On Judgement

If you are unable to find respectful, kind, and intelligent people to be with, this means that the respectful, kind, and intelligent people are avoiding you. Turn your gaze inward and try to figure out why that is.

This is not some kind of nebulous or ambiguous concept, like karma or the law of attraction. This is a reality born out of the simple relationship of cause and effect.

A popular theme among the young of mind is that of judgment. Don’t judge people, you have no right, is the general gist of it. But I think in the interweb land of groupthink enabling, the act of judging is getting a bad rap.

Without making judgments, we can’t function as human beings. “That looks like a shitty movie, so I won’t waste my time seeing it.” “That guy seems like a toxic asshole, I’m going to avoid him from now on.” “The road seems icy, I’d better slow down.” These are all judgments. The ability to quickly assess people, places, and things, and adjust our behavior accordingly is a critical factor in a person’s success and happiness in life.

“Yes, Captain Obvious,” you may well be thinking, “but we shouldn’t judge people for their personal choices and behavior (unless they’re conservative). That’s wrong!”

No it isn’t. How are we supposed to judge someone other than their behavior? Their eye color? The words people speak, the ideas they support, and how they treat themselves and other humans is all behavior. We make judgments on that behavior in order to categorize people into groups: friends, assholes, dangers, necessary bores, and whatever else.

Proclaiming: “I will not be judged,” is nonsense. Of course you will be. We all are. Never forget it. Much better to say: “I don’t want to hear your judgment of me, so shut the fuck up, asshole!” That is perfectly valid.

Making the distinction is important. We make judgments, and that is normal and necessary, but telling people what they are is another matter. In ninety percent of cases, our judgments and opinions are not something other people need to hear. No one gives a shit, and nor should they. If you are qualified to have an educated opinion in a matter, have been asked what you think, or are a real judge with legal power in a courtroom, then by all means, communicate your judgments to the world. But, otherwise, shut the fuck up and let people get on with their day.

The difference between making a judgment and being a judgmental asshole is the ability to shut your mouth.

Now there may well be times when it becomes necessary to communicate our judgments. For example: when a friend started pushing me into joining his family for a marathon viewing of the Star Wars prequels, which they all think are fucking awesome, I finally had to tell him that I think the movies suck. And what a fun argument that was to have!

In your life, perhaps your friend has graduated from blowing strangers at parties to blowing strangers at parties for meth that their boyfriend gives them. You may feel it is time to say something; to make your preexisting judgments about their choices known. Keep in mind, though, that saying something at this point is entirely about you feeling okay about you and your behavior: you have to speak up because to do otherwise would feel wrong. That’s good, just don’t expect this to go well or alter your friend’s behavior. Then, once you’ve spoken your mind the once, it’s time to shut the fuck up about it. If it’s too difficult to be around them, then say goodbye as respectfully as you can manage.

To flip this coin over, we get to being judged. It is never pleasant when someone tells us how they think we’re fucking up. However, whether they are an asshole or not, or even right or not, this person is doing you a service. Most people keep their judgments to themselves (albeit fewer and fewer these days). In eighty percent of cases, an asshole will never know that they have offended someone. People make a judgement, reassess their opinion of the offending party, and move on with their lives. So when someone makes their judgment known, you don’t have to accept it, but you can be assured that many other people feel the same way and are not saying anything about it. Indeed, most will not even tell you what they are really thinking even if you ask them to. Consider the judgmental asshole in your life as your canary in the coal mine.

(As a related aside: Germans are very useful in this regard.)

This brings us back to my original thought: that if you are unable to find respectful, kind, and intelligent people to be with, this means that the respectful, kind, and intelligent people are avoiding you.

I have known many an asshole who engages in all manner of douchebaggery, and they invariably believe that the silent suffering of those around them is acceptance and enjoyment of their bullshit. Then, when someone finally tells them off, that person becomes the villain. “How dare they say that to me! It was just a joke! I’m a funny guy: all my employees laugh their asses off every time I make fun of them.”

Just because an asshole has found a group (usually their family and coworkers) that have to tolerate them, it doesn’t mean they are tolerable.

