Insights for the deeply romantic and deeply skeptical

The Asshat's Creed

Five simple beliefs that make jerks think they're Infallible

Last night I watched "The Unknown Known," Erroll Morris's documentary profile of Donald Rumsfeld, which fed my abiding appetite for detailing what could be called The Asshole's Toolkit, The Asshat's Thinking Cap or The Fallible Jerk's Cloak of Infallibility. 

Alas, there aren't a lot of details. The kit is super simple, making it readily adoptable in support of any belief system from Buddhism to Islam, Progressivism to Republicanism to Libertarianism to Fascism. From what I can tell, the kit is simply this set of core beliefs:

1. I have seen the light. Others haven't. I am now wise, surrounded by fools. 

2. I have integrated the light into all of my actions. No longer need I wonder about my motives. They are all guided by wisdom alone.

3. It is my moral duty to thwart, defeat and kill folly, which, being wise, I do without any self-serving motives.

4. My success is conclusive evidence that I embody wisdom. What the fools call my failures couldn't have been helped. In an uncertain world, shit happens. In my perfect wisdom I did the best that could possibly have been done, and the fools should grow up and get over it.

5. Being wise, I call a spade a spade. The fools are simply liars; I'm simply prudent about what to share. The fools are simply greedy; I am simply selflessly accumulating the war chest necessary for fulfilling my moral duty. The fools are simply whiny complaining babies; I simply speak truths that the fools hate to hear.

These simple rules are sufficient to ensure that the Asshat can retire all self-doubt and culpability forever more.

I turn out to be an anti-fundamentalism fundamentalist. I believe in an absolute battle against all belief systems that forget that they are bets, that think they have found the final formula, the best interpretation possible, no need to consider further evidence.

I'm not against conviction, but believe that no matter how strongly we are committed to a bet, we must stay more strongly committed to the recognition that it is a bet, to be beat by a better bet if it comes along.

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Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making.


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