Sunday, November 08, 2015

Practical advice on your path to becoming a huge arsehole

So I promised to guide you in the task of being an arsehole, and typically for me, instead I talked about myself and neglected to do what I'd offered.

Which is lesson one, really.

There are of course different types of arsehole. There are your irredeemable types: thieves, killers, rapists. But these are not the arseholes you're looking for. To be any of these things you really need to be a full-blown sociopath who simply doesn't care a less about other people because you're made that way. In fact, can you even be considered an arsehole if you're not making a choice? There surely has to be the notion that you know better. I do believe that it's central to arseholery that you have a sense you are a precious flower who the rules don't quite apply to, rather than that you don't even know what the rules are.

The quickest route to being an arsehole is to do things you know are wrong: punch your wife, take a stick to your kids, tie up your dog and hit it repeatedly until it is crying with pain. Only full-blown sociopaths don't know these are wrong acts and feel no remorse for them. They're arseholery but the bottom line is, everyone knows it. You can't pretend to yourself that you are that special person you know yourself to be.

Personally, I have never done any of those things and never would. I'm far too precious for that. I would at least like some style points for my arseholery. You're probably the same. You might even have some notion of a scoresheet: you do enough good, it will balance out your failings. But gross acts of cruelty cannot be cancelled out, so you end up something more than an arsehole. You end up having to conclude you are an irredeemable cunt. Which is an uncomfortable feeling, I daresay.

And you miss a nuance of arseholery that the true fucking arsehole insists on: your victims know for sure that they do not deserve what you're doing. They know just as well as you do that you're doing the wrong thing. Well, where's the fun in that? You need another layer, a deeper subtlety, that only the to-the-bone arsehole can delight in. You need your victims to feel guilty about what you're doing. If you are particularly adept, one of the victims will be yourself. You'll never quite be sure whether you are doing the right thing, although you'll keep telling yourself you're trying to. And you'll have an uneasy sense of guilt about it, a nagging sense of ill-ease that won't go away. But you have to be really good at it to achieve that and most arseholes are amateurs who are not really good at anything and cannot hope to be.

So how do you achieve this nuanced arseholery that really hurts other people? There are many ways and I'll outline a few for you. If you find yourself doing these things -- and for some reason want not to be an arsehole -- then stop doing them.

Make promises lightly without any consideration of whether you'll keep them. On a Sunday, promise your child you will take them somewhere midweek, then have something "pop up". The arseholery isn't in having to break your promise: sometimes things pop up, that's understandable. It's in making the promise without even thinking about what might pop up. The delicious nuance here is that the child thinks they are not as important as the thing that popped up, that it's their fault they trusted you to do what you said you would, that they deserve to be neglected because really they're not that important to you.

Repurpose good acts. This is expert level so bear with me. Everyone likes to be shown love. (Unless you are a huge gaping twat, in which case you may prefer "respect" and you might even say things like "better they respect me than love me", which is wrong and if you think that, you not only have love wrong, you also have respect wrong. Respect is not earned. Whoever told you that is a fool. It can be lost but it isn't earned in the first place. You respect people because they are worth something intrinsically. You respect their space, their safety, their desire to have things for themselves because these are essentials to a happy life. And if you don't want other people to be happy, you're an arsehole.) A good way to show love to others is to be affectionate -- not always of course: there are some among us who don't enjoy being touched and that's okay -- you show them love in other ways, beginning with respecting their touchophobia and not making them feel bad about it, which in itself is a  super way of being an arsehole -- have a child who doesn't like hugs? Fuck 'em, make them hug you anyway. Revel in their feeling of discomfort and more importantly the sense you are growing in them that they are wrong, not normal. But we are not talking about this simple arseholery. We are looking for something more subtle: using cuddles as currency.

A good father will sometimes need to berate his children. There's probably a golden mean somewhere between not bothering (which makes you an arsehole because you are neglecting the child) and being constantly on the kid's case, a leering, looming presence that tries to inculcate moral lessons by instilling fear (and seriously, what better way of producing your own mini arseholes than imbuing them with a moral code that is based on fear of punishment, rather than a desire for reward?). After you have berated them, a quick cuddle demarcates the lecture from the normal course of your warm and loving relationship.

We all lose our temper and shout at a recalcitrant child from time to time. That's just how it goes. I mean, maybe you don't ever, have never, and if so, congratulations. (Unless the reason you never get upset is you just don't care enough about what anyone else does, in which case, you may be an arsehole.) I don't think you need to beat yourself up for it and it doesn't make you an arsehole. It's a wrong thing but you recognise that and you say sorry to the child, demarcate it from the rest of your relationship and move on.

