Marianne: Putting “asshole” on the cover of a book, isn’t that an asshole com’ stunt?
Eric LaBlanche: It looks a lot like it, I admit, but I couldn’t really have done otherwise, I swear! (laughter). The word “asshole” has no equivalent in our language – except maybe “asshole”, which doesn’t really solve our problem! I had thought of “gougnafier”, “without embarrassment”, “muzzle” … but no term had the precision, the power, the ease and the flavor tinged with the exasperation of an asshole. As for the words borrowed from the register of psychiatry like “psychopath” or “narcissistic pervert”, they would have given the asshole an excessive medical connotation. But the average asshole is not sick, he’s just a… asshole!
Everyone sees what it is! It is therefore a real serious study on what I call “the asshole phenomenon”: the asshole exists, it can be defined precisely and it poses a certain number of problems related to questions of incivility, of living -together, education, equality, sexism, tolerance, etc. Pull the thread of the asshole and it’s all the ball of our troubles that comes with it!
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Beyond the name given to it, we are faced with a real, large-scale social fact, and that is what interests me. The asshole is the elephant in the middle of the room, an important subject… but which no one talks about! That’s crazy ! It has always been there, costs billions, disrupts transport, degrades public space, harasses women, provokes men, causes burnout and depressions, proliferates on the Internet, in the media, at the head of large corporations and states where it causes wars and famines, and no one bothered to study it? By what mystery?
What’s the difference between an asshole and an asshole?
It is very important not to mix the two! We all feel, confusedly, that calling someone an asshole is not the same as calling them a jerk. However, we often assimilate the two terms whereas between the two, there is a difference in nature: one should not confuse the stupidity and the wickedness! This confusion greatly benefits the asshole who can go unnoticed, like the wolf in the middle of the herd of idiots. To be quick, the asshole is someone who thinks everything is allowed, first condition, and above all, someone who never apologizes, second condition. One does not go without the other.
“There is a difference in nature: we must not confuse stupidity with wickedness! »
The asshole has a character of intentionality and that is what makes him so singular. He considers himself superior to others and, if he sucks your air, it’s not because he’s stupid, it’s because he thinks he has the right to do so: nuance. Doing a fishtail, chewing in the line, harassing a colleague, putting his music too loud or cutting the floor, he does not do all this by chance: he unconsciously considers that he is better than you and that you do not deserve his respect or, in any case, not all his respect. It therefore poses a moral problem. The idiot, on the other hand, has no intention: he is just an idiot, he does not do it on purpose.
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That’s why meeting an asshole can drive almost anyone crazy: it’s not a simple idiot but someone who disrespects you because he somehow judges that you are unworthy of receive it. It’s very humiliating.
“Has our individualistic society become a big asshole factory? »
Removing the confusion that remains between the two words allows the asshole to come out of his invisibility and to bring him to light. Once we have understood the problem, it appears in all its splendor: we have been, in our society and for several years, faced with a “asshole phenomenon” or, if you like, with an extension of the domain of incivility. Why do so many people feel they are above the common rules? Why do we tolerate this? Has our individualistic society become a big asshole factory? It is to these questions that I am not trying to answer.
And you, have you ever been an asshole?
No never ! Yes, of course – I am probably not writing this book completely by chance! Nevertheless, I try to be as little as possible and, believe me if you want, but not being an asshole is not as difficult as you think. It is enough, for example, to know how to apologize when you have been able to bother or disrespect someone. This simple fact automatically takes us out of the asshole category!
“Many of us have tendencies towards stupidity – me first! – but rest assured, it can be treated very well! »
There too, we must not confuse: we are perhaps always “someone’s jerk” because of the imperfections of our cognitive system, but we are not necessarily someone’s jerk. Courteous and respectful people do exist! Many of us have tendencies towards stupidity – me first! – but rest assured, it can be treated very well!
Aren’t there any ” good assholes » ?
A “good” asshole, in the strict sense, does not exist. An asshole is always bad, disrespectful, contemptuous, hurtful, embarrassing… whereas there can be good assholes, nice assholes or brave assholes. In the expression you use, I think “good” actually means “true” or “strong” because the word “asshole” does not support ameliorative nuances. This is what Virginie Despentes plays on in the title of her latest book. That said, I could also have called my book “Dear asshole”, except that for me, it would have been for the money it costs us.
Is an act of asshole enough to be an asshole? After how much is a real asshole?
Just as an isolated act of generosity does not make you a generous person, a mistake or an error in judgment does not make you an asshole. An asshole in the full sense of the term, I give you the definition is: “someone who acts in an unpleasant or inappropriate way for lack of education, intelligence or scruples and who is immune to reproach”. If all these conditions are not met, you are not an asshole. Stepping on someone’s toe doesn’t make you an asshole. Not apologizing for it and leaving with a shrug, though.
Doesn’t the asshole still have some qualities?
Oh yes, the asshole has the same “qualities” as the psychopath or the narcissistic pervert: he sees right away where his interest lies, does not take others into account or bother with scruples. It acts quickly, of course, and sharply, but the costs it causes are much higher on average than the benefits it procures, especially if they are extended to society as a whole. When you fire an asshole from a company, you usually find that things fall back into place on their own: morale returns, employees don’t want to leave and go back to work so much that everyone soon wonders why the asshole didn’t get fired sooner! I tell in the book a story drawn from the experience of Robert Sutton (author of the book Objective Zero Dirty con) in which he explains that after the dismissal of a big asshole who achieved exceptional performance, it was the figures of the company as a whole which suddenly improved, even if no one individually equaled the dismissed asshole.
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The asshole functions most of the time as a kind of parasite. So I don’t know if we can really talk about qualities (laughter). The same Robert Sutton also advises managers to consider the asshole as an incompetent employee, neither more nor less. His only interest, ultimately, is that he can serve as an example of what not to do. We can therefore keep some of them to put on display.