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!

Politics, Sex, and God in Google Books

Earlier this week Google launched a powerful tool for visualizing cultural trends. The modestly-named Books Ngram Viewer allows you to search the frequency of any word in the 5.2-million strong Google Books database, reaching back to 1800. Earlier this week Read Write Web published a post of 10 fascinating word graphs created using the application. Here are three more:

War, Peace, Democracy

The first graph shows the frequency of the words “war,” “peace,” and “democracy” since 1800. Not surprisingly, the biggest peaks for war occur during World War I and World War II. Each Everest of writing on war is accompanied by a smaller hillock of writing on peace, slightly larger during WWI than WWII. What is interesting here is how writing about democracy tracks writing about war and peace during these great conflicts, with the greater frequency occurring during World War II. Why would this be? My guess is these books fall into the “why we fight” category, reinforcing the cultural values of the English-speaking countries in an effort to motivate the fight against fascism and communism, respectively.

Gay, Queer, Homosexual

The database also reveals cultural trends, including changes in perception of LGBT people. In the beginning of the twentieth century, queer slowly grew as a derogatory term The term gay also began to be applied to people who were not in committed heterosexual relationships, including promiscuous straight women. These terms decreased in use in the 1940’s and 50’s as the term homosexual gained prominence. This medicalization of LGBT identity was strengthened by the publication of the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1952 by the National Institute of Mental Health, in which homosexuality was included as a disorder. This trend continued into the early 1980’s, when the gay rights movements began to emerge and gained momentum at the end of that decade due in large part to the pressing health crisis of AIDS. Since then, the term gay has sky-rocketed in usage, while the usage of the term homosexual has tailed off, in relative terms. The term queer has also, to a lesser extent, been re-claimed.


The final graph I want to show is simply that of the precipitous decline of instances of the word God in English language books, which one can take as a proxy for the decline in religiosity. Far from being a recent occurrence, by this measure religion has been on the decline in the English-speaking world since the mid-nineteenth century, decreasing throughout the Industrial Revolution and reaching its current level around 1920. Even the recent periods of social conservatism in the 1950’s and social liberalism in the 1960’s are mere hiccups in the general decline of religion in this part of the world. We should be aware, at least in the US, that while religious conservatism may seem to be gaining prominence, it is a trend within a basically secular society.

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