How Not to Be an Asshole in 4 Easy Steps

At base, a socially just world is one in which no one is an asshole to anyone else.

Not being an asshole is also the basis for creating safe space and is the foundation of all activism, social justice, and advocacy work.  It’s also the foundation of being a decent human being.

Still, the fundamental tenets of not-being-an-asshole are unclear to many people. Here they are:

1. Don’t be an asshole.

2. Being an asshole means:

  1. Treating any individual’s physical and emotional wellbeing as less important than your own.
  2. Saying or doing things that disrespect that person by demeaning or insulting them.
  3. Not apologizing when you are called out for demeaning or insulting behavior.
  4. Not changing your problematic behavior when you are made aware of it.

3. Not being an asshole means:

  1. Treating every individual’s physical and emotional wellbeing with the same care as you would your own.
  2. Saying and doing things that affirm their value and show them you care about them.
  3. Apologizing when you are called out for not acting in a caring and kind way.
  4. Changing your behavior so you are kind and caring to all people.

4. This includes not being an asshole to people…

  1. Of other races and ethnicities;
  2. Of other nationalities or immigration statuses;
  3. Of other genders (including cis, trans, bigender, agender…);
  4. Who love differently than you (including queer, gay, lesbian, have lots of sex, are asexual…);
  5. Who have a different religion than you;
  6. Who are poorer than you;
  7. Who has less or different education from you;
  8. Who have a less prestigious or different job than you;
  9. Who are younger or older than you (no ageism…);
  10. Whose bodies are different from yours (no ableism, fat-shaming, transphobia…);
  11. Whose brains work differently than yours (no mental illness shaming, accommodate intellectual disabilities and neurodiversity);
  12. Any other kind of person. Seriously. It’s not that hard.

Thanks for your time and attention!

From Our Book: Beyond Us vs. Them

Today’s excerpt, by the futurists and cultural forecasters Sem DeVillart and Brian Waniewski, challenges advocacy groups to use the networking features of the Internet not only to connect with allied organizations and supporters but also to the corporate and political “targets” whose behavior they wish to change. Later in the chapter, Sem and Brian propose a network that would facilitate this kind of radical collaboration. The book is available for free download here and for hard copy sale here.

Activists and advocacy groups have typically been repositories of values or points of view considered challenging to the status quo. This built-in sense of opposition contributes to an “us vs. them” mentality. Most organizations have abandoned the radical techniques of early activism in favor of the more businesslike methods of marketing and media relations or practices like culture-jamming, in which mainstream cultural institutions or their symbols are parodied or otherwise disrupted.

But every now and then, young angry voices hammer the face shields of riot cops and rubber bullets fly. Even putting such real-world radicalism aside, great quantities of money, energy, and intelligence are poured into the pro-con, right-wrong, left-right, good-evil rhetorical flurries that define network news programming and the tone of public debate off and online.

It is tempting for organizations to adopt competitive strategies toward peers engaged in like or complementary efforts, and the pressure to secure funding is especially acute in today’s financial climate. Thus, to impugn the methods or mettle of “competing” organizations can seem like the easiest path to success, a path well worn by the commercial sector.

. We must find some way to move beyond “us vs. them” and rectify the contradictionsinternal and externalthat underlie it. We have already touched on how the structure of the Internet compresses the distance between potentially divergent points of view. With a mouse click, we can jump from the site of an organization like Greenpeace to the site of Dow Chemical and find points of view forged not in the reactive heat of debate but in the relative peace of collectively held strong convictions. We can experience the full force of the contradictions they establish.

To experience deep contradictions in the information we take in has never been easy, and the decentralized structure of the Internet does not help matters. On the Internet, everything is information, and, from a system’s perspective, all existing information is equally valid and true. No centralized or organizing order, no Dewey decimal system, or trusted curator keeps subject areas or sympathies separate. While some users may be confused, others may find they have a new recognition of and comfort with the contradictions basic to human beings and the world we construct to live in. The ability to act effectively while honoring and holding contradictions in mind may become more widespread. More people may come to understand and behave as if the deeds of Greenpeace and Dow Chemical are both equally the collective results of men and women facing their circumstances to the best of their abilities.

To honor contradiction is a first step toward compassion.

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