— On Assholes

Where the Always Sun Shines, and Not

Zach Dorfman offers a lovely discussion, sounding themes of dignity, in the LA Review of Books, here.  Here’s the first bit:

YOU KNOW HIM, I PROMISE. He is difficult to avoid — especially, it seems, in our great urban centers. Curiously, the tonier the ZIP code, the more he seems to multiply like some droning, infuriating ungulate. He is the person who weaves through three lanes of traffic suddenly, without signaling. He is the person who sits near you at a movie theater and proceeds to take a phone call in the middle of the feature. He is the person who cuts in front of you at your local lunch spot and pretends not to realize that he is doing so, blithely. He makes his presence felt: he is to be accorded special privileges, and his precedence over you is to be accepted a priori. He is morally stainless, for is it not merely in accordance with the natural order of things for him to leave work early, but make you stay late? For him to purchase a third term as mayor of The Greatest City in the World™, no matter the laws or the express desires of his own constituents? For him, as head of a major investment bank, to cause through his avarice a global financial crisis, but to blame that crisis on the fecklessness and greed of middle-class homeowners? Or for him, as vice president, to lie repeatedly to his compatriots, justifying an invasion of a certain Middle Eastern country on the grounds that the dictator he is seeking to depose is lying? Of course this is natural, he thinks: of course. How could it be otherwise?  This man, I think you will agree, is an irritant. This man is an outrage.

This man is an asshole.

He is also, as Aaron James rightly observes in his convincing and often quite funny book, Assholes: A Theory, an important object of moral inquiry. Assholes are a social type.  …. Continue reading here.