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The biggest moral question: What defines and stops total jerks?

Posted Feb 15, 2019

Everyone has a project. For about 20 years, mine has been mission to find an objective definition of total jerks. See, I believe that in a free society you don’t get to tell people how to live, but you still have to stop total jerks or it won’t remain a free society—which stirs two questions: What distinguishes total jerks since they can’t just be everyone who jerks you around? And how do you stop total jerks without becoming one?

I’ve given it a lot of thought and here’s my best guess to date: A total jerk grants himself a wild card and a trump card, each entitling him to the other. The total jerk thinks, "To win, my hypocrisy, lying, and cheating will know no bounds and winning will prove that I’m absolutely right and righteous." See that? His wild card tactics prove he deserves a trump card. Or he can spin it the other way, saying: “Winning proves that I’m absolutely right and righteous and therefore entitled to unbounded hypocrisy, lying and cheating.” His trump card virtue entitles him to his wild card tactics. This closed loop allows a total jerk to play god, eternally right, righteous and all-powerful.

It’s easy to become a total jerk. Just make proud absolute principles of standing firm, never apologizing and always out-scolding anyone who challenges you as though you were the supreme moral judge. The gullible will think you’re a saint and then you can do whatever you want. Just blare your moral police siren so loud it drowns out the sounds of your misdeeds.

And how do you stop total jerks without becoming one? With that definition. Just hammer away that that’s what the total jerks are doing. They’ll respond by doing it more. Keep hammering.

George Bernard Shaw said never fight with a pig. You’ll just get dirty and the pig likes it. Good advice, but never say never. There will be total jerks it’s your responsibility to fight. Always have been and always will be unless we develop social antibodies that nip total jerkdom in the bud wherever it sprouts. For antibodies, we’d need a good objective definition of total jerks. That’s why it’s my project. It could be yours too.