This is the central idea to my original point. Birds of a feather flock together. So if every person you date winds up being a toxic asshole, and all your friends are toxic assholes, then, I’m sorry to tell you: you are a toxic asshole too.

Now I don’t mean to say that this is a totally universal phenomenon: there are overlaps of social circles, of course. And judgments are being made back and forth even if they are never articulated. And these judgments have very real repercussions in our daily lives; both good and bad. Some people call this karma. I prefer to think of it as interpersonal consequences.

Say my company is looking for a new employee. This is a good, entry-level job that has real room for advancement. I am in a position where who I suggest for the job will probably be hired, because I have a sound reputation there. I have a number of friends, from different walks of life, who are unemployed or hate their jobs. Who do I get the job for? Well, I’m going to have to make a judgment call, and it’s a serious one, because whoever I choose is going to reflect on me. So, that’s too bad that your job sucks so much, Biff. I’m sure something will come along soon for you, just keep looking. And, yeah, that’s a really awesome new tattoo you got of a flesh-eating zombie on your neck! Good work, buddy! Have you thought about going back to school to be a welder? It’s a good gig and you’ll fit right in.

It’s every person’s right to behave however they want, within the bounds of the law. But all of our behavior is judged, constantly, by everyone we meet and talk to. This is life. If you are feeling the lack of a certain kind of person in your life, the only remedy is to be that person yourself, and then you will find who you are looking for. Because that type of person will stop avoiding you.

Do what you will, it’s your life. Just don’t act like you are powerless to change your life and the people in it.

You are anything but.

Law of Attraction

“You can do or be anything you want so long as you want it enough and work hard enough.”

This is a nice thought. Unfortunately, it is total bullshit. Quadriplegics do not get to be firefighters. Stupid people do not get to be brain surgeons. These are facts of life.

You may be thinking, “duh, that goes without saying.” But, does it? People are constantly saying that we can do anything if we just want it enough. However, this assumes a shit-tonne of privilege and opportunity that most people on this Earth simply don’t have. People who chuck that kind of platitude about are spitting in the face of the unfortunate many in order to motivate the privileged few.

“Kids, you can do anything you want. Except Billy here with the Cystic Fibrosis. Fuck you, Billy!”

I have a real problem with this kind of thinking when dipshit zooms start telling us that we are the source of all the misfortune in our life. Whatever they call their little spin on the philosophy, “Law of Attraction,” “karma,” or whatnot, it all boils down to the same thing. If there’s bad shit in our life, we brought it on ourselves. That this is often true for most people doesn’t make it any less fucked up when you try to universalize the principle into some kind of metaphysical phenomenon.

Sorry, lady, I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but did you know that you attracted the drunk driver that crushed your spine and paralyzed you? Yeah! You did! With all of your negative thoughts and energy! It’s true. Oh, what’s that, child sex slave? I know it seems like you really got fucked over through no fault of your own. But when you were born in a sex-tourism country to a gambling addict father who sold you to a pimp at the age of four, that all happened because of you. You attracted all of that. Come on! Apply some principles of positive thinking and you’ll be running your own nail salon in no time! Of course this conversely means that I attracted all my health, wealth, and privilege just because I’m so awesome. Come to my seminar to learn more! Don’t forget to buy my book or the daily calendar of inspirational wisdom! If you’re really, really lucky I’ll even deign to pump a load of my semen into your ass!

All the people starving to death around the world simply don’t want food quite enough. They aren’t visualizing it correctly.

This is not to say that these kinds of ideas can’t be helpful in achieving what we want. The only things we can control in this world are our own thoughts and behavior. So it is very useful, when the shit hits the fan, to analyze things and ask ourselves what we did wrong to make that happen. Don’t blame others or your circumstances, focus your energy on figuring out how you can avoid that kind of problem in the future. On how you could have handled it better. That’s a good way to be. But it doesn’t take a book or a seminar to figure that out. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling those.

