Republished from the old blog.
What IS a modern good guy? Incredibly unfashionable, for one thing. Guys are taught to be jerks, and all else follows. It’s as if being a jerk is an achievement. It isn’t, never was, and never will be, but that’s the role model guys are given, the nasty little jerk who makes money and is hated by just about everyone.
It’s a mediocre aspiration. Anyone can be a jerk. Anyone can be a hypocrite, a coward, a thief, a stooge, or a lackey getting a few extra bucks. There’s not really very much to achieve. The problem with being a jerk is that you can’t actually be a real person, or even pretend to be a human being. Animals can pretend to be friendly to get food, run away, steal, be part of a pack, or grovel for some patronising reward.
Not being a jerk, basics
Being a good guy can be purely a personal values issue, but more often it’s a mix of experience and thinking, too. The decision not to be a jerk comes from multiple areas:
- Loathing jerks.
- Disgust with jerks, jerk culture, and jerk behaviour
- Experience of jerks
- Some genuine personal ethical standards
- Growing up; jerks are often permanently infantile
This can be tough for younger people, whose jerk recognition systems aren’t fully developed. Not surprisingly, younger people prefer not to think of their world as full of jerks and untrustworthy, sometimes very dangerous and expensive, jerk-based risks.
Younger people usually experience jerks as bullies. You’ll note that bullying is ALWAYS the same behaviour. Whether it’s an obnoxious kid in day care, or a CEO, the actual behaviour is identical. The early experience effectively starts the revulsion against jerks, but a few decades of it can become rather tiresome.
The good guy perspective
Good guys see the world diametrically opposite to the way jerks see it. Their aspirations are always positive. Good guys build, add value, and improve things for themselves and others, naturally, sometimes not even consciously. Jerks are always trying to do damage to someone. They never build or improve anything. If they do build, it’s at someone else’s expense, and risk.
Good guys, ironically, aren’t “good on principle”. It’s a much deeper motif, based on some sort of sense of what’s good and what’s not. It simply doesn’t occur to good guys to think like jerks. Jerks have no idea what’s good, or why it should matter to them, and what’s not good seems natural to them, so jerk-dom is their default behaviour in all circumstances. There’s no real intersection between good guys and jerks.
The difficulties with being a good guy, however, are pretty demanding. Having a very different perspective on everything in Jerk World is hard work, requiring personal and emotional stamina and sometimes baffling depth within oneself:
- You have to stand on your own two feet. That makes you the inexcusable loner, the uncooperative non-team player (absurd, isn’t it?) or some sort of implied sociopath.
- You have to understand and define what you’re trying to achieve. That can be extremely difficult, and take years to really get a grip on what you’re trying to do, while you’re doing it.
- You have to disagree, sometimes often. Jerks can sit around fearlessly agreeing with themselves for years. Good guys can’t. They have to be honest, particularly with themselves, whatever the cost, because hypocrisy and lying is the basis of the difference between a jerk and a good guy. Those easy options for jerks are not available for good guys.
- You can’t take all your life cues from some damn TV show or movie. Jerks do, and it’s one of the reasons everything they do is so superficial. They’re just lousy actors, trying to look good, while being incapable of even understanding their role beyond the dog biscuit level. Real actors are believable; jerks make any role look ridiculous, usually very melodramatic and overstated to mindless levels.
- Nobody understands the good guy perspective on any level, and they will think you’re stupid, naïve, a dreamer, whatever. That doesn’t make doing things any easier. (Not that it matters to you, but you find yourself being a good guy with obstructive, pig-ignorant, useless jerks under foot everywhere.)
- Being a jerk is no longer an option. You may have to reinvent your entire life, if you grew up in Jerk World. You have to do the right thing, partly because it’s your normal reaction, and partly because the jerk option becomes so much more repulsive over time. That can be a problem, in Jerk World, because you’re no longer any kind of fit for that world.
- Your jerk-free social life has to be created. The society of jerks is no longer even slightly tolerable to you, as a working good guy. That raises a few social logistics issues. Jerks have the luxury of being able to associate with swarms of their own kind. They’re the fruit flies of society, passing nuisances with very limited roles, but always in spoiling any fruit they can find. Everyone in Fruit Fly City thinks being a jerk is better than sex. So you basically have to invent your own private society, somehow, in that environment.
Survival as a good guy
OK, so as a good guy, you put a certain self-imposed weight on yourself as a load to carry. The good news is that you do develop the strength to do it easily. The other news is that survival in Jerk World is the next hurdle.
It’s not quite as difficult as it might seem. Jerks have no stamina. They defocus easily, and often. They can’t do step logic beyond A-B. A-F is too much for them. They’re not really fighters, and won’t fight unless they’re a few thousand times bigger than what they’re fighting.
Jerks are very risk averse. Anything at all that looks like a risk will be studiously avoided. Be a risk to them, and they’ll avoid you. Any risk to their social status, in particular, will be considered far too dangerous, and they’ll leave you alone in droves. Any kind of defeat is real damage for jerks, too. They are extremely vulnerable to any perception of weakness by others, as most weaklings are. Make them look weak, and you’re killing them.
Jerk culture, however, is much harder to avoid. The pathological liar, the asshole supervisor, that nasty little object in the workplace, etc. are endemic. The best way to dodge this culture is to create your own, inaccessible, space. Anything involving intelligence, perception, or actual passion will do.
These things are incomprehensible to jerks. They’ll avoid the subjects, unless there’s some cliché so they can be loudmouth jerks, “asserting” themselves, which is their sole social ranking capability. If something you care about is under scrutiny, that can be a problem. To avoid the problem if a relevant subject comes up, ask them a question where their answer can only make them look stupid, even to other jerks. Their ignorance will do the work for you. Problem solved.
You can, and will, move on from the local grotesqueries, anyway, in time. Jerks do come and go, if they never go fast enough. The trick is to disengage from the jerks, preferably ASAP, and keep your space separate from them.
It’s not easy being a good guy. There are no moral Brownie points for good guys. You don’t spend decades in self-congratulation, like the jerks, because that’s not how you see things. You do, however, get to be yourself and lead a meaningful, fulfilling life on your own terms. Those are things no jerk can ever do.