2/18/23: Systemic A**holiness — You Don’t Have to Be a Jerk to Be Successful #poetry
John Steinbeck wrote the following words sometime around 1945:
“It has always seemed strange to me…The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”
In 1962, Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was a prophetic voice at a time when unregulated capitalism and fascism nearly ruined the world. Steinbeck was a humanist who wrote about the existential fortunes of ordinary people.
The world was a better world in 1962 than it was in 1945. Ordinary people were better too, but not good enough.
Over half of the population of the world has expanded its consciousness since 1962, and the other near half hasn’t learned a thing since the stock market crash and the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Let’s review and summarize my recent writing about why haters hate.
They hate you because you love them. That enrages them since they are narcissists so preoccupied with how they look to other people that they can’t even approach any mastery of the love skillset. They envy you because you are a fully formed human being, and they are little in comparison.
You also make them look bad. Only people who love can be excellent. — at anything .They so want to be admired, and you are the one who is admirable.
Today I add a third motivation of haters …. Systemic Ass-holiness. Backward and limited people, some of whom are also capable of love and excellence, and many who are not … believe that you have to a jerk in order to be successful.
In 1974, Roman Polanski directed Chinatown, a great movie. Faye Dunaway acted in Chinatown, a great movie. They hated each other apparently. Polanski wouldn’t allow Dunaway to go to the bathroom while they were shooting. Dunaway pissed in a cup and threw it at him. Polanski’s abusive meanness, and Dunaway’s rage and resentment had nothing to do with Chinatown’s excellence. They loved the movie, but not one another.
It’s 2023, you don’t have to be a bully to be a big shot.
I try to be a decent and good person. I am a successful one. I’ve done many things well, and have received appropriate recognition and material rewards. I’ve never gained one of those benefits by being an asshole or coopoerating with assholes.
I do not, as Steinbeck did in his day, find it ‘strange’ that people felt the need to be assholes in order to succeed. I find it intolerable and outrageous. I expect to be respected and well treated. I require that from all I associate with, and I expect it of myself.
I would not accept Polanski and Dunaway’s situation on Chinatown. It is not enough that the art is great. The life must be good too.
Permit me to update Steinbeck’s quote:
“Since the dawn of time men and women have always admired in other men and women, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding. In less enlightened times, these same qualities were regarded as weaknesses that precluded ”losers’ from gaining material security and success. This is no longer true. But a persistent, ignorant and large minority believe that those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while these stunted men and women admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”
Systemic racism is a subset of systemic ass-holiness for example. Most people are appalled by racism, but a huge and ugly minority stupidly sees some personal benefit accruing to them if they keep other people down.
Sometimes haters hate simply because they think it is the thing to do. Among their many distasteful qualities, they are just plain stupid.
People who think for themselves don’t usually hate. They aren’t susceptible to being manipulated by systems.
Being a jerk is a “have to” for idiots and assholes. I don’t think anyone likes being that way. Most of the fools are exhausted. They take it from others and they give it back … all that calculation, all that passive aggressive anger … it takes a lot out of them.
They hate you because you don’t follow the rules of the system. They define themselves by their success, or pursuit of success within the system.
The system of ass-holiness promises status and security and delivers on neither. Real security and recognition come from yourself and others who behave with love and justice.
I have lived a very abundant life, and none of the gifts that I have received has ever been delivered to me by an asshole.
Copyright 2023 Richard Thomas