By NICHOLAS A. PELULLO
“My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole.”
Tucker Max is an asshole. He is a self-proclaimed asshole, and seems to be proud of it. No one denies this. Currently, the merits of hosting a self-proclaimed asshole at an academic institution are under heavy debate. One side seems to think the asshole’s right to free speech gives the college justification to present him, the other claims that it is morally culpable to willingly endorse and financially support such an asshole. I, however, am not interested in a debate over how many assholes we can bring to TCNJ. Rather, I feel that an element of Tucker Max’s persona remains unaddressed, and is representative of a key dilemma in American culture: The Success of the Asshole in Western Society.
What is an asshole? If we accept Tucker Max’s definition, in his own words, from his own website:
“I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.”
An asshole, it would appear, is someone who has cast the foundations of Western virtue to the wind. Such a person, according to this definition, has lost all control over his or her physical desires, to the point that these desires are no longer checked by any higher mental capacity. This person has acquired a complete disregard for the effects of his or her actions on his or her fellow human beings. Truly an asshole, indeed.
However, regardless of whatever criticisms we may make of this particular asshole, there is one undeniable affirmation: he is ridiculously successful. Despite, or perhaps because of, his being “a raging dickhead,” Mr. Max has made himself a much-lauded figure in society. Why, one might ask, does someone who indulges to admittedly unhealthy excess and has no concern for other people garner such success?
The answer, I believe, lies in one key issue: pride.
Self-worth, or pride, is inherently attractive, both in terms of social and interpersonal relationships. It shows that the person who knows you best – you – recognizes and acknowledges that you are “worthy.”
Our society, however, has arbitrarily aligned “pride” with what is considered to be morally bad, and the opposite of pride – humility – with what is considered to be morally good. As a result of all this, people who want to be virtuous tend to strive toward the ideal of humility over pride, artificially devaluing themselves. People who do not wish to see themselves aligned to virtue (such as Mr. Max), on the other hand, are free to indulge in pride, and, as a result, possess a degree of self worth, albeit excessive.
Therein lies the success of all assholes. For all their faults, social forces have left them as one of the only groups possessing at least an appropriate amount of self worth, leaving the majority of non-assholes with an undue dearth of self-value.
The solution to the proliferation of assholes in Western culture, therefore, is for good people to reclaim “pride” as a moral virtue. When you get right down to it, it’s a matter of honesty. If you’re a good person, you should recognize that, if only to be truthful to yourself and the world. In fact, you should thrive on it. That’s right – thrive. Too long have I seen good people not value themselves appropriately, with sorry consequences for themselves and the good of the world around them. The success of this one asshole, which our college so willingly endorses, is not a random anomaly; instead, it represents a systematic failure of our society to properly value its members.