Everyone alive has met “that guy.” The person who does what it takes to reach a goal regardless of what people around them think. Groupthink doesn’t work against (((chutzpah))). Other cultures have similar terms. A man with stones or cajones does what it takes. This has a positive aspect. The person gets referred to as a winner or a doer.
There is a negative aspect to this person as well. Nobody likes a douchebag. Yet here and now, in our triumphant age at the end of history, we are up to our necks in these douchebags. Amerika, yea, verily, has a douchebag problem.
We can only properly comprehend and appreciate the aroma of this fine bouquet of douchebags by properly describing what exactly these rectal orifices truly are. A douchebag individual pursues a goal or payoff without due reference to what others around them may experience or think.
Modern science has run short enough of PhD topics so that scientists have now quantified, qualified, and even taxonomized douchebag. It was a dirty job, but Brinkley M. Sharpe, Courtland S. Hyatt, Donald R. Lynam, and Joshua D. Miller put on the hazmat gear. Their paper was entitled “They Are Such an Asshole”: Describing the Targets of a Common Insult Among English-Speakers in the United States. We all know that sort of job is never over until the paperwork is done. The pungent abstract follows below.
Insults convey information about the speaker’s perception of the target’s personality. Previous research has found that several commonly used insults (“asshole,” “dick,” “bitch”) are uniformly associated with self- and other-reported antagonism (or low Agreeableness). We aimed to replicate and extend these findings by focusing on “asshole,” a common insult used to refer to both men and women. In the present study, participants (n = 397) described the “biggest assholes” in their lives using a measure of the Five-Factor Model of personality. “Assholes” described by participants were typically middle-aged, predominantly male, and included romantic partners, coworkers, bosses, family members, and friends. Results showed that “assholes” were perceived to be characterized by interpersonally relevant traits (i.e., low Agreeableness, high Anger). The consensus Five-Factor Model profile for target “assholes” was similar to expert profiles of psychopathic, antisocial, and narcissistic personality disorders. Exploratory analyses conducted on open-ended descriptions of nominated bothersome “asshole-related” behaviors revealed common themes including manipulation, aggression, irresponsibility, and entitlement.
This leads to the fundamental conundrum of our managerial society. We have rules and regulations that can only be traversed by the determined person. A little of this isn’t entirely bad. The Framers of The US Constitution invented checks and balances to make it hard to really run with an idea until a bunch of other people agreed that said idea was at least logically sound. A lot can be said for looking before you leap.
Then the rules proliferated, and each had fifty kids. Every point had a sub-bullet and nobody with a life could stay awake through the whole PowerPoint briefing. People no longer even knew what the rules were, much less knowing why. The smart and the lucky could get the general Zeitgeist well enough to run with it. This can rattle along until the whole thing careens into a ditch and something fundamental must change.
Getting something big changed then proves just about impossible. The red tape then chains Prometheus to the rock. The initial attempt to achieve reform involves building consensus. Some ideas get run up the flagpole. Hopes get raised. Then we all hear about how these plans hurt someone else’s fee-wings. Well, darn. I guess we all just go down with the ship and drown.
But then, at history’s darkest moment, when all hopes fade and seem lost, we get “that guy.” That guy will be typically middle-aged, predominantly male, and included romantic partners, coworkers, bosses, family members, and friends. He’ll size up the situation and have an advantage the consensus builder cannot leverage. That guy’s psychopathic, antisocial, and narcissistic personality disorders become force multipliers once the stuff of assholes has hit the oscillating rotary device.
You can certainly inform this person of what you think and feel. It would be more interesting if he cared. The douchebag has a job to do here and would rather not get hung up on anyone’s pweshus fee-wings. At this juncture, the douchebag will lay down the law (and perhaps his fulsome, smoking vengeance) upon you.
His additional two wrongs will probably not make a right. However, they will sure make it over. The crisis will be effectively resolved. Lots of people will hate this new status quo. They can all go hang around with Karen and demand to speak with The Manager.
Let Karen then complain. The jerk will channel Andrew Dice Clay. “I’m finished.” He explains to Karen with great exasperation in his voice. The Karen is then reduced to being that person who can do nothing but call him an asshole.
I laugh at this but do so in a rueful fashion. Assholes get things done. Unfortunately, they smell and leave the verdure littered with their piles of refuse. If the only guys in your society that can get things done are a bunch of Farging Iceholes, then you are not going to like the overall ambiance.
I’ve proclaimed in a half-serious manner, that we would eventually screw things up badly enough to get our very own Hitler or Pinochet. Nobody wants to vote for Hitler. Let the Cat-Fancier run for office in desperate times. Put him in an electoral field against six or seven identical Beta Males. Then, to paraphrase Osama Bin Ladin. “People will favor the stronger horse.”
Democracies frequently get this way. Diverse and inclusive democracies get there rapidly. These sorts of societies always require more and more rules. They cannot continue to deal with life’s worst problems while simultaneously keeping all their diverse peoples happy. Eventually, there must be one futhermucker in charge. Then, like The Dark Knight, the douchebag rises.
The problem then gets solved. The rest of us then just must take whatever pile of stuff the douchebag feels compelled to expel all over the lawn. Then you experience yet another drawback to democracy. You experience democracy’s douchebag problem.