Thursday, March 7, 2013

assholes: a theory

book review: assholes, a theory by aaron james

a recent book called On Bullshit by philosopher Harry Frankfurt, originally published as an essay in the 80s  but released in book form in 2005, has been the impetus for a whole slew of philosophically snarky titles, not the least of which is "snark," by david denby:  "...It's Mean, It's Personal, and It's Ruining Our Conversation."  among others are

a more recent edition to the corpus is "assholes," a theory by aaron james.  what annoys me most about these books, least of which is their inclusion in the philosophy section of most book stores, is their unabashedly liberal (leftist) bent (or should i say their democrat(ic) bent).  besides "men" who cross three lanes of traffic at a time and "men" at parties who "don't let you get a word in edgewise," (yes, men are mostly assholes—comes with the gonads) are the stellar examples of bill o'relilly, ann coulter (i'm sure the author considers her to be a man), donald trump, brazilian surfers (don't go there— well, it has something to do with brazilian surfers traveling in packs which tend to foster the "aggressive manliness of the brazilian culture" on  the whole...), assorted bankers (especially investment bankers), CEOs, venture capitalists (mitt romney anyone...) and last but not least—general douglas macarthur whose reputation has suffered immeasurably after a gibe by harry s. truman—"i fired him because he wouldn't respect the authority of the president.  i didn't fire him because he was a dumb son-of-a-bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals..."

the publishing industry has for the last ten years been a dumping ground for campaign rhetoric and political party cool-aid, in part due to the revolutions of digital presses and in part due to the internet which fosters a ungodly sense of "intellectual" entitlement.  not surprisingly, these books have the shelf life roughly equivalent to any book written by richard nixon or henry kissinger (yes, the publishing industry is rife with liberals—so too is the general book buying public, though you didn't hear that from me...).  most of the so-called political books published during the 04 election would have been better served (and more deservedly ignored) in some obscure online archive (preferably twitter, though i have nothing against twitter, when properly used)  unread, unconsidered, culturally and socially irrelevant and not cluttering up the shelves of super bookstores, which by the way, never had any business being any bigger than your local used bookstore and it's little wonder why behemoths like borders and barnes and noble are now dinosaurs (or in the case of b&n, forced to sell figurines, toys, ipad accessories, ipads...—let's face it, the ebook reader nook is nothing less than a poor mans ipad...)

now the philosophy section is being watered down by books like "the philosophy of quentin tarantino," "seinfeld and philosophy," "manga and philosophy," "aristotle and an aardvark go to washington," "bullshit," and now finally "assholes..."  ironically, i would rather the philosophy section loosen their membership requirements rather than say, "self improvement," or "personal growth"—they've been reprinting the same book for over two thousand years; can you say "the golden rule..?" i knew you could.   i happen to count "the philosophy of stanley kubrick" to be among my favorite books.

i never did get to any proposed "theory."  i stopped about halfway when i encountered the rant about brazilian surfers...  i am somewhat thankful that these books make no attempt to hide their politics or their half-wittedness.  it's difficult enough weeding through the daily scourge of reading material available, so anything that makes my job easier is well appreciated (like i've always said, i don't always finish what i'm reading, but i'm always reading).  i will leave you with one of the more revealing quotes from the book—a quote more suited out of the mouth of ariana huffington rather than a writer of philosophy... "this attitude among the new bankers (those fucking bastards!!!) stands in marked contrast with bankers of an earlier era.  consider the former goldman ceo john whitehead, a member of the civic-minded "greatest generation" (his quotes, not mine) that ably steered the "dynastic wealth" (my quotes, not his) of rockefeller and "the like" (my quotes again...) toward the social good.

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