A theory of jerks…
Picture the world through the eyes of the jerk. 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.
We need a theory of jerks. We need such a theory because, first, it can help us achieve a calm, clinical understanding when confronting such a creature in the wild.
I believe I have encountered jerks. It is not a mental illness, so much as a personality quirk. Folks who are smarter, wittier and more talented — though their own personal outcomes don’t show it.
They’ve been kept down. Ignored. Mocked by their lesser beings. Thwarted at every crossroad. They are so convinced of their greatness, or wisdom, that they don’t bother to challenge themselves academically. lest they explore their weaknesses.
The way I avoid being one is by constantly gut-checking. Am I really doing what I should at work or at home? Was I polite today? What do my friends say when I relate true stories of interactions with waitresses, custodians and bosses.
Do I complain, or work to improve things? Is my way the only way? Have I ever written an email or Tweet to defend myself after the boss chews me out? Do I have the need to be correct?Do I think I’m surrounded by idiots? Or just people who value different things?
Have I ever accused someone, or made a big deal over something I myself am guilty of?
Jerkology is a wide open field, though I know folks who have experience enough of it to have advanced degrees. Please. Discuss.