The ‘Jerks’ Phenomenon

January 27, 2016

main-qimg-ee879c61e009c8c70c0335d78593f771Dark-thirty this early Wednesday evening on California’s north coast as we saw sunshine in the morning, a deep, gray marine fog in the afternoon and gloomy clouds at sundown.

In the presidential circus of a campaign this year, a big portion of the Republican brand is displaying a gross amount of smart anus.
Hence, CNN asked the question on Monday to illustrate the point: ‘Is Ted Cruz the most popular jerk in America?

(Illustration found here).

And then prompted an answer for our asshole-politics: ‘Studies have also shown that overconfident jerks are perceived as having more social status, which appeals to people, and also that the ruder someone acts, the more convinced most of the rest of us become that he/she is powerful.’

Not just Cruz, who appears to be universally despised, the whole asshole/jerk ambiance of The Donald, Jeb! and all the other shitheads on the ticket are showing that these types people can go a long, long way in doing a lot of damage.
And in the case of The Donald, become the freaking front-runner — what an asshole…

Earlier this month, I spied a couple of articles which would appear to play well right about now. What makes these people assholes and jerks, or both?
Yale University psychologists recently developed a mathematical model showing ‘jerkiness,’ and ‘ass-holery.’
Via a couple of weeks ago:

The model developed by Yale’s Adam Bear and David Rand incorporates ideas from the evolutionary game theory of cooperation and the of intuition and deliberation.
Participants play games where they can be either helpful or selfish, and make choices using rules of thumb or careful reasoning.
Some games have no chance of a future payoff for being nice; other games allow for the possibility of reciprocation.
This is what the model predicts will happen: People who come from a supportive and friendly environment learn intuitively to cooperate — even with where there is no potential payoff — because they have often benefited from such generous behavior.
However, if they take time to deliberate, they overrule their cooperative instinct if they realize there is no possibility of future payoff.
People who are typically surrounded by jerks, on the other hand, learn intuitively to be selfish — and also learn not to deliberate.
So, the shows, they wind up acting selfishly even when cooperating would actually pay off, because they don’t stop to think.

Once again, the family/parents have a big influence on you growing up to be an asshole/jerk.
Inbred, as it be.
An interesting view of our society’s handling of these noted social pricks is presented by University of Toronto philosopher Mark Kingwell in his book, “Measure Yourself Against the Earth: Essays,” as partially-excerpted from the current issue of The Walrus — key points:

The asshole effect confirms experimentally the arguments of philosopher Aaron James’s 2012 book, Assholes: A Theory.
Like George W. Bush, some people are born on third base and think they’ve hit a triple.
That’s why Cho’s charges and sentencing should be seen for what they are: a show trial.
Pictured in tears after the sentencing, Cho wrote a forced confession in which she stated, “I know my faults, and I’m very sorry.”
This is Galilean recanting for the plutocentric age.
But Cho’s conviction changes nothing.
In fact, it allows the current arrangement to endure under a veneer of bogus accountability.
Meanwhile, those who complain that the verdict is rooted in resentment are right.
Resentment, after all, is the rational response of non-jerks when faced with the over-entitled behaviour of jerks.
It’s not the rudeness that people hate so much as the assumption jerks make that they are allowed to be rude.
This isn’t always a function of wealth — often it’s just of narcissism and assumed superiority.
I know several witless academic egomaniacs who routinely give themselves a free pass to be uncivil.
But because wealth is the most obvious marker of status in capitalist societies, it is also the most powerful lever of assholery.
It is no coincidence that the depredation of such people occurs most often in cases where they are confronted with the tedium of dealing with service people or, worse, of competing with other citizens for the attention of such service people.
Eric Schwitzgebel usefully supplements James’s asshole theory with his own theory of people he prefers to call jerks.
“Picture the world through the eyes of the jerk,” he writes at the beginning of his field study of the type.
The “line of people in the post office is a mass of unimportant fools; it’s a felt injustice that you must wait while they bumble with their requests.
The flight attendant is not a potentially interesting person with her own cares and struggles but instead the most available face of a corporation that stupidly insists you shut your phone.
Custodians and secretaries are lazy complainers who rightly get the scut work.
The person who disagrees with you at the staff meeting is an idiot to be shot down.
Entering a subway is an exercise in nudging past the dumb schmoes.”

But since one premise of the jerk theory is that any one of us might be a jerk at almost any time, given the right conditions — a bad day at work, cramped travelling conditions, too much humidity — there is more to the failures here than cases of what we might call Excessive Entitlement Disorder, or EED.
Presumably, most of us do not suffer from this condition; such people are merely the bellwethers of the system, the perverse canaries in the coal mine of plutocratic society.
Of course, we must allow here for the fact that such people’s behaviour does not strike them as unseemly.

And so we might say that, when it comes to the jerk within, eternal vigilance is the price of civility.
But is there more to be said about the political dimension of such behaviour, something that Schwitzgebel neglects?
James, for his part, makes the obvious point that the core issue is economic in a section of his book, called “Asshole Capitalism.”
Unlike authoritarian or aristocratic regimes, in which a small group of assholes rules over the rest of us, capitalist regimes ostensibly organized according to democratic principles allow a value-free and allegedly meritocratic regime in which a fluid number of assholes can game the entire system in their favour.
The pocketing government and banking systems flow naturally as a rational extension of taking one’s proper advantage.
Capito-democracy, as I call it, is essentially a customer-loyalty program skewed in favour of asshole elites.

(h/t The Big Picture).

Asshole knows an asshole…jerk!

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