Parade of Jerks

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People seem to be jerkier today than at any other time in history. Maybe this phenomena is due to media ubiquity or perhaps it has to do with a breakdown in society that leads people to become narcissistic idiots. Either way, we’re seeing a definite rise in anti-social and misanthropic behavior.

Consider the latest mass shooting in California by the 22-year-old son of a high-profile director. Now, it would be easy for us to simply blame the whole tragic trail of death on the availability of guns or some other platform-dependent nonsense. But, honestly the actions of the young man come down to the simple fact that he was a jerk; an insane, narcissist jerk. Anyone who saw his YouTube video (before it was removed) or read the transcript of that video can tell that this kid was all about himself and what he perceived as the world’s problems all becoming his problem.

Of course, the same thing could be said concerning the Batman shooting, Sandy Hook, and any number of other mass murders that have occurred lately. But, where is all this coming from?

There’s a term I’ve used for sometime that I think embodies what is going on here: misanthropic schadenfreude. Basically, there is an increasing number of people who hate humanity and take pleasure in knowing they are causing emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical harm to humanity on a large scale. We all have a touch of this issue. Have you ever taken pleasure in the fall of someone who was rich? Did you rejoice, for instance, when Tiger Woods perfect life with his beautiful wife and kids, then his stellar golf career, began to fall apart? Have you ever laughed at the misfortunes of another? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you suffer from misanthropic schadenfreude.

In extreme cases, MS (I’m tired of spelling out misan..well, you get it) manifests itself violently. But, where does it start? I believe the answer is far more subversive and counter-culture than we might imagine.

Study your history. What happened in the WWI and WWII eras of America when there was a common threat and cause? People put aside their differences and became more selfless and won a great victory. But, after all that altruism, what happened? Did America continue to share and hold hands and pull together? Nope. Everyone went their own way, started making as much as they could, and coined the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses”. Except, instead of liking the Joneses and admiring their pluck and success, most people began to secretly hate them and wish for their downfall.

And here we are, six or more decades later, hating the Joneses enough to post videos about how we’re going to kill them and then killing them and killing ourselves.

OK. So, now we’ve identified that people are becoming jerkier and MS is the issue. But, what do we do about it?

Ready for the oversimplified answer? As “Ted” Theodore Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esquire stated so aptly in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” … “Be excellent to one another…”

That’s right. If we want people to be kind, we have to be kind. If we want people to be peaceful, we have to be peacemakers. If we’re going to repair society, we have to be excellent to one another.

Go be excellent, folks…

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