However, this model can be repurposed. Junior-level arseholes will let the child know there is no demarcation between their anger and everyday life. First, they yell at the child for its stupidity, its clumsiness, its poverty of moral rectitude, and then they will maintain an angry disposition, a mood, for some time after. The higher achievers will find it possible to extend a mood for days, weeks, an entire relationship if they try hard enough. The child is faced with curtness, gloominess, demands for silence and so on. And they are confused. At first, they believed they had infracted a code they don't understand in some minor way. They must have done right? A person who loves them wouldn't be yelling at them and calling them stupid if they hadn't done something wrong, even if the person isn't really explaining what it is. But as the mood extends, the child starts to feel that the infraction must have been more serious. The parent is exhibiting an extended trauma.

(Quick digression on small children and how to read them for my more aspie friends. I learned this from observation and experience and it wasn't easy. You have probably noticed that small children are quite volatile. They get upset easily and their upset is expressed quite dramatically. They are signalling trauma to you because they want attention and they haven't learned well to modulate the signal to the upset. But they get over things quite quickly, usually needing not much more than a bit of reassurance, a kiss on the grazed knee, a big hug. But they do have a different way of expressing upset. An enduring sullen low mood. They reserve it for deeper emotional trauma. It's not always easy to discern because as children get older, if you model it for them, they will learn to sulk instead of storm. The key difference is that a child's sulks are generally short -- just like the storms -- and can be alleviated in the same ways. This becomes less so as they age but essentially it's true: a teen may sulk for longer and may more reassuring but their sulks are different from the expression of deeper emotional trauma.)

When a parent is sulking, the child will try to please them: to offer the kind of reassurance that would work for them. They draw you a picture. They bring you a flower. They are quiet when you ask them to be. But for this kind of arsehole, that doesn't work. They carry on sulking. Nothing can alleviate the mood. So the child begins to fear that the parent is psychically damaged by something they have done. The child is forced to be guilty and it doesn't really know what it's supposed to be guilty about.

This is just the junior level though. You can go one higher. When you are sulking, the child will try to show you affection. You're hurting; it caused it. It wants to make it better. It knows that emotional hurts are eased with affection. So it will come to give you a cuddle. Shrug that bitch off. Let it know you don't welcome affection. If you're a master, tell it, Don't bother me.

This is how you get to the next level. But you are not quite a master. To achieve the eighth dan in affection arseholery, you must do this. Give children grudging affection or affection they don't really welcome. Coerce them to sit on your lap, to cuddle up with you on the couch when they don't really want to. Hug them tighter when they're stiff as boards. Do things that for other kids would be delightful but for them are unpleasant or ambiguous. Kiss them on the lips instead of the cheek. Tickle them until they cry and beg you to stop. When they're bathing, scrub them a bit too hard so they're not sure whether you're angry with them. Unexpectedly smack them, then grab them in a rough cuddle and on release tell them, Don't do it again, so that the demarcation between harshness and warmth isn't clear.

But don't stop there. Once you have ensured most of your affection is grudging or unwelcome, paint yourself to others as a warm and loving person. Make sure people see you do these things so that they, like the child, are never quite sure what is motivating you. If you are adept, you can pass yourself off as a fundamentally kind person with a bit of a problem with impulse control. You are special, which we noted in the first part is the cause and aim of arseholery. But what you are is an arsehole of the highest order.

Don't stop there! A child treated this way is merely confused and unable to process the ambiguity of your behaviour. But you can do worse.

We mentioned smacking. Of course hitting someone you love is the mark of an arsehole. It's unambiguously wrong and you should feel bad if you do it. You are conveying a message to the person you love that the currency of love is violence, that your feeling of love is transmitted to them as pain. Or worse, you are informing them that you do not love them at all. I say worse, but I truly believe that the saddest outcome of parenting is a child who desperately loves you and is forced to try to rationalise the violence you visit on them, that this actually is love. But that is the risk in simply hitting people you love. They might come to believe that you do not in fact love them at all and consequently exclude violence as the currency of love. They stop thinking you're special and just think you're some cunt who hits them all the time.

And you're better than that. You can achieve arseholery without leaving a mark and you can unambiguously destroy love as a feeling for your children. Sounds great hey? But how do you do that?

Not just make them fear you: hitting can achieve that. Not just control them: there are ways to control kids that don't involve being an arsehole and if you actually cared about them you'd have learned what those are (but of course, you cannot do that because you are special and there's no way anyone could actually teach you anything -- it's a curious fact about us that the smarter we are, the more we come to believe others might know more than us, and the dumber we are, the less: the most stupid among us believe they know everything already, and lack the awareness -- probably because it is deeply humbling -- that there are so many things to know, so many different ways to know, that you cannot possibly have all the answers).

