

Where I mightn't be banned for being an asshole.... Paul Wheaton, where have you been all my life?  <3
 
Fred Morgan
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The problem is, like most vulgarity, the term doesn't say anything except your perception.  I might be considered one because I won't bribe someone, or because I fire people for being lazy. Another person might be considered one because they rip people off.

I prefer to use truly descriptive terms, instead of body parts, to describe someone, if the need arises. That way someone knows why I don't like someone, instead of having to guess, and go with my evaluation.
 
David Biland
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I believe passionate people are sometimes labeled "Assholes".  I catch myself getting so worked up about something I am passionate (and sometimes not so knowledgeable) about and come across as a real jerk.  It isn't intentional, it just happens.  A true friend of the "asshole" should try to correct his or her behavior in a nice way.  Chances are they don't even know they are being an a-hole.
 
Kelly Rued
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I don't think I've ever known anyone who had integrity, courage, AND well-developed critical thinking skill who did not come off as an asshole sometimes. If you believe in the value of your own ideas, have the spine to espouse them publicly, and think deeply enough to question others and engage people in a dialog, that's the basic recipe for offending someone.

I think being an asshole in someone's eyes means you are being honest and open enough that people can have a decisive opinion about you one way or the other. Plus for all the people who take offense, there's always someone who will relate and like you more. It's a fast, reliable way to find like-minded (or at least open-minded enough to accept your positions as valid also) people.

The true asshole who completely ruins an online community is the person who can't express a well-supported, coherent idea without resorting to personal attacks and crap arguments/crazy claims. I've seen some smart people drag the tone of a discussion into the trash with sarcasm or insensitivity but overall I think it's the batshit not-so-smart assholes that give the rest of us a bad reputation online. I think there's the kind of gentleman-asshole that is abrasive enough to be interesting and genuine but also has enough sense to be civil and agree to disagree (rather than keep trying to steamroll their idea over everyone else's). Maybe it's just varying degrees of assholery, but I do think some assholes are socially a net positive in a community and others are more toxic than beneficial.
 
Dale Hodgins
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      During a family reunion my uncle asked me to go to the house and get all of those ass holes to help clean the shit out of grandma's barn since it was ass holes who were responsible for the mess   My cousin Doug who was wearing a rented tuxedo decided that he would get his money's worth by shoveling shit and really messing up the tux. I think that qualifies him as an asshole
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Dr. Drew Pinsky seems to think it is a clinical condition. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXvk2FqEmaE
 
Peter Ingot
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winsol3 wrote:


Leaving the big decisions of community living to a consensus type 'vote' is a sure-fire way to end community living!   AND,  the initial vision/mission,  planning + developing MUST be done be a core brain-trust and not voted on by every (nice + well-intentioned) yahoo involved.


IMO consensus works in relatively small groups of relatively like minded people. There need to be lots of different communities run different ways so everyone can find a place that suits them. What often happens is that disparate freaks, dropouts, eccentrics and normals get thrown together because they feel they have nowhere else to go.  If 2 people have radically different ideas they will either argue indefinately or the group will reach a compromise which suits neither of them  and doesn't actually allow either idea to be tested.

However if one or both of them can leave and join communities that suit them better, it can be a social experiment that will show the merits of their respective ideas.
 
Frieda Reid
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Greetings! I have just joined the site. Your photo (in the overalls) greeted me and I was grinning from ear to ear. Well, that sounded "corny". Anyway, you look awfully cool to me. Great!!! photo!!! I'm probably old enough to be your Grandma. I'm so excited at what I have already found on the forum intentional community/eco village. If someone will facilitate my message getting answered that I sent to Randall Gabriel, it would be so appreciated. I am not too savy on computers and finding my way around, but if what I have planned works out for our village, anyone, anytime can call me any name they want (almost) because I am so happy living in tune with nature and my land....you know, it doesn't even matter. Peace and Best Wishes
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul and Jocelyn discuss consensus based community and Paul's willingness to be an asshole in this podcast: podcast 110
 
Ernie Wisner
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heres what I think thieves and abusers are not assholes but folk who have a passion and wont let others piss on it are assholes Some people are just rude obnoxious boors and folks mislabel them as assholes. Me i am an ass at times but i do not believe my self to be an asshole. I do realize however that this is my perception as i am sure some have labeled me such. Ah well i agree with paul the reflection says the truth.
 
