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A Psycho-Proctologist Speaks: What Makes an Ass an Ass?

A surprising approach to what makes someone a jerk

I’m a psycho-proctologist. I fuss over how you’d define asshole objectively and accurately, a definition of asshole that anyone can apply that encompasses all assholes and excludes all non-assholes.

I’m a specialist not an authority. You can’t be an authority psycho-proctologist because maybe I’m just an asshole invested in defining asshole in a way that doesn’t include me. Assholes often play asshole police. Trump for example, widely considered an asshole and always playing asshole police. Playing asshole police is a key symptom of being an asshole. Assholes are like internet viruses you get when you click the button to get protection against viruses. I wouldn’t put it past me or anyone to be an asshole in asshole-police clothing.

Being a psycho-proctologist is a fruitful exercise in futility, futile because no matter what definition you find, it could be a definition of an asshole by an asshole, fruitful because straining to find that unobtainable objective accurate definition gets you thinking hard about a question we overlook when playing asshole-police with no definition other than “an asshole is anyone who bugs the hell out of me.”

Here’s a taste of what this potential asshole, pyscho-proctologist has harvested so far in his fruitful exercise in futility:

Being an asshole isn’t just bugging people. We all bug someone. No, being an asshole is a hobby like travel, visiting a fantasy island of self-certainty as a break from life’s uncertainty.

Life is a continuous balancing act, like trying to keep a kayak righted on choppy seas, the winds gusting, no land in sight. To stay righted you lean this way and that, never resting, often overcompensating, always at risk of taking on water or drowning. Kayaking through life is exhausting and inescapable.

We dream of finding safe harbor on some solid ground, high, dry land where you can climb up to an imaginary peak and laugh at everyone still trying to keep their balance on life’s choppy seas, even though it’s a fantasy. You’re still at sea too.

There are a few full-time assholes, governors of these fantasy islands, people who make a living promoting the asshole hobby to all us kayakers out at sea. Come dock here. You’ll love basking in your own warm smugness. Lots of takers. You can make a good living at it.

Trump is a full time asshole, a travel poster child for one of these fantasy islands. His peak is the highest ever, broad enough that you’re free to wander anywhere impulse takes you and always with the best vistas from which to laugh down at all the flounderers still at sea everywhere but where you are. That was Trump’s broadest appeal, not what he believes but how he struts it. Trump voters are Trump wannabes craving a ticket to his fantasy island. The dealmaker in chief made a deal with his supporters: I give you the best fantasy island; you give me a coup. Kayakers swarmed at the opportunity.

And if you think this is a political definition it isn’t. There are left, right, spiritual, self-help, psychological, philosophical, even academic fantasy islands, all promising solid moral high ground, license to gloat and freedom from self-doubt. Though the cultures of these fantasy islands vary, their promise is always the same, freedom from life’s endless balancing act. Wealth, power, status – I think their core allure is fantasy island, freedom to be the authority, to preach without ever having to doubt whether your balance is right.

Most assholes are part-timers. Many a know-it-all asshole troll will defer to authority on the job. Trying to stay balanced in good graces with authorities is often why they want nightly vacations to fantasy islands. Most moonlighting trolls don’t get to strut on the job.

Is that the last word on assholes? Far from it. Just my current guess. I keep looking for refinements and corrections knowing I’ll never collect them all before I die, finally escaping these inescapable high seas.

More from Jeremy E. Sherman Ph.D.
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