What you do is make your relationship coercive. You make those bitches fear you. You make them afraid when you enter a room, afraid that they will upset you, afraid that they will do a wrong thing they cannot predict beforehand, afraid that they will displease you. Because this is the height of arseholery, the pinnacle, that you are the centre not only of your own universe but of everyone else's within your world. This precludes respect so don't respect your children. Don't respect their space, their needs, their fears. Encroach on them when you want to. Give them what you feel like at the lowest cost to you. Make them afraid. Force them to listen to you. They want to run and play but you haven't finished yelling at them? Make those bitches sit like dogs. Yank them into a chair and stand right in front of them. Get your face near to theirs (like dogs, most children do not like faces near theirs, they fear you will bite them -- if you can manage a bit of spittle at this point, it's doubly effective, saliva signals a drooling mouth, one that will shortly bite -- unfortunately, the lesson you are hoping to impart, if you in fact have something you are trying to impart rather than just expressing your own impotence and rage, will be lost on the child because their reptile brain will have taken over -- having a large animal loom before them that is giving signs of preparing to bite, while they are completely unable to escape, will induce elemental terror, deep fear that is entirely instinctual and cannot be assuaged by rationality -- see how this is truly the master level of arseholery? You are not just hurting a child -- you are hurting it in the core of its being). Make threatening gestures that they can't be sure aren't going to turn into slaps. Cow them. Let them know how small they are and how big you are.

Now I'm not saying restraining a child is always wrong. Most of these sorts of behaviour are within limits fine. The arseholery lies in exploiting that ambiguity. For instance, if a very small child is having a temper tantrum, sometimes it's the right thing to do to hug them tight. This keeps them safe and allows them a steady warm presence to get their bearings from. And those trained in dealing with autistic kids will be aware that there is a safe method of holding a child who is having a meltdown and it is sometimes desirable to deploy it. This is something you are doing for them though. But when you use physical force to make a child be somewhere, you are not doing it for them. You are doing it for you. Even if you convince yourself that the high-volume moral lesson you are imparting, which you want them to sit still for, is truly improving for them you are forcing them to listen for your sake. Perhaps you should reconsider the strength of your moral lessons. If they were that compelling, you would not need to force children to listen to them, right? (But of course, if you want to be an arsehole, you are going to need to acquire the belief that your moral sense is absolutely unimpeachable, that you unerringly know what's right and the more forcefully you share that unquestionable moral sense with children, the less likely they will be to do the "wrong thing" -- and let's face it, children do the "wrong thing" very often -- how could they not? They have excellent role models who are displaying precisely the kind of behaviour we deplore in them. It never ceases to astonish me that people who wish to raise children to be honest, loyal, kind and peaceable adults think the best way is to achieve it is to lie to them, betray them, be unkind to them and be aggressive towards them. We have probably all found ourselves saying from time to time, Do what I say not what I do. But that's one lesson a child will never learn.

One of the most powerful ways to let someone know you control them is to control their space. We send children to their room because we are delimiting the space they can inhabit as well as letting them know we don't want them near us. We can make them come to us so we can talk to them. This is fairly benign. We make them inhabit a particular space to demonstrate our control and the tone is properly set for expressing something to them. In fact, I think that you can clearly demarcate types of interaction by manipulating space. If you are planning to indulge the children in your fine moral wisdom, make them come to you. If you are reassuring them when they are upset, or giving them something a bit less Victorian, go to them (don't invade their space if they signal to you not to, however, and never force affection on them: as we noted, that's what arseholes do -- and yes, this does not just apply to children: imposing sex on a woman is the same kind of arseholery -- and we're not talking you just rape her, boys; we're talking about making her feel she has to; guilting her, carrying on when she is clearly not into it but won't say no, pretending consent is enduring rather than episodic -- it's not your fucking entitlement, bro, it's hers: she is entitled to have sex if she wants to, not obliged to because you want to).

But these things are benign and you want to cause pain. Here's a good way. I have done it once in my life and I'm deeply ashamed of myself for it. I learned then how painful it is and how undesirable. Back then, I didn't want to think of myself as an arsehole so I seared the lesson into what I try to pass off as a conscience.

Well, before I do, let's have a think about the concept of space. We understand it on the animal level and lots of how we manipulate it and use it is quite unthinking. Earlier I was talking to Ally, expounding a theory, and I stopped and realised, she had her back to the back door and I was quite close to her. I had "invaded her space". In a benign way, to be sure, and she wasn't showing any signal of alarm. But I had instinctually tried to reinforce the importance to me of what I was saying by crowding her.

I don't think that makes me an arsehole (plenty of other things so I'm excusing that!). I think it's something we understand in each other without feeling it as coercive or ugly. People talk with their heads together. They get close to one another to talk intimately. They position themselves dominantly or submissively depending how they see their roles in conversations. We naturally manipulate space as a paralinguistic tool and I think that's fine. Even things like putting up your hand to signal stop and saying "no wait" when you want someone not to interrupt you are only a little bit arseholey. (I know I sometimes do that and when I think about it, I realise the held-out palm does not just say "stop talking" -- it is intruding into the intrapersonal space and it is also saying "do not move".)