Fred Morgan
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What is funny Ernie is that I come across very nice and polite and it is true. Partly it is because I really don't care if people disagree with me. "Oh dear, someone disagrees with me who has never done a thing in their life... oh I am so upset..." :

I do remember once I shut up someone trying to get me to do something their way. I sat down with paper and did a quick business plan based on their idea with them, showing how much it would cost, the risks, etc. The cost to attempt to do it was in excess of 50K. They were very excited about it so I said. "cool, let's do it, I will provide the management experience, you provide the capital and the sweat equity, and for my part, you only have to give me 20% if it succeeds since I won't be risking any of my time or resources". They started to stutter and imply I should fund it. I just told them I have plenty of my own ideas to fund, I don't need any ideas of anyone else and I sure am not going to share with someone for only having an idea.

 
Ernie Wisner
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LOL.... you and me would be arguing about percentages not financing. I to am usually nice i just get grumpy from time to time (a eleven on the pain scale will do that to a guy). so rather than rip folks heads off i tend to just go away for a while. i figure its more constructive than arguing. surprisingly folks label me an asshole because i go away. I dont actually care that they do i just notice it on occasion. I am far to arrogant to let it bother me. *sniff*
 
Phil Hawkins
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paul wheaton wrote:In other words, would a perfectly pleasant person ever call anybody an asshole?

I choose to invoke Godwin's Law, and say that the most pleasant person you know would point at Adolf Hitler and say "That guy was an asshole".

paul wheaton wrote:I suspect that John Wilkes Booth thought Abraham Lincoln was an asshole.

Not half as much as t'other way 'round ... tehehe. I dunno, you yanks and your assassinated presidents... (Did he really just say that?!? What an asshole!)

paul wheaton wrote:... does that suggest that we need assholes?

See my previous point. I would argue that anyone that said we needed Hitler is, by definition, an even bigger asshole.

I don't think you're an asshole, Paul (neither does my Australian English spell checker - it thinks you're an arsehole though). At times, you do come off as a bit of a dick though, but in these tough times, I'd argue we need dicks. I swear there's a YouTube clip for every situation.
 
Chris Kott
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I think the issue isn't with assholes; that is simply a matter of linguistic style. I think a more pertinent issue is that of attitude and aim. If your attitude is positive and your aim is to accumulate and disseminate information and opinions so that we can all be better informed and, with that information, can try to do better in changing the way we live to be more sustainable and to be better stewards of Starship Earth, then the fact that you are abrasive is simply an article of your individual style of communication, like profanity injected for punctuation and emphasis. If you enter into the conversation as a defeated party spreading negativity, with the aim of shooting down ideas that in a more open environment might lead to further enlightenment, propagating dissent between races or genders for no better reason than bitterness, you do the work of entropy. Furthermore, I think we need assholes. I think we need the conflict, the arguments, the debate and resolution. It's like the story of the person who knew everything, knew the right answer for any question, and whose hardest task was to present it to others in such a way that they would assume they had thought of it themselves. I think we need the conflict because we need it to rebel against, to challenge us to decide what we feel is really important, to actually think about issues we'd only dismiss otherwise, buying CFLs to assuage guilty consciences without Paul to tell us how we've been tricked. Personally, I think assholes are labelled assholes, except for those who are simply jerks, because they are telling us something we don't want to hear. People don't like to admit they are wrong, that they've been tricked, even to themselves. They will wallow in their own misery, whining about how they're hard done-by, how it's not their fault, how life's not fair, and they fixate on the messages that make them feel worst, and vilify the messenger. So much easier than self-examination and correction. I think we need to be able to deal with interpersonal conflict one-on-one as a matter of personal pride. To do otherwise rapidly diminishes self-confidence, and drowns one in doubt and self-recrimination. Blessed are the Assholes, for they shall force us to examine ourselves and fix what is wrong to the betterment of all.
 
Fred Morgan
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Ernie Wisner wrote:LOL.... you and me would be arguing about percentages not financing. I to am usually nice i just get grumpy from time to time (a eleven on the pain scale will do that to a guy). so rather than rip folks heads off i tend to just go away for a while. i figure its more constructive than arguing. surprisingly folks label me an asshole because i go away. I dont actually care that they do i just notice it on occasion. I am far to arrogant to let it bother me. *sniff*


Beware negotiating with someone who watches "The Dragon's Den" as entertainment...

My response tends to be "No, go away, scat - I'm too busy to think about this."

Then of course, the last ditch, Hail Mary pass. "But, you could make a lot of money..."

Got enough money, don't need more and I am not greedy - "No, go away, scat"
 
Ernie Wisner
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My argument tends to include rum and seafood. Ive never seen anyone able to say scat with a mouth full of crab .
I just think it interesting that you can be considered and asshole by just going away or not discussing something that the labeler thinks is appropriate. It amazes me that folks can label someone for any thing; so nothing can help you not get labeled an asshole.
I think you are fine Paul and in good company.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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paul wheaton wrote:
You will see how the character who is clearly the biggest asshole in the entire film also is, for a few minutes, one of the biggest heroes.


Excellent point!


The problem is the solution.
 
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