I’m not saying there’s causation in my next point, but I’m sure there’s some correlation:

Has is struck anyone as interesting that the craze around “The Secret” really peaked just a couple of years before the whole mortgage crises that tanked the economy? We had all these idiots buying into a program that told them all they had to do was think about being rich in the right way, and riches would come. And lo and behold! Who comes knocking at the door but a sub-prime mortgage salesman! You too can own a $500,000 house with zero down! What could possibly go wrong?

Whoops.

There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to achieve a PHD in history. To this end, I entered the Honors BA program with a full steam ahead attitude and worked like a bitch. Unfortunately, the program required a full course load, I kept working 30 hours a week so as to avoid crippling myself with debt, and the 1,000 pages of assigned reading a week was completely impossible with my piss-poor reading speed.

The honors program at my university was specifically designed as prep for those students who will move on to a masters degree. That’s why it’s so tough: to weed out those who can’t hack it. I knew that going in. And I wanted to do well more than I had wanted anything before. And I visualized the end result even as I focused on the work. And what I achieved, instead of success, was a mental collapse requiring a total scholastic reboot that got me a basic BA in six years.

I failed. And I was fucking gutted when I did.

I relate this not in an attempt to gain sympathy (“Oh, poor white boy couldn’t be a history professor. What a tragedy!”), but to illustrate a point.

It wasn’t for me. And not because of some expression of preference on my part. That life I envisioned for myself was not for me to have. It did not matter how badly I wanted it; it was impossible given my circumstances. To put it another way: I had my head up my ass thinking I could achieve that dream. The reading requirements alone made it impossible.

Now I know I could have white knuckled into a “never give up! Never Surrender!” attitude. Quit my job to rack up dept. Jump through the hoops required to label whatever learning disability I slipped through the cracks on getting identified with in elementary school. Taken that “disability” to do my part to devalue the degree I was not giving up on.

I could have done all that. But I’m so glad I didn’t.

Now that the age of 40 is in the rearview, I can look around at friends and acquaintances who did not give up on that very same dream. Some of them only just finishing their PHD. Others are grinding it out as sessional teachers, grading mountains of shitty papers, for a lot less money than people with a good trade. Now I realize: that life really wasn’t for me, in terms of preference. I don’t want it, and I wouldn’t be happy if I had achieved it. I thank my lucky stars for that early failure in my life.

This brings me back around to a concept that so many people fuck themselves up with:

Destiny.

I don’t remember where I picked my notions about this concept, but they aren’t original. Wherever it was, it has served me well.

Destiny is not your most fervent adolescent wishes come true. Neither is it something that happens to you regardless of what you do. Analyze the word: “destiny” relates to “destination.” There is nothing in the concept of “destination” that promises you will arrive there. You can fuck it up.

I regard one’s destiny as their ideal path through life, given their circumstances. Everyone is dealt a hand, and you can only control how you play it. As with a destination, if you take a wrong turn, or choose an impossible one to begin with, you aren’t going to get there. But that does not have to mean the end of the world.

Do you know the difference between lucky and unlucky people? Unlucky people get in a car accident and declare how unlucky they were. Lucky people get in a car accident and declare how lucky they were that no one was killed. It’s a perception. The “positive attraction” shills do have one thing right: positive thinking is critical in life, for both happiness and success.

By focusing on the positive, whenever possible, we can condition our mind to notice opportunities. We can generate results and create new situations for ourselves. That is not to say we should be mindlessly positive about everything that crosses our path. (“Why, yes, I would like that free Book of Mormon! Come on in!”) A positive attitude and a regular self evaluation of how we ourselves create many of the troubles in our lives is very good sense. With those things we can achieve a lot.

But we will not achieve the impossible. And very few people in this world are destined to be very successful. And why is that? Because very few people are equipped with the necessary tools and opportunities to reach that destination. Thems the breaks.

So, youngsters, you can scream that certain results must happen because you want it so bad until you’re blue in the face. That only goes so far. If you think that argument carries any weight in the real world, then I’m happy to tell you that your parents and education system have failed you dismally.

In the car that is your life, wanting something is just the ignition switch. You have to figure out the rest of it as you go. Have fun and try not to crash!

(And try not to be a douchebag to those you manage to pass by.)