If you want to be an arsehole, dominating space in conversations is not enough. You can certainly get to a low level if you loom over people, if you're intrusive, if you gesture in ambiguous, perhaps slightly threatening ways. And you can certainly be a fucktard by baring your teeth and thrusting your head into someone's space, as men often do when preparing to fight -- this unambiguous invasion of space is meant to provoke the fight or flight reaction (the same reaction that instils the deep terror children feel when restrained by someone shouting at them) and is often coupled by other intrusions into personal space such as pushing. I've often thought that it's wrong to feel that the person who throws the first punch begins a fight -- very often the person they punched began it with the intrusion of space.

So you could push a person or grab them, to intrude into personal space, and at the same time control or change the space someone inhabits. Why push your wife?

Well, you are not just intruding in her personal space, which is always arseholey when not welcome. We're not always clear on this. If you lean into kiss your missus, and she flinches or raises her hand as if to say, no thanks, get the fuck out of her space stat. Unless you want to be an arsehole. Then you need to go ahead and kiss her and if you want to put sauce on it, go "Oh come on" as though to tell her that wanting personal space is the crime here, not intruding on it. Oh that delicious feeling of confusion you give her, as she attempts to process whether she should in fact feel guilty for resisting your intrusion. (BTW, ladies, no you shouldn't. Your personal space should be respected when you want it to be respected, period. That is fundamental and anyone who suggests to you that it isn't is just wrong, probably an arsehole.)

You are also changing the space she inhabits, exhibiting control over where she is physically located. This is psychically painful for us. Studies have shown that being unable to control your environment leads to stress: in some cases, to sick building syndrome. Office workers are stressed because they cannot control the temperature in the office. Windows are much better than aircon in the temperate world. You are unambiguously demonstrating to her that you can decide whether she stands or lies on the ground, whether she is here or there. You provoke the fight or flight response in her, as her underlying brain begins the process of getting its body somewhere it can control its space.

Delicious arseholiness. But don't stop there.

When she tries to flee, as most will -- after all, you were only able to push her to the ground or slam her into the wall because you're stronger than her, and more importantly, regardless your relative strengths, you are more aggressive. When stressed, and your fight or flight response is provoked, you are not as strongly conditioned as she is towards flight; you are more willing to impose physically, whereas a woman is conditioned by society to believe herself physically weak and to prefer flight -- block her exit. Stand by the door. Now you control her. Now the bitch has to listen to every fucking word you want to yell at her. She cannot avoid it. You choose for her the space she inhabits. It's better than deciding which house she lives in (I remember being strongly moved by the story of B's sister, whose husband, an exemplar of an arsehole who certainly wouldn't need the lessons I have to offer, when they were thinking about maybe moving, sold the house they were living in and bought a new one without telling her -- he simply told her one day that they were moving to another suburb, start packing, I'm "going to the gym" (he wasn't going to the gym as such because some time before he had met a woman at the actual gym and by this point, "going to the gym" meant he was going round to her house for sex). Now it may amaze you to learn they're still married but it shouldn't -- when a man is this coercive, this controlling, a woman doesn't feel she has the power to leave him -- it's her fault he fucks other women, it's her fault he shouts at her, it's her fault he has her by the throat -- there is just no way to empower yourself to leave a husband who sells your family home without consulting you) and it's better than trying to coerce her into living in a particular area of town.

It's the ultimate. You have a terrified, panicking human being who wants nothing more than not to be in the space with you -- in that moment, it is their greatest desire, the only thing they want, they have completely lost track of what it was that provoked your rage in the first place, all they can think is "run run run", the adrenaline has shut their thinking brains down -- in fact, you do not even have a human being, you have someone you have reduced to nothing more than an animal consumed with pain and fear.

Only an arsehole would not step aside and let that poor creature gain relief. Only a huge fucking arch-arsehole of the worst kind, a contemptible worm, barely worthy of the proud name "man".

I have been that worm once, just once. It haunts me to this day. I say I'm a fucking arsehole because I know I cannot lie to myself. I did that. I didn't push, hit or otherwise physically hurt my gf. I just wouldn't let her leave a room. And I was introduced to an abyss that I could pour my moral sense into and annihilate it.

Now. You say you want to be an arsehole. And you are. But how are you able to look into that abyss and know that it is all you are?


At 3:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy wall of text, Batman.

Just noticed this MB. Will get to reading it, if I feel the need to procrastinate :).


At 3:42 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

It's fairly easy reading, Dan. I think you'll enjoy (some of) it.


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